Written by Tom FItton
JW Files Two New Lawsuits against Obama Administration over Benghazi Secrecy
Six months have passed since the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, and we are no closer to the truth about what happened. And there is only one reason – Obama secrecy.
You’ve watched the Obama administration trot out witnesses before congressional committees investigating the attacks. You’ve watched Obama officials make the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows. But all we have in the end is more lies and more stonewalling and more broken promises to “get to the bottom of it.”
And then there’s the effort by the Obama administration to shield the documentary evidence from the American people. This is where Judicial Watch is focusing its attention. We recently filed two lawsuits against the Obama State Department to try to gain access to records that could shed light on what happened that day, who responded, and how.
First, we sued the State Department seeking “all videos and photographs” depicting the Benghazi, Libya, Consulate between September 10 and September 13, 2012, the period leading up to, during, and immediately following the deadly attack.
Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to its December 19, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request: “Any and all videos and photographs depicting U.S. Consulate facilities in Benghazi, Libya (including the Special Mission Compound and the Annex) between September 10, 2012, and September 13, 2012, that were provided to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for Benghazi and/or to any individual member of the ARB.”
The State Department acknowledged receiving the Judicial Watch FOIA request on January 4, 2013, and was required by law to respond by February 4, 2013. So far, nothing but crickets.
Now, the Obama administration can’t claim it came up empty in trying to locate the records. We know they exist because they are referenced by the ARB, which was convened by then Secretary of State Clinton last December, in its final report.
In fact, according to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering, the Board “reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video” during the course of its investigation. The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. The State Department, however, has refused to comply with our FOIA seeking access to these materials on behalf of the American people.
It’s an easy guess as to why the Obama administration is refusing to turn these records over. Any video or photos will tell us more about Benghazi – in contrast to the lies and spin coming out of Obama administration officials.
Now, in our second FOIA lawsuit against the Obama State Department, we’re 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 Benghazi attacks. This contract was signed on February 17, 2012 and May 3, 2012 and, at the time, identified only as “Award ID SAQMMA12COO92”. Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit on February 25, 2013.
Specifically, here’s what we’re after pursuant to our 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. Yet again, 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 demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production.
Why are we suspicious of this contract?
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.
However, 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, 2012, 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. The Obama State Department continues to keep secret records that could shed light on the events surrounding the terrorist attack. And we are trying to bust through the Obama administration’s stone wall.
The two new FOIA lawsuits bring our total Benghazi-gate count to three. You may recall we filed 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. There could be more.
Meanwhile, some Republicans in Congress continue to try to seek access to people who might actually tell the truth about what happened on the ground that day – the survivors. Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to keep them sequestered.
Frankly, I don’t trust the Republicans to be dogged about this issue. You may recall that Obama’s nomination of John Brennan to run the CIA was going to be used by Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) to get the truth out about Benghazi. Didn’t happen. Brennan was confirmed yesterday and the only impediment was an extraordinary filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was pushing concerns about drone policy. Incredibly, Graham and McCain voted to confirm Brennan!
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Truth fears no inquiry. The Obama administration truly fears the release of information about Benghazi. That’s the reason for the doctored speaking points, the FOIA denials and the outright lies. They are hoping we will stop caring and just go away. That’s not going to happen.
Judicial Watch recently earned a major victory against the Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its efforts to uncover records detailing the Obama administration’s “stealth amnesty” initiative. And with DHS releasing thousands of illegal alien criminals onto the streets, it could not have come at a better time.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the Obama DHS had failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking records related to the agency’s policy of suspending some illegal alien deportations. The opinion was issued by The Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
Our FOIA lawsuit concerns a DHS policy, implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which led to the reduction of the deportation docket in Houston, Texas, by dismissing pending enforcement proceedings against illegal immigrants who DHS claimed did not have serious criminal records. (Now we know this was a lie. Judicial Watch uncovered records showing that multiple deportation cases were dismissed against illegal immigrants who had committed serious felonies. But more on that in a moment.)
In the old days – and by the “old days” I mean 2010 – this was called “stealth amnesty.” But there’s nothing “stealth” about the Obama administration’s amnesty campaign now. According to The Associated Press, since mid-February, the Obama administration has openly and proudly released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation from jail. Reports indicate that it plans to release 3,000 more this month.
