House Committees Find No Wrongdoing In 2012 Benghazi Attack
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Late this past Friday as members of Congress were heading home for Thanksgiving break, the House Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited report on the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Those assaults two years ago took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Since then, Benghazi has become a game of political football played mostly by congressional Republican.
But the report that came out Friday did not support claims by the GOP that Benghazi represented a massive failure by the Obama administration. And this new report echoes an earlier one from the House Armed Services Committee. Still, the issue is not going away. Here to explain is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Welcome, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: First, remind us the issues that this investigation was looking into.
ELVING: Begins with prevention issues - was this attack a failure of U.S. intelligence? Should we have known more about what was going on outside the compound? Should we have done more to shield the ambassador and the others? And then there have been questions about how the CIA and the military responded on the night in question.
SHAPIRO: And also some questions about the administration's response to the attacks here in Washington.
ELVING: The White House sent out Susan Rice, ambassador to the UN at the time. And she did five Sunday morning talk shows with a set of talking points that did not call the incident a terrorist attack. The Obama re-election campaign, of course, was running on its supposed suppression of al-Qaeda at the time. And Republicans sensed a cover-up and made an issue of it.
SHAPIRO: And it's hard to keep track of all the different Benghazi investigations. Several congressional committees have been looking into it. It sounds, from this report on Friday, like most of the findings have been similar from one investigation to another. Is that right?
ELVING: That's right. And this - the sixth - is the most definitive to date in its dismissal of the various allegations. The bipartisan committee, led by Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, said it found no evidence of an intelligence failure and that the CIA had provided adequate warning of deteriorating security conditions and that it had sent officers promptly when the attack began. It also found that the initial CIA investigation had not been clear about the origin of the attack and that then Ambassador Rice's talking points had been inaccurate, yes, but not intentionally so.
SHAPIRO: There were also early on stories of CIA officers and military personnel being told to stand down the night of the attack. What does this report say about that?
ELVING: This House report found the CIA had received all the military support from U.S. Armed Forces that was available and that no requests for air support were denied. They also found no evidence that officers involved had been intimidated or hushed up by higher-ups in the months after the incident.
SHAPIRO: So it sounds like generally an exoneration. Does anyone not come off well in this report?
ELVING: The report does fault the State Department for not having done more to respond to CIA warnings of the deteriorating conditions for security in Libya generally.
SHAPIRO: So what has the response to all this been from the Benghazi critics?
ELVING: Senior Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, was on CNN yesterday and had this to say about this particular House report.
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SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think - I think the report's full of crap, quite frankly.
ELVING: So Senator Graham has focused a lot of his critique on the CIA and felt that this committee relied too much on the CIA in making its report. He'd still like to see a joint Senate-House committee reopen the matter. And let's not forget Speaker Boehner has a select committee chaired by Representative Trey Gowdy, which is holding its own series of hearings the next to come next month.
SHAPIRO: So six investigations in and we're not done yet. That's NPR's Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent. Thanks, Ron.
ELVING: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.