Benghazi panel finds no misdeeds by Clinton

WASHINGTON • Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The 800-page report delivered a broad rebuke of the Defence Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department - and the officials who led them - for failing to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi, and especially for maintaining outposts there that they could not protect.

The committee, led by South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, also harshly criticised an internal State Department investigation that it said had allowed officials like Mrs Clinton, then the secretary of state, to effectively choose who would examine their actions.

The report, which included perhaps the most exhaustive chronology of the attacks to date, did not dispute that American military forces stationed in Europe could not have reached Benghazi in time to rescue the personnel who died - a central finding of previous inquiries.

Still, it issued stinging criticism of the overall delay in response and the lack of preparedness on the part of the government.

"The assets ultimately deployed by the Defence Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive before the final, lethal attack," the committee wrote. "The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world's most powerful military was not positioned to respond."

But the lack of any clear finding of professional misconduct or dereliction of duty was certain to fuel further criticism of the length of the investigation - more than two years - and the expense, estimated at more than US$7 million (S$9 million).

It also bolstered Democrats' allegations that the inquiry was specifically intended to damage Mrs Clinton's presidential prospects.

After a campaign stop in Denver, Mrs Clinton said that the investigation had uncovered nothing to contradict past findings and that the House committee's work had assumed a "partisan tinge".

"I'll leave it to others to characterise this report," she said, "but I think it's pretty clear it's time to move on."

Yet, even as Mrs Clinton seemed eager to press forward, she must still contend with the fallout from the committee's most significant, if inadvertent, discovery: that she exclusively used a private e-mail server during her four years as secretary of state.

That revelation has spurred separate investigations into whether classified material was mishandled, including a continuing inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr Gowdy urged Americans to read all 800 pages of the report. "You can read this report... in less time than our fellow Americans were under attack in Benghazi," he said.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Benghazi panel finds no misdeeds by Clinton'. Print Edition | Subscribe