House GOP Benghazi report says Clinton signed off on security reduction
CNN — WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republican leaders released a report Tuesday on the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which they claim former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally signed off on cuts in security at the compound, which they say would contradict her congressional testimony.
The September 11, 2012, attack resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The 46-page report by Republicans on five House committees cites a request from then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, sent last March 28 to Clinton asking for additional security resources, and a response dated last April 19 that bears Clinton's signature.
The April cable from the State Department, according to the GOP report, "acknowledged then-Ambassador Cretz' formal request for additional security assets but ordered the withdrawal of security elements to proceed as planned."
The response from the State Department, which the GOP report cites, recommended the agency's diplomatic security officials conduct "a joint reassessment of the number of (security) agents requested for Benghazi."
The report cites e-mails from one U.S. embassy employee in Tripoli saying that answer "looks like no movement on the full complement of personnel for Benghazi, but rather a reassessment to bring the numbers lower."
While the report describes the cable, it does not include a copy of it showing Clinton's signature.
At a January 23, 2012, hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton said security requests related to Benghazi were handled by others at the State Department.
"I didn't see those requests. They didn't come to me. I didn't approve them. I didn't deny them," she told the panel at the time.
A former U.S. government official, referred to the cable.
"As was addressed in (Clinton's) testimony: Every one of the million (plus) cables sent to State from the field are addressed to the secretary of state. Every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," the former official noted to CNN.
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, released a written statement that did not comment directly about the report's mention of Clinton.
But the statement said the report "appears to raise questions that have already been asked and answered in great detail by the administration."
Hayden points out that several administration officials have provided more than 10,000 pages of documents and have appeared at 10 congressional hearings on Benghazi. Members of Congress, she said, have reviewed classified video from the night of the attacks.
Hayden also cited the independent outside review board report created by the State Department "which specifically found that the interagency response was 'timely and appropriate' and 'helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans,' while also making important recommendations to improve security that we are in the process of implementing."
The top House Democrats on the five committees that drafted the report said they were not consulted by the Republican chairmen. They sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday blasting what they argued was a "partisan" product.
"By abandoning regular order and excluding Democratic members entirely from this process, you are unnecessarily politicizing our national security and casting aside the system used by the House for generations to avoid making obvious mistakes, errors, and omissions," the Democratic letter states.
Democrats say that issuing what they term a "staff report" from only the House GOP chairmen is "sacrificing accuracy in favor of partisanship."
In addition to detailing Clinton's role, the report also claims that White House and State Department personnel deliberately altered talking points put together by the intelligence community about what transpired in Libya to remove any references to extremist groups linked to al Qaeda.
The report concludes this was done in order to avoid embarrassing the State Department for missing any early warnings.
Obama Administration officials previously acknowledged that they did alter the talking points in an effort to preserve classified information and avoid any impact on the FBI investigation of the attack.
But the House GOP report indicates that it reviewed e-mail traffic about those draft talking points and found no evidence that anyone within the administration raised any red flags about securing classified information.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on talk shows days after the attack and said the administration believed it was a spontaneous act in response to a "hateful video" and linked to another incident in Cairo that occurred on the same day.
Later, the administration called the Benghazi episode a "terrorist attack" and admitted the talking points used by Rice were wrong.
The report cites e-mails from State Department officials on September 14 raising concerns about earlier drafts of the talking points that were circulated raising "serious concerns" that lawmakers might criticize the State Department for "not paying attention to agency warnings" about the security threats at the U.S. mission.
These e-mails are described in the report, but copies of the communications between administration officials were not included in it.
The report, which states it is an "ongoing congressional investigation" says its "preliminary findings" demonstrate the need for continued review.
The committees include House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform. Members of Congress traveled overseas, including Libya, to conduct the investigation.
Boehner has come under pressure from fellow Republicans who complain they have not received adequate answers about the attacks.
Many House Republicans have signed onto a measure pushed by Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf calling for the creation of a select committee to examine the matter.
In an interview on Fox on Monday, Boehner didn't rule that out at some point, but pointed to the work of the five committees who worked on the report.
"They're getting the job done. If, at some point, it's necessary to have the select committee, I'll be happy to do it," he said.