Indiana congresswoman Susan Brooks says Benghazi review uncovered new details
WASHINGTON — A two-year investigation into the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi uncovered new details on the failure of the Obama administration’s handling of Libya, Rep. Susan Brooks said Tuesday when she and other GOP members of the eighth panel to review the attacks released their findings.
“It’s been known for some time that the security was inadequate,” the Carmel Republican said of the American consulate in Benghazi. “But what we didn’t know until this investigation was that the State Department made a conscious decision to keep the Benghazi compound off the radar and not provide it with the security that it needed.”
Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
Democrats on the panel, who released their own report Monday, said Republicans squandered millions of taxpayer dollars on a report in an attempt to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Although the committee obtained new details that provide context and granularity, the information doesn’t fundamentally alter the conclusions of previous investigations – including that military assistance could have arrived in time to save the diplomats, Democrats said.
Brooks spoke with IndyStar about the report, which the committee is to consider July 8.
Question: Democrats say the investigation unearthed no significant new information. What’s your response?
Answer: A couple of the things that were so surprising to the committee had to do with … learning that (Defense) Secretary (Leon) Panetta, under the direction of the president, said: “Deploy. Deploy to save the people in Benghazi.” But yet, hours upon hours later, there were no assets moving to Benghazi. ...
After (the embassy protests in) Cairo had happened, we should’ve been at even a more heightened state of readiness. And yet when the (Benghazi) attack happened, our military assets were completely unprepared to respond. …
They were talking more about, “How do we make sure the Libyan transitional government isn’t offended by us sending military in to save our own people?”
… It’s so unbelievable to me how the leaders across the agencies … clearly made a decision not to send military assets to Benghazi, making incredibly incorrect assumptions that those people were going to get out of there.
Q: Two GOP members of the committee issued an additional report saying the tragedy was caused by the Obama administration’s political concerns. Do you agree?
A: I do believe that politics and the timing had something to do with decisions that night and the week after. …They knew from people on the ground that night that there was an orchestrated attack at the compound. …There was no allegation of a protest (over an anti-Islamic video circulating on the internet). And yet the first statement put out by the administration, which was Secretary Clinton’s statement, makes the connection (with the video). And then they continued to make the connection for an entire week. …They knew it was a terrorist attack that night.
We were 56 days out from a hotly contested presidential election and the administration had been touting for a long time its successes in the fight against terrorism. …They wanted to give the impression to the American people … that terrorism was on the decline, that Americans at home and abroad were safe.
Q:If you think politics played a role, why didn’t you sign onto their side report?
A: I truly believe that government failed at so many different levels here that I believe it’s important to indicate that there were failures all across the government, not just one particular agency led by a presidential nominee. …
I also, like Chairman (Trey) Gowdy, believed that our charge was to present the facts … the “who, what, where and when,” rather than try to provide an explanation as to why all of these things happened. … People will draw their own conclusions.
Q:Did you agree with their conclusions?
A: Overall, I agreed with most of their conclusions. But yet they chose to frame their conclusions in a far more political context than I believe we were charged with doing.
Q:What information from your report do you think voters should consider when deciding whom to support for president his year?
A: What the secretary’s goals were, how she executed those goals, I think are very important. ... They did not plan for what would happen after Moammar Gadhafi fell. They had a very focused mission on ousting Gadhafi and building a coalition of other countries to oust Gadhafi. … They accomplished that mission of ousting Gadhafi and yet kept people there while Libya was completely falling apart. … We had people there unprotected. As leader of an agency … you are ultimately responsible for the safety and security of your people.
Q: Do you believe, as some have charged, that Clinton lied about what happened?
A: I want people to read the report to make conclusions on their own. … Some people will be predisposed one way and some people will be predisposed another way. But I think people need to read the report to decide how the administration handled it. I feel that, across the board, many people in government, including the secretary, after the incident, misled the American people.
Email Maureen Groppe at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.