Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Bret Baier, June 28, 2016
EXCLUSIVE – The claim that the fatal 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks were sparked by an anti-Muslim video was crafted in Washington by Obama administration appointees and reflected neither eyewitness nor real-time reports from the Americans under siege, according to the final report of the GOP-led Benghazi Select Committee.
The GOP report, released Tuesday, followed by less than a day a report by the Democrats on the panel saying that security at the Benghazi, Libya facility was “woefully inadequate” but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never personally denied any requests from diplomats for additional protection.
According to portions of the Republican report reviewed by Fox News, one U.S. agent at the American outpost in Benghazi, whose name was withheld for security reasons, told the committee he first heard “some kind of chanting.”
Then that sound was immediately followed by “explosions” and “gunfire, then roughly 70 people rushing into the compound with an assortment of “AK-47s, grenades, RPG’s … a couple of different assault rifles,” the agent said.
In addition, a senior watch officer at the State Department’s diplomatic security command described the Sept. 11, 2012, strikes as “a full on attack against our compound.”
When asked whether he saw or heard a protest prior to the attacks, the officer replied, “zip, nothing, nada,” according to the Republican majority report.
“None of the information coming directly from the agents on the ground in Benghazi during the attacks mentioned anything about a video or a protest. The firsthand accounts made their way to the office of the Secretary through multiple channels quickly …,” the report concluded.
Watch Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and committee member Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Monday at 6 p.m. ET on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, foreign service officer Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, were killed in the attacks.
Five days later, then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice went on every national Sunday talk show. She told Fox News Sunday, “What sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.”
The GOP committee report also identified for the first time a White House meeting that was convened roughly three hours into the attack and included deputies to senior Cabinet members and Clinton.
Stevens was missing at the time. But the report found “much of the conversation focused on the video (which) is surprising given no direct link or solid evidence existed connecting the attacks in Benghazi and the video at the time ….”
The report found that “five of the 10 action items from the rough notes of the 7:30pm meeting reference the video.”
Unlike the Usama bin Laden raid in 2011, in which Clinton, President Obama and his national security team watched events unfold from the Situation Room, they never gathered for Benghazi.
Clinton issued the only statement that night from the administration, following the White House meeting. It read in part: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”
However, Clinton said something very different privately.
In an email provided to the Select Committee, Clinton told daughter Chelsea, “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic] group.”
Clinton also told Egypt’s prime minister the following day: “We know that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.”
Kansas GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Benghazi committee member, told Fox News in advance of the report’s release that the report is new and significant because it’s the first to include interviews from “everybody on the ground” in Benghazi.
More than 30 people’s lives were at risk that night, and the majority worked at the secret CIA annex in Benghazi.
Pompeo also said the findings show “it’s unambiguous the administration knew immediately it was a terror attack. And the story of fog of war was known to be false immediately by everyone in the administration.”
Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has seen her campaign plagued by questions about whether she and the rest of the State Department provided adequate security for Americans before the attacks and about why the administration continued to tell Americans the attacks were inspired by the video.
Committee Republicans say the deputies’ meeting, in which Clinton was involved, on the night of the Benghazi attack shows she’s not ready for the so-called “3 a.m. call.”
The report interviewed more than 80 witnesses previously not called before Congress to testify.
Among them was Ben Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, who with political adviser David Plouffe prepped Rice for her national TV appearances claiming the video was responsible for the terrorist attack.
Rice said her statements were based on the best available information, but nobody from the intelligence community such as the CIA director or the Director of National Intelligence briefed Rice. That was done by the political appointees.
In fact, a Sept. 14, 2012 memo from Rhodes included the subject line: “RE: PREP Call with Susan: Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.”
The email was sent to a dozen members of the administration’s inner circle, including key members of the White House communications team such as then-Press Secretary Jay Carney, who also pushed the video narrative in the days after the attacks.
In the email, Rhodes specifically draws attention to the anti-Islam Internet video, without distinguishing whether the Benghazi attack was different from protests elsewhere, including one day earlier in Cairo.
The Rhodes email, which was a catalyst for the Select Committee, was first obtained by Judicial Watch through a federal court lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
The email lists the following two goals, among others: “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy” and “to reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”
Rhodes was the same official who signed off on Clinton’s statement the night of the attack linking the video to Benghazi.
The report found the post attack intelligence analysis had errors, contradicting the eyewitness accounts that night, and it alleges the administration latched onto the faulty analysis to defend and justify their misleading statements to the public.
There were in fact two sets of talking points – the White House version by Rhodes and the one by the CIA. When editing the CIA’s version, Deputy Director Michael Morell knew his personnel on the ground disputed the protest analysis, but he gave the final say to his analysts in Washington, thousands of miles away.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.