Written by Tom Fitton
One year ago this week, one of the most reprehensible scandals of the Obama administration took place – a scandal which demonstrated not only shocking incompetence on the part of administration officials, but the depths to which this administration will go to cover-up its mistakes and errant decisions.
It is known as Benghazigate, and it involved a terrorist attack against the U.S. Consulate in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – as well as a cover-up that far exceeds Nixonian standards.
Judicial Watch is the only non-governmental organization in the country litigating in federal court to uncover the full story about what happened before, during, and following the Benghazi massacre. And it hasn’t been easy. Per usual, we are getting the run-around from Obama administration officials, who are blocking access to critical details, as rumors of witness tampering, bribery, and intimidation continue to dog the White House.
Still, the Obama administration’s stonewall notwithstanding, JW has managed to shake loose evidence in this case. And what we have discovered to date was disclosed this week in a new Special Report, entitled “On the Anniversary of the Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Unanswered Questions and the Quest for Accountability from the Obama Administration.”
This Special Report details a “story of political treachery in high places,” offering an in-depth analyses of “the Obama administration’s Benghazi stonewall.” A follow-up to its January 22, 2013, Benghazi report, the new Special Report includes extensive information uncovered in the organization’s 23 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Mandatory Declassification Review, and four lawsuits against the Obama Department of State and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
As I say, our efforts in this Benghazigate investigation are unparalleled. And now we’re offering access to everything our investigators have uncovered thus far.
First, we address the anatomy of the attack itself and the initial lies flowing from the Obama administration in its aftermath.
Part One of the new Special Report contains in-depth analysis, conducted exclusively for Judicial Watch by former State Department Security Special Agent Raymond Fournier, examining the critical time period leading up to the Benghazi attack, when repeated requests for increased security were shunned by top State Department officials. It also examines the Obama administration’s official claim that “an obscure Internet video” triggered the attacks. It also raises questions as to the internal problems within the State Department that may continue to leave overseas diplomats without adequate security.
Part Two of the Special Report contains new information focusing on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, including continuing attempts by the Obama administration to withhold information about the attacks and its subsequent actions. It includes a “Benghazi Chronology,” revealing details about more than 30 violent incidents that occurred in and around Benghazi dating back to December 2011, and leading up to the day of the attack. The chronology includes a cable sent to Washington by Ambassador Christopher Stevens on the morning of September 11, 2012, reflecting Libyans’ “growing frustration with police and security forces who were too weak to keep the country secure.”
And then, there are the “Loose Ends and Unanswered Questions,” including the following:
“Almost immediately after the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi” the Report says, “the President pledged, ‘We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done’… Despite these vows of swift justice, no one has yet been arrested or killed for participation in the attack.”
“Of particular concern to lawmakers,” the Special Report adds, “is the fact that CNN was able to conduct an interview with Ahmed Abu Khattala in July . Libyan officials identified Khattala as the ‘mastermind’ of the attack as early as October .”
The Special Report continues, “The administration has also reportedly undertaken a concerted effort to keep government personnel who were on the ground in Benghazi on the night of the attack from testifying to Congress or providing information to the media. In July, Rep. Frank Wolf reported on the House floor that, ‘According to trusted sources that have contacted my office, many if not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the Benghazi attacks.’”
“The activities of Ambassador Stevens on the day of the attack also raise questions regarding a possible weapons transfer being conducted out of the SMC at Benghazi [to Syrian rebels via Turkey],” according to the Special Report. “Stevens met with Mahmoud El-Mufti, the owner of a Libya-based shipping company Al-Marfa … Stevens’ final meeting of the day was with Ali Akin, the Turkish Consul General in Benghazi … So, while the official version of events holds that the Ambassador was in Benghazi for routine meetings and opening of a cultural center, it seems clear that he was working on something undisclosed that involved both Turkey and cargo shipments.”]
