Judicial Watch Sues Departments of Defense and State for Records about Benghazi Briefings of Congressional Leaders
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on May 15, 2014, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Defense and State to obtain records regarding 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” (Judicial Watch v U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State(No. 1:14-cv-00812)).
The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit, filed in accordance with the March 6, 2014, FOIA requests sent to the two agencies, specifically seeks the following information from January 1, 2011, to the present:
a) 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.
“It has now been nearly two years since the deadly terrorist attack on the mission compound at Benghazi, and there are still more questions than answers,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “In fact, we still don’t even know 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.’ The American people deserve to know that information in order to decide for themselves whether the upcoming investigation by the House Select Committee is focusing on the issues that matter most.”
On April 29, 2014, Judicial Watch 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 Select Committee to investigate the terrorist attack on Benghazi. The new documents included an 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.
Since the attack in Benghazi, serious questions have been raised as to why Ambassador Stevens was at the Special Mission Compound. 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 U.S. State Department remained in Benghazi when other international entities pulled out due to militant activities.