Victoria Toensing is legal counsel for one of the State Department officials who claims that the Obama administration has threatened them and others into silence regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. That attack left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead. The Obama administration blamed the attack on a YouTube video for more than two weeks despite evidence during the attack that it was the work of terrorists. Toensing is a former deputy assistant attorney general, was the first head of the Department of Justice’s Terrorism Unit, and is widely respected on both sides of the aisle in Washington.
Toensing appeared on the Andrea Tantaros Show today and accused the State Department of slow-walking the process for Benghazi whistleblowers to obtain the legal counsel that they are due.
“I had heard about all of these threats about people, about a month ago, and offered to represent one,” Toensing told Tantaros. Toensing took up the case for free in the interests of making sure the person had strong representation. “Let me just tell you what’s happening. The State Department is playing games with their words,” Toensing said, “to say ‘Well, we don’t know of any employee who’s come forward who wants counsel.’” Toensing said that the proper procedure is not to send someone into the “lion’s den” at the State Department and request a lawyer. Instead, State was supposed to send Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee which is investigating the Benghazi attack, the standards by which the whistleblowers’ counsel may be cleared to work on their cases. But according to Toensing, the State Department has dragged its feet for more than two weeks. Ten days after Toensing first became involved, she says State had not even responded to Issa at all. She says Issa then sent a letter directly to Secretary of State John Kerry about the matter, and received no response. It was only after State’s repeated silence, going all the way to Secretary Kerry himself, that Toensing decided to go public with her client’s claims.
Toensing told Tantaros that President Obama’s answer on the matter during Tuesday’s press conference was revealing.
“The president then says he doesn’t know anything,” Toensing noted, “but did you notice the word ‘notion’? He had thought about that ahead of time, and was minimizing it. The ‘notion’ about people being stopped. You don’t use that word, it doesn’t just fall out of your mouth.”
According to a transcript of the press conference, President Obama told Fox News’ Ed Henry that “I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying. So what I’ll do is I will find out what exactly you’re referring to. What I’ve been very clear about from the start is that our job with respect to Benghazi has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies not just in the Middle East but around the world are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice.”
Toensing told Tantaros that she has yet to hear from the White House, and that Rep. Issa’s committee has not heard from the White House either.
“What they are doing is against the law,” Toensing told Tantaros. “It violates both a civil statute that says all federal employees have a right to get information to Congress and that right should not be denied or interfered with in any way. That’s the civil statute. And the criminal statute…says that nobody can obstruct or interfere in any way with a person giving information to Congress.”
Toensing noted that the major broadcast networks have consistently failed to cover Benghazi and have reported nothing about the whistleblowers. She said that she received one call from the Washington Post, but the paper was not calling her to cover the whistleblowers. Instead, the Post’s story was to be about the allegation that the media are ignoring Benghazi.
Toensing says that the State Department’s foot dragging serves a purpose: minimizing what the whistleblowers can tell her, as their lawyer, and Congress.
“I can represent my clients,” she said, “and I have talked to her or him. And I have information. But when we reach a certain point, my client says, ‘Oh, this is really important but I learned it in a classified briefing so I can’t tell you about it.’ So what they’re doing is, they’re minimizing what can be told to me and members of Congress.” That inaction, says Toensing, not only hinders her ability to represent her clients. It also implies a threat to the whistleblowers against disclosing anything they learn during any classified briefing to her or to Congress, at risk of prosecution and termination of their jobs.
Listen to the interview here.
The Andrea Tantaros Show is produced for Talk Radio Network by the Fox and Rice Experience.