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Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn:

After a long day on November 13, 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner walked down the marble hallways of the Longworth House Office Building to the personal office of Representative Devin Nunes for a drink, a cigarette, and maybe a brief reprieve.

But Boehner’s visit was not a social call. He was there to see three CIA officers who had fought in Benghazi, Libya. Their identities were unknown to all but a small group of U.S. government officials with high-level security clearances, and the details of their harrowing stories were unknown to virtually everyone who was not a colleague or relative.

And the fact that the meeting was taking place at all was unknown to the man who, under different circumstances, might have been expected to host it. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was not invited.

Rogers was sick of Benghazi. Some of his Republican colleagues had spun themselves into a frenzy of conspiracy theorizing, publicly making wild claims that had no basis in fact or hinting at dark conspiracies that had the president of the United States willfully and eagerly arming its enemies. Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, long the Republican face of Benghazi investigations, accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving a “stand-down” order to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Representative Louie Gohmert claimed that Senator John McCain deserved some of the blame for Benghazi because McCain, like Barack Obama, had supported opposition forces in Libya. Normally responsible Republicans pretended that Hillary Clinton’s famous “what difference at this point does it make” line was not so much a tone-deaf question about how the attacks happened, which deserved the criticism it earned, but a declaration of indifference that the attacks happened, which was absurd. Rogers complained about these excesses regularly to his staff and colleagues.

This frustration, however, wasn’t the reason Boehner and Nunes cut him out of the meeting with CIA officers. They shared his frustration, as it happened.

Their concern was deeper. Rogers had long been reluctant to commit more time and resources to investigating Benghazi. At a meeting of intelligence committee Republicans in early 2013, just four months after the attacks, Rogers laid out his priorities for the new Congress. Not only was Benghazi not on that list, according to three sources in the meeting, he declared to the members that the issue was in the past and that they wouldn’t be devoting significant time and resources to investigating it. Whatever failures there had been in Benghazi, he explained, they had little to do with the intelligence community, and his intelligence committee would therefore have little to do with investigating them.

In the months that followed, more troubling details about the Benghazi story emerged in the media. Among the most damaging: Internal emails made clear that top Obama administration officials had misled the country about the administration’s role in the flawed “Benghazi talking points” that Susan Rice had used in her Sunday television appearances following the attacks, and that former acting CIA director Michael Morell had misled Congress about the same. Other reports made clear that intelligence officials on the ground in Benghazi had reported almost immediately that the assault was a terrorist attack involving jihadists with links to al Qaeda—information that was removed from the materials used to prepare administration officials for their public discussion of the attacks. A top White House adviser wrote an email suggesting that the administration affix blame for the attacks on a YouTube video.

The revelations even roused the establishment media from their Benghazi torpor and generated extraordinarily hostile questioning of White House press secretary Jay Carney by reporters who had trusted his claims of administration noninvolvement.

None of this convinced Rogers to make Benghazi a priority—a fact that frustrated many of the committee’s members. Boehner received a steady stream of visits and phone calls from House members who complained that Rogers wasn’t doing his job. In all, seven members of the intelligence committee took their concerns directly to the speaker or his top aides. Boehner’s presence at the secret meeting in Nunes’s office demonstrated that he shared those concerns long before he decided to impanel a select committee to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the Benghazi attacks. And what happened to the CIA officers as they attempted to share their story with congressional oversight committees suggests that those concerns were well founded.

As lawmakers headed home for Thanksgiving two weeks ago, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report concluding that there were no intelligence failures related to the September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi and otherwise bolstering claims by the administration and its defenders that the controversy surrounding the attacks and their aftermath was rooted more in the imaginations of critics than in reality.

For many of those who had been following the story closely, the report was bizarre and troubling. Key events were left out. Important figures were never mentioned. Well-known controversies were elided. Congressional testimony on controversial issues was mischaracterized. The authoritative tone of the conclusions was undermined by the notable gaps in evidence presented to support them.

“If this was a high school paper, I would give it an F,” says John Tiegen, a former CIA officer who fought on the ground that night in Benghazi and lived through many of the events the report purports to describe. “There are so many mistakes it’s hard to know where to begin. How can an official government report get so many things wrong?”

It’s a good question. Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican who serves on the committee that produced the report, disputes the premise.

“I don’t think this is the official government report. It’s Mike Rogers’s report,” says Rooney. “The members of his own committee don’t even agree with it.”

Indeed, several committee members we reached distanced themselves from the report released in their name, some on background, others on the record. “I probably would have written it differently,” says Representative Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas who will assume the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee in the new Congress. “And it’s important to remember that this is a narrow look at just one part of the Benghazi story. All of the talk that this report answers this, that, and the other? It doesn’t. That’s the reason that Boehner appointed the select committee.”

Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, signed an “additional views” statement but was unhappy with the report itself. “It was nowhere near the report I would have written,” King told us. “I agreed with some of the key findings—that the State Department was told about threats, that the intelligence community determined almost immediately that it was a terrorist attack. And I thought to reject it altogether wouldn’t have been smart; better to get some of that out there. But the best interpretation is that it was an attempt to be bipartisan. And that’s the best interpretation.”

Committee members say the staff ignored their objections. Rooney says he was angry when he first read a draft of the report, raised several substantive concerns, and sought to have his questions answered. “I actually sat down with the attorney for the committee and went over the language they were using in the report versus my understanding of what actually happened,” said Rooney, a former prosecutor. “I said: ‘I don’t agree with this finding, I don’t agree with this finding, I don’t agree with this finding.’ He was like: ‘Okay, we’ll take that into consideration.’ ”

If committee leadership did, in fact, take his objections into consideration it’s not evident from the report. Rooney says the report reads today just as it did before he complained.

Representative Joe Heck, a Republican from Nevada, says that while he believes the 15 “findings” in the main report are “valid,” the report should have been stronger. Heck, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve who was given a seat on the intelligence committee as a freshman in 2011, singled out the section on the Benghazi talking points as particularly weak. “The report was not as hard-hitting as it should have been,” he says.

Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican from Kansas, backs the conclusions of the report but says it is necessarily incomplete. “The facts that are contained in there—I have not heard anybody dispute the facts.” But Pompeo noted that he also serves on the Benghazi Select Committee, which is in the early stages of its investigation, and added: “There are still lots of documents to be made available, many witnesses yet to speak with outside the land of the intelligence community.”

The strongest support for the report came from Mike Conaway, Republican from Texas, who praised Rogers’s investigation as thorough and said: “I think the report is reflective of the facts we found.”

Not surprisingly, Rogers strongly disagrees with his critics. The committee provided a long list of its Benghazi-related activities and noted that Rogers has been critical of the Obama administration on Benghazi. Asked why Rogers told committee Republicans in early 2013 that there was no need to investigate further, Susan Phalen, a spokesman for the committee, did not dispute that her boss made the comments but argued instead that the committee held 56 “oversight events related to Benghazi” in 2013.

Although the House Intelligence Committee report claims to be the definitive statement of the House of Representatives on matters of Benghazi and intelligence, interviews over the past week make clear that it’s not even the consensus position of Republicans on the committee.

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