Judicial Watch Sues U.S. Department of State for Details on $400,000 Benghazi Security Contract
State Department first denied hiring of security guards, then admitted having provided false information after WIRED magazine expose
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State seeking access to records concerning a contract totaling nearly $400,000 that was awarded to a foreign firm for “Security Guards and Patrol Services” at the Benghazi Consulate prior to the deadly attack of September 11, 2012. The contract was signed on February 17 and May 3, and, at the time, identified only as “Award ID SAQMMA12COO92”. Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on February 25, 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00243)). This is one of three Benghazi FOIA lawsuits being pursued by Judicial Watch.
Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to its November 7, 2012, FOIA request:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the $387,413.68 contract awarded by the Department of State to an unidentified foreign awardee for ‘Security Guards and Patrol Services.’ According to the record of this expenditure on USASpending.gov, the contract was signed on February 17, 2012 and May 3, 2012 and is identified by Award ID SAQMMA12COO92.
The State Department acknowledged receiving the November 7, 2012, Judicial Watch FOIA request on November 12, 2012, and was required by law to respond by December 20, 2012, at the latest. As of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, State failed to produce any records responsive to the request, indicate when any responsive records will be produced, or demonstrated that responsive records are exempt from production.
According to Breitbart.com, when first questioned about foreign Benghazi security guards on Friday, September 14, 2012, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland emphatically denied that State had hired any private firm to provide security at the American mission in Benghazi:
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the claim was made yesterday that a company that is a spinoff of Blackwater, in fact, proposed or contracted the United States Government for this particular kind of eventuality, and it was caught up in some sort of bureaucratic –
MS. NULAND: Completely untrue with regard to Libya. I checked that this morning. At no time did we plan to hire a private security company for Libya.
QUESTION: Toria (stet), I just want to make sure I understood that, because I didn’t understand your first question. You said – your first answer. You said that at no time did you have contracts with private security companies in Libya?
MS. NULAND: Correct.
On September 17, 2012, WIRED magazine broke the story that Nuland had provided false information in her September 14 press conference, saying: “Contrary to Friday’s claim by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that ‘at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya,’ the department inked a contract for ‘security guards and patrol services’ on May 3 for $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,000. The contract lists only ‘foreign security awardees’ as its recipient.”
In her daily press briefing on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 Nuland admitted that she had made an “error” concerning the State Department’s hiring of foreign security firms in Benghazi. “There was a group called Blue Mountain Group, which is a private security company with permits to operate in Libya,” Nuland said. “They were hired to provide local Libyan guards who operated inside the gate doing things like operating the security access equipment, screening cars, that kind of thing.”
According to Breitbart.com, Blue Mountain was chosen for the Benghazi security operation because it was willing to sign the State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya prohibiting guards from carrying weapons with live ammunition.
“The American people deserve to know the full story of what occurred at the Benghazi Consulate,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama State Department continues to keep secret records that could shed light on the events surrounding the terrorist attack. We hope this and our other lawsuits will break through the stonewall.”
Judicial Watch has a separate FOIA lawsuit seeking access to the controversial internal “speaking points” used by the Obama administration in the days following the attacks when administration officials advanced the false narrative that the attacks were inspired by a rudimentary Internet video perceived as anti-Muslim. Judicial Watch also filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking access to “all videos and photographs” depicting the Benghazi, Libya, Consulate between September 10 and September 13, 2012, the period leading up to, doing, and immediately following the deadly attack that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.