WASHINGTON — An interim report 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, before September's deadly terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Christopher 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.
"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.
Release of the 43-page report comes as dozens of House Republicans have pushed for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to create a select committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The top Democrats on the five committees were quick to criticize the GOP report, telling Boehner in a letter Tuesday that they strongly objected to the report and their exclusion from the investigation. They called the GOP's findings a "partisan Republican staff report on Benghazi."
The report also is highly critical of President Barack Obama and White House staff.
In the days following the attack, White House and senior State Department officials altered what the report said were accurate "talking points" about the attack drafted by the U.S. intelligence community in order to protect the State Department. And contrary to what the administration claimed, the alterations were not made to protect classified information, the report says.
In December, senior State Department officials acknowledged major weaknesses in security and errors in judgment that had been revealed in a scathing independent report on the deadly assault.
Clinton, testifying before Congress in the final weeks of her tenure, took responsibility for the department's missteps and failures leading up to the assault. But she insisted that requests for more security at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi didn't reach her desk, and reminded lawmakers that they have a responsibility to fund security-related budget requests.