An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward.
After a two-year probe that involved the review of thousands of pages of classified documents, the panel determined that the attack could not be blamed on an intelligence failure, and that CIA security operatives “ably and bravely assisted” State Department officials who were overwhelmed at a nearby but separate diplomatic compound.
The committee also found “no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support,” rejecting claims that have fed persistent conspiracy theories that the U.S. military was prevented from rescuing U.S. personnel from a night-time assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The House panel faulted preliminary assessments by the CIA and other agencies on what had caused the attacks and motivated militants, leading to erroneous public assertions by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice that the assault had erupted from a spontaneous protest. The White House effort to assemble her talking points was deemed “flawed.”
But overall, the panel’s findings were broadly consistent with the Obama administration’s version of events. Previous investigations have reached similar conclusions, but the House committee’s report may be seen as more credible by critics of the administration’s handling of Benghazi because the panel is controlled by Republicans.
“We concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes,” the ranking Republican of the committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.) and ranking Democrat Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), said in a jointly issued statement. “Their actions saved lives.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, expressed “hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again” about the Benghazi attacks.
The investigation involved a review of thousands of pages of intelligence assessments and internal administration e-mails, as well as interviews with senior intelligence officials, security personnel and eyewitnesses to the attacks.
Earlier this year, the United States captured one of the militants accused of orchestrating the attacks in a raid in Libya. Ahmed Abu Khatalla now faces trial in the United States. In addition to Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and CIA security contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.
The committee concluded that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks, and that militants with links to al-Qaeda were involved. But more than two years later, it said, “the intelligence was and remains conflicting about the identities, affiliations, and motivations of the attackers.”