Judicial Watch • Judicial Watch: Obama Administration Still Withholding Documents about Benghazi Attack

Judicial Watch: Obama Administration Still Withholding Documents about Benghazi Attack

Judicial Watch: Obama Administration Still Withholding Documents about Benghazi Attack

MAY 06, 2014

New State Department Document Argues Releasing Benghazi Documents Would “Chill” Government Deliberations – Including Internal WH Discussion about Whether US Officials Knew Benghazi Was a Terrorist Attack Within 24 Hours 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released a 17-page draft Vaughn Index document obtained from the U.S. Department of State on May 1, revealing that the Obama administration is still refusing to provide the full details of how top officials arrived at the now-discredited talking points released to the public following the deadly assault on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya. The new documents, containing more than 50 paragraphs of justifications to withhold information, were obtained in response to a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc., v. U.S. Department of State, (Civil Action No. 13-cv-00951 (EGS)) filed on June 21, 2013.

A Vaughn Index is a document prepared by a federal agency to justify and detail the withholding of material from public disclosure.  The State Department sent the Benghazi draft Vaughn Index to Judicial Watch on May 1, 2014, in accordance with a court order of October 1, 2013.

The new document seeks to justify withholding internal exchanges within the Obama administration about the Benghazi attack dating back to a September 11, 2013, interagency email exchange containing redactions of an opinion offered on how to respond Benghazi attack updates. Though the State Department document repeatedly describes the material as “Unclassified” or “Sensitive But Unclassified,” it nonetheless justifies scores of extensive redactions and exemptions.

The majority of material in the draft Vaughn Index document pertains to “various drafts, and comments related to the drafts, of a proposed letter from United States Mission to the United Nations (USUN) Ambassador Susan Rice in response to various Congressional inquiries regarding the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya.” The internal debate about the Rice response apparently continued until October 30, 2012. The material obtained by Judicial Watch included the following descriptions related to redacted or exempted material:

  • Document C05415305 is a seven-page inter-agency e-mail exchange consisting of sixteen messages between State Department and other U.S. Government officials [Rhodes, Brennan, McDonough . . .] on September 27 and September 28, 2012, with an original subject line “FOX News: US officials knew Libya attack was terrorism within 24 hours, sources confirm.” Subsequent e-mail subject lines were redacted. The document was originally designated SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. The Department withheld comments, opinions and assessments related to the formulation of a media strategy with respect to an ongoing sensitive matter under Exemption 5 pursuant to the deliberative process privilege…The information withheld under Exemption 5 is pre-decisional and deliberative in nature. The release of this information could reasonably be expected to chill the frank deliberations that occur when State Department and other U.S. Government officials are formulating public responses to address sensitive issues. The material is therefore exempt under FOIA Exemption 5, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), pursuant to the deliberative process privilege.”
  • Document C05415752 is a one-page intra-agency e-mail exchange, consisting of three messages, that is dated September 11, 2012, and bears the subject line “UPDATE: Clashes at U.S. consulate in eastern Libyan city (Reuters).” The Department withheld an opinion offered in response to an update regarding the Benghazi attack under FOIA Exemption 5 pursuant to the deliberative process privilege.
  • Document C05415756 is a four-page intra-agency e-mail exchange consisting of ten messages between State Department officials, dated September 11, 2012, with the subject line “Libya update from Beth Jones.” [Jones was Assistant Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton at the time of the Benghazi attack.]
  • Document C05415286 is a three-page intra-agency e-mail exchange, consisting of three messages, dated September 15, 2012, between various State Department personnel. This document … gives a readout and comments on an internal video conference held by U.S. Government officials on September 15, which discussed the security situation in parts of the Islamic world in the wake of a controversial film on the Prophet Mohammed.
  • Document C05415951 is a three-page intra-agency e-mail exchange, consisting of six messages, between State Department and other U.S. Government officials, dated September 28, 2012 and originally designated UNCLASSIFIED. The subject line of the first five messages is “Statement by the Director of Public Affairs for National Intelligence Shawn Turner on the intelligence related to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.”
  • Document C05415969 is a three-page intra-agency e-mail exchange, consisting of six messages, dated September 29-30, 2012. The subject line of the messages is “Benghazi Draft Response Letter- v14.” The Department withheld candid comments, opinions and assessments made during internal strategy discussions related to the drafting of an official response letter under FOIA Exemption 5 pursuant to the deliberative process privilege.
  • Documents C05416026 is a two-page intra-agency e-mail exchange, consisting of three messages, dated September 30, 2012. The subject lines of the three messages are, beginning with the earliest in time, “Press Recommendation on Libya,” “Draft Response – Vl 7,” and “[Redacted] version of the response letter.”