“Some evidence of the power of the FOIA law, and Judicial Watch’s persistence, came about with the release of the first US Government images of the aftermath of the attack on the Benghazi SMC,” the Special Report says. “Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the State Department compelled production of the images on June 21, 2013 – four months after going to federal court to get the Obama administration to obey the law. A total of seven (7) photographs were produced to Judicial Watch by the State Department.” Two of the images obtained by Judicial Watch are in the Special Report.
According the Special Report, “DOS hired a British firm, Blue Mountain, to manage its security in Benghazi, and Blue Mountain subcontracted the job to a local jihadist militia called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade who have known Muslim Brotherhood ties.” The Report also reveals that [Regional Security Officer in Libya, Eric] “Nordstrom testified at the October 11, 2012 Congressional hearings that ‘in deference to sensitivity to Libyan practice, the guards at Benghazi were unarmed’ [emphasis added] – an inexplicable practice for a place as dangerous as Benghazi.” The Report says Nordstrom also “told Congressional investigators that DOS Deputy Assistant Director for International Programs Charlene] Lamb “wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi ‘artificially low.”
Our report concludes with a call for the creation of a bipartisan House Select Committee to fully investigate the terrorist attack on Benghazi. “Five different House committees have, each in their own way, conducted disjointed, uncoordinated inquiries,” the Report says. “A single Select Committee appears to be the best forum for the American people to ever learn the truth.”
I know you have likely read much about Benghazi over the last year. You’ve read the press reports, watched the news and perhaps even followed some of the congressional investigations. But I promise you this: Our Special Report is the only place where you will find all of the evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch related to Benghazi in one concise document.
Judicial Watch did its share to educate the public about this issue with a special panel this week entitled “Benghazi: Unanswered Questions.” Congressman Frank Wolf, R-VA, and our own Director of Investigations and Research Chris Farrell discussed the report and recent Benghazi developments. Click here to watch it for yourself. Charles Woods, the father of Benghazi victim Navy SEAL Ty Woods, asked us to read a special statement from him at this important panel. Mr. Woods statement read:
It has been almost a year since my son Ty Woods sacrificed his life defending 30 Americans at the Benghazi consulate.
After one year, we still do not have answers. For that reason, as the father of a Navy SEAL who loved and died for America, I support Congressman Frank Wolf’s resolution to have a bipartisan committee, which will use subpoena powers and whistleblower protection.
Over 160 patriotic congressmen have signed their names, encouraging speaker John Boehner to form this committee. The only person blocking formation of the committee is John Boehner, who has the authority to sit this committee today. Now is the time for the public to strongly encourage Speaker John Boehner to do the right thing and authorize this bipartisan committee – made up of both Republicans and Democrats.
It is incredibly important that all American citizens arm themselves with information pertaining to Benghazigate to ensure that it never happens again. And that starts by demanding a select committee to pursue punishment for those involved. Don’t count on the Obama administration to do anything without a twisted arm. Just look what’s happened thus far.
Here we are, one year after the Benghazi attack, and there has been zero accountability. No military action, no drones, no arrests. No one has been fired for the Obama administration lies and malfeasance. Without a select committee, Congress will continue to drift on Benghazi accountability.
Grassroots Americans want justice for the Benghazi Four but we must demand it. I fear, but for our independent investigations and lawsuits, the Washington Establishment would be happy to sweep Benghazi under the rug. Don’t let them.
More news to report this week regarding the federal government’s bizarre relationship with Anwar al-Aulaqi, also known as the American-born al-Qaeda leader ultimately killed by a U.S. drone at the order of Barack Obama.
This week we released surveillance reports and logs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). And here’s the headline: a special team of FBI agents trailed U.S.-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Aulaqi right to the front doors of the Pentagon on the very day he spoke as an invited guest at a Department of Defense luncheon!
Why the special attention?
Among other reasons, the day before the surveillance and luncheon, al-Aulaqi had been identified as a “terrorist organization member,” and an FBI alert had been issued reading, “Warning – approach with caution . . . Do not alert the individual to the FBI’s interest and contact your local FBI field office at the earliest opportunity.” [Emphasis added.]
