A huge wave of public testimony, reports and documents on what happened in Benghazi now floods Washington, and little of it focuses on the role of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before, on, or after Sept. 11, 2012.
Over the past 18 months, there have been at least seven public congressional hearings and three fact-finding reports on the terrorist attack. If not invisible, Mrs. Clinton is certainly portrayed as being only in the background during Benghazi, unaware of key events.
In the early post-Benghazi days on Capitol Hill, Republicans tried to pry “what did she know and when did she know it” information out of witnesses. But in later hearings, her name came up rarely — if at all.
On key questions, there is a dead end. For example, the nation’s two most senior military officials said they never spoke with Mrs. Clinton during the eight-hour crisis in Benghazi, Libya.
The State Department refused to cooperate for a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation, Republicans say, and her name is not in the final report.
Mrs. Clinton testified that she was never informed about how susceptible the Benghazi diplomatic mission was to attack or about requests for more security officers. On the infamous Benghazi talking points, that process was carried out below her level, she said.
At the recently concluded public hearing of Michael J. Morell, the CIA deputy director who coordinated the “talking points” with State, references to Mrs. Clinton, who leads in polls to be the next Democratic presidential nominee, were made twice as asides, not as to Benghazi facts.
P.J. Crowley, who was Mrs. Clinton’s top spokesman at State in her first year, said Republicans have tried to nail her but there simply is no evidence.
“Benghazi happened on her watch, so she will always have a connection to the attack,” Mr. Crowley said. “There have been some efforts to make it about her, which I suspect will continue despite the lack of evidence.”
Lawyer Victoria Toensing has another view. She said members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence displayed incompetence while questioning Mr. Morell.
“Nobody from the House committee asked about her,” said Mrs. Toensing, who represents Gregory Hicks, the chief of mission in Tripoli that day who was among the first to blow the whistle on lax security in Benghazi and a lack of help from Washington during the crisis. “Was that hearing somewhat incompetent? Yes.”
Mrs. Toensing said the investigative failings pertaining to Mrs. Clinton began much earlier in the search to explain the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his aide, Sean Smith.
State’s own investigation, by the accountability review board, gave Mrs. Clinton a pass. It never interviewed her on facts and decided that culpability lay at a much lower level, said former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a co-chairman of the board.
His report said Stevens was in Benghazi that day “independent” of Washington.
“It’s a lie. An outright lie,” Mrs. Toensing said, adding that Mrs. Clinton’s fingerprints can be seen on that point.