Next up: Issa to investigate House Intel Committee?
Associated Press reports, as seen here at Time, that the House Intelligence Committee has released a new report on the Benghazi tragedy. Or, as AP put it, “The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week.” Why might that be? What could possibly be in a Republican-led Intelligence Committee report about Benghazi that the GOP wouldn’t want plastered all over the place for everyone to see? Read on. Then get the report straight from the horse’s mouth.
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found.
People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.
Allow me to rephrase that bit. The report calls out a number of lies.
Lie #1: CIA response team was ordered to “stand down.”
Lie #2: Military rescue was nixed.
Lie #3: Officials intentionally downplayed role of Al-Qaida in attack.
Lie #4: Stevens and CIA were secretly sneaking guns out of Libya to Syrian rebels.
So why would a GOP-led intelligence committee report be let out like a Silent but Deadly on an elevator? Simple. Because it calls out some of the most ridiculous of the right-wing lies commonly seen in email forwards, memes, and blog posts for what they are. Wrong. And it just wouldn’t do to alienate the good folks who pass around these lies by pointing out the errors. This way the “stand down” claim, and the rest of the worst of the ignorance can continue unabated. If you think for a moment that Republican leadership will step up to police the ranks of their constituents with an insistence on truth, well, you go ahead and wait for it.
The closest thing to a stinker in the summary is this little bit of weasel-wording:
The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.
Ah, passive voice. Mistakes were made. As it is, I’m personally unfamiliar with the content of those previous reports, as un-linked as the current report, but the phrasing here makes me cautious. “Requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.” Does this refer to a failure to act by the White House? The Pentagon? The GOP-led House when it refused to loosen the purse strings? Dammit, AP. Will you please try reporting? Or would this have just been too inconvenient?
Of course, when AP presents an article, we have no idea who it is that actually wrote it, so there’s no accountability to be had there. That passive voice passage and the absence of links to this or any previous report forced me to flex my Google-fu.
And wouldn’t you know it. AP fails to mention something of interest. The main body of the report is apparently “by Chairman Mike Rogers and Ranking Member C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.” What does that even mean in terms of accountability? Did the rest of the committee have any say over its contents? Does the report include only that with which all parties to it are in agreement?
From what I can gather, one needs to be a poli-sci maven to make heads or tails of who it is, exactly, that is responsible for the drafting, review, revision, authorization, and release of this kind of House committee report. As there are no signatories to the report or its various sections, we can’t tell at a glance if there’s general consensus among the committee members resulting in the final report as released. AP also fails to mention two of the six appendices that may be of special interest: Appendix 1, “Additional Views of Chairman Rogers, and Representatives Conaway, Miller, and King,” and Appendix 2, “Minority Views.”
Before we even think of looking at the nuts and bolts of the report, let’s jump to the conclusion, which includes this little gem:
The report is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement [emphasis added] 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 [emphasis added].
Well, then. Definitive, and presenting facts so we can separate the facts from the BS. How definitive can it be if there are two appendices which, as we’ll see, seem to fill a role analogous to SCOTUS dissenting opinions? Interesting, then, that the Chair, Mike Rogers, has a hand in both something definitive, and something that somehow, in utter defiance to the meaning of words, goes beyond that. Go ahead and take a look at Appendix 1. Lest we thought for a moment that the GOP had gone soft on us by embracing a spirit of bipartisanship, they pick up their rhetoric right where they left off. Considering the tone of Appendix 1, it’s a mystery how the main body of the report ever made it anywhere other than a wastebasket.
Seriously, do stop and consider the ramifications of what Rogers and company have to say. Benghazi is an Obama failure because of Obama/Dem policies when it comes to security and foreign relations. So exactly what would the party of small government have us do differently, exactly? What is the small government, low tax, decreased deficits, balanced budget solution to a world gone mad with terrorists? How about a really, really big military-industrial-surveillance complex funded by…what, exactly, elven magic? Yeah, yeah, we agree that Obama is a travesty of a president, but for so many completely different reasons. What would you do so very differently, except revert to Bush 43’s penchant for wars funded by nothing in particular.
And while we’re at it, since this whole Benghazi mess is clearly only Obama’s mess and not yours, Grand Old Prevaricators, oh, no, please explain to me how, on March 1, 2011 a non-binding Senate Resolution that, in part, urged the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone passed with unanimous consent? In case you don’t recognize that sound, that was the beating of war drums, while none other than Susan Rice, who all these investigations just love to beat up on, was our Ambassador to the UN, no less. Which Republicans were on the Senate floor that day? Maybe we’ll never know, but you know how many stood up and suggested that maybe such urging on behalf of the American people, a step directly on the path to the death of four heroic Americans, well, maybe three since critics lionize Stevens in one breath then accuse him of being complicit with CIA gun running to Syria that never happened in another, ought to go to a vote? Hint: it was unanimous consent. Exactly zero Republicans stood up to slow down the march to a conflict they would neither control, support, or fund, but damn if that isn’t the group that just couldn’t wait to pounce on tragedy for political gain, just like good patriots ought to do against a sitting wartime president up for re-election. Or are we supposed to forget that it was an election year for Republicans, too? Party of personal responsibility, my ass.
