House Committee leaders call on White House to release key Benghazi documents

Yesterday, as John noted, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and four other House committees provided a report to GOP members on the investigations into the terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi on 9/11 of last year. The report shows that the Obama administration continuously denied requests for additional security prior to the attacks, and then attempted to hide responsibility for those decisions.

Today, the heads of the five House committees delivered a letter to President Obama seeking (1) public release of a cable, bearing Secretary Clinton’s signature, denying the Ambassador’s request for further security, and (2) further release of the emails proving that the Administration deliberately misled the American people about the nature of the attacks.

As the letter says, gaining initial access to these documents was an arduous process, so the White House may well resist the release requested by the Committees. But I doubt that it has any good faith basis for resisting. As I understand it, the administration waived all protections by showing the emails in question to committee members and staff.

Below is the text of the letter, which is signed by Mike Rogers (Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence), Howard “Buck” McKeon (Committee on Armed Services), Ed Royce (Committee on Foreign Affairs), Bob Goodlatte (Committee on the Judiciary) and Darrell Issa (Committee on Oversight and Reform). The emphasis is mine:

Five Committees of the House of Representatives continue to inquire into the terrorist attacks on U.S. interests in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2102, resulting in the deaths of four Americans. Key issues in this investigation are (1) who denied requests for additional security to U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi; and (2) why the Administration decided to communicate to the American people that the attacks were a spontaneous demonstration inspired by a YouTube video, rather than explaining the likely al-Qa’ída affiliation of those responsible.

After many requests, the State Department provided the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform restricted access to State Department cables denying requests for additional security. An April 19, 2012 cable bearing Secretary Clinton’s signature acknowledged requests for additional security, but nevertheless ordered the withdrawal of security assets to proceed as planned (12 State 38939).

Similarly, after many requests, Administration officials finally provided members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) access to draft versions of the talking points used by Ambassador Susan Rice on five morning news shows on September 16, 2012, and email traffic leading up to the final version of those talking points. After review of those emails, it is clear to HPSCI members that the talking points were altered to withhold key information about the terrorist attacks, the likely al-Qa’ida connections, and the previous attacks on western interests in eastern Libya.

Contrary to public statements by Administration officials, the talking points were not altered in the interagency process to protect classified information or to protect the FBI investigation. Rather, the talking points were altered to protect those senior Administration officials who failed to make appropriate security decisions. Administration officials did not allow the Committees to retain these documents.

Given the gravity of this issue, we request that you immediately make the April 19, 2012 State Department cable public. Further, given the oversight obligations of each Committee investigating these events, we request that you immediately provide the emails and all versions of the talking points to the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, and Intelligence.

Finally, we ask that all documents and communications previously provided for in camera review be immediately turned over to our Committees. Access to this information cannot be dictated by the political interests of the Executive Branch. Each of our Committees has a duty to determine responsibility for the decisions to endanger Americans and to mislead the American people following this deadly attack against our country.

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