Talk about taking political correctness to a whole new level. We know (thanks to a Judicial Watch investigation) that the Bush administration allowed Saudi Royals, and family members of Osama bin Laden to be whisked out of the country with few questions asked following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But hosting a “bring a terrorist to lunch day” at the Pentagon?
Here are some of the key details of the FBI’s tracking of al-Aulaqi: According to the FBI surveillance log for February 5, 2002, at 11:30 am, “Aulaqi boarded the Metro train, blue line north for the Pentagon.” At 11:32 am, “Aulaqi exited the Metro train, walked through the turnstyle [sic] and greeted two unidentified white females.” At 11:40 am, “Aulaqi and the two unidentified females walked through the train station, onto the escalator, walked southwest and west adjacent to the Pentagon, up the steps and walked northeast towards the entrance to the Pentagon.” And at 12:00 pm, “Surveillance discontinued at the Pentagon.” While at the Pentagon, al-Aulaqi was a featured speaker at a private luncheon for high-level Pentagon officials.
The 262 pages of documents were obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of State seeking records related to the al-Qaeda leader killed in a CIA-led U.S. drone attack. (By the way, we had to wait two full years to get these key documents from “the most transparent administration in history.”
Here are some of the other revelations contained in the newly released FBI documents:
On January 5, 2002, al-Aulaqi was at the offices of the American Muslim Foundation (the defunct 501(c)(3) branch of the American Muslim Council). Both organizations were headed by Abdurahman al-Amoudi, a U.S. citizen currently serving 23 years in jail on “charges related to his activities in the United States and abroad with nations and organizations that have ties to terrorism,” according to the Department of Justice.
On February 1, 2002, al-Alaqui’s wife was followed to the Institute for Islamic and Arab Sciences in America (IIASA) in Merrifield, VA, a project of the Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission. The Institute was reportedly used to train U.S. military chaplains and was raided by the FBI in 2004, after which, according to the Washington Post, the State Department revoked diplomatic visas of 11 people affiliated with the institute as part of an effort to curb extremist Islamic teachings in the United States. In 2005, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) requested the IRS investigate IIASA as being among “tax-exempt organizations such as charities and foundations, which finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”
On February 3, 2002, after apparently attending a Christian education meeting at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA, al-Aulaqi was allegedly trolling The City Paper’s classified section for a prostitute. According to the FBI log, “Surveillance is of the opinion that Aulaqi read and subsequently discarded the newspaper away from his home because he did not want to take it home. Aware of Aulaqi’s interest in ‘call girls’ or ‘escort services,’ surveillance believes that Aulaqi was looking at ‘The City Paper’s’ classified sections for potential endeavors.”
And with respect to al-Aulaqi’s lunchtime speech at the Pentagon, we’re not talking about a room full of interns.
According to Fox News, the invitation list for the Pentagon luncheon FBI agents followed al-Aulaqi to included up to 70 top Department of Defense (DOD) staffers, including, Deputy General Counsel Charles Allen, former Deputy General Counsel Whit Cobb, former principal Deputy General Counsel Dan Dell’Orto, former General Counsel William Haynes, Deputy General Counsel Paul Koffsky and former deputy General Counsel Douglas Larsen.
The London Daily Mail reported that “the Defense Department lawyer who vetted al-Awlaki wrote that she ‘had the privilege of hearing one of Mr. Awlaki’s presentations in November and was impressed by both the extent of his knowledge and by how he communicated that information and handled a hostile element in the audience’.”
This is not the first batch of documents we received related to the government’s connections to al-Aulaqi.
According to FOIA documents previously obtained from the FBI by Judicial Watch, the FBI was aware as far back as September 27, 2001, that al-Aulaqi may have purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. On October 10, 2002, al-Aulaqi was detained at New York’s JFK airport under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention.
