WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, a Republican-controlled House committee has found. Its report asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials.
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the two-year 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.
The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.
The attacks in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. A Libyan extremist, Ahmed Abu Khatalla, is facing trial on murder charges after he was captured in Libya and taken to the U.S.
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.
The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.
"We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 committee events and hearings," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the committee's chairman, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat, in a joint statement.
"We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives," they said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who serves on the intelligence panel and the Benghazi select committee, said, "It's my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department's progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities."
Some of the harshest charges have been leveled at Rice, now Obama's national security adviser, who represented the Obama administration on Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack. Rice repeated talking points that wrongly described a protest over a video deemed offensive to Muslims.
But Rice's comments were based on faulty intelligence from multiple agencies, according to the report. Analysts received 21 reports that a protest occurred in Benghazi, the report said —14 from the Open Source Center, which reviews news reports; one from the CIA; two from the Defense Department; and four from the National Security Agency.
In the years since, some participants in the attack have said they were motivated by the video. The attackers were a mix of extremists and hangers on, the investigation found.
"To this day," the report said, "significant intelligence gaps regarding the identities, affiliations and motivations of the attackers remain."
MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — The protesters didn't show, the would-be hecklers didn't take the bait, the weeks of headlines about sexual assaults disappeared and Bill Cosby, for 90 minutes at least, regained the revered status he long enjoyed.
The show Friday night in Melbourne, Florida, might have seemed destined for disaster for the comedian, enveloped in growing accusations of rape and sexual assault that have derailed his career comeback and crumbled his tour schedule. What he got, though, was an adoring audience that laughed so hard they slapped their knees, shouted love at the stage and rose to their feet as he came and went.
"I think people went in there with him as Bill Cosby from the TV show," said Travis Weberling, 40, of Melbourne, "not the guy they heard about on the news."
The 2,000-seat theater beefed up security and announcements before Cosby took the stage warned a disturbance was possible — radio hosts had even offered cash and prizes to anyone who made it happen. Reporters swarmed the venue. But, in the end, just one protester stood outside, holding a sign that read, "Rape is no joke."
What remained to be seen was whether the evening marked a turning point for a beloved television father, or simply a momentary reprieve. It did nothing to immediately change the fact that Cosby's projects have been nixed and stalled, performances have been canceled across the country and women continue to come forward accusing him of serious crimes.
Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations.
"I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos," Cosby told the Florida Today newspaper before the show. "People should fact check."
Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, said the accusations had "escalated far past the point of absurdity," dismissing them as "fantastical," ''unsubstantiated" and "uncorroborated."
"When will it end?" he asked. "It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop."
And, throughout the audience, his fans agreed.
They talked of watching him on TV as a child, and of his albums becoming familiar friends when the moved to unfamiliar, faraway towns. They brushed off the accusations, howling at everything he uttered.
When he took the stage at the Maxwell C. King Center For The Performing Arts, they stood and hollered, and he returned a thumbs-up. Only a smattering of empty seats were seen. Cosby wore cargo pants and a shirt that said "Hello Friend" and never once ventured in the realm of controversy. His 90-minute set wandered from a childhood fear of God to the loss of freedom in marriage to the rocket-speed Spanish of a piñata-store worker.
He sat for much at the start of the show, then grew increasingly physical, impersonating jujitsu and gymnastics poses, laying on the floor in stocking feet and thrusting a fist upward in a gesture of battling the everyday oppression of living with a wife. And when it was over, he said "good night," walking off as the audience again stood.
The most impassioned of his fans breathed a sigh of relief. Judith Stone traveled from Madison, West Virginia, for the show, deeming it "absolutely fantastic" and grateful no one interrupted.
"I think he will leave with a very positive attitude," she said.
Elsewhere, audiences will not have the chance to see Cosby. Performances in Oklahoma, Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina and Washington were called off. David Fischer, director of The Broadway Center in Tacoma, Washington, said an April appearance was called off because it conflicts with the organization's mission strengthen the community "building empathy, furthering education and sharing joy."
Projects on NBC and Netflix have been canceled, and TV Land decided not to air reruns of "The Cosby Show." Cosby's producers said at least 28 other shows remain on his schedule through May 2015.
Tom Werner, who co-founded the Carsey-Werner Company which produced "The Cosby Show," defended Cosby in a statement to the Boston Globe.
"The Bill we knew was a brilliant and wonderful collaborator on a show that changed the landscape of television," Werner and partner Marcy Carsey said in the statement. "These recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension."
And, even in a crowd of Cosby faithful, there was some worry there was more to come.
"This very well may be Bill Cosby's last show," said Marcus Utt, 25, of Melbourne.
Some of the women accusing Cosby are going public again after initially coming forward around 2005, when Andrea Constand filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually assaulted by him.
Tamara Green, a California attorney, also said Cosby tried to sexually assault her in her Los Angeles apartment around 1970, when she was a model and an aspiring actress. She said Cosby gave her two pills that made her almost lose consciousness, took her to her apartment, undressed her and then took his clothes off as she fought off his advances.
