Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi released a report debunking many right-wing media myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
Democrats Release Preemptive Committee Report Debunking Prominent Benghazi Myths
Democrats On House Select Committee Release Preemptive Report To “Debunk” Benghazi “Conspiracy Theories.” ABC News reported that Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi put out a preemptive report before the Republicans released their own, seeking to “debunk many conspiracy theories” about the Benghazi attack:
Frustrated Democrats on the House special committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi terror attack released separate findings today, preempting the long-awaited results expected to be announced by the committee's Republicans as early as Tuesday.
Committee Democrats, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, say it was necessary to release their own report because the Republicans, led by Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, refused to issue a joint report that would incorporate opinions of the minority group.
The Benghazi Select Committee was established over two years ago even after numerous official investigations had already occurred, paving the way for a highly contentious process that Democrats say is aimed at attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and derailing her presidential bid.
The Democrats say their 339-page report “debunks many conspiracy theories about the attacks.” Some of the report's 21 findings have been previously shared, such as the conclusion that “the State Department’s security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate,” as this report puts it, and that the Defense Department could not have done anything differently that night to save lives.
It also seeks to counter an argument often made by Republicans that the Obama administration lied about the attackers' motivations -- blaming an anti-Muslim video for inspiring a spontaneous attack -- rather than concluding it was a coordinated action by terrorist militants. [ABC News, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth That US Military Didn’t Try To Rescue Americans In Benghazi
Myth: Administration Failed To Dispatch Military To Benghazi
Fox's Peter Johnson Suggests Obama Administration May Have “Sacrificed Americans” As A “Political Calculation” During Benghazi Attacks. On the October 25, 2012, edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. asked if there was a “political calculation that was made to sacrifice Americans on the ground so we didn't kill innocents in front of the consulate.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/25/12]
Fox's K.T. MacFarland: “It Was Probably A Political Decision Not To Rescue Them.” Fox News national security analyst K.T. MacFarland claimed the supposed absence of aid to the consulate was “probably” politically motivated. From the October 10, 2012, edition of Fox’s America Live:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (guest host): K.T., who is responsible for answering all of these questions?
MACFARLAND: Well, that's the question you want to know. I mean, here's what's happened is, bad stuff happened, all right? So what is the administration doing? They're throwing a lot of dust up in the air to try to make sure you're not sure quite what happened, who to blame. Is it the movie's fault? Is it the intelligence community? Is it the security? Is it the State Department diplomats? We don't know the answers to that. I've got a guess that it's something that was a political decision. And not only a political decision not to give them the kind of security they wanted, but it was probably a political decision not to rescue them. And finally, is it a political decision to try to put a lot of blue smoke and mirrors in front of everybody so they don't know what really happened, and they won't know what really happened until after the election? [Fox News, America Live, 10/10/12]
Fact: US Military Could Not Have Done Anything Differently To Save Lives In Benghazi
Committee Democrats’ Report: Evidence Shows “The U.S. Military Could Not Have Done Anything Differently On The Night Of The Attacks That Would Have Saved The Lives” Of Those Killed In Benghazi. Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi cited testimony from committee witnesses to explain that the evidence obtained by the committee confirmed previous findings by Republicans on the House Committee On Armed Services that the U.S. military “could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives” of those killed during the attacks:
Evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirmed the findings of Republicans on the House Committee on Armed Services in 2014 that the U.S. military could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi. Chairman Gowdy admitted this on national television, as did his chief counsel during closed-door interviews with military officials.
Secretary Panetta explained that he and General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with President Obama at the White House after being notified of the attacks in Benghazi, and “the President made clear that we ought to use all of the resources at our disposal to try to make sure we did everything possible to try to save lives there.”
Secretary Panetta asked his advisors: “[W]hat are the immediate resources we can deploy in order to try to save these lives and do what we can? And they are the ones that made the recommendation of the teams that I then ordered to be in place.”
Secretary Panetta ordered the deployment of two Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) platoons stationed in Spain, the Combatant Commander’s In-Extremis Force (CIF) based in Germany and on assignment in Croatia, and a special operations force based in the United States.
