All of the Benghazi conspiracy theories have now been completely debunked. Again. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence just publicly released its report, which systematically knocks down pretty much every paranoid theory over the tragedy which happened in Benghazi, Libya and what happened immediately afterwards. For those of you who are counting, this is the seventh such report that has come to exactly the same conclusions. The House committee was led by a Republican, but the report itself was a bipartisan effort.
That we have had seven thorough investigations of this tragedy is apparently not enough for some folks, since an eighth investigation was recently launched by House Republicans. They refuse to accept the conclusions of these prior investigations -- all seven of them -- that there simply was no nefarious plot from the White House to "spin" the tragedy for political gain. In fact, the mere existence of seven investigations (with the eighth already underway) should indicate to the objective observer that only one party is "playing politics" with the Benghazi tragedy -- and it is not President Obama's party who is doing so.
The new House report repeatedly asserts that it should be seen as the "definitive" report on Benghazi. Here is the concluding paragraph, for example:
This report is the result of nearly two years of intensive investigation. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reviewed thousands of pages of intelligence assessments, cables, notes, and emails; held 20 Committee events and hearings; and conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials and eyewitnesses to the attacks, including eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Members and Staff spent thousands of hours intensively looking at every aspect of the tragedy. The report is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans. Despite the highly sensitive nature of these activities, the report has endeavored to make the facts and conclusions within this report widely and publicly available so that the American public can separate actual fact from rumor and unsupported innuendo. Only with a full accounting of the facts can we ensure that tragedies like this one never happen again.
The report contains 17 "findings," each of which might be summarized as: "That thing you heard about on Fox News? It didn't actually happen, because we fully investigated and debunked that theory." Think this is cynically overstating the case? Here is "Finding #16" in full, addressing a specific instance of all that "rumor and unsupported innuendo" (emphasis in original):
Finding #16: There is no evidence that the CIA conducted any unusual polygraph exams related to Benghazi.
CIA witnesses consistently testified that they had not undergone a polygraph examination following the Benghazi attacks. CIA confirmed that it had not conducted a polygraph examination of any officer following their assignments in Benghazi.
That's just a sample. The biggest conspiracy theories that were debunked (again) by this report: the White House did not exert any political influence over the talking points Susan Rice used in her Sunday interviews; the C.I.A. made the "substantive changes" to the talking points, not anyone in the White House; there was no "stand down" order given at any time during the attacks; there was no air support available; and there was no "coverup" after the fact. In other words, all those incredible theories the right wing has been pushing ever since are simply not true. And this, mind you, is from a Republican-led House committee.
This report was released just before Congress left for one of their extended holiday vacations, right when President Obama was making news on immigration policy. The timing of the release pretty much guaranteed that few in the media would notice it or adequately report on it. For all the thousands of breathless Benghazi news stories we've been subjected to over the past two years, there were few reporters interested in standing up before a camera to now say: "All that stuff we hyped previously was just flat-out wrong, folks. Sorry about that."
Congress has spent untold millions of dollars of taxpayer money to reach the same conclusions the first six definitive reports on the tragedy reached. The House of Representatives continues to spend millions on an eighth investigation, because Republicans cannot accept reality. The questions have all been asked, repeatedly. They have all been answered, each and every time. But the answers aren't what the Republicans want to hear (again), so they are charging into yet another investigation. They cannot believe that anything involving the nexus of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Islamic terrorists, and Susan Rice could not have some nefarious Democratic plot buried deep within it. They keep searching for smoke to prove the fire in their imagination, and they will likely keep this fervid search up right through Hillary Clinton's expected run for the presidency. The process of investigation has taken on a life of its own, out of all proportion to the fact that nothing -- that's not one single thing, folks -- has been uncovered so far which would prove the looniest of the Republicans' theories. There is no smoke to be seen, but that's not going to stop them from looking, once again.
The Benghazi attacks were a tragedy. Four brave Americans died, including a United States ambassador. In saner and more normal times, any investigation into this tragedy would focus almost completely on what went wrong with the security, and how that could be improved in the future so such an attack never happens again. This has been almost completely lost in the partisan witchhunt.
This is the seventh report to come to the same conclusion: all the conspiracy theories are just plain wrong. The eighth investigation is now underway. This all shows, with crystal clarity, that there indeed has been manipulation of this tragedy for crass partisan purposes. The public has indeed been misled, often by governmental officials who should really know better. But this misleading didn't come from the White House, or from the Democrats. Only one political party has shamelessly exploited this tragedy -- over and over again -- in nothing more than an attempt to score cheap political points.
But I guess, somehow, that's not newsworthy these days. I'm still waiting to see a mainstream media headline which finally tells the public the unvarnished truth: "Republican Benghazi Conspiracy Theories All Debunked -- Again." Or maybe just: "Wrong All Along."
[Note: The full declassified House committee report is available in PDF format on the committee's website. I encourage everyone interested in Benghazi to read it in full (it is only 36 pages long). Because some people don't like dealing with PDF files, I have reproduced below the entire two-page "Executive Summary" which prefaces the rest of the report. This overview shows the breadth of the investigation, and how every single conspiracy theory they looked at proved to be completely and utterly wrong.]
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ("HPSCI" or "the Committee") conducted a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into the tragic attacks against two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11-12, 2012. The nearly two-year investigation focused on the activities of the Intelligence Community ("IC") before, during, and after the attacks. During the course of thousands of hours of detailed investigation, HPSCI reviewed thousands of pages of intelligence assessments, cables, notes, and emails; held 20 Committee events and hearings; and conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials and eyewitnesses to the attacks, including eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night.
This report details the findings and conclusions of HPSCI's investigation. In summary, the Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi and, without a requirement to do so, ably and bravely assisted the State Department on the night of the attacks. Their actions saved lives. Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support. The Committee, however, received evidence that the State Department security personnel, resources, and equipment were unable to counter the terrorist threat that day and required CIA assistance.
Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.
Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al-Qa'ida, participated in the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, although the Committee finds that the intelligence was and remains conflicting about the identities, affiliations, and motivations of the attackers.
Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the [Obama] Administration's initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate. There was a stream of contradictory and conflicting intelligence that came in after the attacks. The Committee found intelligence to support CIA's initial assessment that the attacks had evolved out of a protest in Benghazi; but it also found contrary intelligence, which ultimately proved to be the correct intelligence. There was no protest. The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke), and after the FBI began publishing its interviews with U.S. officials on the ground on September 22, 2012.
Fifth, the Committee finds that the process used to generate the talking points HPSCI asked for -- and which were used for Ambassador Rice's public appearances -- was flawed. HPSCI asked for the talking points solely to aid [Committee] Members' ability to communicate publicly using the best available intelligence at the time, and mistakes were made in the process of how those talking points were developed.
Finally, the Committee found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi. The Committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi and no evidence that the IC shipped arms to Syria.
This report, and the nearly two years of intensive investigation it reflects, is meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community's activities before, during, and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans. Despite the highly sensitive nature of these activities, the report has endeavored to make the facts and conclusions within this report widely and publicly available so that the American public can separate the actual facts from the swirl of rumors and unsupported allegations. Only with a full accounting of the facts can we ensure that tragedies like the one that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty never happen again.
Chris Weigant blogs at:
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
Become a fan of Chris on The Huffington Post