Clinton foes in Congress release Benghazi report

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images/ AFP

Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images/ AFP

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday released a long-awaited report on the deadly assault on the US mission in Benghazi, accusing then secretary of state Hillary Clinton of underestimating then misrepresenting the extremist threat.

Clinton’s Democratic supporters on the Congressional panel probing the attack and its political aftermath denounced their colleagues’ response, and the State Department said it provides few new facts about the September 2012 tragedy.

But there is some material in the report that will feed the narrative of those who believe the US administration was too slow to react to mounting danger in Libya and too quick to blame unconnected protests about a US-made video.

This in turn will further raise the temperature in an already bitter campaign to succeed US President Barack Obama in the White House — a campaign in which Clinton herself is now the Democratic frontrunner.

Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, who chaired the select committee set up to probe the attack, released the report with a tribute to the four Americans who died: Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith and CIA security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

“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,” he said.

Some of Gowdy’s Republican colleagues had some ideas about what voters’ conclusions should be.

“We expect our government to make every effort to save the lives of Americans who serve in harm’s way. That did not happen in Benghazi,” said Congressman Mike Pompeo.

“Politics were put ahead of the lives of Americans, and while the administration had made excuses and blamed the challenges posed by time and distance, the truth is that they did not try.”

In its initial response, the State Department also paid tribute to the four slain Americans. Spokesman Mark Toner said: “We honor them by working every day to internalize the lessons of Benghazi.”

“The essential facts surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi have been known for some time,” Toner added, citing two independent government reviews and seven previous Congressional committees.

But the reports’ authors highlighted details that, while not showing Obama’s White House or Clinton’s State Department delayed a possible rescue, do support the view that political considerations were in play afterward.

The attack by organized Libyan Islamist extremists on Stephen’s exposed US compound in the eastern city came as Obama was engaged in a tough re-election battle against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

In the days immediately after the shocking assault, which happened on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, some US officials wrongly implied it had sprung out of a protest against an anti-Muslim YouTube video.

The Republican report provides evidence that many within the administration knew early on that it had in fact been a planned “terrorist attack,” even as others were painting it as an isolated response to a specific provocation.

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