Doubts raised on time to reach Benghazi

Report’s critics press questions

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Republican critics say the State Department’s internal report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, does not address questions about the military’s actions and how Cabinet officials responded to the assault that night and why they misrepresented it afterward.

“They brushed over the fact that no military assistance was rendered by saying there wasn’t enough time,” Frederick W. Rustmann, a former CIA clandestine service officer, said of the report’s investigators.

Several Republican lawmakers also have voiced doubts about the report, which was released last week by an investigative panel called an Accountability Review Board.

“There are many more relevant questions surrounding this tragedy that still need to be answered,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, also asking why U.S. military units were not ready to respond.

Although the board’s long-awaited report is “a serious and credible effort,” Mr. McCain said, it “does not provide answers to these questions because it never asked them.”

At a Capitol Hill news conference Friday, Mr. McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for a separate investigation by the Pentagon.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, also criticized the report, saying it provides no details about the whereabouts and actions of the president and other top officials during the onslaught.

“We know nothing, really, quite frankly, about [the role of] President Obama — before, during and after the attack,” said Mr. Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, the Accountability Review Board probed the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

The report states: “There was simply not enough time given the speed of the attacks for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.” The attacks unfolded in two waves, several hours apart.

The review board said it “found no evidence of any undue delays in decision-making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders. Quite the contrary.”

But that hasn’t convinced critics of the administration’s handling of the attack and its aftermath.

“This was an attack on American soil, and in eight hours, no one thought to scramble a jet? I don’t get that,” Mr. Rustmann said.

“Were they concerned about collateral damage?” he said. “Did the State Department warn them not to offend the natives? That would not be atypical.”

Pentagon officials said in October that there was not enough information about conditions on the ground during the onslaught to commit U.S. assets. But Mr. Rustmann pointed out that fighter jets don’t need targets to make a difference in such a situation.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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