The U.S. ambassador killed in Benghazi in 2012 had traveled there to lay the groundwork for a visit from Hillary Clinton a month later and the eventual opening of a permanent U.S. consulate, a report released Tuesday by a Republican-led House panel concluded.
The finding is among the few new pieces of information in sections of the 800-page report that were released to several media outlets overnight, after a two-year and $7 million investigation into the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The report describes a hurried effort to upgrade the Benghazi facility before money for the project dried up and highlights the military’s failure to send forces until after the attacks on the Benghazi annex were over and the Americans were dead, according to NBC News and other sources. The timing of the release, as Hillary Clinton gears up for the Democratic nominating convention, is sure to keep the subject at the forefront of the campaign.
Republican members of the committee have already seized upon it as evidence that Clinton ignored rapidly worsening security in the region and that the response was slowed by bureaucratic bungling. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Pompeo of Kansas, said in their own analysis released Tuesday that the attack was caused by “a tragic failure of leadership.”
Benghazi Committee Declines to Fault Clinton
“The one thing we conclude in our report is we didn’t seem to have the urgency that was needed.” Jordan said in a CNN interview Tuesday morning. “We didn’t move heaven and earth to get help to the people who were fighting for their lives. And that’s a problem.”
But a report issued Monday by Democratic members of the committee concluded that while security at the diplomatic outpost was inadequate, Clinton never denied requests to improve it.
The sections of the committee’s official report released Tuesday morning do not issue a “scathing attack” on Clinton, but it finds that Clinton and a top aide, Patrick Kennedy, had enough information to understand the risk posed to the mission by extremist groups.
Its findings include:
- That 35 Americans saved from the compound were rescued by a group composed of military officers under the Moammar Gadhafi regime, the Libyan dictator whom the U.S. helped topple the year before. Previous reports had concluded that they were rescued by a “quasi-governmental militia.”
“In other words, some of the very individuals the United States helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution were the only Libyans that came to the assistance of the United States on the night of the Benghazi attacks,” the report states.
- That the order to deploy military forces on an order from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were delayed in part because of conflicting orders from State Department and Pentagon officials over whether they should wear military or civilian attire, in an apparent disagreement over what would pose the least risk to the rescue effort.
- One commander quoted in the report said that as forces prepared to deploy “during the course of three hours, he and his Marines changed in and out of their uniforms four times,” NBC reported.
- That firsthand accounts from the attacks described massive crowds rushing the compound with AK-47s and other military weapons, and that there was no mention of a protest or a video before the attacks, according to Fox News. The Obama administration initially said that the incident was sparked by violent protests over an American-made anti-Muslim video.