As the Obama administration continues to deflect questions about inadequate security and misinformation following the murders of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, House Democrats have been working to create a separate stir, hitting at House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) with accusations that documents Issa released Friday in an attempt to shed light on the true Benghazi story represented a “reckless and dangerous” disclosure of sensitive information and U.S. sources.
The 166-page document packet, prominently marked “UNCLASSIFIED” throughout, consists of email chains and memos showing the pattern of violence, unrest, and security threats in the Benghazi region throughout 2012, and repeated requests to the State Department by Tripoli Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom and others for more site security, which were put off or denied.
Over the weekend, committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) blamed Issa for playing partisan politics by releasing the documents, alleging that, despite the documents having been clearly labeled unclassified, the information within “may have endangered the lives of Libyans working with the United States and compromised the FBI investigation of those who attacked the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi.”
President Barack Obama’s senior campaign adviser David Axelrod also weighed in, telling NBC’s Meet the Press that the release of names in Issa’s document packet put some still in Libya at risk. At issue especially was a female Libyan rights activist whose name appeared in the communiques.
Last night, Issa responded to set the record straight, showing that the Obama administration, not Issa’s committee had been the first to make the name of this activist public. Rather, the administration itself had done that. The activist was hosted by the State Department in 2011 in conjunction with the World Affairs Council’s International Visitor Program. A profile of the activist, along with a photo, is still hosted at world-affairs.org.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, Obama has yet to give a satisfactory answer for a pattern of misinformation that had U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice linking the Benghazi attacks incorrectly to an amateur YouTube video days after the violence, and Obama doing the same nearly two weeks later, while failing to identify them correctly as an organized terrorist attack.
Tonight’s foreign policy debate may be the last opportunity for Republican challenger Mitt Romney to press Obama on the attacks and the misinformation that followed. Here are some questions Romney should put to the president, and other pointers for the debate.