To hear the media tell it in the wake of the release of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Final Benghazi Report, the Republican-led efforts to get to the bottom of the attack were an utter waste of time — there was no foul play that precipitated and no conspiracy that followed the attacks, and the investigation of Benghazi was simply a crazed right-wing political witch hunt.

When there is a unanimous conclusion among mainstream media sources on a subject — especially when it would have been impracticable given the speed of such reaction for the media to have actually consumed such a report and several hundred pages of supporting documents — it behooves others to question that narrative and dig through the documents themselves.

An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Having reviewed the report and documents appended to it, there are a number of damning takeaways associated with the HPSCI’s findings that the media have simply and plainly ignored in the days following the report’s release.

A word before we delve into each of these points: Given that journalism requires questioning the official line of those in power, it is interesting that members of the mainstream media would simply take at face value the material from the Committee given that:

a) It is controlled by Republicans of whom the media is generally distrustful, including its lame duck chairman who was a member of the intelligence community (IC) himself, and whose wife led a security contracting company that operated in Libya;

b) Congress may have been culpable at least tangentially with respect to any failures associated with Benghazi, and its tendency one suspects would be to cover such failures, giving HPSCI members reason to conclude there was no wrongdoing (never mind the chilling effect of the recently reported CIA’s efforts to spy on Congressional intelligence investigators to begin with); and

c) The press has been ever-critical and skeptical of the CIA and other members of the IC historically, yet uncritically accepts the veracity of findings that absolve the IC of any substantive failures, primarily beyond poorly written talking points.

What follows are the 10 major takeaways from the report that the media is ignoring:

1) The report primarily absolves the IC of failure and wrongdoing, not the State Department, Department of Defense or executive branch

2) There was no intelligence failure, if you consider finding no evidence of a potential attack a success

3) The failures of Benghazi in fact lay squarely at the feet of the State Department, according to the report

4) The report attempts to deny U.S. facilitation of weapons transfers from Libya to Syria via Benghazi, but leaves a significant amount of yet unquestioned wiggle room

5) The report continues to say that President Obama referred to Benghazi as a terrorist attack from the very beginning, on Sept. 12, 2012 in the Rose Garden

6) The government acknowledges that there was never an extraction strategy for our personnel on the ground in Benghazi in the event of an attack

7) Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell edited the talking points parroted publicly by Susan Rice following the attack, in a politically correct fashion, apparently so as to not offend/incite Muslims

8) The HPSCI majority members assert that the Obama administration has treated the investigation of the attack as a criminal, not counterterrorism matter, to the detriment of efforts to track down Benghazi suspects

9) James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in testimony, continued to partially attribute the attacks in Benghazi to a YouTube video, and argues that there is “linkage” to the event with the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Egypt; HPSCI member Democrats also continue to attribute the attacks in part potentially to a YouTube video

10) The primary lesson the CIA learned from the Benghazi attack was…not to release unclassified talking points

Here are the explanations:


1) The report primarily absolves the IC of failure and wrongdoing, NOT the State Department, Department of Defense or executive branch

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 3.

This is a massive disclaimer that has largely been overlooked. The HPSCI report certainly takes into account testimony and evidence from those in government agencies outside of the CIA, FBI and plethora of other groups that comprise the IC, as indicated for example in appended testimony from Patrick Kennedy, under secretary of state for management at the State Department, but it does not reflect an extensive investigation into the various public figures in the Benghazi attack from other agencies. In multiple instances, the report specifically notes that there are unanswered questions that the committee hopes will be addressed in separate investigations.

If you take all of the report’s findings at face value, then the best assessment one can make is that it largely defends the actions before, during and after the attack on Benghazi of U.S. intelligence, and intelligence alone. Which leads to the second major ignored finding.


2) There was no intelligence failure, if you consider finding no evidence of a potential attack a success; 3) the failures of Benghazi in fact lay squarely at the feet of the State Department, according to the report

The Benghazi report states that “there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.”

It supports this assertion with the following statement:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 14.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 14.

The way this portion of the report reads, the CIA feels that because the IC did not obtain intelligence indicating the potential for an attack, and could not have collected intelligence to prevent the attacks, they are free from blame in what occurred.

On its face, this seems like somewhat of a flimsy argument given that the attacks occurred and certainly at the very least reflected a degree of serious sophistication given the highly accurate mortar shelling for example that took place at the CIA Annex in the second-wave attack that occurred in Benghazi.

The report argues throughout that the attacks were not pre-meditated or planned, and rather represented an “off-the-shelf” operation.

It further seeks to absolve the IC by noting the numerous warnings that the IC provided in the months prior to the Benghazi attack on the deteriorating security situation in the country:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 13.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 13.

This is awfully favorable towards the IC, and the report, as you will see in the following excerpt, seems to lay the blame almost squarely at the feet of the State Department:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 15-16.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 15-16.

The House majority adds in an appended statement:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 - Additional Views pg. 7.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 – Additional Views pg. 4.

Given the HPSCI’s clear favorable view of the IC, and conversely their criticism of the State Department, one would think that the media would highlight this aspect of the report. It also behooves them to question such a seemingly black-and-white conclusion.


4) The report attempts to deny U.S. facilitation of weapons transfers from Libya to Syria via Benghazi, but leaves a significant amount of yet unquestioned wiggle room

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 2.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 2.

Note that nowhere in the report does the House Intelligence Committee define what “unauthorized activities” consist of.