Secretary Panetta was clear: “I never had a question then and I don’t even have a question now that we did everything possible to try to see if we could save lives, in line with the President’s order.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Committee Witnesses Explained Why Strike Aircraft “Were Not An Appropriate Option.” Testimony from military experts explained why sending in strike aircraft, such as F-16s, “were not an appropriate option”:
Witnesses explained again why strike aircraft were not an appropriate option. Secretary
Panetta told us: “Okay, yeah, so F-16s go in there and they drop a lot of bombs, but where is the Ambassador? Where are our people? What’s happening. You don’t just do that. You’ve got to have information.”
General Ham explained his decision not to send strike aircraft, warning that “it could’ve
made things worse” by “causing friendly casualties, American or Libyan” or “causing casualties amongst noncombatants, which would further incite things.” He explained that they lacked the necessary “detailed information about the situation on the ground, a specific means of targeting and target designation” as well as “the ability to posture forces for recovery of a downed pilot should you lose an aircraft.” Others agreed:
General Philip Breedlove, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe: “I completely
agree with the judgment not to use kinetic weapons via fighter aircraft in that
Major General Michael Repass, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command-Europe: “If you are blindly throwing ordnance at somebody out there, you are going to inadvertently kill people who ought not be killed.”
General John Kelly, Senior Military Assistant to Secretary Panetta: “[T]o drop
bombs without knowing what you’re dropping the bombs on might make people feel good, but it may be counterproductive, particularly when it’s killing or hurting the wrong people.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth Of Obama Or Clinton Giving “Stand Down” Order
Myth: Obama Administration Issued A “Stand Down” Order To Military And CIA
Fox News Pushed “Stand Down” Myth 100 Times Between September 2012 And May 2014. A Media Matters report found that Fox News’ evening shows, including The Five, Special Report, On the Record, The O’Reilly Factor, and Hannity, aired a combined 100 segments between September 11, 2012, and May 2, 2014, suggesting that the administration issued a “stand down” order to soldiers and CIA personnel while the Benghazi attacks took place. [Media Matters, 9/16/14]
Fact: Neither Obama Nor Clinton Issued A “Stand Down” Order To Military Or CIA Personnel
Benghazi Committee Witnesses: There Was No Order Given To Military By Then-Secretary Clinton Or President Obama To “Stand Down.” According to the Democrats’ committee report, “not a single witness substantiated offensive Republican claims that Secretary Clinton or anyone else ordered Secretary Panetta or the military to ‘stand down.’”
Not a single witness substantiated offensive Republican claims that Secretary Clinton or anyone else ordered Secretary Panetta or the military to “stand down.” Secretary Panetta told us that “if somebody had said that, I think, you know, it would not have interfered with my orders to proceed.” When asked again, he replied: “No. Never, never. It would have been against everything that the military stands for. ... To even imply that somehow the military, or someone would have said, maybe we shouldn’t go, it’s too risky, it’s crazy. It’s just not the way our military operates.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Committee Democrats Confirm CIA Security Team Was Told By Local Commander To Wait For Assistance. The Democrats’ committee report explains that “although there is a disagreement about whether the words ‘stand down’ were uttered, witnesses agreed that the team was told to wait while CIA officials in Libya requested security assistance from local Libyan forces, and they generally agreed that it was appropriate to try to obtain this additional security assistance.” In addition, “none of the witnesses … identified any evidence that CIA officials were motivated by political or improper motives or that their decisions were directed by any officials outside Libya.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth That Clinton Was Not Responsive During Benghazi Attack
Myth: Clinton Was Unaccounted For During Attack
*Conservative Radio Host Laura Ingraham: “We Know That The Secretary Of State Had Not A Single Conversation With The Commander In Chief.” In an interview with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on her radio show, Laura Ingraham said, “We know that the secretary of state had not a single conversation with the commander in chief. Not one during this attack.” From the May 7, 2013, edition of The Laura Ingraham Show:
LAURA INGRAHAM: We know that the secretary of state had not a single conversation with the commander in chief. Not one during this attack. Not one conversation? That just seems bizarre to me. I mean that's just one point, but that's a pretty darn good question. Why?
REP. PETER KING: Absolutely, it's an excellent question, and to me it's one that, it's unfortunate that it even has to be asked. I mean you would think they would have been on the phone, or in contact, continually.
