DOD and State Sued for Congressional Benghazi Briefing Records
Judicial Watch continues to pepper the administration with Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests (and lawsuits when necessary) to shake loose as many Benghazi-related records as possible because it has been nearly two years since the deadly terrorist attack on the mission compound at Benghazi, and more questions than answers remain.
It is unknown what information was provided by the Obama administration to the members of the Senate and House leadership and the leadership of the intelligence committees--or whether certain members of Congress were in on the “cover-up.”
This information is at the center of a new Judicial Watch investigation.
On May 15, 2014, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Defense and State to obtain records regarding any briefings given to top congressional leaders regarding “the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi, Libya.”
We specifically seek the following information from January 1, 2011, to the present:
Any and all records detailing the dates on which any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] briefed any of the following members of Congress on matters related to the activities of any agency or department of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or classified annex in Benghazi, Libya:
Rep. John Boehner [Speaker of the House]
Rep. Mike Rogers [Chairman, House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence]
Rep. Charles “Dutch” Ruppersberger [Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence]
Rep. Nancy Pelosi [Minority Leader of the House]
Sen. Dianne Feinstein [Chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [Vice Chairman, Senate Select Committee in Intelligence]
Sen. Harry Reid [Senate Majority Leader]
Sen. Mitch McConnell [Senate Minority Leader]
b) Any and all records produced by any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] in preparation for, use during, and/or pursuant to any of the aforementioned briefings (including, but is not limited to, any and all reports, analyses, presentation slides, and/or notes).
c) Any and all records of communication between any official of the [Departments of Defense and State] and any of the aforementioned members of Congress and/or any of their respective staff members regarding, concerning, or related to activities or operations of any agency of the U.S. government at the Special Mission Compound and/or the classified annex in Benghazi, Libya.
JW is after this information because there remains unanswered a fundamental question related to the Benghazi attacks: Why was Ambassador Chris Stevens at the Special Mission Compound to begin with?
In August 2013, CNN reported, “Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.”
Earlier, Gregory Hicks, the State Department's deputy chief of mission in Tripoli at the time of the attack, told the House Oversight Committee that one of the reasons Stevens was in Benghazi was that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post." Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has said he will investigate why the U.S. State Department remained in Benghazi when other international entities pulled out due to militant activities.
If anyone can get hold of this information, it’s your Judicial Watch. We’ve gotten records when Congress could not. And what we’ve discovered has been game-changing.
On April 29, 2014, JW released 41 new Benghazi-related State Department documents that created a firestorm in the nation’s capital resulting in the appointment by House Speaker Boehner of a Special Committee to investigate the terrorist attack on Benghazi.
The new documents included a newly declassified email showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.” Other documents showed that State Department officials initially described the incident as an “attack” and a possible kidnap attempt.
Among the top administration PR personnel who received the Rhodes memo were White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist David Plouffe.
JW’s discoveries prompted Congress to appoint a Select Committee to investigate Benghazi. However, in order for the American people to decide for themselves whether the upcoming investigation by the House Select Committee is focusing on the issues that matter most, they must have access to the information we seek.
With history as a guide, we are going to have to pry this information loose from the Obama administration’s iron grip.