Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee blame the White House for failing to provide sufficient security to defend a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and that the administration quickly knew the violence was a terrorist attack.
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But a report by the GOP dominated committee released today also conceded that a quick reaction force preparing to reinforce Americans was never ordered to stand down and would not have arrived in time to save any lives. Some Republicans had accused the Obama administration of preventing a rescue attempt by the U.S. military.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. It also triggered a firestorm of criticism accusing the Obama administration of covering up its response to the attack.
Key findings in today's report concluded that the White House "failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya," that U.S. personnel in Benghazi "were woefully vulnerable," and the Defense Department believed the violence was a terrorist attack "nearly from the outset."
The report reflects the views of the most senior members of the committee, Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.
"In assessing military posture in anticipation of the September 11anniversary, White House officials failed to comprehend or ignored the dramatically deteriorating security situation in Libya and the growing threat to U.S. interests in the region," according to the 31 page report. "U.S. personnel in Benghazi were woefully vulnerable in September 2012."
The reported concluded the American mission was vulnerable because the administration "did not direct a change in military force posture," there was no intelligence of a specific "imminent" threat in Libya and the Department of State, which has primary responsibility for diplomatic security, "favored a reduction" of Department of Defense security personnel in Libya before the attack.
The report also agrees with the administration that during the attack, military assets were not positioned to make a difference in the response, and there was no stand-down order issued by the administration to forces in Tripoli preparing to respond.
"The U.S. military's response to the Benghazi attack was severely degraded because of the location and readiness posture of U.S. forces, and because of lack of clarity about how the terrorist action was unfolding," the report reads. "However, given the uncertainty about the prospective length and scope of the attack, military commanders did not take all possible steps to prepare for a more extended operation."
"There was no 'stand down' order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi," the report states.
Democrats on the committee believe the Republican report ends the controversy that there was any corruption in the aftermath of the attack.
"This report, produced by House Armed Services Committee Republicans, should finally bring an end to the politicization of the heinous attacks on brave Americans in Benghazi," ranking Democrat Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Rep. Niki Tsongas, the top Democrat on the committee's investigative subcommittee, wrote in a statement. "All of these conclusions are counter to assertions and accusations leveled by a number of Republicans."
"It is time to move forward, take the real conclusions we have arrived at and establish how to best protect our citizens around the globe," they wrote. "It is our hope that today's report, which was authored by Republicans, finally brings this attempt to manufacture a scandal to an end."