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New report rejects conspiracies surrounding Benghazi attack

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Late yesterday, there were new findings about the attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, that led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

    Ken Dilanian of The Associated Press wrote about it, joins us now from Washington.

    So, Ken, what were the findings?

  • KEN DILANIAN:

    Well, Hari, this report essentially debunked almost every criticism that had been leveled at the Obama administration over this incident.

    It basically said that there was no intent to mislead the American public about it, that the CIA and the military acted appropriately, and that many of the conspiracy theories that have been out there about cover-ups and dark forces at work were not accurate.

    And, principally, the most interesting finding for me is that after the — the weekend after the attack, the then-ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, went on the Sunday shows — many viewers may remember — and said that the attack had evolved from a peaceful protest.

    That turned out to be wrong, and she and the administration took a lot of flak as a result of that error. This report by the House Intelligence Committee, which is a Republican-controlled committee, essentially says that Rice was relying on intelligence that was provided to her from the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

    And in fact, points out that there were 21 intelligence reports that said that there had been a protest at this diplomatic facility. Those turned out to be wrong, but the intelligence picture was incredibly confused.

    And so, the report found there was no intent to mislead by anybody in the government about what happened here.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. So, what makes this particular committee or this particular finding different? There have been previous investigations, right?

  • KEN DILANIAN:

    Yes, this is the — this is the seventh congressional investigation, I believe, and the eighth overall. And this, essentially, mirrored some of the findings of the other investigations, particularly on the role of the military.

    But this one — the House Intelligence Committee has access to classified intelligence and CIA personnel that other committees don't have.

    And so, this report got the deepest into what the intelligence said, you know, who carried out the attack, what their motivations were. In fact, it pointed out that to this day, that's not — that's not completely clear.

    And what was also significant about this is that it's a Republican-controlled committee. The chairman is Mike Rogers, outgoing retiring member from Michigan, a very partisan Republican.

    But he concluded and his colleagues concluded, that many of the charges against the Obama administration, which have been leveled by Republicans — this has been a big political issue — many of those charges just simply — they just — they don't hold up.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. So, what are the repercussions now? Does this change — there's — I think there's one more committee that could have findings?

  • KEN DILANIAN:

    Well, there is a — there is a select committee that is supposed to continue an investigation into this issue. And they have said they will take this latest finding into account, but some of the key Republicans on that committee have come out and said, look, this House Intelligence Committee report debunks a lot of the questions you guys have been raising.

    So, let's focus on what we all agree was a shortcoming in this incident, which is that facility was not well protected, the State Department part of the facility, in particular, was not well-protected. The people guarding it knew that and they had asked for more better security from Washington, and that was not granted.

    Everyone agrees that that was a shortcoming and the hope is that this — at least among Democrats — that this committee can focus on that shortcoming and rectifying it, and better protecting diplomatic facilities around the world.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Any idea how many dollars all these investigations cost?

  • KEN DILANIAN:

    You know, I don't know, but it's got to be tens of millions. I mean — I mean, there's document gathering that takes place — this probe alone, there were 20 hearings or events by the House Intelligence Committee and they talked to dozens of people and reviewed thousands of documents. It's been an enormous undertaking.

    I think — and we'll never know how much time executive branch personnel have spent responding to these inquiries.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Ken Dilanian of The Associated Press, thanks so much for joining us.

  • KEN DILANIAN:

    Thanks for having me, Hari.

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