Intelligence and military officials responded appropriately during the terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a House committee concluded in a report released Friday evening.
The report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence also found no cover-ups and no deliberate misconduct by Obama administration officials following the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks.
Nor were there intelligence failures before the attacks on the State Department’s temporary mission in Benghazi and the nearby CIA annex, the previously secret 36-page investigative report says.
The bipartisan report by the Republican-led panel dismissed many allegations surrounding the attacks, which led to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.
The committee of 12 Republicans and nine Democrats did confirm one widely reported fact, however: The State Department facility where Stevens and Smith died was poorly secured, and State Department security agents knew they were vulnerable to attack.
Previous reports concluded that the White House did not act upon requests for security improvements.
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Among its 17 findings following a two-year probe, the new report confirms that the White House was wrong when it initially claimed the attacks on the American facilities in Benghazi grew out of an impromptu protest over an Internet video promoting an anti-Islam movie.
“There was no protest,” the report says.
“We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings,” committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat, said in a joint statement. They added:
We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives.
In May, House Speaker John Boehner appointed a Select Committee on Benghazi that became the eighth group to look into the attacks.
That newest committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., continues to investigate and has held one public hearing. The intelligence panel’s findings will “aid” its work, Gowdy’s committee said in a brief release.
“No witness has reported believing at any point that the attacks were anything but terrorist acts,” the new report says, but it was “not clear” who committed them.
Although early intelligence indicated the attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi evolved from a protest over the video, contrary evidence that there was no protest proved to be correct.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, incorrectly asserted on five Sunday talk shows four days after the attacks that such a protest instigated the attacks.
Rice has been roundly criticized for those comments. The new report says the performance wasn’t her fault, however, because her talking points came from bad intelligence from multiple agencies — not from a politically motivated directive from higher-ups to mislead the public.
The House panel found that analysts received 21 reports saying a protest had occurred, including 14 from public reports and others from the CIA, the Defense Department and the National Security Agency.
The CIA changed its initial assessment nearly a week after Rice appeared on the Sunday shows.
The report also notes that then-CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell “made significant changes to the talking points” used by Rice during her appearances. The process of assembling the talking points was “flawed,” the report finds.
Although the report mentions Rice, Morell and others at length, it makes only one explicit reference to President Obama — his use of the phrase “no acts of terror” in the Rose Garden the day after the attacks — and does not explicitly mention then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at all.
The committee found no evidence that the military was ordered to “stand down” during the attacks in Benghazi, as some alleged, and that “appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night.” The report states:
There was neither a stand down order nor a denial of available air support, and no American was left behind.
The panel also determined that the CIA was not secretly shipping arms from Libya to Syria, one allegation advanced to explain the firefight involving CIA operatives.
Libyan terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatallah, 43, identified by authorities as a leader of the attacks, was captured in a June raid and faces murder charges in the U.S.
Although some known terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda participated in the attacks, the report says, “to this day, significant intelligence gaps regarding the identities, affiliations and motivations of the attackers remain.”
This article has been modified.