Jeff is a computer professional who takes a great interest in politics and tries to always distinguish fact from opinion.
Controversy Surrounding the Benghazi Tragedy
The September, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya killed 4 Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Those attacks inspired a great many rumors and accusations that spread throughout the internet.
Here are the 4 most often repeated claims:
- President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored the pleas of Americans at the consulate and did not send help.
- The president issued a “stand down” order preventing U.S. forces from rescuing those trapped at the consulate.
- UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied to the media when she said the attack evolved from a protest outside the embassy.
- The Obama administration resisted answering questions or permitting an investigation of the Benghazi attack.
All of this prompted demands for more investigations of the Benghazi attacks, yet most people are not aware of the multiple investigations that have already been conducted about Benghazi by seven Congressional committees and one government agency over the span of 3 years.
Each of These Committees and Agencies Performed Lengthy Investigations of the Benghazi Attack.
- Senate Intelligence Committee
- Senate Armed Services Committee
- Senate Homeland Security Committee
- House Armed Services Committee
- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- House Intelligence Committee
The following is a summary of some of the results of those investigations. Every piece of information below comes from the official report and is accompanied by links to the actual report from each investigation.
Read the House Intelligence Committee Report Here
House Intelligence Committee Report on Benghazi:
An exhaustive 2-year investigation, including detailed interviews with intelligence officials and eyewitnesses along with thousands of pages of intelligence documents, cables, notes and emails, concluded that:
- The Intelligence community provided adequate information prior to the attack.
- There was no stand-down order given and no military assets were withheld.
- The CIA security team and their Department of Defense colleagues professionally defended the facility with great skill and honor.
- Due to conflicting information about the attack, the CIA initially concluded that the attack evolved out of a protest in Benghazi.
- UN Ambassador Susan Rice used flawed talking points based on the best available intelligence at the time, but she did not lie about the attacks.
- No witnesses involved in the investigation were prevented from testifying or made to withhold any information.
House Armed Services Committee Report
The Armed Services Committee investigation reached the following conclusions:
- The US government should have done a better job to anticipate the possibility of an attack on the Benghazi consulate.
- There was no intelligence of an imminent threat in Libya at the time.
- The military responded to the attack quickly but due to the distance of the nearest US forces, the military response could not reach the consulate in time.
- There was no “stand down” order issued to any U.S. military personnel who sought to join the fight in Benghazi
- The Dept. of Defense is working to correct any weaknesses revealed by the attack.
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State Department Accountability Review Board
The Accountability Review Board, chaired by senior diplomat Thomas Pickering, is an independent body convened to investigate the State Department’s response to the Benghazi attack.
Here is a summary of their findings:
- The intelligence did not indicate any immediate specific threat prior to the attack.
- In the months before the attack, the embassy at Tripoli should have advocated more strongly for increased security at the Benghazi consulate.
- Heroic attempts were made to defend the consulate but they were inadequate.
- The Libyan forces that were supposed to defend the consulate were profoundly lacking.
- Two aircraft were sent from Tripoli to Benghazi to help defend the consulate. By the time the 2nd aircraft had arrived in Benghazi, the wounded were already en route to Tripoli.
- There was no stand-down of US forces ever issued.
- The report contains a detailed timeline of the attacks beginning on page 18.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Report
The report of the House Foreign Affairs Committee concluded that:
- The safety of State Department personnel can never be guaranteed but the Department should have done a better job of anticipating a potential attack on the Consulate.
- The State Department did not adequately respond to the threats on the consulate in the weeks and months before the Benghazi attack.
- Not enough was done to hold people accountable for their failures. The State Department should have done more than just suspend 4 employees and reassigned them to other work.
Read The Senate Intelligence Committee Report Here
Senate Intelligence Committee Report
The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that:
- Not enough had been done to prepare for a possible attack.
- Military resources who responded to the attack were not in position to adequately arrive in time to fend off the attack.
- The CIA inaccurately concluded that the attack evolved from a protest outside the consulate resulting in the erroneous public statements about how the attack started.
- The U.S. government should not rely on security from the host nation if U.S. facilities are under high threat.
