Hillary Clinton largely absent from Benghazi report

A new Senate intelligence committee report is out, detailing the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, and the actions before and after the attack.

Below, we focus on four key points that will be important to the political debate about Benghazi going forward.

1. Hillary Clinton's name comes up only once

The lone mention comes in the section where the Republicans on the committee weigh in. They say Clinton ultimately bears responsibility for the failures and that her failure to act "clearly made a difference" in the lives of the four Americans killed.

"Ultimately, however, the final responsibility for security at diplomatic facilities lies with the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton," the Republicans write. "Because the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi did not meet the security standards set by the State Department, it would have required a waiver to be occupied. Although certain waivers of the standards could have been approved at a lower level, other departures, such as the co-location requirement, could only be approved by the Secretary of State. At the end of the day, she was responsible for ensuring the safety of all Americans serving in our diplomatic facilities. Her failure to do so clearly made a difference in the lives of the four murdered Americans and their families."

2. The report says the attack was, in fact, "preventable"

It highlights numerous instances in which the Clinton-run State Department could have done more and/or was warned about potential danger. In particular, the report points out that Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens, who, later, was among the four Americans killed, in June 2012 asked for a special security team and in July asked for extra security personnel. Neither were provided.

"The State Department should have increased its security posture more significantly in Benghazi based on the deteriorating security situation on the ground" and previous attacks in Benghazi, the report says.

3. The State Department might not, however, have been fully aware of imminent danger

The CIA in mid-August warned of Islamist training camps and militias in Benghazi, but while the message was intended to be shared with the State Department, it can't find evidence that it was.

"...the Committee has not seen any evidence that those requests were passed on by the Embassy, including by the Ambassador, to State Department headquarters before the September 11 attacks in Benghazi," the report says.

4. The panel says there was no 'cover-up'

The report doesn't say too much about why the Obama administration's initial talking points were wrong and why they took so long to change, even after intelligence suggested they were wrong. But it does suggest the controversy is overblown.

Even after it was clear to intelligence officials that the attack was pre-planned, administration officials continued to say it was a spontaneous attack emanating from protests against an anti-Muslim video. The report notes intelligence officials reviewed video of the attack on Sept. 18, but that it took six more days for the administration to change its talking points.

Still, the panel saw no reason to suspect anything more than a failure to communicate.

"The Majority concludes that the interagency coordination process on the talking points followed normal, but rushed coordination procedures and that there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes," the report says.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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