To date, Judicial Watch’s litigation has resulted in the release of more than 1,800 pages of responsive records, many of which were previously classified. The documents pertain to the FBI’s investigation of al-Aulaqi’s role as “spiritual advisor” to two of the 9/11 hijackers, his suspected involvement with terrorism as early as 1999, his banking activities, his frequent patronizing of prostitutes, and the State Department’s revocation of his passport approximately six months before his death.
And the records we uncovered also raise a very serious question as to the nature of the relationship between al-Aulaqi and the U.S. government, namely the possibility that our own government attempted to recruit al-Aulaqi as an FBI informant!
As Fox News reported on August 23, 2013, “A four year investigation by Fox News, and newly declassified documents obtained separately by Judicial Watch, are raising questions over the U.S. government’s handling of Anwar al-Awlaki (sic), and whether it tried to recruit the radical American cleric as an intelligence source in 2002.” According to the report, outgoing FBI Director Mueller did not dismiss the possibility, telling Fox News, “I am not personally familiar with any effort to recruit Anwar al-Awlaki (sic) as an asset – that does not mean to say there was not an effort at some level of the Bureau (FBI) or another agency to do so.”
One memo obtained by Judicial Watch from Mueller to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on Oct. 3, 2002 — seven days before the imam suddenly re-entered the U.S. and was detained and then released at JFK Airport – is marked “Secret” and titled “Anwar Aulaqi: IT-UBL/AL-QAEDA.” The FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release at JFK, even though an arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention. On October 22, 2002, 12 days after the imam’s return another FBI memo, also marked “Secret,” includes the subject line “Anwar Nasser Aulaqi” and “Synopsis: Asset reporting.” All of which raises further questions about the al-Aulaqi-U.S. government relationship.
These FBI logs document Keystone-cop incompetence by our national security establishment. For the FBI to follow a known terrorist to the Pentagon where the terrorist has a high-level meeting is beyond comprehension.
But it is also becoming increasingly apparent that there’s more than meets the eye in Obama’s assassination of al-Aulaqi. We were told that he was a terrorist, when in fact he was also probably a U.S. government informant. Did Obama know about this? Congress and the media need to get on the ball.
And on this point, because of our revelations, two members of Congress, Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Peter King (R-NY) stepped up to the plate on September 12, 2013 with a letter to James Comey, asking the newly minted FBI Director to “clarify the record” on al-Aulaqi. Citing Judicial Watch’s records, the two congressmen say the evidence suggests the bureau, and/or other law enforcement or intelligence agencies might have a “deeper relationship with Aulaqi than has been acknowledged to date.”
Reps. Wolf and King request from Director Comey the “explanation, declassification and release of documents” that could shed light on this relationship. Let’s hope they are successful.
Regardless, JW will continue its successful, independent investigation of this important national security issues. Isn’t it amazing that, with the notable exception of our friends at Fox News, only Judicial Watch seems to be doing anything to figure out the details of what looks like to be a cozy relationship between the government of the United States and an al Qaeda leader?
Let’s close with a victory, shall we?
As you well know, Judicial Watch has been very active in the City of Phoenix, taking on former corrupt Police Chief Jack Harris and former Mayor Phil Gordon on a host of issues, from double dipping, to misuse of funds, to illegal alien sanctuary policies.
One of our important corruption cases in the city involved our client Sgt. Phil Roberts, who blew the whistle on corruption inside the Phoenix Police Department, and was subsequently subjected to a campaign of retaliation for his truth-telling. This week, I am happy to report, Sgt. Roberts has now returned to work, thanks to a settlement reached with the City of Phoenix in a Judicial Watch lawsuit.
As reported by the ABC affiliate in Phoenix:
For the first time in eight months, Sgt. Phil Roberts put on a Phoenix police uniform Thursday and returned to work.
It’s a day that marks the end of a long legal battle between the city and Roberts, who was fired after blowing the whistle about bad kidnapping statistics.