On Tuesday, April 29, Judicial Watch released explosive new Benghazi scandal documentsprecipitating a Washington firestorm that placed the Obama White House on the defensive and prompted House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to call for a vote on a Select Committee on Benghazi. The documents included a newly declassified emailshowing 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.”  Curiously, the State Department says that it released this document to Judicial Watch in its “discretion,” despite it being allegedly subject to deliberative process and other exemptions being used to secret other documents.

The State Department’s withholdings seem at odds with President Obama’s transparency pledges.  In one of his first official acts (on January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum on FOIA that includes the following:

Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

“This document is a guide to the Obama administration’s Benghazi cover up,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “We will continue to battle this secrecy in court – transparency law requires the truth about government misconduct.”

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  • Chas Mcarty

    Here’s a clue for you to ponder. Why would the leadership of a nation at war even consider giving enemies sworn to its destruction, in this case the republican politicians, classified information that was sure to show up on Fox news the same day if he did? It was the previous regime that slammed down an Iron Curtain of secrecy. This president was correct to use it.

  • Chas Mcarty

    Well Calvin, of course I would not be so presumptuous as to doubt your word. But how about some citations to varify your statement. The rest of the world hasn’t heard this yet. Last we heard was GW Bush on TV saying, “Where are those WMD’s, oops, not here under the couch, hmmm, not here under the desk. Hee Hee. ” Humor while people were dieing every day… Show us where WMD’s were found in Iraq. Its going to be difficult because they were not found. Unless you want to count a hydrogen generating truck used to launch weather balloons. Remember that grasped straw?

  • calvin

    WMD’s were found and proven to have been moved prior to the invasion. Your side also voted to go to war based on the intel provided and the fact that most red-blooded Americans wanted them to

  • calvin

    “January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with
    Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (The Tribune)

    2. HUFFPO: THIS WAS
    JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected
    with al Qaeda attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (BBC)

    3. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic
    offices bombed as part of a string of ‘Bali Bombings.’ No fatalities.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN.

    You said it, Huffington Post.

    4. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire
    upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (Fox News)

    5. HUFFPO: THIS WAS
    JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al Qaeda
    terrorists storm the diplomatic compound, killing 36 people including nine
    Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.”

    REALITY: NINE AMERICAN DEFENSE CONTRACTORS KILLED.

    After numerous State Department warnings, and Saudi Arabia
    investigating al Qaeda for a potential planned attack, three defense compounds
    were assaulted with car bombs and armed attackers. Nine defense contractors
    were killed.

    Bush immediately called the attack part of the “war on
    terror,” and two of the attackers that survived the raid were killed by Saudi
    police forces. You know, just like Benghazi. (CNN)

    6. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from
    the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two
    people.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (BBC)

    7. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda terrorists
    storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are
    killed.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (Guardian)

    8. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks
    the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who
    was directly targeted by the attackers. (I wonder if Lindsey Graham or Fox News
    would even recognize the name ‘David Foy.’ This is the third Karachi terrorist
    attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.)”

    REALITY: ONE U.S. DIPLOMAT KILLED.

    Finally, something that’s like Benghazi! Except that the
    Ambassador wasn’t missing, he was killed instantly. There wasn’t an 8-hour-long
    siege, an AWOL president and Secretary of State, or service personnel hung out
    to dry with no rescue attempt. It wasn’t a recent warzone, and there weren’t
    requests for additional security turned down. Oh, and no one falsely blamed a
    video for causing a non-existent protest. Except for those caveats, just like
    Benghazi.

    9. HUFFPO: THIS WAS
    JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen
    shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic
    weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (CNN)

    10. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek
    terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled
    grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN.

