Republicans Release Their Benghazi Report: Rescue Delayed As Administration Dithered

By Susan Jones | June 28, 2016 | 10:21am EDT
House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., speaks during a TV news interview with MSNBC, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, to discuss the release of his final report on the 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where a violent mob killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi released their 800-page report on Tuesday, detailing "relevant events that took place in 2011 and 2012."

They conclude that the U.S. Defense Department was "unprepared to respond" to the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens; a two-hour meeting at the White House the evening of the attack focused on an irrelevant YouTube video and concerns about Libya approving any U.S. military deployment; and a rescue team "sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times."

“Now, I simply ask the American people to read this report for themselves, look at the evidence we have collected, and reach their own conclusions," Committee Chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said  in a news release making the report public. "You can read this report in less time than our fellow citizens were taking fire and fighting for their lives on the rooftops and in the streets of Benghazi.”

Republicans summarized what they consider to be "significant new information," including:

-- Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began.

The report states on page 149: "When the attacks in Benghazi began, the Defense Department was unprepared to respond. Despite there being a missing U.S. Ambassador, its response—from the start of the attack at 9:42 p.m. in Libya, to the amount of time it took for the forces to actually deploy until late the next morning in Libya—at best illustrates a rusty bureaucratic process not in keeping with the gravity and urgency of the events happening on the ground."

-- With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated, but President Obama nor Defense Secretary Panetta were not. The agenda included "action items" focused on a YouTube video; and other items containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.”

The report contains emails confirming "the understanding among the individuals participating in the White House meeting that deployment to Benghazi was not imminent. As the Defense Department timeline shows, none of the orders given to the assets that night contained an order to deploy to Benghazi. The FAST platoons were ordered to prepare to deploy, not to deploy. The CIF (Commander’s in Extremis Force) and the U.S. based SOF (Special Operations Force) were ordered to deploy only to an intermediate staging base, not to Benghazi or Tripoli."

The report also noted, "The decisions made earlier in the year by senior State Department officials to maintain a presence in Benghazi without adequate security forces and an inadequately fortified Mission compound contributed to what amounted to a worst case scenario of circumstances that would test the military’s preparedness and ability to respond. Nevertheless, the Defense Department did not pass the test. Whether this failure is shouldered by it alone, or rests in part on decisions made by the State Department in Washington D.C. or with the White House who presided over a two hour meeting where half of the action items related to an anti-Muslim video wholly unconnected to the attacks, is one of the lingering questions about Benghazi."

-- The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries.

-- A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times.

According to the report itself: "The Commander of the FAST platoon testified he first became aware of the attack on the Mission compound in Benghazi through reports on Fox News. At the time, the FAST platoon was stationed in Rota, Spain."

Three hours after the FAST commander received official notification of the attack (at 11:45 p.m. in Washington, D.C.], the FAST Commander’s platoon was prepped and ready to deploy. "Yet another six hours would elapse before C-130s arrived in Spain to transport the FAST Platoon to Libya," the report said.

When the C-130s finally did arrive, the FAST Platoon loaded its gear within an hour. Yet another three hours would elapse before the FAST Platoon departed for Libya. The FAST Platoon commander explained the cause of the delay:

"After we were loaded, which was around , so about an hour after the C-130s were there, we still did not lift off until was when the first aircraft took off."

The committee asked the commander to explain the delay to get off the ground:

"So we were told multiple times to change what we were wearing, to change from cammies into civilian attire, civilian attire into cammies, cammies into civilian attire. There was also some talk of whether or not we could carry our personal weapons. I was basically holding hard and fast to the point where we were carrying our personal weapons. Like, we’ve got a very violent thing going on the ground where we’re going, so we’re going to be carrying something that can protect ourselves. But as far as what the Marines were wearing, that continually changed, and we had to make those changes inside of the aircraft."

The FAST Platoon commander testified that in the course of three hours, he and his Marines changed in and out of their uniforms four times.

-- None of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines.

According to the report, "it appear the U.S. Military’s response that night was delayed--because it started too late."

-- The Libyan forces that evacuated Americans from the CIA Annex to the Benghazi airport were not affiliated with any of the militias the CIA or State Department had developed a relationship with during the prior 18 months. Instead, it was comprised of former Qadhafi loyalists who the U.S. had helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution.

The report says the  last entry in the personal journal of Ambassador Chris Stevens, dated September 11, 2012, read: “Never ending security threats…”

In response to the report, Hillary Clinton's campaign said it had "not found anything to contradict the conclusions of the multiple, earlier investigations."

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