After All These Investigations, What Do We Really Know?
There is a great deal more to these reports than what is listed here. You are encouraged to read them yourself using the links provided above.
These reports contain plenty of criticisms about the level of security at the Benghazi consulate and what could have been done prior to the attacks, but they clearly disprove any claims that suggest the President or Secretary of State ignored pleas for help or withheld any forces that could have responded to the attacks.
The Select Committee on Benghazi
In 2014, Republicans created a special committee, chaired by Congressman Trey Gowdy, just to investigate the Benghazi attack.
Democrats on the Benghazi committee pointed out some problems that suggest the committee has a political agenda that has little to do with investigating Benghazi.
Concerns About the Benghazi Committee
- Republicans systematically excluded Democrats from interviews of witnesses.
- Republicans who run the committee shifted its focus primarily to looking at former Secretary of State Clinton’s private email account, even though this has little to do with the Benghazi tragedy.
- The committee cancelled most of its hearings in 2015 and delayed much of its work until 2016, when Hillary Clinton was the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
- House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy admitted that the committee's objective was to bring down Hillary Clinton's approval rating before the 2016 election.
- Bradley Podliska, former investigator for the Benghazi committee, said he was fired because he wouldn't engage in partisan attacks on Hillary Clinton.
How is the Benghazi tragedy different from other attacks on our consulates and embassies?
Many people wrongly think that the attack on Benghazi is unique and unprecedented. Sadly, fatal attacks on US embassies and consulates are all too frequent. Here is a short list of just a few of the attacks that occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Strangely, none of these attacks received much media attention. They were not politicized or used to accuse President Bush of failing to protect our diplomats.
Myths and Facts About Benghazi
While the Benghazi investigations were critical of the President and Secretary of State, they thoroughly disproved many of the myths and falsehoods that were circulated about Benghazi.
Myth 1: There have been no thorough investigations into the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.
The total duration of the official Benghazi investigations is now more than twice as long as the 9/11 investigation and four times as long as the Warren Commission which investigated the JFK assassination.
The list of congressional committees and agencies that have investigated the Benghazi attacks is long and includes the State Department Accountability Review Board, House Foreign Affairs committee, Senate Intelligence Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, Senate Homeland Security Committee, House Armed Services Committee, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the House Intelligence Committee.
Here is a direct quote from the House Intelligence Committee report on Benghazi:
“The nearly two-year investigation focused on the activities of the Intelligence Community before, during and after the attacks. During the course of thousands of hours of detailed investigations, we reviewed thousands of pages of intelligence assessments, cables, notes and emails; held 20 Committee events and hearings; and conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials and eyewitnesses to the attacks, including eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night”.
Myth 2: The Obama administration resisted answering questions or permitting an investigation of the Benghazi attack
The Obama administration released all available information within days of the attack, including internal memos and emails, long before Republicans “demanded” their release.
The House Intelligence Committee specifically stated that no witnesses involved in the investigation were prevented from testifying or withheld any information.
The committee reports indicate no difficulty in getting information from the administration during the course of their investigations.
Myth 3: President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton ignored the pleas of Americans at the consulate and refused to send help.
All the investigations dispute this claim.
- Help was sent from the CIA annex a mile away.
- An aircraft was sent from Tripoli with military support that helped defend the consulate.
- A Predator drone was sent to Benghazi before security requested it.
- A second aircraft was sent from Tripoli but did not arrive in time.
- The Accountability Review Board said US forces made “Heroic efforts” to defend the consulate but were overwhelmed by the size of the attack.
- The House Intelligence Committee said the CIA security team and all Defense Dept. forces defended the facility with great skill and honor.
- The Pentagon said that all appropriate forces were sent to respond in Benghazi but some did not arrive in time.
- The House Armed Services Committee said all available forces were sent to defend the Benghazi consulate.
- Link - factcheck.org - Boehner and Benghazi
Just one of many sources that show the "stand down" myth is untrue.
Myth 4: President Obama issued “stand-down” orders to prevent anyone from responding to the attack on the Benghazi consulate.