Lest I appear to only be taking pot shots at the right, consider this as well. Appendix 2, “Minority Views,” includes this statement:
No administration official downplayed these attacks or said that they were anything but a terrorist attack. In the Rose Garden on September 12, President Obama referred to the attacks as “acts of terror.”
Stop. Right. There. For whatever I do not recall about the events leading up our military involvement in Libya and the events leading up to the September 11, 2012 attack that took four American lives, I remember the Rose Garden address vividly. I remember it because, as you might well imagine of me, I raged at the TV screen when President Obama used weasel words to address the nature of the situation. I remember it even more vividly because during the debate with Romney when Benghazi finally came up, Obama grandstanded on how he so very clearly referenced “acts of terror,” Candy Crowley overstepped her bounds as moderator and steam-rollered Romney on the point with a video clip of the address and Romney, utterly unprepared for dealing with the abundantly obvious, dropped the goddamned ball.
Here’s the transcript of the Rose Garden address.
10:43 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Every day, all across the world, American diplomats and civilians work tirelessly to advance the interests and values of our nation. Often, they are away from their families. Sometimes, they brave great danger.
Yesterday, four of these extraordinary Americans were killed in an attack [ed. note – What kind of attack?] on our diplomatic post in Benghazi. Among those killed was our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, as well as Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. We are still notifying the families of the others who were killed. And today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers.
The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack [ed. note – What kind of attack?]. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.
Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack [ed. note – What kind of attack?] will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya. Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers [ed. note – What kind of attackers?] alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.
It’s especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped to save. At the height of the Libyan revolution, Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi. With characteristic skill, courage, and resolve, he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries, and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya. When the Qaddafi regime came to an end, Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy, and I think both Secretary Clinton and I relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there. He was a role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.
Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war. Today, the loss of these four Americans is fresh, but our memories of them linger on. I have no doubt that their legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who love them back home.
Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night, we learned the news of this attack [ed. note – What kind of attack?] in Benghazi.
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
No acts of terror [ed. note – Carefully note the wording. Five times the attack on the Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi is mentioned generically, as attacks, though of no particular nature. Now when the word terror is uttered for the first time, it is not specifically attributed to the attack on the mission. It’s just a very generalized statement as to how unshakable our resolve is. To impute meaning to weasel words uttered by anyone, much less someone with a legal background, is to assume far too much.]
will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.
We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory, and let us continue their work of seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.
Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost and may God bless the United States of America.
10:48 A.M. EDT
Much hay has been made over Obama’s insistence that he did indeed use the phrase “acts of terror,” and so he did. But it’s extremely vindicating to see that Washington Post’s fact-check by Glenn Kessler does exactly the kind of dissection that needed to be more widely read and understood at the time.
Taken in this context, the “Minority View” in Appendix 2, quoted above, resurrects a tired old Democratic party-line lie. The president at no point specifically referred to the attack as an act of terror.
Note that in all three cases, the language is not as strong as Obama asserted in the debate. Obama declared that he said “that this was an act of terror.” But actually the president spoke in vague terms, usually wrapped in a patriotic fervor. One could presume he was speaking of the incident in Libya, but he did not affirmatively state that the American ambassador died because of an “act of terror.”
Some readers may think we are dancing on the head of pin here. The Fact Checker spent nine years as diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, and such nuances of phrasing are often very important. A president does not simply utter virtually the same phrase three times in two days about a major international incident without careful thought about the implications of each word.
There is so much more detail to cover in this report, certainly more than can be adequately covered in one already far-too-long essay. Given the disconnects evidenced above, however, I think it’s at least safe to say that the report should be read in its entirety, and then both Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 need to be compared to it pretty much point by point to determine where the inconsistencies are.
In any case, left or right, don’t just let this report slip by so quietly unnoticed as they might like. And don’t just take some pundit’s word for what is in the report just because it comes from your favored echo chamber. Read it and read it critically. Left or right, if you then see lies continue to be passed around and don’t speak up, just be aware that you, personally, are part of the Big Lie Machine, and for what? Party or ideological advantage? I’m sorry, but if it takes lies to win an advantage, perhaps you should just drop party loyalty altogether or admit that really, at the end of the day, you just prefer lies.
Image credit. Public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.