INGRAHAM: My God. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 5/7/13]
Fox Contributor Monica Crowley: Clinton And Obama Were “Unaccounted For That Night.” On the May 9, 2013, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Fox contributor Monica Crowley claimed that “the commander in chief and the secretary of state, the two leaders of the U.S. government … they are unaccounted for that night. We have no narrative of where they were or what they were doing. Those questions need to be answered.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/9/13]
Fact: Clinton Spoke With President Obama And Multiple Government Officials During The Attack
Democrats’ Committee Report: “Secretary Clinton Was Active And Engaged On The Night Of The Attacks.” The Democrats’ committee report notes that Clinton “was active and engaged on the night of the attacks” and said, “In the hours directly after the attacks,” Clinton spoke with the president, the national security advisor, and the CIA director amongst others:
Secretary Clinton was active and engaged on the night of the attacks and in the days that followed. In the hours directly after the attacks, she spoke with President Obama, the National Security Advisor, the CIA Director, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She also spoke with Libyan General National Congress President Magariaf, and she consulted with a host of officials within the State Department.
She personally participated in a Secure Video TeleConference (SVTCS) with senior officials from the Intelligence Community, White House, and Department of Defense. Her
Deputy Chief of Staff, Jacob Sullivan, explained: “[S]he took the really unusual step of a cabinet Secretary walking into a working level operational SVTCS because she wasn’t going to stand on ceremony. She wanted to be there to make sure that we were doing everything we could.”
Mr. Sullivan described Secretary Clinton’s “enormous sense of urgency” and said she
“kicked it into high gear, and she got very focused and began the process of trying to execute a strategy to get our people out of Benghazi safely.” According to Mr. Sullivan, her approach was: “I am not going to rest until we get Chris Stevens back, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Secretary Clinton’s Chief of Staff at the time, Cheryl Mills, described Secretary Clinton
as “very concerned,” “very determined,” and “worried” about U.S. teams on the ground in Libya and elsewhere, and said Secretary Clinton was “devastated” about the deaths of Americans in Benghazi. [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth That Clinton Personally Denied Security Improvements In Benghazi
Myth: Clinton “Personally Signed Off” On Cable Denying Security Request In Benghazi
Fox's Catherine Herridge: “Mrs. Clinton Personally Signed Off On Reducing Security” In Benghazi, According To Letter From House Republicans. Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge hyped House Republicans' accusation that Clinton's signature on an April 2012 State Department cable proved that the then-secretary of state “personally signed off on reducing security” in Benghazi. From the July 31, 2014, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
CATHERINE HERRIDGE: And while the State Department and Mrs. Clinton have said the security decisions were made by mid-level managers, this letter to the president from the five chairmen of the House committees investigating Benghazi describes a cable, which Fox News understands was never produced to the intelligence committee, where Mrs. Clinton personally signed off on reducing security. And that letter reads, in part, quote, “An April 19, 2012, cable bearing Secretary Clinton's signature acknowledged requests for additional security but nevertheless ordered the withdrawal of security assets to proceed as planned.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 7/31/14]
Fact: Clinton Didn’t Deny Security Requests
Benghazi Committee Democrats: Clinton Didn’t Deny Any Benghazi Security Requests. The Democrats’ committee report states that “not a single witness we spoke to identified any evidence that Secretary Clinton personally denied security requests in Benghazi”:
Contrary to repeated Republican claims, not a single witness we spoke to identified any evidence that Secretary Clinton personally denied security requests in Benghazi. Five Republican House Chairmen first made this accusation in 2013, and Rep. Darrell Issa repeated it on national television. These and similar claims have been debunked repeatedly by the Washington Post Fact Checker, the Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact, and others.
During our hearing with Secretary Clinton, Rep. Pompeo argued that the Select Committee had obtained “over 600 requests” for security from Benghazi, but he refused to provide the evidence for his claim.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took up this allegation himself, claiming: “Look at Benghazi, our ambassador. He wired her 500 or 600 times asking for help.” The Fact Checker called his baseless accusation “a whopper.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth That Politics Influenced Intelligence Community’s Benghazi Talking Points
Myth: Talking Points Provided By Intelligence Community Were Altered Due To Political Pressure
Fox’s Neil Cavuto: There Was An “Orchestrated Effort To Present Talking Points That Were Based On Lies.” During an interview with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on the May 5, 2014, edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto argued that an email from then-deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes “at least showed an orchestrated effort to present a talking points that were based on lies.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 5/5/14]
Fact: Talking Points Were Not Changed Due To Political Considerations
Benghazi Committee Democrats: “Not A Single Witness … Identified Evidence” That Intelligence Assessments Or Talking Points “Were Influenced By Political Considerations.” CIA witnesses told the committee that intelligence analysts “would have gone crazy” if they believed “political considerations” were influencing their analysis and drafting of talking points and assessments:
The evidence obtained by the Select Committee confirms the bipartisan findings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that assessments and information provided by the Intelligence Community to government officials changed repeatedly in the days and weeks following the attacks, in part based on new information that became available to intelligence analysts.