The House Intelligence committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee and the State Dept. Accountability Review Board all concluded that there was no stand-down order ever given.
In addition to all the official investigations that have debunked this myth, fact-checking sources have also shown this claim to be untrue.
According to the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered all appropriate forces to respond to the events in Benghazi but the attack was over before all of those forces could arrive.
Myth 5: There are still questions about the Benghazi attack that have not been answered by the Obama Administration.
The nine different investigative bodies that have spent years investigating the Benghazi tragedy made it explicitly clear that no information was withheld and no questions have been left unanswered.
The House Intelligence Committee concluded that no witnesses involved in the investigation were prevented from testifying or made to withhold any information.
Myth 6: U.S. Marines defending the Consulate in Benghazi didn’t even have ammunition.
According to Pentagon Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, no restrictions on weapons or weapons status were ever imposed on the Marines at the Consulate.
Myth 7: Victorious militants in Libya were photographed dragging the dead ambassador’s body through the streets.
The exact opposite is true. The photographs of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ body are from a video showing Libyans trying to rescue him and rushing him to a hospital after the attack.
According to a September 18, 2012 article by the Associated Press, "Libyans tried to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens, cheering 'God is great' and rushing him to a hospital after they discovered him still clinging to life inside the U.S. Consulate, according to witnesses and a new video that emerged Monday from last week’s attack in the city of Benghazi."
- Link - ARB Benghazi Report: Timeline of attacks
See page 18 of the report for a complete timeline of the Benghazi attacks.
Myth 8: Ambassador Stevens was brutally tortured, castrated, sodomized, stabbed and burned before he died.
None of this is true. Libyan doctor Ziad Abu Zeid tried to revive Ambassador Stevens after locals carried him to the Benghazi Medical Center. He said Stevens died of severe asphyxiation from smoke, but he had no other injuries.
The eight investigations indicate no such torture of Ambassador Stevens ever occurred and that he died from smoke inhalation.
A detailed timeline of the attack can be found beginning on page 18 of the Accountability Review Board report.
Myth 9: The Obama administration tried to cover up the fact that the Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist attack.
There are several things wrong with this claim
- President Obama called that attack an “act of terror” the very next day.
- According to the House Intelligence Committee, after the attack there was conflicting information about who the attackers were and what inspired the violence. The administration could not state that it was an organized terrorist attack until the CIA confirmed it
- By September 26, once the CIA had confirmed that this was in fact an organized attack, the Obama administration publicly stated that it was a terrorist attack.
- The Obama administration had no incentive to cover up the fact that this was a terrorist attack. It is not uncommon for our embassies and consulates in foreign countries to be attacked.
- At least 13 similar attacks with dozens of fatalities occurred during the George W. Bush Presidency. The Obama administration had no reason to cover up this attack.
Myth 10: UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied during television interviews when she said the Benghazi attack evolved from a violent protest outside the consulate.
At the time of the Benghazi attack, there were many violent protests outside American embassies over an offensive YouTube video that some Muslims believed insulted their religion. The CIA initially believed the attack in Benghazi arose from one of these violent protests.
The Congressional investigations confirmed that Ambassador Rice repeated what the CIA and intelligence community told her was the truth at the time. Rice could not state that it was an organized terrorist attack until the CIA confirmed that.
In testimony before Congress, CIA Director David Petraeus confirmed that Rice was stating what was believed to be true at the time. Petraeus also testified it was not in our best interest immediately after the attack, to make any terrorists aware of everything we know about the attack.
This Tragedy Was Clearly Exploited for Political Gain
By any objective standard, the 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate has been more thoroughly investigated than any terrorist attack in history. The amount of time and effort spent investigating Benghazi dwarfs the official investigations of 9/11 and the JFK assassination combined.
Even after every piece of information has been obtained and every question answered, some politicians continue to repeat the same partisan accusations that their own investigations have thoroughly disproved.
Almost all of the attention on Benghazi was focused exclusively on thwarting Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become president.
The only reasonable conclusion that can be reached is that this tragedy has been exploited for political reasons to an extent rarely ever seen in the US.
What's your opinion?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2015 jeff61b