It’s unclear when – if ever – the controversy over the deadly attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, will end. The diplomatic, military, and above all political facts, assertions, and conspiracy theories are just too numerous, too bitterly fought-over to fade.
As members of Congress slipped out of town Friday for a long Thanksgiving break, they left behind a report on Benghazi that might seem surprising – coming as it did from the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee.
In essence, the committee sums up its two-year investigation of the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, which killed US ambassador Christopher Stevens, a foreign service officer, and two CIA contractors, by citing fog-of-war circumstances rather than politically-motivated manipulation by the Obama administration in the immediate aftermath.
Among the report’s major findings:
• The CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi … and found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or denial of available air support.
• There was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.
• A mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with al Qaeda, participated in the attacks … although the Committee finds that the intelligence was and remains conflicting about the identities, affiliations, and motivations of the attackers.
• The Committee found intelligence to support CIA’s initial assessment that the attacks had evolved out of a protest in Benghazi over an anti-Islam YouTube video that was roiling the region; but it also found contrary intelligence, which ultimately proved to be the correct intelligence. The CIA only changed its initial assessment about the protest … two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke.
• The process used to generate the talking points the committee asked for – and which were used for Ambassador Rice’s public appearances – was flawed.
• The Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement, or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to "stand down" after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al Qaeda figures in the attack, and that Ambassador Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the report.
Committee members said they had “endeavored to make the facts and conclusions within this report widely and publicly available so that the American public can separate the actual facts from the swirl of rumors and unsupported allegations.”
The report released Friday does not end the controversy over how the Obama administration and the agencies it oversees conducted themselves during the period surrounding the Benghazi attack. The House Select Committee on Benghazi has yet to complete its investigation.
"The Select Committee on Benghazi received the Intelligence committee's report on the Benghazi terrorist attack, and has reviewed it along with other committee reports and materials as the investigation proceeds," spokesman Jamal Ware said in a statement. "It will aid the Select Committee's comprehensive investigation to determine the full facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya before, during and after the attack and contribute toward our final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress."
This report includes material from the Associated Press.