State Dept Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell on Tuesday used harsh language to condemn Victoria Toensing, a lawyer claiming to represent a Benghazi whistleblower, for “taking to the airwaves” with “patently false” statements. “We’ve had an individual who’s been out there on TV making some unfounded and patently false accusations in previous days that she or her partner had contacted the State Department, which they hadn’t. This person suggested on TV that they had been processed for a clearance but – had not been processed for clearance, before she ever had even requested one,” Ventrell said.
Toensing replied via email to GretaWire: “I said Ventrell was “incompetent or lying'” because he said on 4/30 he knew of no “attorney” requests when he knew very well that Issa had written two letters asking for a process to clear lawyers and DOS had not responded. He purposefully mischaracterized it as an “attorney” request so he could shoot it down. I have never said I requested my clearance; I always said the Department had not responded to Issa’s requests and in so doing has thwarted our ability to get clearances. I have also clarified for reporters who say witnesses are stopped from testifying that my argument is that the witness cannot tell the FULL story because he/she has to stop when getting to the classified information. Therefore , the witness is prevented from providing important classified information to Congress, which violates 18 USC 1505. It is not just “possible” Ventrell was mischaracterizing my statements. He did so with intent. I want to see the transcript where I said I had tried to get a clearance.”
QUESTION: Just a question on Benghazi. Since the Office of the Legal Advisor issued the letter with the roadmap for private counsel representing whistleblowers to seek security clearances, has anyone applied for the security clearances?
MR. VENTRELL: Yes. We’ve had an individual who’s been out there on TV making some unfounded and patently false accusations in previous days that she or her partner had contacted the State Department, which they hadn’t. This person suggested on TV that they had been processed for a clearance but – had not been processed for clearance, before she ever had even requested one. And so we repeatedly have this person saying that their – they had a whistleblower who’s been held back from telling their story, and we’re not aware of this individual or anyone who’s asking to tell their story. My understanding is that since these developments overnight, this person has been in contact with us and is now going through the procedures to get a security clearance. But this individual was on TV repeatedly saying that they were being held back from getting a security clearance before they’d even picked up the phone to call us.
QUESTION: Was that –
QUESTION: So have they started –
QUESTION: This person is a lawyer. This person is the lawyer.
MR. VENTRELL: This is Victoria Toensing.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: And are you aware of any State Department employees who have contacted a legal advisor or anyone else saying that they would like to have a lawyer get cleared so that they could (inaudible)?
MR. VENTRELL: No, but we’re now aware of Ms. Toensing and –
QUESTION: Well, you were aware of that because she was on TV, right?
MR. VENTRELL: And now she’s been in touch with us directly to go about the normal procedure.
QUESTION: You’re saying that she wasn’t just – she was lying –
MR. VENTRELL: I’m saying she was making false statements that were unfounded that we were –
QUESTION: Making false statements is lying, isn’t it?
MR. VENTRELL: We think that –
MR. VENTRELL: False statements are lying, Matt. And so we had somebody who was on national television saying that we were blocking them from getting a security clearance, which was not true.
QUESTION: That’s appropriate behavior for an officer of the court?
MR. VENTRELL: I am not an officer of the court myself, and so – but again, we think that it was unfounded to go on TV and say, “I’m not getting a security clearance, I’m being blocked,” when she hadn’t picked up the phone and even called us.
QUESTION: Do you know who she’s representing now?
MR. VENTRELL: We do not.
QUESTION: So you still have no idea if this person who says that they need a private security –
QUESTION: She contacted you today?
MR. VENTRELL: This was yesterday.
QUESTION: She contacted you yesterday –
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: — to start the process of getting security clearance to be able to represent an unknown whistleblower.
MR. VENTRELL: Exactly.
QUESTION: But she did not tell you – inform you of the name of the person she’s representing?
MR. VENTRELL: We’re not aware of who this individual might be that’s supposedly trying to tell their case.
QUESTION: Just out of curiosity, how can you prove a negative, that she didn’t contact the State Department?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, she herself admits that she’s now talked to the Legal Advisor’s office and is following the process. But no one in our building was aware – and we checked very thoroughly – was aware of a request coming in, either from an employee or from this attorney. And so she was quick to go to the airwaves and say that we were blocking or obstructing, and we were not.