Six months have passed since the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, and we are no closer to the truth about what happened. And there is only one reason: Obama secrecy.
You’ve watched the Obama administration trot out witnesses before congressional committees investigating the attacks. You’ve watched Obama officials make the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows. But all we have in the end is more lies and more stonewalling and more broken promises to “get to the bottom of it.”
And then there’s the effort by the Obama administration to shield the documentary evidence from the American people. This is where Judicial Watch is focusing its attention. We recently filed two lawsuits against the Obama State Department to try to gain access to records that could shed light on what happened that day, who responded, and how.
First, we sued the State Department seeking “all videos and photographs” depicting the Benghazi, Libya, Consulate between September 10 and September 13, 2012, the period leading up to, during, and immediately following the deadly attack.
Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to its December 19, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request:
Any and all videos and photographs depicting U.S. Consulate facilities in Benghazi, Libya (including the Special Mission Compound and the Annex) between September 10, 2012, and September 13, 2012, that were provided to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for Benghazi and/or to any individual member of the ARB.
The State Department acknowledged receiving the Judicial Watch FOIA request on January 4, 2013, and was required by law to respond by February 4, 2013. So far, nothing but crickets.
Now, the Obama administration can’t claim it came up empty in trying to locate the records. We know they exist because they are referenced by the ARB, which was convened by then Secretary of State Clinton last December, in its final report.
In fact, according to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering, the Board “reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video” during the course of its investigation. The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. The State Department, however, has refused to comply with our FOIA seeking access to these materials on behalf of the American people.
It’s an easy guess as to why the Obama administration is refusing to turn these records over. Any video or photos will tell us more about Benghazi--in contrast to the lies and spin coming out of Obama administration officials.
Now, in our second FOIA lawsuit against the Obama State Department, we’re seeking access to records concerning a contract totaling nearly $400,000 that was awarded to a foreign firm for “Security Guards and Patrol Services” at the Benghazi Consulate prior to the Benghazi attacks. This contract was signed on February 17, 2012 and May 3, 2012 and, at the time, identified only as “Award ID SAQMMA12COO92”. Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on February 25, 2013.
Specifically, here’s what we’re after pursuant to our November 7, 2012, FOIA request:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the $387,413.68 contract awarded by the Department of State to an unidentified foreign awardee for “Security Guards and Patrol Services.” According to the record of this expenditure on USASpending.gov, the contract was signed on February 17, 2012 and May 3, 2012 and is identified by Award ID SAQMMA12COO92.
The State Department acknowledged receiving the November 7, 2012, Judicial Watch FOIA request on November 12, 2012, and was required by law to respond by December 20, 2012, at the latest. Yet again, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, State failed to produce any records responsive to the request, indicate when any responsive records will be produced, or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production.
Why are we suspicious of this contract?
According to Breitbart News, when first questioned about foreign Benghazi security guards on Friday, September 14, 2012, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically denied that State had hired any private firm to provide security at the American mission in Benghazi:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the claim was made yesterday that a company that is a spinoff of Blackwater, in fact, proposed or contracted the United States Government for this particular kind of eventuality, and it was caught up in some sort of bureaucratic –
MS. NULAND: Completely untrue with regard to Libya. I checked that this morning. At no time did we plan to hire a private security company for Libya.
QUESTION: Toria (stet), I just want to make sure I understood that, because I didn’t understand your first question. You said – your first answer. You said that at no time did you have contracts with private security companies in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
However, on September 17, 2012, WIRED magazine broke the story that Nuland had provided apparently false information in her September 14 press conference, saying: “Contrary to Friday’s claim by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that ‘at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya,’ the department inked a contract for ‘security guards and patrol services’ on May 3, 2012, for $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,000. The contract lists only ‘foreign security awardees’ as its recipient.”
In her daily press briefing on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 Nuland admitted that she had made an “error” concerning the State Department’s hiring of foreign security firms in Benghazi. “There was a group called Blue Mountain Group, which is a private security company with permits to operate in Libya,” Nuland said. “They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening cars, that kind of thing.”
According to Breitbart News, Blue Mountain was chosen for the Benghazi security operation because it was willing to sign the State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya prohibiting guards from carrying weapons with live ammunition.
The American people deserve to know the full story of what occurred at the Benghazi Consulate. The Obama State Department continues to keep secret records that could shed light on the events surrounding the terrorist attack. And we are trying to bust through the Obama administration’s stone wall.
The two new FOIA lawsuits bring our total Benghazi-gate count to three. You may recall we filed a separate FOIA lawsuit seeking access to the controversial internal “speaking points” used by the Obama administration in the days following the attacks when administration officials advanced the false narrative that the attacks were inspired by a rudimentary Internet video perceived as anti-Muslim. There could be more.
Meanwhile, some Republicans in Congress continue to try to seek access to people who might actually tell the truth about what happened on the ground that day--the survivors. Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to keep them sequestered.
Frankly, I don’t trust the Republicans to be dogged about this issue. You may recall that Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to run the CIA was going to be used by Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) to get the truth out about Benghazi. Didn’t happen. Brennan was confirmed yesterday and the only impediment was an extraordinary filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was pushing concerns about drone policy. Incredibly, Graham and McCain voted to confirm Brennan!
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Truth fears no inquiry. The Obama administration truly fears the release of information about Benghazi. That’s the reason for the doctored speaking points, the FOIA denials and the outright lies. They are hoping we will stop caring and just go away. That’s not going to happen.