A House Republican investigation into the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of the American ambassador has produced an interim progress report that has been distributed to members of the House majority.
The report was culled from information uncovered by the following committees: Armed Services; Judiciary; Intelligence; Foreign Affairs; and Oversight and Government Reform. It claims that then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton approved reductions in security which, if true, runs contrary to her testimony on Capitol Hill.
In releasing the progress report, a House GOP aide made clear that Republican leaders believe that “there remain unanswered questions about the events surrounding the attacks that justify further investigation and require accountability from the Administration. The Committees intend to fulfill their responsibility to the American people to continue to explore these issues in the weeks and months ahead.”
The interim progress report’s findings assert the following:
1. Reductions of security levels prior to the attacks in Benghazi were approved at the highest levels of the State Department, up to and including Secretary Clinton. For example, an April 2012 State Department cable bearing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s signature acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz’s formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned. This fact contradicts her testimony before Congress, where she said, among other things, “But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn’t see those requests. They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them.” (The New York Times, 1/23/13)
2. In the days following the attacks, White House and senior State Department officials altered accurate talking points drafted by the Intelligence Community in order to protect the State Department from criticism for inadequate security levels. Specifically, after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya, including information about at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi. Senior State Department officials requested — and the White House approved — that the details of the threats, specifics of the previous attack, and previous warnings be removed to insulate the Department from criticism that it ignored the threat environment in Benghazi. These talking points were then used by Ambassador Susan Rice on Sunday talk shows.
3. When the talking points were challenged, the Administration claimed that the talking points were changed to protect classified information and an ongoing FBI investigation. Based on facts uncovered by the Committees, neither claim is true. Email exchanges during the interagency process do not reveal any concern with protecting classified information. Additionally, the Bureau itself approved a version of the talking points with significantly more information about the attacks and previous threats than the version that the State Department requested. Thus, the claim that the State Department’s edits were made solely to protect that investigation is not credible.
Here’s the full report: