House Select Committee on Benghazi is will press ahead with investigation
Another committee found no intelligence failures around the deadly 2012 assault
Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack
It was first blamed on a spontaneous demonstration; later, intelligence said it was planned
The GOP-led House Select Committee on the Benghazi terror attack shows no sign of backing down despite a report from another congressional panel that, according to a top Democrat, found no intelligence failures around the deadly 2012 assault.
“There is more work to be done and more to be investigated,” a spokeswoman for House Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy told CNN on Wednesday.
Shortly before beginning its August recess, the House Intelligence Committee, also led by Republicans, approved its report on the militant attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“Our investigation found the intelligence community warned about an increased threat environment, but did not have specific tactical warning of an attack before it happened,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, said in a statement after its vote.
Ruppersberger said the finding is “consistent with testimony that the attacks appeared to be opportunistic.”
Other committee probes
The Intelligence panel, along with several other House committees, has spent the past two years interviewing witnesses and examining evidence about the Obama administration’s response to the attacks and the related controversy that has been a flashpoint between Republicans and President Barack Obama over his conduct of foreign policy.
In a key finding, the Intelligence Committee reached a conclusion on one of the most contentious issues – the now-infamous talking points used by a senior administration official to describe publicly what had occurred.
Using that information, then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice explained in television interviews just days after the September 11 attack that it stemmed from spontaneous protests over an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States. There had been such demonstrations in other areas of the Mideast.
U.S. intelligence officials soon determined, however, that groups with links to terrorists planned and carried out the armed assault on a diplomatic facility and a CIA annex.
A flawed process
The committee report, according to Ruppersberger, found that “the process used to develop the talking points was flawed” and that they “reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”
Like an earlier report by the House Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee also found that there was no ‘stand down’ order issued by the U.S. military command in Tripoli, which sought to support Americans under fire in Benghazi.
CNN reached out to Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers for comment on the panel’s report but did not receive a response.
Gowdy has said repeatedly that the House Select Committee will review what other congressional committees have found, but also seek testimony from those who haven’t done so yet.
Gowdy told his hometown newspaper, the Greenville News, “witnesses who were previously unavailable or not interested in cooperating are now interested in cooperating.” He added that “the universe of witnesses is expanding.”
Gowdy also indicated that the Select Committee would hold its first public hearing in September to hear how the State Department is carrying out new efforts on diplomatic security.
Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Duvall told CNN the committee’s “mandate is broader” than work done by other panels.
“The chairman has repeatedly noted the Select Committee wants every relevant document and all relevant witnesses to ensure every relevant fact is uncovered. This is a fact-centered investigation and the committee will go where the facts lead,” Duvall said.
The plan now is to declassify the Intelligence Committee report and make it public. A time frame for that, however, is not yet clear.