In 2010, Sgt. Roberts wrote a series of memos to city leaders alleging the police were grossly inflating kidnapping numbers. Federal and city investigations would follow. Just days after Roberts’ allegations, top city leaders held a meeting and decided to place him under internal investigation.
Roberts would eventually be fired. He then filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and retaliation. The city offered to settle the case in July to avoid taking the case to trial.
It has been a long while since I’ve covered this case, so let me just review a few facts, as we detailed them in our original complaint.
On April 15, 2009, the City of Phoenix applied for two federal grants, totaling $2,437,194, under two stimulus fund programs: “Operation Home Defense” and “Project Eagle Eye.” The fund application included representations of the increase in kidnapping cases in Phoenix to justify the city’s need for the funds.
Both then-Police Chief Harris and then-Mayor Phil Gordon testified before Congress regarding the kidnapping crisis in Phoenix. Ultimately, the city received a good chunk of the money it sought, based on the statistics in the application.
But here’s the problem. The numbers were erroneously, if not intentionally, inflated. And in a complaint filed with the department over another matter, JW client Sgt. Roberts called attention to the problem:
[S]tatistics continually are shifted and moved around to meet agendas and perpetuate the idea that Kidnappings and Home Invasions required a huge police response with millions of dollars of federal grant money . . . in spite of the fact that the number of ‘operation’ kidnappings have drastically decreased and the organized Home Invasion Crews seem to be few and far between.
Sgt. Roberts continued to advance his concerns through a variety of official channels, including a complaint filed with the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Justice (DOJ). Jack Harris and the Phoenix Police Department continued to deny them, ultimately initiating a campaign of retaliation against Sgt. Roberts, in the form of humiliating investigations, abusive interrogations, house arrest, undesirable assignments and ultimately termination, which collectively forced Sgt. Roberts to seek medical treatment.
All along, Mayor Gordon denied the allegations brought by Sgt. Roberts, referring to him disparagingly as a “disgruntled employee.” That is until the DOJ announced the commencement of an investigation into the kidnapping statistics.
Then, Mayor Gordon’s tune changed sharply. Here’s is mea culpa (of sorts), issued on March 1, 2011:
When information comes out of City Hall and the Phoenix Police Department, I expect it to be accurate and in the proper context.
Today, I’m deeply disappointed at the news that our 2008 kidnapping statistics don’t meet those standards. For two years, my colleagues and I have been assured by city management that our numbers are accurate. In turn, I relied on this information in my public comments and in my public actions.
To discover now, long after the fact, that these numbers may be wrong is absolutely unacceptable — just as even one kidnapping in our City is unacceptable.
I intend to ensure that the City conducts a full, accurate, transparent recounting of these numbers and the process used to compile them. Mistakes such as this, which potentially impact our credibility with the public and our public safety partners, must be corrected, just as our processes must be fixed to ensure this does not happen again.
The error rate, as noted in a subsequent analysis of the kidnapping statistics, was a staggering 38%. (For those of you outside Phoenix, these stats were used to justify more “porkulus” federal funds from the Obama stimulus bill from 2009. This story shows how local corruption can have national implications – in that we all pay for it!)
Police Chief Harris subsequently resigned in 2011. Phil Gordon ended his reign as Phoenix Mayor in 2012. And now, in August 2013, Sgt. Roberts finally has his job back because of the heroic, expert efforts (i.e. a lawsuit) of Judicial Watch’s attorneys, led by Paul Orfanedes, our Director of Litigation.
This type of victory and vindication is so satisfying for Judicial Watch. Many whistleblowers continue to suffer in silence and are never able to recover the lives they led prior to their disclosures. Sgt. Robert suffered immensely through all of this, but continued to fight the good fight. He is to be congratulated not only for his ethics, but also for his courage. We are happy that he can now continue to serve the citizens of Phoenix.
Until next week...
Tom Fitton, President, Judicial Watch
Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.