800-page, $7 million report on Benghazi sheds little light


The attack on a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the attack on the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, and the devastatin­g attacks of Sept.11, 2001 all had something in common. They were investigat­ed by sober-minded nonpartisa­n or bipartisan panels that uncovered facts, found fault and made useful recommenda­tions.

The attacks on two U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya, on the 11th anniversar­y of 9/11, were another matter altogether. With Hillary Clinton serving as secretary of State at the time, House Republican­s saw the tragic event as a chance to raise questions about her record.

To that end they created a select committee to investigat­e Benghazi, even after seven less politicize­d congressio­nal panels and one State Department commission had already done so. The result is an 800-page report (longer than the 9/11 commission’s findings) released Tuesday.

Thickness should not be confused with revelation. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of government resources or a greater indication of Congress’ oversight role devolving into rank partisansh­ip.

The inquiry found virtually nothing about Clinton’s actions that had not been previously reported. So it focused on general criticisms of the actions taken by the department­s of State and Defense as well as the White House and the CIA.

Among its findings: The CIA underestim­ated the risks that Libyan militants posed to the compounds; the State Department did a poor job in providing security for the compounds; and the Obama administra­tion has been unresponsi­ve to the committee’s requests for informatio­n.

Not exactly press-stopping stuff.

Did the investigat­ion find reasons to question the government’s actions before, during and after the attacks that left Ambas- sador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead? Sure. It’s impossible to spend two years and $7 million probing government and not find fault. But this inquest was never meant never meant as fact-finding and constructi­ve criticism. It was fashioned as way of tarnishing Clinton’s presidenti­al prospects.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., revealed this last fall when he boasted of how the inquiry was hurting her in the polls. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” he told Fox News. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

In recent years, Clinton has supplied ample reasons to question her judgment, most notably in her decisions to give high-dollar speeches to Wall Street banks and to use a private email server when she was at State (an arrangemen­t the Benghazi inquiries helped uncover).

But the investigat­ions haven’t demonstrat­ed that Benghazi belongs on that list. At this point U.S. government officials should be focused on bringing to justice all of the militants responsibl­e for the deaths in Benghazi, trying to stabilize Libya, and ensuring the security of American diplomatic posts in dangerous parts of the world — not on turning tragedy into political point-scoring.

 ?? J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP ?? House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy.
J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy.

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