Not a single witness appearing before the Select Committee identified evidence that intelligence assessments or CIA talking points provided to Congress and Ambassador Rice were influenced by political considerations.
The Director of the CIA Office of Terrorism Analysis told the Select Committee that “in any fast-breaking event, like the attacks in Benghazi, analysts attempt to strike a balance of providing our best understanding of the events, and waiting for additional reporting to come in to bring the picture into sharper focus.”
CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told the Select Committee: “I know analysts better than I think I know my own kids. And if the analysts had believed that what they had written was somehow being turned for political reasons, or if the analysts had believed that I was somehow editing the talking points for political reasons, they would have gone crazy.”
Deputy Director Morrell (sic) also explained the process for developing the CIA talking points: “The talking points were exactly what the analysts thought. Politics was not in anybody’s mind.” He added: “[N]obody who was doing the work in the intelligence community recognized that there were any politics here at all to begin with. It was only later that it became political.” [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
Democrats’ Committee Report Debunks Myth Clinton Deliberately Misled Public About Benghazi Attack
Myth: Clinton’s Public Remarks After Attack Were A “Direct Contradiction” Of Intelligence At The Time
Fox's Chris Wallace Highlighted Rep. Jim Jordan's Allegation That Clinton Intentionally Misled The Public As “Explosive.” On the October 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Chris Wallace repeated a claim previously made by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), telling host Jon Scott that Clinton privately described the attack as terrorism and made no mention of an anti-Islam video that was posted to YouTube, which he said “goes against the line that was coming out of the White House and from the State Department.” Wallace elaborated on Jordan's claim, adding, “Clinton spoke there at a ceremony attended, of course, by the relatives of the four people who had been killed. Mrs. Clinton talked specifically at that time about the video, no mention at all of Al Qaeda, no mention at all of a terror attack, so this seems in direct contradiction to that.” [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/22/15]
Fact: Administration’s Statements Changed With The Intelligence Reports
Benghazi Committee Democrats: “No Intentionally Misleading Public Statements” By Clinton. According to the Democrats’ committee report, claims that Clinton was “intentionally misleading” the public about the attack in Benghazi “are baseless” and “simply disregard the fact that the intelligence reports changed repeatedly, and the Administration’s statements changed with them”:
For more than three years, Republicans have accused Administration officials of intentionally misleading the American people about the attacks in Benghazi. In 2013—well before House Speaker John Boehner chose him to lead the Select Committee—Chairman Gowdy proclaimed: “[W]e know we were lied to.”
The evidence obtained by the Select Committee demonstrates that these claims are baseless. Republicans simply disregard the fact that the intelligence reports changed repeatedly, and the Administration’s statements changed with them.
Not one person interviewed by the Select Committee provided any evidence of an intentional effort to misrepresent the facts.
Secretary Clinton’s statements on September 11 and 12, 2012, tracked early reporting from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that Ansar al-Sharia “claimed responsibility and called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli on Facebook and Twitter.” They also tracked an early intelligence report that “the presence of armed assailants from the incident’s outset suggests this was an intentional assault and not the escalation of a peaceful protest.”
On the night of the attacks, Secretary Clinton called the President of the Libyan General National Congress to ask for help and referenced Ansar al-Sharia’s claim of responsibility. She added: “I also need you to help us in Tripoli. We have seen serious threats on social media sites, like Facebook, and it is important that your government take all possible measures, in an urgent manner, to secure our facilities.”
Later that night, Secretary Clinton emailed her daughter and again referenced that two officers had been killed by an al-Qaida-like group, which tracked the reporting at the time.
The next day, she told the Egyptian Prime Minister it was “a planned attack—not a protest,” and that it “had nothing to do with the film.” She again referenced Ansar al-Sharia’s claim of responsibility and again asked for help to “lower the temperature on everything that is going on and to make sure this does not happen again today, tomorrow, or after Friday prayer.”
In her public statements, Secretary Clinton said: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” This statement was accurate. [House Select Committee on Benghazi; Honoring Courage, Improving Security, And Fighting The Exploitation Of A Tragedy, 6/27/16]
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