    You said it, Huffington Post.

    11. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the
    al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The
    shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (CNN)

    12. HUFFPO: THIS WAS JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists
    attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN. (Reuters)

    13. HUFFPO: THIS WAS
    JUST LIKE BENGHAZI.

    “September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as
    military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including
    RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an
    American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when
    the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven
    months.”

    REALITY: NONE WERE AMERICAN.

    “Attackers used vehicle bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and
    automatic weapons to mount a coordinated assault on the U.S. Embassy here
    Wednesday, leaving 10 guards and civilians dead outside the main gate but
    failing to breach the walled compound. No Americans were killed.” (Washington
    Post); (CSM)

    (Even if there was misreportage, no embassy officials were
    killed or missing, and those who were killed were done so in a matter of
    minutes.)

    So of all the Americans killed, only one was a diplomat, and
    he was killed almost instantly. Nine others were defense contractors.

    It is my belief that this “13 Benghazis” post was published
    with the intention of deceiving the public. It may have been an attempt at
    persuading Americans to dismiss further inquiry into how the Benghazi terror
    attack was handled and how it was reported to the public.

    The post also suits the purpose of running political cover
    for Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Of course, all conclusions are left up
    to the reader to decide.

  • piglett

    If you follow the Executive Privelege and redaction of the witholdings, it covers the whole gambit of executive protection extended to those who work in the white house and independent agencies, but who are appointed by Democrats. As with Nixon and the tapes, the protection is with anyone who may or may not have been in on the meetings, phone calls or within the chain of command, such as it is.
    Even with Nixon, the secretary who transcribed the tapes, was able to testify and later “coulldn
    ‘t recall if she accidentally or by mistake edited out certain parts of a conversation”. Obama protects his phones, his emails, his press secretary, his chief of staff his Cabinet Heads and during the white house reception early on, letting the Secret Service take the blame for a social appointement or invitation secretary failing to get the invitation list right. He set the example from the very beginning that he doesn’t know who is in charge or responsible for what. Neither does his highest staff understand or attempt to solve and isolate the basic problems with computer systems and programing and inte-relatedness of State/Federal and Departments with hudge programs. While limiting the whole Executive Branch managerial responsibility to manage and know the law and the prior precedents of privacy, equal rights and who is responsible for what and to whom. Simple question from the beginning, when he appointed and created all the CZARS. Where are they on the organizational chart, how much are they paid, where are they working, and do they all have access to all programs, clearances of what level and where did the money come from? Most vets and seniors with any simple or complex knowledge of chain of command and responsibility know that’s what you follow when you want to solve a prolem or distribute “policy”. NOT EMAILS, redactions or one size fits all executive privilege. Even the emails from Congress to IRS, could have been indirect communication of Democratic policy and targeting, just by asking IRS questions about Tea party and conservatives, with email addresses telling us and the IRS who else was being given the “political instructions” from congress. The email address are important, and it appears over the years, that even some of those “to” names have been redacted. WHY?
    When I hear vets and a few others asking or talking about Chain of Command, they are right about asking, but wrong if they think any of the civilian or data savy or Presdients Men/women, have any respect or even technical knowledge of what a “chain of command” means in civilian, bullet point, end date, management circles. Petrasus problably went nuts trying to figure out the CIA or State Department Chain or organizational chart, after years in the military. Email was only one of his or Schineski’s problems.

  • Chas Mcarty

    When did he say that the war on terror was over? Considering the atrocious and treasonous behavior of the republican politicians throughout the last 5 years of the war, I can understand how their remaining supporters could turn a blind eye as It makes the shame less painful. He did end the war waged on the people of Iraq and is doing the same with the Afghanis. Little issues like no WMDS and Bin Laden really in Pakistan justified his actions. Where the heck are you getting such skewed information?

  • Big-Stu

    Everything you listed is during the War on Terror and doesn’t apply, Troll. Plus they were called attacks by terrorists, not blamed on some weak explanation about a movie no one has seen. Everything since Obama declared that the War on Terror over and that we are to love our Islamic facist brothers (terrorists) because Obama decided that the War is over, is on his head, Troll.

