As a member of the Select Committee, I encourage everyone to read the report for themselves and to draw their own conclusions. The full text of the report — along with a summary of new information it revealed — is available online. I am proud of our committee’s work, and I’m grateful for the leadership of Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) in guiding a fair and thorough pursuit of the truth.
There are a few key takeaways from the report I believe are worth highlighting.
First, many mistakes were made by different agencies leading up to the attacks, none more critical than the failure to be prepared for the anniversary of Sept. 11. The State Department refused multiple requests to increase security, including from Ambassador Stephens himself.
The military unit best equipped to respond to an attack of this nature was inexplicably away conducting training exercises that day. Department of Defense officials were unaware of covert facilities and other critical assets in the region. There was a clear breakdown in posture and preparedness that hamstrung any ability our military could have had to respond.
The report shows that there is plenty of responsibility for these mistakes to go around. And, while no one person involved is solely responsible for these breakdowns, no one person involved is free from responsibility, either.
A second key takeaway is that, during the attacks, there was a serious lack of urgency in Washington to respond. While our guys on the ground in Benghazi were taking gunfire and mortar attacks, Washington was moving at a snail’s pace.
Despite President Obama directing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to use all resources at his disposal to save American lives and Secretary Panetta himself ordering the nearest known assets to deploy, bureaucratic indecision and miscommunication delayed those forces.
Administration officials were more concerned about diplomatic sensitivities with the Libyans and promoting their policy agenda as successful than they were about the safety of the Americans under attack. The ultimate result was not one military asset being deployed toward Benghazi in response to the attacks. From my perspective, this lack of urgency demonstrates either incompetence or indifference, or both.
Those who did respond, U.S. Navy SEAL Doherty and other members of “Team Tripoli,” actually deployed themselves, negotiating a private aircraft to fly them from Tripoli to Benghazi. Without the bravery of these Americans and the unexpected assistance of the forces from the former Moammar Gaddafi regime, there would have been an even greater loss of American life in Benghazi that night.
A final key takeaway is that, in the aftermath of the attack, there was a clear effort across agencies to cover their tracks.
We now know beyond a doubt that what administration officials were telling the American people about Benghazi and what they acknowledged to each other privately was very different.
The White House continued to conflate the anti-Muslim YouTube video and the Benghazi attacks — even though no intelligence ever indicated a connection.
Meanwhile, emails and statements from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show her clear understanding early on that “our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al-Queda-like [sic] group” and “we know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.”
Many understandably ask why, almost four years after Benghazi and after other investigations have been conducted, the Select Committee was necessary. The answer is simple: The government has not been upfront with the American people about Benghazi.
Both in the immediate aftermath and in the months and years following, government officials could not get their story straight about the nature of these attacks. As someone who led one of those previous investigations on the House Armed Services Committee, I can tell you that trying to access additional information about the Benghazi attacks was met with strong opposition from the executive branch.
Now, with all the Select Committee was able to uncover with its greater authority and scope, we have a good idea why that was the case.
Our government failed the people it sent into harm’s way and then misled the public in the aftermath. That is unacceptable in our society, and Americans should demand better of their government leaders.
Our report shines a bright light on these problems in the hopes that we can prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
Martha Roby (R) represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.