Clinton handpicked four of that panel’s five members while the director of national intelligence named the final member from the intelligence community.
“The Board determined that U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation,” states the report. “The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.”
Carney called the ARB team “unimpeachable” and its report “unsparing.”
“It was critical. And it — and it — it held people accountable. And it made a series of recommendations for action that could be taken to improve security to reduce the potential for these kinds of events from happening in the future,” he said.
“If that report was unsparing, why is Greg Hicks, who is the number two to Ambassador Stevens, now going to tell Congress, tell the American people that there were U.S. Special Forces in Tripoli getting ready to board a plane, come to Benghazi to help these Americans, and they were told to stand down?” a reporter asked.
“I would refer you to the Department of Defense,” Carney responded. “…And I would refer you to the content of the ARB.”
Asked about Thompson’s charge that counterterrorism was cut out of the Benghazi response, Carney was ready with a statement from the former head of the Counterterrorism Bureau, Daniel Benjamin.
“It has been alleged that the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau was cut out of the discussion and decision-making in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks. I ran the bureau then. And I can say now with certainty, as the former coordinator for counterterrorism, that this charge is simply untrue,” said Benjamin, who resigned from his post in December. “At no time did I feel that the bureau was in any way being left out of deliberations that it should have been part of.”
The House report on Benghazi represented five committees — Oversight, Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary — and the ranking member on Intelligence seemed less than comfortable running interference on the issue over the weekend.
Unlike Issa and Cummings, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberg (D-Md.) have a good relationship and often appear on talk shows together, as they did Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“It’s a very serious situation when we lose American lives. We’re in the investigative stage right now. It’s extremely important. I think that we have to wait until the facts come through. I applaud the fact that there’s an open hearing. You want to hear from both sides,” Ruppersberger said.
But the Democrat wouldn’t say that the State Department ignored calls for more help in Benghazi.
“I’m not saying that at all, that we knew. I’m saying that we’ve got to get the facts,” said Ruppersberger. “…It was a volatile situation. A lot of the same information that we received is the — initially, had to change. And the information and talking points that went to Ambassador Rice. She used talking points that we all got in the very beginning, the first couple of days.”
“But it appears those talking points were dead wrong,” host Bob Schieffer interjected.
“At the time, as it turns out, it is. And that’s what an investigation is about. Let’s get the facts. This should not be a partisan issue at all. This should be get the facts, an open issue, and to hear from everybody,” Ruppersberger said.
Before this past Sunday, Democrats’ media presence on Benghazi was scarce.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) tried to turn the issue to one of inadequate funding, thanks to Republicans, for giving overseas missions what they need.
“Whether that would have made a difference or not, I don’t know,” Leahy said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Should we look at Benghazi? Yes. But keep in mind that’s just one place. We should look at our security throughout our embassies because they will always be easy targets.”