After seven months, the House Benghazi Select Committee held its second hearing recently. We monitor its proceedings closely. The Select Committee’s very existence is because of our uncovering of a key White House Benghazi scandal cover-up email.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) got to the heart of the matter in his opening statement:
On September 11, 2012, at 9:45 p.m., twenty or more armed men assembled outside the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and breached the Mission gate. Several Ansar Al Sharia members have been identified among this group. The initial attackers were armed with AK-47-type rifles, handguns,and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. During this initial attack, buildings within the Mission were set on fire. The fires set during the attack led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith. The remaining State Department personnel escaped to a nearby U.S. facility, known as the Annex. It also came under attack, which continued throughout the early morning hours of September 12th, culminating in a mortar attack that killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
What I just read is the now official position of our government, filed in US District Court by the Department of Justice in a motion to detain the one defendant who has been captured and will stand trial.
20 or more men. The weapons of war. Arson. Sustained attacks. Precision mortars. Terrorist groups.
It is interesting to note the word – “terrorist” – so rarely used by those in positions of responsibility in the days and weeks after Benghazi is now the very word used in the very statute charging the very defendant accused of killing our four fellow Americans. “Conspiracy to Provide Material Support and Resources to Terrorists Resulting in Death”–that is the charge now. But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the word “terrorist” was edited out and changed. Now, the administration uses the word “attack”. But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the administration edited out and changed the word “attack”. Its one thing to get it wrong and then eventually get it right. It was right initially. It was right the first time. Then it was edited and changed to be wrong.
The Select Committee asked about the security lapses at Benghazi and received no answers. Hearings are nice, but Judicial Watch wants answers and results. Just as Judicial Watch exposed the White House involvement in the cover-up to which Trey Gowdy refers, we exposed yet another Benghazi cover-up and yet another set of lying talking points about the very issue the Committee was being stonewalled about–the failure of security at the Benghazi facility.
State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the scandal surrounding the security lapses in Benghazi, Libya, will continue to grow and fester in the months ahead. The documents acquired through a court order in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit highlight the State Department’s $783,284.79 contract with U.K.-based Blue Mountain Group (BMG) and show that BMG did not have a license to operate in Libya at the time of the attack. As it turns out, BMG did not have a license because of a business dispute with XPAND Corporation, which was its local partner in Libya. The documents also quote a State Department official describing the Benghazi security issue as “an emergency situation.” Even so, it is now apparent that there was no sense of urgency on the part of those in charge.
Here’s what we know: BMG informed State Department Contract Officer Jan Visintainer of the dispute on June 5, 2012. Visintainer advised the company that the department “is not required to mediate any disagreements between the two parties of the Blue Mountain Libya Partnership.” The lettergoes on to say that “it is in the best interests of both of the 50/50 partnersto resolve their differences and successfully complete this contract.”
Despite allthe alarm bells and warnings, the State Department documents include detailsabout an agreement dated August 20, 2012, between Blue Mountain Group and XPANDCorporation to dissolve their partnership. On September 9, 2012–just two daysbefore the terrorist attack–an unidentified partner at Nabulsi &Associates (the law firm representing XPAND) wrote to Visintainer advising thedepartment that XPAND, which owned the security license under which BMG wasoperating, that it would “hereby bar and prohibit BMUK [Blue Mountain U.K.]from utilizing such license.”
The responseto the XPAND letter is very telling. An unidentified BMG official wrote thefollowing to Visintainer on September 11, 2012:
I have never experienced anything like this in businessbefore. The agreement was signed and we were to operate under the [BlueMountain Libya] license and confirmation of this was due through from [sic] thepartners. However, they have had a change of mind and now this. I will call youvery shortly.
Thedocuments show that the State Department had planned to terminate the contractwith BMG in response to the dispute over licensing.
On themorning of September 11, 2012, David Sparrowgrove, a State Department regionalsecurity officer, wrote to Visintainer and others, “The dissolution of thepartnership leaves BMG without a security license to operate in Libya and theLibyan partner has no capacity to manage the guards or the contract. As aresult, we feel the best course of action is to terminate the contract in shortorder…” Sparrowgrove also writes, again, just hours before the attack, “I’veCC’d OPO Branch Chief Ricki Travers who has had the unfortunate pleasure ofdealing with these types of emergency situations in the past.”
The factthat the dispute between BMG and XPAND meant the company was operating withouta license is completely glossed over in an email from Deputy AssistantSecretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Mark Toner datedOctober 17, 2012. The email contains talking points to share with Congress thatare fundamentally misleading. Forinstance, the talking points leave out any specific references to the keySeptember 9 and September 11, 2012, security emergency dates at the Benghazifacility.
Our recordsalso reveal that Blue Mountain Group was not the only security contractor tobid on the Benghazi contract. A February 1, 2012, email from State Departmentcontractor Neil Kern identifies two other bidders, including Torres AdvancedEnterprise Solutions. According to federal contracting records, Torres, aService Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business based in Virginia, has won nearly$70 million in contracts with the department (including those to provide guardservices in Pakistan, Iraq, and Jordan).
So why wasthe Benghazi contract awarded to BMG when it had never previously providedsecurity for U.S. government agencies?
There’sanother issue we uncovered that deserves further scrutiny and exposure. Thatwould be the “Benghazi Group supporting the Secretary,” which was managingresponses to press and Congressional inquiries. What was this “Benghazi Group”? Who participated? Is it part ofthe alleged cover-up operation that was witnessed to have scooped up documents toprotect Hillary Clinton?
As we have previouslyreported, Judicial Watch has obtained records revealing significant and ongoingproblems with BMG’s security operations in Benghazi. These included severalguards walking off the job out of fear for their safety and an altercationbetween the BMG guard force commander and a member of the 17th February MartyrsBrigade that led to the commander’s dismissal.
The role BMGplayed in protecting the security of the Benghazi Special Mission Compoundfirst came to light shortly after the September 2012 terrorist attack whenState Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically denied on September18, 2012, that the State Department had hired a private firm to provide security at theAmerican mission in Benghazi. The department later was forced to retract thatfalse claim.
Thesedocuments show the Obama administration withheld vital information from thepublic and from Congress. It appears to us that it is more than an oddcoincidence the Middle East firm providing security for the Benghazi facilitydesperately wanted out two days before the terrorist attack.
So, as theHouse Select Committee reportedly is figuring out how to narrow its inquiry, Judicial Watch is doingthe hard work of ferreting out the truth about the Benghazi cover-up that evena historic Select Committee can’t manage to find or disclose.