Breaking down the Benghazi report

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 28, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: You can bomb an airport. You can blow yourself up. That's the tragedy. Daesh and others like it know that we have to get it right 24/7, 365. They have to get it right for 10 minutes or one hour.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: John Kerry, secretary of state, in Aspen talking about the attacks in Turkey. Now getting word at least 50 killed there. U.S. officials saying it looks like an ISIS attack, as are officials in Turkey, but not declaring that yet and no group has declared responsibility for it, as you look live there in Istanbul. It was a multipronged attack. And at least 60 injured, 50 dead.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Charles Lane, opinion writer for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, first before we get to this Benghazi report, Charles, your thoughts on this? And this is now the second type of airport bombing we've seen in as many months.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think it's most likely ISIS. It could be the Kurds who carried out a lot of terror attacks but not quite on target this soft generally speaking. It looks like an ISIS operation.

But it tells you also about Turkey. It's surrounded by conflicts. It's got enemies everywhere. Its stability itself is in question. It just concluded a deal to renew relations with Israel and made a deal apologizing to Russia for the shooting of a Russian airplane, which shows that it feels surrounded and isolated and being destabilized. So it's in pretty bad shape. And even though it hasn't helped us a lot in the region it's our only strong ally other than Israel.

BAIER: This does come, Chuck, on the second anniversary of ISIS declaring its caliphate, June 29th, 2014. And the U.S. military has been flying air strikes against ISIS from Incirlik air base in southern Turkey since last year.

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: These guys have more reasons than they need to launch attacks like this. What I find very chilling about this, the eerie reminiscent of the attack on the airport in Brussels. And it makes you wonder if there isn't some sort of airport playbook they're working from, knowing these are soft targets, knowing they're strategic targets, knowing they really strike at the crossroads of commerce and can really instill panic.

And, of course, as Charles says, I think it's probably also possibly related to these diplomatic moves that the Turks have been making recently and that ISIS seems to, perhaps, want to make a statement about that.

BAIER: Yes, Erdogan saying that the world has to stand together against terrorism. Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: There have been four other attacks in Turkey over the past year. And I think what we've seen is something of a tightening by Erdogan, who has been not unfriendly, frankly, to militant Islam over the past several years. Certainly there's been an evolution in that direction by Erdogan. But he seems to have, over the past year in particular, cracked down a little bit. He has allowed our flights from Incirlik. And I think what this demonstrates pretty clearly is nobody is safe from these kind of attacks from ISIS.

Istanbul has long been the main transit point for fighters going to Syria and leaving Syria. So it is sort of long been a hotbed of this kind of radicalism and certainly travel facilitation.

BAIER: Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have put out statements, obviously condemning this attack, talking about the need to crack down on terrorism worldwide.

Let's turn now to the other terrorism that goes back a few years, this report. Steve, what do you take away from it?

HAYES: I think there are lots of new details. You read through the report and what jumps out at you is the number of new details, the number of new things that enhance what we knew before.

But my main takeaway, actually, concerns the broader administration narrative on this story and just how dishonest it was. You read the report and what emerges is this sense that they kind of tepidly embraced the video story at the very beginning, sort of weren't sure and they latched onto it for lack of a better narrative to come out of that to help explain the attacks.

And then every successive day, they seemed to hold on to that story with greater force and to make that case with greater ferociousness. And what we learned in great detail in this report is that as the administration was making that argument more forcefully in public, in private it was clearer and clearer by the day that the argument just wasn't true.

BAIER: I said this morning, according to this report, Chuck, that there was all this talk about the fog of war in the first minutes. But this report suggests that the fog was really created in Washington.

LANE: Well, I guess what I take away from the report is how little confirmation it offers to the worst conspiracy theories related to Benghazi, things like people deliberately gave an order to stand down and abandon people. That's refuted in this report. Things like in real-time the president sat and watched as the former Navy SEALs were killed. That's not validated here.

I think instead what you do get is confirmation of the fog of war. You get a situation where, with a lot of uncertainty we have about what was going on on the ground, people in the military and Defense Department struggled to carry out an order that the president had given to supply relief if necessary. And by the time they had not even really gotten their act together, it was too late and the guys had evacuated.

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