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Bridget Johnson

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October 22, 2012 - 1:25 pm

Democrats are battling against the Benghazi story by claiming House Republicans compromised the safety of a human-rights activist in posting documents related to the U.S. mission in Libya online.

One of the unclassified cables released by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) names a Libyan who was detained in Benghazi, had been leading an anti-violence campaign, and has been critical of the government. An administration official told Foreign Policy the woman “isn’t publicly associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable. It’s a danger to her life.”

“The wholesale release of State Department documents by the House Oversight Committee has exposed Libyan nationals working with the United States to possible danger. This is irresponsible and inexcusable, and perhaps worst of all it was entirely avoidable. It is profoundly against America’s interests in a difficult region,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Saturday.

“I know how to run a real investigation,” Kerry sniped. “…I don’t say casually that this release of sensitive materials was a moment of real incompetence and irresponsibility.”

He accused the GOP of turning the Benghazi probe into a “political sideshow presumably driven by the calendar of Monday’s upcoming presidential debate.”

“The Republicans with Chairman Issa, with Mitt Romney statements trying to make political hay out of a national tragedy — quite frankly, I think the way Governor Romney acted after the ambassador was killed was despicable,” House Foreign Affairs Committee member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on CNN this morning. “…President Obama is no more responsible for what happened in Benghazi than President Bush was for 9/11 or President Reagan was for the Marines being killed in Beirut.”

“One of the things that I found interesting is Darrell Issa dumped out all of those documents, and it occurred to me that, you know dumping that out the Friday before a foreign policy debate, was really all about politics,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said on MSNBC this morning.

Oversight Republicans pointed out, though, that the Libyan activist in question was hosted by the State Department at the International Visitor Program of the World Affairs Council in Seattle last December. She also appeared in an Internet video, wearing a State Department badge, criticizing the Libyan government.

“The Libyan rights activist who was highlighted by the Obama administration in news accounts as having not been, ‘publicly associated with the U.S.’ until the Oversight Committee released documents had actually been brought to the U.S. in December 2011 by the State Department and her trip is highlighted on the Internet,” Issa said. “President Obama should be ashamed of yet another example where his administration has been caught trying to mislead the American people about what happened in Libya.”

“To see such prominent officials as Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Carl Levin, Rahm Emanuel, and Obama Senior Advisor David Axelrod paraded out over to weekend to make false charges about the Oversight Committee putting Libyans in danger only shows their desperation to hide the truth,” he added.

Oversight Republican Jason Chaffetz (Utah) stressed that every document released is stamped “unclassified.”

“And remember, it was President Obama in his hard-hitting interview there with Jon Stewart who said, ‘As information becomes available, we reveal it to the American people.’ That’s exactly what we did,” Chaffetz said on Fox this morning.

Still, Democrats ganged up up Issa and Co. in the final hours leading up to the presidential foreign policy debate.

“While I don’t see how Congressman Issa’s obvious attempts to make political hay out of this tragedy will succeed in advancing his partisan goals, what is clear is that the reckless release of the names of Libyans who have worked with us could jeopardize the lives of those individuals and damage U.S. interests,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The ranking member on the Oversight panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), lashed out at Issa in a Friday letter accusing him of pushing “the most negative and distorted view possible of the attack in Benghazi ahead of the Presidential debate on Monday evening.”

Cummings also released parts of transcripts reportedly from Issa’s Oct. 9 conversations with State Department officials, in which Issa is quoted as saying, “Anything below Secret is in fact just a name on a piece of paper. And I think it is important to understand that. So if you have seen papers that say ‘for official use only,’ ‘State Department sensitive,’ that is crap.”

“I applaud the bravery of this activist and other Libyans who are willing to speak publicly and work in positions that puts them in regular contact with diplomatic officials,” Issa said late Sunday. “They deserve better than to have the Obama administration parade them out as part of their election campaign strategy to distract Americans from legitimate questions about the handling of security and the response to a terrorist attack.”

Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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