Seven months after the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, House Republicans released a new report on Tuesday that implies then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton misled lawmakers about her role in drawing down security assets in the war-torn country. The 43-page report also accuses President Barack Obama of failing to anticipate violence against Americans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The assault on the facility, carried out by as-yet unidentified assailants, claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. It also sparked a firestorm of political controversy in the United States because top Obama aides linked it—wrongly—to anger in the Muslim world at an Internet video ridiculing Islam.
Republican staff from the House committees on Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Intelligence produced the report, which accuses the Obama administration of trying to “cover up” the reality of the attack.
The White House countered that the document raises questions "that have already been asked and answered in great detail."
The document, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, implies that Clinton misled lawmakers under oath by denying that she played a role in denying requests from American officials in Libya for more security.
The report cites an April 19, 2012, cable, signed by Clinton, acknowledging requests from Stevens' predecessor for more security "but instead articulates a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including the Benghazi Mission."
That clashes with Clinton's Jan. 23, 2013, testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations panel. In that appearance, she declared that she felt responsible for the security of all State Department employees. “But the specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department," she said. "I didn’t see those requests. They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them.”
The report also essentially exonerates the U.S. intelligence community and the Defense Department, while ultimately laying blame for the failure to save Stevens and the other Americans on Obama. "The President, as Commander-in-Chief, failed to proactively anticipate the significance of September 11 and provide the Department of Defense with the authority to launch offensive operations beyond self-defense," it says.
And the document accuses the White House and top State Department officials of having "altered accurate talking points" on the attack in order to protect the State Department—notably by removing references to past attacks by Islamist extremists on Western targets in Benghazi.
"Contrary to Administration rhetoric, the talking points were not edited to protect classified information. Concern for classified information is never mentioned in email traffic among senior Administration officials," the report says.
Obama has denied willfully misleading Americans about the attack.
"The report just released by the House Republican Conference on Benghazi appears to raise questions that have already been asked and answered in great detail by the Administration," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
Hayden said the Obama administration has "taken extraordinary steps" to work with Congress in determining "what happened before, during and after the Benghazi attacks."
He added, "Most importantly, the State Department’s Accountability Review Board—the independent body charged with reviewing the attacks and evaluating the interagency response—released its report 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," Hayden said.