Late Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives released an interim progress report on its investigation into the assault on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya that led to the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other men. To put it mildly, the findings of the investigation thus far are damning.
The product of combined investigations by the House Committees on the Armed Services, Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Government Reform, the report says that "There remain unanswered questions about the events surrounding the attacks, and the Administration owes answers to the American people."
According to the executive summary, the ongoing investigation by the five House committees has already determined that:
Of particular importance is the report's conclusion that the administration focused for far too long on the idea that a YouTube video provoked the attack. "The Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video. U.S. officials on the ground reported – and video evidence confirms – that demonstrations outside the Benghazi Mission did not occur and that the incident began with an armed attack on the facility," the report says. "Senior Administration officials knowingly minimized the role played by al-Qa'ida-affiliated entities and other associated groups in the attacks, and decided to exclude from the discussion the previous attempts by extremists to attack U.S. persons or facilities in Libya."
This alone creates significant problems for the administration, arguing as it does that senior officials were less than candid about what they knew in the face of allegations being made by President Obama's Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
The interim report is also critical of the Obama administration's choice to respond to the attack with an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation rather than the U.S. military or other intelligence agencies, which "contributed to the government's lack of candor about the nature of the attack."
"Responding to the attacks with an FBI investigation significantly delayed U.S. access to key witnesses and evidence and undermined the government's ability to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice in a timely manner," the report said.
There is still a lot of work to be done. The report outlines the direction each of the committees will take moving forward. Nonetheless, it identifies several significant policy considerations that do not make the White House look like it was on top of the situation:
Expect more from Congress in the future but, based on the interim report alone, what the House has already uncovered is going to put the Obama administration – including former senior officials like Hillary Clinton – in the spotlight for some time.