State Department Releases First Photos of Benghazi Aftermath
Judicial Watch forced The Department of State to release the first seven photos depicting the aftermath of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The release of the photos on June 6, 2013, was in response to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the State Department on February 25, 2013. These are the first Benghazi photos released by the State Department.
The photos obtained by Judicial Watch seem to depict portions of the so-called “Special Mission Compound” in Benghazi, including what appears to be a burned and ransacked building, at least two burned vehicles, and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans. You can view the photos here. They are not graphic, but upsetting and stark given that they depict the aftermath of this terrible atrocity against our nation.
Judicial Watch is after far more than these seven photos. Here is the full breadth of what we are seeking pursuant to a FOIA request first filed last December with the State Department:
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.
Judicial Watch became aware that the documents existed when they were referenced by the ARB in issuing its final report on December 31, 2012. 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 videos with certain members of Congress.
We figured if the Obama administration was sharing this material with Congress, the American people should also have the chance to have a look. State Department officials instead attempted to keep these records secret and did not release any photos or videos until we forced them to relent.
While we continue to pursue photo and video evidence of the Benghazi attacks, Judicial Watch has three pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the Benghazi attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request.
In a FOIA lawsuit filed against the State Department in February, 2013, Judicial Watch sought 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.
Breitbart News previously reported that 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.
However, on September 17, 2012, WIRED magazine broke the story that Nuland had provided 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.”
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. Breitbart.com later broke the story that Blue Mountain was specifically selected 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.
In another FOIA lawsuit filed in February 2013, this one against the Obama Administration’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence, JW seeks access to a controversial “speaking points” memo seeming to suggest that intelligence officials believed from the outset that al Qaeda was behind the attack despite public statements to the contrary issued by Obama administration officials, including UN Ambassador Susan Rice (now Obama’s appointee to serve as National Security Advisor) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The basis for the FOIA request was confirmed in early May, when an explosive story in the Weekly Standard revealed that, contrary to the Obama administration’s denials, the State Department’s own internal emails explicitly pointed to al Qaeda involvement in the deadly attack.
In an attempt to get beyond the spin coming from the Obama administration, Judicial Watch issued an independent interim report in January on Benghazi entitled “The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent.” The special report relied on the expertise of Raymond Fournier, a recently retired Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent with more than 30 years of experience managing security for a host U.S. embassies, including our posts in Israel and Afghanistan.
We will continue to pressure the administration through FOIA requests and lawsuits to get to the truth behind the Benghazi attack.