WASHINGTON – The 37-page House Intelligence Committee report that was released late last week was widely cited by the mainstream media as clearing the Obama administration of wrongdoing in the Benghazi scandal.
But the report did not fully address several facts that Fox News has revealed in the last two years that contradict or, at the very least, add nuance to the committee’s findings about the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in that attack.
What largely escaped the mainstream media’s eye was the report’s finding that the State Department and White House were wrong when they initially blamed an Internet video, and not a terrorist plot, for the attack.
"Whatever the larger policy issues, the conclusion that 'protests' were fully 'rooted in a video' was incorrect, as were the underlying early intelligence estimates concerning the video," the bipartisan report concluded.
Fox News was first to report on September 17th, 2012 that there was no protest, and a separate investigation found, the anti-Islam video was a non event in Libya. A review of 4-thousand social media postings concluded the first reference was on September 12, 2012, one day after the attack.
The Internet video was the focus of the administration’s talking points in interviews soon after the attack. Michael Morell, acting director of the CIA at the time, edited those talking points, and Republicans accuse him of leading damage control for the White House and State Department.
"The administration was telling a false story about the demonstration and the video when it was clearly a terrorist attack, and that the talking points were doctored," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who sits on the Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.
The report also found that the CIA’s base chief, known as “Bob,” did not delay in sending a rescue team to the consulate, where Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and other State Department personnel were under siege.
But this conflicts with firsthand accounts of the attack that were told to Fox News' Bret Baier in September.
"I just said, ‘Hey, you know, we gotta — we need to get over there, we're losing the initiative,’ you know?” CIA contractor John Tiegen, co-author of "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi,” told Baier.
“And Bob just looks straight at me and said, ‘Stand down. You need to wait.’”
Former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta did not dispute Tiegen's version of events in an interview on Oct. 7 with Fox News' Bill O’Reilly.
“So, Mr. Panetta, do you believe those men?" O'Reilly asked.
"I have no reason not to believe them," Panetta replied.
In a narrowly drawn conclusion, the report says the CIA annex in Benghazi was not collecting weapons prior to the attack. But newly declassified testimony buried in the report's appendix confirms weapons were moving from Libya to Syria.
Specific questions about the CIA's knowledge and possible role in that were shut down by the Intelligence Committee's chairman, Mike Rogers, R-Mich., due to classification issues — suggesting the program was a closely held secret.
“This report confirms that the U.S. government knew that weapons were moving from Libya to Syria. This is the first time that's been disclosed to the American people. It's really an incredible development," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has successfully sued in federal court for Benghazi documents, including a memo from Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes that said the 2012 demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa were connected to the Internet video and not a broader policy failure.
Also noteworthy is Fox News’ finding that key players in the Benghazi scandal now work for Beacon Global Strategies, a Washington consulting firm with deep ties to Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack and is widely considered a strong contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016:
• Philippe Reines, a founder and managing director at Beacon, is widely described as the former secretary of state’s "principal gatekeeper.”
• Andrew Shapiro, another founder and managing director, was a policy adviser at the State Department whose portfolio included ridding Libya of the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles often referred to as “manpads.”
• Jeremy Bash, also a founder and managing director, was a former chief of staff to Leon Panetta at both the CIA and the Defense Department.
• Michael Allen, Beacon’s managing director, used to be staff director for Intelligence Committee Chairman Rogers.
• Morell is a senior counselor at Beacon.
Allen was originally listed as a founding member of Beacon, but his title was changed after Fox raised questions in March about a potential conflict of interest.
Beacon Global registered in April 2013, while Allen was still staff director for the republican House intelligence committee that was investigating Benghazi. The same committee released the last Benghazi report.
While Allen was staff director, Morell testified twice about his role in the flawed talking points.
Allen did not file congressional disclosure forms until July 2013 that he intended to work for Beacon. Critics question how Allen went into business with some of the same individuals his old committee had been charged with investigating.
Speaking of the leadership at Beacon, King said, “This raises real issues, and to me this is something the Select Committee should really look into.” He referred to the House Select Committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., that is now investigating Benghazi.
In a lengthy statement to Fox News in March, Beacon said, "This firm was founded on the strong belief that keeping America secure must be a nonpartisan endeavor, and is dedicated to acting in a truly bipartisan manner. We not only adhere to all governing ethics rules and laws, we strive to go above and beyond those requirements and hold ourselves to the high ethical and professional standards we did throughout our decades serving in government."
Asked when and why the change was made to Allen's position as a founder, whether there were financial implications and how the change could be reconciled with the March statement, a spokesman for Beacon Global Strategies said, “There is nothing to reconcile with the previous statement and we stand by every word of it. There was never a conflict. The title, as I believe you know, was simply honorific. But given how you have chosen to mangle it, we didn’t want to provide conspiracists with any more fodder so BGS made the change to its website. Apparently, given your question, that was not successful but, nevertheless, that was the point.”
In a press release, Democrats on the Select Committee on Monday described the Intelligence Committee report as definitive evidence that there was no wrongdoing by the administration after the Benghazi attack. Republicans on the Select Committee said they've been aware of the findings for months, and their independent review continues.
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.