Regarding our lawsuit and the court victory, we filed our original FOIA request with DHS on August 30, 2010, and a subsequent lawsuit on March 23, 2011, after the DHS refused to release the requested records. On January 27, 2012, the U.S. District Court denied a DHS motion to dismiss in part, chastising the agency for its inadequate explanations and giving it one “final” opportunity to establish the applicability of certain privileges in withholding the information from Judicial Watch.
In the February 28, 2013, decision, the District Court ruled that with respect to a substantial number of documents at issue, DHS had continued to improperly withhold information under the “attorney-client” and attorney “work-product” privileges:
Regarding DHS attempts to withhold information under an attorney-client privilege, the court ruled in favor of Judicial Watch, declaring, “[E]ach of these documents appears to concern nothing more than the implementation of an agency policy, the withholding of which runs counter to the [DC] Circuit’s [earlier] admonition that a government attorney’s ‘advice on political, strategic, or policy issues [is] not … shielded from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege.’” (The court drew a similar conclusion regarding the DHS effort to withhold information in order to protect attorney “work-product.”)
The records at issue concern internal DHS controversy over how the Houston ICE officials were interpreting the Obama administration’s narrowed immigration enforcement priorities.
Documents previously uncovered by JW show that DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of its immigration enforcement policy change, which gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases – including the dismissal of charges against illegal alien criminals convicted of violent crimes. So don’t believe the Obama administration’s lie that public safety is not at issue here. I believe people will die as a result of this new policy. (I cited my reasons for pessimism in last week’s update.)
But this ruling is good news at a time when the country really needed it.
It proves the Obama administration is willing to go to any extent – including gaming the courts – to continue stonewalling the full story of its lawless release of illegal aliens. Now, with the prison floodgates being thrown open to illegal aliens under the phony pretense of abiding by sequester cuts, it is more important that details of this threat to the public safety be revealed. We’re pleased the Court would not allow DHS to continue its contempt for FOIA law. We look forward to getting those records.
It’s that time of year again, when thousands of conservatives will flock to Washington, DC for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
As you may know, JW was a major player at last year’s conference. And now, with all of the critical investigations and lawsuits we’re spearheading, the release of our New York Times best-selling book, The Corruption Chronicles, and our new hard-hitting documentary The District of Corruption we have much to talk about this year. And we are looking forward to it.
Our leadership includes sponsorship of the conference’s main event, the Ronald Reagan Dinner on Friday evening, which will feature a presentation by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and remarks by yours truly. Other major Judicial Watch CPAC activities include the Washington, DC, premier of “District of Corruption” and an educational panel focused upon today’s “Hot Topics.” Here are the specific details of Judicial Watch’s CPAC 2013 activities:
Thursday, March 14, 12 noon – 2 pm, National Harbor 5: the Washington, DC, premier of the Judicial Watch documentary “District of Corruption.” A brief panel discussion featuring the film’s director, Stephen K. Bannon; Peter Schweizer, William J. Casey Fellow of the Hoover Institution; Matthew Boyle and Kerry Picket, Investigative Reporters for Breitbart.com; and Katie Pavlich, News Editor at TownHall.com will commence directly after the screening.
Thursday, February 14, 3:45 pm, Potomac Ballroom: Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton will address the CPAC gathering.
Thursday, February 14, 4:30 – 5 pm, CPAC 2013 Bookstore: Tom Fitton will be signing copies of his New York Times best-seller “The Corruption Chronicles.”
Friday, March 15, 10:30 am – 12 noon, National Harbor 2: a “Hot Issues” panel discussion regarding election integrity; immigration and the rule of law; Washington, DC, corruption; and the perils to the Constitution from an imperial presidency. Moderated by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, speakers for this event include J. Christian Adams, Founder, Election Law Center; Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies; Joel Pollak, Editor in Chief for Breitbart.com; and Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute.
Friday, March 15, 7:30 pm, Potomac Ballroom: Judicial Watch sponsors the premiere event at CPAC: the Ronald Reagan Dinner. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the scheduled keynoter for this special evening.
We are proud to stand with thousands of other conservatives at CPAC seeking to expose and stop government corruption. JW is the largest and most active government watchdog in the nation and through our major sponsorship of CPAC, we look forward to educating American grassroots about the bipartisan corruption enveloping our nation’s capital. Judicial Watch’s message of reform and accountability has added resonance in this age of increasing government corruption and lawlessness.
CPAC takes place March 14-16, 2013, at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD. I hope you will stop by and say hello. As always, we’ll have an educational booth in the exhibit hall.
Until next week.