Another woman, Joan Tarshis, said Cosby gave her drug-laced drinks twice in 1969, forcing her to perform a sex act the first time and raping her the second time. She said she told no one about this for decades, and only decided to go public when she read a Nov. 13 column in The Washington Post by Barbara Bowman, who alleges she was drugged and raped by Cosby when she was 17.
And, offering a familiar narrative, another woman, Therese Serignese, said she was drugged and raped by Cosby in 1976.
Contributors include Frazier Moore, Mark Kennedy, David Bauder and Alexandra Otto in New York, Michael Virtanen in Albany, New York, and Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has the upper hand in the fierce struggle over immigration now taking shape, with a veto pen ready to kill any Republican move to reverse his executive order, Democrats united behind him and GOP congressional leaders desperate to squelch talk of a government shutdown or even impeachment.
With the public favoring changes in the current immigration system, the Republicans' best short-term response appears to be purely rhetorical: that the president is granting amnesty to millions, and exceeding his constitutional authority in the process. Beyond that, their hopes of reversing his policies appear to be either a years-long lawsuit or the 2016 presidential election.
Neither of those is likely to satisfy the tea party adherents in Congress — or the Republican presidential contenders vying for support among party activists who will play an outsized role in early primaries and caucuses just over a year away.
"We alone, I say it openly, we the Senate are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration and its unconstitutional amnesty," said one of them, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In remarks on the Senate floor, according to his office, he was channeling Cicero, the ancient Roman orator.
In a portion of the oration that Cruz did not mention, Cicero referred to a Roman Senate decree calling for a conspirator against the Roman republic "to be put to death this instant."
More than 2,000 years later, impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate stand as the sole established remedy against high crimes and misdemeanors by any president.
House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leader Mitch McConnell want none of that. Nor are they interested in provoking a government shutdown as a way to block spending needed to carry out Obama's order, viewing that as a poor way to embark on a new era of Republican control of Congress.
"We're considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act," said McConnell, who will become majority leader when his party assumes control of the Senate in January.
Led by Boehner, House Republicans on Friday filed a lawsuit accusing Obama of abusing his authority in the implementation of the health care law. Officials say the immigration executive order could be added, but it is unclear how long a final judgment might take or who will be sitting in the Oval Office when it does.
In the interim, Democrats interrupted their squabbling over dispiriting midterm election losses. "The last two weeks haven't been great weeks for us," said New York Rep. Joe Crowley. "The president is about to change that."
The political debate is well underway, although the two parties seem to be appealing to different segments of the electorate. Polls show that the country as a whole and especially Hispanics favor allowing immigrants to remain in the country and work even if here illegally. Conservatives tend to prefer deportation.
"The critics are going to call it amnesty," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., predicted correctly on Thursday in advance of Obama's speech. "But as Sen. Rubio has reminded us, doing nothing — leaving the current system in place — is amnesty."
That was a reference to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential GOP presidential contender who was a leader in passing a bipartisan immigration bill that cleared the Senate, 68-32, in 2013. The measure included a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
Obama's order didn't go that far. It calls for suspending the threat of deportation for millions, but without the promise of a green card that bestows permanent legal status, much less citizenship.
Republicans also argue that Obama is forfeiting any chance of being able to work with Congress to achieve immigration reform.
Democrats counter that it's been about 17 months since the Senate passed the bipartisan bill.
Since then, opponents in the House have pressured Boehner successfully not to allow it to come to a vote. They also extracted a promise from him not to allow compromise negotiations with the Senate on any other measure that might ease current restrictions on immigrants.
In the hours before Obama acted, Republicans forecast bad outcomes.
"This is ... a major boon to the cartels and other gangs who control Mexico's smuggling networks. And it will almost certainly lead to thousands of people who've committed crimes in this country gaining legal status," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., envisioned a different outcome when asked if a future Republican president might reverse Obama's actions, potentially subjecting millions who step forward now to get work permits to being deported in the future.
"I wish that person luck," Reid said.
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Espo covers Congress and politics for The Associated Press.
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A new report asks whether the race and affluence of Adam Lanza's family influenced decisions about how to care for his mental health problems in the years before he committed the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Among the findings in the report, which was released Friday by the state office of Child Advocate, is that Lanza's his parents and educators contributed to his social isolation by accommodating — and not confronting — his difficulties engaging with the world.
The report said recommendations from Yale psychologists that he be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions were rejected by his mother, who eventually took him out of school.
"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report asks. "Would (Adam Lanza's) caregivers' reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?"
Lanza's father is a financial services executive. The son and his mother lived in an exclusive neighborhood in the wealthy bedroom community, 70 miles north of Manhattan.
Research has found that upper-middle-class parents are far more likely to be resistant, defensive and even litigious when presented with treatment options suggested by school service providers, said Suniya Luthar, a professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, who has written extensively on the topic of affluence and mental health.
Deferring to those parents can have grave consequences, allowing nascent problems to escalate to serious and sometimes dangerous levels, she said.
