A new congressional report on the Benghazi terrorist attacks faults the White House for either not understanding or ignoring the fragile security situation in Libya before U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
“In assessing military posture in anticipation of the September 11 anniversary, 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,” said a report from the House Armed Services Committee released Tuesday.
Since the Benghazi attacks — which occurred on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks — the House Armed Services Committee has held closed-door briefings to learn about the actions of the military chain of command before, during, and after the attacks.
During those hearings, lawmakers repeatedly expressed disbelief over why the armed forces was ill-equipped to respond to the terrorist attacks, according to transcripts released by the committee. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Carter Ham, who led U.S. Africa Command, were among those who appeared before the committee.
The committee report released Tuesday on those hearings notes how Libya’s “continued troubles were well known to the public and policy makers” after Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in October 2011.
“This tumult was obvious in the city of Benghazi,” the report states. “In the eighteen months before September 2012, there were nearly twenty violent incidents targeting U.S. or western interests there.”
The report, authored by the Republicans on the committee, also blasts the White House for apparently exaggerating the steps they took ahead of the attacks.
“Official public statements seem to have exaggerated the extent and rigor of the security assessment conducted at the time,” the report said of the White House’s statements on security precautions before the attacks.
The report takes issue with a White House press statement before the 9-11 anniversary that stated: “The President heard from key national security principals on our preparedness and security posture on the eve of the eleventh anniversary of September 11th. . . . [T]he President and the Principals discussed specific measures we are taking in the Homeland to prevent 9/11 related attacks as well as the steps taken to protect U.S. persons and facilities abroad, as well as force protection. The President reiterated that Departments and agencies must do everything possible to protect the American people, both at home and abroad.”
Citing what the committee learned, the report doubts that statement: “This is a commendable sentiment and describes actions expected of the commander-in-chief,” it states. “However, majority member[s] believe that this description may have overstated the extent of the White House involvement and the rigor of its posture analysis.”