House report on Benghazi attack highlights 'heroic acts' but presents little new evidence

The GOP-led House Benghazi Committee released a report Tuesday blaming the Obama administration, and certain government agencies, for reacting slowly when Americans came under attack in Libya in 2012.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in that attack.

The 800-page report did not include any new evidence that would indicate that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to blame. Democrats have said the goal of the report is to undermine Clinton's presidential bid.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, said the report documents that the U.S. was slow to send help to the Americans in Benghazi "because of an obsession with hurting the Libyans' feelings."

He said it portrays a "series of heroic acts" by Americans under attack "and what we can do to prevent" other assaults.

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Benghazi became immediate political fodder, given their timing in the weeks before President Barack Obama's re-election, and that has not abated despite seven previous congressional investigations. There has been finger-pointing on both sides over security at the U.S. diplomatic outpost and whether the White House initially tried to portray the assault as a protest over an offensive, anti-Muslim video instead of as a calculated terrorist attack.

Democrats released a report Monday saying that while the State Department's security measures in Benghazi the night of Sept. 11, 2012, were "woefully inadequate," Clinton never personally turned down a request for additional security. Democrats said the military could not have done anything differently that night to save the lives of the Americans.

Earlier this year, Kris Paronto, one of six contract security employees with U.S. military backgrounds who had been assigned the dangerous job of keeping Americans in Benghazi safe, told Fox News Latino how he and the others ignored a top CIA official’s orders to remain at an annex, instead going to the consulate to try to rescue Americans who were trapped there.

The truth, Paronto said, was that the State Department woefully failed the Americans stationed there, particularly the ambassador – the first since 1979 to die in the line of duty – and others at the consulate who begged for help after the attack began.

“We could have not gone, we could have quit,” Paronto, a Colorado native of Mexican descent, said in the January interview, “and not gotten in trouble.”

“We got in five fire fights, we were losing our buddies,” he said. “But alive or dead, we were going to get through this together.”

On Tuesday, the panel's Democrats denounced the Republicans' report as "a conspiracy theory on steroids – bringing back long-debunked allegations with no credible evidence whatsoever."

The statement added, "Republicans promised a process and report that was fair and bipartisan, but this is exactly the opposite."

The State Department also issued a statement Tuesday, saying that the "essential facts" of the attacks "have been known for some time" and have been the subject of numerous reviews, including one by an independent board.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the department had implemented most of the recommendations of the independent review board and is continuing to expand security at its facilities and improve its threat assessment.

"We have made great progress toward making our posts safer since 2012," Toner said in a statement. "Our priority continues to be carrying out our national security mission while mitigating the risks to our employees."

Toner said the department cooperated extensively with the House panel, providing more than 50 current and former employees for interviews and over 100,000 pages of documents.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who helped write the panel's report, told CNN that "too little effort was made to protect" Stevens and the others. "We didn't move heaven and earth to get help to the people who were fighting for their lives," he said.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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