"Even though some of these parents can be very intimidating, schools need to hang tough," she said. "If there is a psychologist, a teacher or a social worker who believes this child is headed for deep trouble, they need to be firm in advocating for the child"
The report concluded that Lanza's autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems did not cause or lead directly to the massacre.
But it found that his "severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems" when combined with a preoccupation with violence, and access to deadly weapons, "proved a recipe for mass murder."
Lanza killed his mother then shot his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20 children and six educators before committing suicide.
Lanza's obsessions with firearms, death and mass shootings have been documented by police files, and investigators previously concluded the motive for the shootings may never be known.
But in exploring what could have been done differently, the new report honed in on his mother, Nancy Lanza, who backed her son's resistance to medication and from the 10th grade on kept him at home, where he was surrounded by an arsenal of firearms and spent long hours playing violent video games.
"Mrs. Lanza's approach to try and help him was to actually shelter him and protect him and pull him further away from the world, and that in turn turned out to be a very tragic mistake," said Julian Ford, one of the report's authors, at a news conference.
The authors said Lanza's parents tried to obtain help for him in variety of ways, but they did not know which path to take and appeared not to grasp the depth and severity of his disabilities. His parents were divorced, and Lanza had not seen his father for two years. After 2008, his parents did not appear to seek any mental health treatment for him, and there was no sustained input from a mental health provider after 2006, according to the report.
The one provider that seemed to understand the gravity of his condition, the Yale Child Study Center, evaluated him in 2006 and called for rigorous daily therapy and medication for conditions including anxiety. At the time, a Yale psychiatrist warned there was risk to creating a "prosthetic environment which spares him having to encounter other students or to work to overcome his social difficulties," according to the report.
The day after the evaluation, Nancy Lanza told the doctor by email that her son would not agree to any sort of medication and that he had been angered by the doctor's line of questioning. The Yale recommendations went largely unheeded.
Joseph Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of schools for Newtown this year, said the report will have great meaning if "there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime."
He also said wealth and race will never be a factor when deciding how to treat a child in his school system.
"There will never, ever under my watch be a decision made based on race, color, creed, or wealth index....never," he said. "I feel very strongly about this and would never allow this type of influence in any way."
NEW YORK (AP) — A rookie police officer walking with his gun drawn in a darkened stairwell of a crime-ridden public housing complex accidentally shot and killed a man who was leaving the building with his girlfriend, authorities said Friday.
"What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy," Police Commissioner William Bratton said. "The deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity."
The shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who was unarmed, occurred late Thursday night as 26-year-old Officer Peter Liang and another rookie officer patrolled the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn's gritty East New York neighborhood.
The New York Police Department assigns rookie officers as reinforcements in parts of the city that have seen increases in crime. The housing project, where Gurley's girlfriend lives, was the scene of a recent shooting, robberies and assaults.
The officers had descended onto an eighth-floor landing when, 14 steps away, Gurley and his girlfriend had opened a door into the seventh-floor landing after giving up their wait for the elevator so he could head to the lobby. The lights were burned out in the stairwell, leaving it "pitch black" and prompting both officers to use flashlights, Bratton said.
Liang, for reasons unclear, also had his gun drawn, police said. He was about 10 feet from Gurley when, without a word and apparently by accident, he fired a shot, police said. In general, officers have discretion on whether to draw their weapons based on what they are encountering or believe they may encounter, Bratton said.
Gurley's girlfriend, Melissa Butler, told the Daily News she was walking him out of her seventh-floor apartment after braiding his hair when the shooting happened.
"He didn't do nothing wrong," Butler said. "He was just standing there, and they shot him."
She and Gurley made it down two flights of stairs after he was shot, but he collapsed on the fifth-floor landing and lost consciousness, she said.
Gurley was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died, police said.
Gurley's stepfather, Kenneth Palmer, said officials called his relatives in Jacksonville, Florida, to notify them of the death.
"What's hitting me on the head right now is how it happened," Palmer said. "The mood I'm in is pissed off."
Gurley's sister and his daughter's mother, who is not his girlfriend, were to speak Saturday at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Police officials pieced together the details of the shooting from radio reports and interviews with the girlfriend and the second officer, but they said they have not spoken to Liang. The officer must first be interviewed by the district attorney's office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges, before internal affairs officers can question him, a standard policy.
The shooting comes at a time when the NYPD, the nation's biggest police department, is changing how rookie officers are used fresh out of the academy to give them more training and time with more senior officers. It also reinforced what some critics say are long-ignored maintenance problems in public housing, including poor lighting.
Public housing employees walked around the buildings Friday with a shopping cart full of light strips and fixed all the lights on the staircase.
The president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, said the complex is among the most dangerous in the city and the stairwells are the most dangerous places in public housing.
State Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron, whose district includes the complex, expressed doubt the shooting was accidental.
"This young man should be alive today," he said. "This is ridiculous."
The shooting recalled a 2004 incident in which 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury was shot dead by a startled officer on a Brooklyn rooftop of a housing complex. His family got a $2 million settlement with the city.
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Jonathan Lemire and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.