The report continues:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 16.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 16.

Note that this finding specifically refers to the collection and facilitation of weapons shipments at the CIA Annex. Does this rule out that the CIA might not have facilitated arms sales “indirectly” through third-party “cut outs?” Would such activities qualify as “authorized activities?” Would such activities have to be disclosed publicly?

Consider what investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (himself no Tea Partier, in fact quite the opposite), wrote in a bombshell April 2014 article in the London Review of Books [emphasis ours]:

A highly classified annex to the report [a Senate Intelligence Committee report from January 2014], not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line [a back channel developed in this case to transfer weapons to Syria]. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

Hersh continues [emphasis ours]:

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official [one of Hersh's primary sources] explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

…‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Ken Timmerman, author of “Dark Forces,” with whom we spoke earlier this year on Benghazi, agrees with Seymour Hersh’s assessment, telling us recently via e-mail: “In the Benghazi-to-Syria transfers, CIA most likely operated under existing Global War on Terrorism findings and more generally under cover of ‘liaison’ operations which are not considered U.S. Covert ops.”

In testimony from a HPSCI hearing on November 15, 2012, appended to the full report, former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell tells us:

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pg. 87.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pg. 87.

In later testimony on May 22, 2013, in front of the HPSCI, Morell gives us some additional information on weapons transfers:

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 31.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 31.

Again, questions remain.

Would a “rat line” to the degree to which there was one need to be disclosed? Were Americans supporting the activities of other nations carrying out weapons transfers to Syria, or truly solely collecting intelligence on such activities? How does the HPSCI and the officials it interviewed define “facilitation” of weapons transfers — and would indirect coordination/planning fall under such a definition?

These questions have not been asked nor answered.


5) The report continues to say that President Obama referred to Benghazi as a terrorist attack from the very beginning, on Sept. 12, 2012 in the Rose Garden

As discussed with Sharyl Attkisson in a recent interview, the Obama administration, with the help of a compliant media, sought to portray the president as classifying what occurred in Benghazi as a terrorist attack from the very beginning of the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2012. The president’s use of the phrase “acts of terror” on Sept. 12, 2012 in the Rose Garden was not made in context of Benghazi.

The report nonetheless backs the president’s narrative:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 24.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pg. 24.

In an interview with Steve Kroft on Sept. 12, 2012 from the Rose Garden, critical portions of which CBS sat on while reporting on the Benghazi attack, Obama directly acknowledges that he did not refer to the Benghazi attack as a terrorist attack that very day:

Kroft Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack.

Obama Right.

It bears noting that even the Washington Post’s fact-checker believes the president misled the public regarding his statements following the attack, giving the president’s claim that he called Benghazi “an act of terrorism” “Four Pinocchios,” its worst rating in terms of truthfulness. The Post’s report states:

Perhaps Obama, in his mind, thought this [Benghazi] then was really “an act of war,” not a traditional terrorist attack, but he had not wanted to say that publicly. Or perhaps, as Republicans suggest, he did not want to spoil his campaign theme that terror groups such as al-Qaeda were on the run by conceding a terrorist attack had occurred on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Whatever the reason, when given repeated opportunities to forthrightly declare this was an “act of terrorism,” the president ducked the question.

…the president’s claim that he said “act of terrorism” is taking revisionist history too far, given that he repeatedly refused to commit to that phrase when asked directly by reporters in the weeks after the attack. He appears to have gone out of his way to avoid saying it was a terrorist attack, so he has little standing to make that claim now.


6) The government acknowledges that there was never an exfiltration strategy for our personnel on the ground in Benghazi in the event of an attack

In a portion of the Benghazi report that has garnered zero media attention to date, it reads:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pgs. 23-24.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 pgs. 23-24.


7) Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell edited the talking points in a politically correct fashion, parroted publicly by Susan Rice following the attack, apparently so as to not offend/incite Muslims

The HPSCI additional views proffered by majority members of the panel reads:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 - Additional Views pg. 7.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 – Additional Views pg. 7.


8) The HPSCI majority members assert that the Obama administration has treated the investigation of the attack as a criminal, not counterterrorism matter, to the detriment of efforts to track down Benghazi suspects

The relevant portion of the majority additional views report reads, consistent with Obama administration policy as implemented by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 - Additional Views pg. 7.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 – Additional Views pg. 7.


9) James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in testimony, continued to partially attribute the attacks in Benghazi to a YouTube video, and argues that there is “linkage” to the event with the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Egypt; HPSCI member Democrats also continue to attribute the attacks in part potentially to a YouTube video

Here is the relevant text from James Clapper’s testimony on November 15, 2012:

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pg. 13.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pg. 12.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pgs. 34-35.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pg. 13.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pgs. 35-36.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: November 15, 2012 NCTC Presentation pgs. 34-35.

And here is the relevant text which echoes Clapper’s testimony from House Democrats on the HPSCI:

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 - Minority Views pg. 3.

HPSCI Investigative Report on the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September 11-12, 2012 – Minority Views pg. 4.

One wonders, is Mr. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, still of the belief that we can attribute this attack to a YouTube video? Is it really reasonable to attribute an attack to “linkage” with events in Cairo?


10) The primary lesson the CIA learned from the Benghazi attack was…not to release unclassified talking points

Relevant testimony from former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell below:

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 37.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 37.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 64.

HPSCI Full Committee Hearing Transcript: May 22, 2013 DDCIA Morell Testimony pg. 64.