Judicial Watch is continuing to push its FOIA claims on administration documents relating to the attack on our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, saying that the White House is still holding back information.
The documents identified by watchdog Judicial Watch as being needed to get to the truth are described in a letter from the Obama Justice Department explaining its rationale for not releasing the documents. The letter was obtained in the course of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents reveal “that the Obama administration is still refusing to provide the full details of how top officials arrived at the now-discredited talking points released to the public following the deadly assault on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya,” Judicial Watch said in a statement.
“Though the State Department document repeatedly describes the material as ‘Unclassified’ or ‘Sensitive But Unclassified,’ it nonetheless justifies scores of extensive redactions and exemptions.”
Justice trial attorney Robert Prince, who wrote the letter, describes the documents as “pre-decisional and deliberative in nature,” and says releasing such information could “chill the frank deliberations” between government officials when formulating responses to sensitive issues.
Judicial Watch is the same organization that released a batch of emails last week that showed Obama aide Ben Rhodes instructing then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to focus on the role of the video in her television appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack and unrest across the Muslim world five days after the attack.
Alec Gerlach, a State Department spokesman, denied that documents are being withheld in an inappropriate fashion.
“The premise that anything is being withheld misrepresents what we’ve done and what we’ve said,” Gerlach said. “Additional documents are being processed for response to congressional inquiries.”
Administration officials have said they have shared thousands of documents with congressional investigators and participated in hundreds of hours of depositions and interviews about Benghazi. More documents are still being released “on a rolling basis,” spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Friday.
Prince’s letter includes a 17-page Vaughn Index, which federal agencies use to justify their reasons for withholding material from public disclosure.
Prince’s letter describes the 35 pages of documents as various drafts and responses that constitute “internal strategy discussions relating to the drafting of an official response letter” from Rice to various congressional inquiries regarding the Benghazi attack. Prince says the documents are protected from release under Exemption 5 of the the Freedom of Information Act Exemption 5.
What’s this “released on a rolling basis” crap? Either the documents were subpoenaed by one of several congressional committees or they weren’t. If they were, by what authority is any federal agency taking their own sweet time in releasing them?
And anyone buying the idea that release of the documents would “chill the frank deliberations” between government officials,” please raise your hand. I have a drawbridge over the Chicago River I can sell you.
Some of the missing docs Judicial Watch wants appear to be very interesting:
â?¢ A seven-page e-mail exchange consisting of 16 messages between State and other administration officials [Rhodes, Brennan, McDonough . . .] on September 27 and September 28, 2012, with an original subject line “FOX News: US officials knew Libya attack was terrorism within 24 hours, sources confirm.”
â?¢ A one-page e-mail exchange, consisting of three messages, dated Sept. 11, 2012, with the subject line “UPDATE: Clashes at U.S. consulate in eastern Libyan city (Reuters).”
â?¢ A three-page e-mail exchange between State and other U.S. officials, dated Sept. 28, 2012 and originally designated UNCLASSIFIED. The subject line of the first five messages is “Statement by the Director of Public Affairs for National Intelligence Shawn Turner on the intelligence related to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.”
Speculation? If they were developing a “media strategy” in late September, it was to cover their behinds for lying to the American people about the nature of the attacks.
Or maybe they have nice things to say about Fox News and don’t want anyone to know about it.
And a smoking gun? The 9/11 email exchange might show evidence that they knew right off the bat who was attacking. And that it wasn’t due to a crummy anti-Islam film.
Or it may be something entirely innocent.
The point being, we don’t know because they refuse to release the documents. Perhaps the select committee could speak to Mr. “Released on a Rolling Basis” and see if he can’t roll the ball a lot faster on getting those documents into the hands of congressional investigators.