As the congressional investigation into the terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, continues to heat up, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters on Monday that the administration is allowing survivors of the attack and other Department employees to come forward and tell the truth about what happened.
“We have always encouraged any State Department employee who wants to share their story and tell the truth,” Ventrell said on Monday, according to the Washington Post.
But a letter the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Thomas Gibbons sent to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the same day tells a completely different story. Gibbons was responding to a request from Graham for the administration to allow Congress to interview the five Diplomatic Security agents who survived the attack.
“The Department appreciates your interest in talking to the five State Department Diplomatic Security agents who survived the attack,” Gibbons wrote. “At the same time, we have serious concerns about their welfare and want to be careful not to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of the attack.”
Gibbons wrote that one of the five agents who survived “is currently recovering at a local military hospital” and “the other four have returned to duty.”
“All are security professionals, and we are committed to ensuring their security as they return to the field,” Gibbons continued. “Should their identities become public, they may become targets, putting their lives, as well as those of their families and the people they protect, at increased risk.”
The State Department says it is not suppressing whistleblower accounts of the attack, but it is continuing to keep survivors of the attack from Congress. While those survivors ultimately may not become whistleblowers if they choose not to come forward, Congress cannot even attempt to communicate with them because the State Department is hiding their identities.
Nonetheless, Gibbons argued in the letter that President Barack Obama’s administration has “provided Congress with extraordinary access information related to the attack in Benghazi.”
“We have participated in eight Congressional hearings and more than 20 Congressional briefings, and shared over 25,000 pages of internal records related to the situation in Benghazi, including reporting from the night of the attack,” Gibbons wrote to Graham. “Also, we shared with Congress the classified and unclassified reports of the independent Benghazi Accountability Review Board, which reflect the input of people on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli.”
In a statement to Breitbart News in response to the administration’s claims that it is not suppressing whistleblowers while continuing to deny Congressional attempts to interview those five survivors, Graham said it is “completely unacceptable.”
“It’s our job to oversee and provide oversight to the executive branch,” Graham said. “I’ve been asking for survivors and people who were involved to come forward. Every agency in the government is stonewalling.”
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), is expected to hear testimony from whistleblowers who have come forward at a hearing on Wednesday.