WASHINGTON (AP) - An interim report released Tuesday by House Republicans faults the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for security deficiencies at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, prior to last September's deadly terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Senior State Department officials, including Clinton, approved reductions in security at the facilities in Benghazi, according to the report by GOP members of five House committees. The report cites an April 19, 2012, cable bearing Clinton's signature acknowledging a March 28, 2012, request from then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz for more security, yet allowing further reductions. The report does not include actual copies of the cables or other internal correspondence that Republicans cite to support their findings.
"Senior State Department officials knew that the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel," the report said.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the GOP report "appears to raise questions that have already been asked and answered in great detail" by Obama administration officials. Hayden said the administration has taken "extraordinary steps" to work with Congress in investigating the Benghazi attacks, providing more than 10,000 pages of documents and extensive briefings for members of Congress and their staffs.
The top Democrats on the five committees were quick to criticize the GOP report, telling House Speaker John Boehner in a letter Tuesday that they strongly objected to the report, the politicizing of national security, and their exclusion from the investigation. They called the GOP's findings a "partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi" that dispensed with regular House procedures "for vetting official committee reports to correct inaccuracies and mischaracterizations."