There were two types of questions that House Republicans posed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at yesterday’s hearing of the Benghazi Special Committee: 1) questions that had nothing to do with Benghazi (see Blumenthal, Sidney), and 2) questions that were already thoroughly assessed and answered in the seven previous investigations into the 2012 attack.
As an example of one question of the latter sort, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., asked Clinton whether the targeted U.S. facilities were being used to send weapons to armed Syrian groups.
This theory, popular among conservative activists and pundits, goes that the Obama administration used the American annex in Benghazi to arm Al Qaeda, ISIS and other radical Islamists…who then attacked the Americans, for some reason.
The Benghazi gun-running conspiracy theory has already been evaluated and debunked — much like the mythical “stand down order” — by a Republican-led congressional investigation. But Pompeo decided to ask Clinton about the long-discredited claim anyway:
The theory was first posed to Clinton in a 2013 hearing by Sen. Rand Paul, who himself admitted that he didn’t “have any proof” of the allegation.
The Associated Press reported last year that the claim doesn’t hold water…unless you believe that Republicans are aiding the supposed cover-up:
A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.
Here is what the GOP-led report [PDF] found: