After a two-year investigation, the bipartisan House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on Benghazi. The report contains a total of 17 findings, most of which focus on the behavior of the intelligence community. Some of the report’s findings are at odds with reporting by major news organizations, including Fox, CNN, and the NY Times.
The following list provides excerpts from all 17 findings. Refer to the full report for the complete text.
- There is no evidence of an intelligence failure. Prior to the Benghazi attacks, the CIA provided sufficient strategic warning of the deteriorating threat environment to U.S. decision-makers, including those at the State Department.
- CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in Benghazi.
- State Department security personnel, resources, and equipment were unable to counter the terrorist threat that day, and they required CIA assistance.
- The CIA was not collecting and shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
- A mixed group including members of al-Qa’ida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN), Ansar Al-Sharia (AAS), and Abu Abaydah Ibn Jarah Battalion (UJB) participated in the attacks, along with Qadafi loyalists.
- Appropriate personnel on the ground in Benghazi made the decision to send CIA officers to rescue the State Department officers at the TMF.
- Although some security officers voiced a greater urgency to depart for the TMF, no officer at CIA was ever told to stand down.
- The decision to send CIA officers from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue the Ambassador and bolster security of the U.S. personnel in Benghazi was a tactical decision appropriately made by the senior officers on the ground.
- The Tripoli team’s decision not to move to the hospital to retrieve Ambassador Stevens was based on the best intelligence at the time.
- The CIA received all military support that was available. Neither the CIA nor DOD denied requests for air support. One CIA security officer requested a Spectre gunship that he believed was available, but his commanding officer did not relay the request because he correctly knew the gunship was not available.
- Ambassador Rice’s September 16 public statements about the existence of a protest, as well as some of the underlying intelligence reports, turned out to be inaccurate.
- Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell made significant changes to the talking points.
- CIA’s Office of Public Affairs also made substantive changes to the talking points by removing the reference to “ties to al-Qa’ida” in the second bullet of the original draft.
- Overall, the CIA could have placed more weight on eyewitness sources on the ground and should have challenged its initial assessments about the existence of a protest earlier.
- CIA did not intimidate or prevent any officer from speaking to Congress or otherwise telling his story.
- There is no evidence that the CIA conducted any unusual polygraph exams related to Benghazi.
- While at times the agencies were slow to respond, ultimately the CIA, NCTC, FBI and other Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee’s investigation.
Like the previous Senate report, the House Intel report does place blame with the State Dept. for not heeding the frequent, albeit non-specific, warnings issued by the CIA about the deteriorating security situation in Libya.
The House report does knock down several claims surrounding the response to the attack, including that the military could have done more to respond (finding #10). But many of the report’s findings are at odds with reports by large, credible news sources, including Fox News, CNN and the NY Times.
The report disputes that there was a delay in responding to the attack beyond what was required for CIA personnel to put on their gear (finding #7). That finding seems to be at odds with the statements of three men directly involved in the response, who told Fox News‘ Bret Baier that they were ready to go in five minutes and were explicitly told, “Stand down, you need to wait” by a supervisor they refer to as “Bob.”
The finding that no undue pressure, polygraphs, or NDA’s were used to silence CIA officers contradicts reporting by CNN. According to a CNN report dated August 1, “Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations.”
With regard to finding #4, multiple reports from the NY Times alleged that the CIA was involved in organizing an arms pipeline to move weapons from Libya to Turkey and Syria. No one claimed the CIA was directly funding this pipeline, only that it was tacitly involved.
As for the talking points, the House report finds they were indeed wrong but faults the CIA for the error, saying they did not place enough value on eyewitness testimony (finding #14) or challenge their early findings soon enough. The report does not mention that a separate set of talking points prepared for Susan Rice by the White House told her to emphasize that the attack was not the result of the President’s foreign policy but of the internet video.
There remains some partisan disagreement confined to the appendices of the report. The majority staff faults the State Department for the security failure and faults the Obama administration for downplaying the apparent al Qaeda connections and emphasizing the spontaneous, video-caused attack to back up their campaign year claim al Qaeda was decimated. The minority disputes these assertions, even once again making the claim that the President called the attack an act of terror the following day.
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