House Benghazi report raps State on accountability

6:30 PM, Feb 7, 2014   |    comments
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2013.
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(USA TODAY) The House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report Friday saying Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, failed to hold anyone accountable for flawed decisions about security in Benghazi.

And "talking points" linking the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans to a protest that never happened showed leadership at State was more worried about its reputation than establishing facts and accountability, according to the report.

The report looked at the State Department assigned accountability after the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, State Department employee Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

It compared State response to how the military assigned accountability in incidents that resulted in American deaths.

The attack happened less than two months before President Obama ran for reelection. Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah have charged that State and the White House downplayed security concerns in Libya because they sought to portray the U.S. role in liberating that country from a tyrant as a success and terrorism as a diminishing threat.

Among other findings in the 25-page report written by staff members of the committee's Republican majority:

_ Despite the increasingly dangerous environment in Libya in 2012, State Department officials in Washington denied requests for additional security from its officials in Libya. Instead they insisted on an aggressive draw down of security while the CIA increased security at its facilities in Benghazi, according to the 25-page report.

_ No one was fired for the security breach. Four State Department employees that were cited for their role in the security decisions were suspended with pay and reassigned to new positions at State. Two of them later retired voluntarily, and not as the result of disciplinary action.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she disagrees with the report's findings, and that the Accountability Review Board assigned by then-Secretary of State Clinton did not support the finding of the Republican-led House committee.

"There was a thorough investigation, including interviews with more than a 100 people, and thousands of documents were reviewed," Psaki said. "We're focused on continuing to implementing the recommendations of the ARB report."

The House report said the ARB report was "seriously deficient" because of its failure to scrutinize the actions of State's most senior officials, including Clinton.

In comparison, the House committee pointed out that Gen. James Amos, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, dismissed two senior generals after the failed to take "adequate force protection measures" prior to a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

That attack, which like the attack on Benghazi also happened in September 2012, killed two Marines, wounded eight people and destroyed six AV-9B Harrier jets, in the largest single loss of allied material in the 12-year Afghanistan war, the report said.

"This loss of life due to a failure to provide adequate security was strikingly reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attacks," the report said, yet the standard of accountability between State and the military were very different, it said.

The report described the interagency process that produced the talking points used by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in Sunday talk shows after the attack to illustrate State's concern about its reputation.

Rice insisted in the talk shows that while extremists might have been involved in the attack, it grew out of a protest to an anti-Islam video. But the protest never happened. Clinton also repeated the false story.

The talking points were edited through a series of emails between various officials at State, the White House, CIA and Directorate of National Intelligence. Former State spokeperson Victoria Nuland objected to any mention of the many CIA warnings about the deteriorating security environment in Benghazi because they could be used 'to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings," the report found, quoting Nuland.

Eventually, the document was refined to the point that it contained no mention of the CIA's advance warnings about the dangers in Benghazi.

When then-CIA Director David Petraeus was informed of how the report had been edited to remove CIA findings of a terrorist presence in eastern Libya, he said, "Frankly I'd just as soon not use this then ..." according to the committee.

But the document was used as a basis for Rice to claim that the attack was not done by terrorists. President Obama also refused to describe it as a terror attack. The White House eventually acknowledged the attack was the work of Islamic terrorists and said the CIA was the one that suggested it may not have been.


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