  • Big-Stu

    Obama’s January 21, 2009 memorandum on open access FOIA requests, was only to entrap and identify for elimination any conservative left over from the Bush or any conservative working in Obama’s administration. After that its stonewall our people, but destroy conservatives! This is the filth of the Obama administration, Tom Fitton and Judical Watch (and of course not to forget Larry Klayman who started it all, God Bless!) Are exposing!

  • TheFallofAmerica

    When you elect a Third World POS Like Barack HUSSEIN Obama as President , You really shouldn’t be surprised that we wound up with a Third World POS Government

  • Roy Phillips

    i have an idea: agree to investigate all the attacks against American embassies that took place under Bush43 and perhaps the Obama administration will then give you what you want in the way of documents relating to the Benghazi attack. You know:

    Like in 2002 when the US Consulate in the Karachi, Pakistan, was attacked
    and 10 were killed?

    Or in 2004 when the US embassy in Uzbekistan was attacked and two were
    killed and another nine injured?

    How about in 2004, when the US Consulate in Saudi Arabia was stormed and
    8 lost their lives?

    There is more: In 2006, armed men attacked the US Embassy in Syria and
    one was murdered.

    Then in 2007 a grenade was thrown at the US Embassy in Athens.

    In 2008, the US Embassy in Serbia was set on fire.

    In 2008, bombings in the US Embassy in Yemen killed 10.
    That does seem fair, doesn’t it?

  • bittman

    Americans must keep pressing to find out the truth about Benghazi. We need to find out who issued the stand down order to the Military; we need to know who came up with the lie of the video and why Obama, Hillary, and Rice continued the lie for 2-3 weeks; we need to know where the President was since the Dude guy has already told us Obama was not in the Situation Room; and why haven’t the terrorists been caught in the past 19-20 months. Lastly, was our government really running guns to the Al Queda?

  • Hermes Liberty

    It is very important that people realize that the US is under OCCUPATION, but armies of a special nature since they are Spirituals, but in no way miraculous or “extraterrestrials”. This Occupation, along with a supplemental Fight against US by a portion of our own Spirituals, is what complicate the panorama. Thorough explanations for very interested people could unearth a deep TRUTH and transcendent FACTS .

  • Hermes Liberty

    Quite not the same group as those who use Boko Haram; but definitely of the same nature than that of hidden lurking Evildoers of a Spiritual rank and level; power thirsts who are the ones with whom Obama knowingly made a pact in order to access to power and presidency. These guys in turn use him in many ways, including their ATTEMPT TO KILL A HOLY MAN NAMED CHRIST, BY LETTING HIS NAMESAKE (AMBASSADOR CHRIS DIE; remember his multiple calls for the Ambassy’s reinforcement were ALL IGNORED!) THIS IS AN EVIL USE OF THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCE “AS ABOVE, SO BELOW” WHICH HERE READS: “AS WITH CHRIS DEATH, SO BE IT WITH THE CHRIST” THEY ATTEMPTED IN VAIN, to kill. Well informed about these guys; the LAMBISTS shortcomings and countless evil doings. In fact, one of them, engineered my own arrest, the SAME DAY; SEPT 11 2012 for I am one of the opponents of their orientations, inclinations and misdeeds. OBAMA IS DEFINITELY RESPONSIBLE FOR HE KNOWS THESE GUYS AND IS THEIR “CHOSEN OR ANOINTED” (though they were ready to get rid of him for something grater) IN A WAY THAT DEFY ALL IMAGINATION. CLINTON is definitely responsible as well, even though at a much lesser extent than Obama. Highpolitics is to be investigated for this issue to become transparent.

  • JP Gob

    “chill the frank deliberations” – ??? – in this particular case, wouldn’t that be a good idea? I mean, really, maybe government officials should feel a “chill” when having “frank deliberations” about how to lie to the American people. It isn’t like they were having “frank discussions” about how to improve security at the mission complex. They were having “frank deliberations” about how to cover up their own policy failures and America should want to “chill” those discussions because NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE COMFORTABLE HAVING FRANK DISCUSSIONS ABOUT COVERING UP THE TRUTH.