The leading legal and investigatory government watchdog announced Feb. 20 that it filed suit in federal court demanding the President Barack Obama and the director of national intelligence release documents relating to the Sept. 11-12 attacks on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
‚??With all of the Benghazi lies coming out of the Obama administration, the only way to get at the truth is to release these records immediately,‚?Ě said Thomas J. Fitton, the president of the Washington-based Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan education foundation.
The lawsuit asks the court to compel the Obama administration to release documents originally requested Oct. 19 through the Freedom of Information Act process, he said. The suit, filed Feb. 14, requested any and all memoranda, assessments, analyses, and/or talking points regarding the Sept. 11 attack on the Benghazi, Libya Consulate and or the killing of Amb. J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence between Sept.11 and Sept. 20.
FOIA requests are restricted to existing documents and records.
Fitton said this request includes, but is not limited to, the ‚??speaking points‚?Ě memorandum referred to by Sen. Dianne G. Feinstein (D.-Calif.) during an Oct. 17 television interview.
In that interview, Phil Matier, the reporter for KCBS-TV, the CBS San Francisco affiliate, asked the senator if there was an intelligence flaw in the speaking points.
Feinstein said, ‚??I think what happened was the director of intelligence ‚?¶ put out some speaking points on the initial intelligence assessment. I think that was possibly a mistake.‚?Ě
Fitton said former CIA director and retired ArmyGen. David H. Petraeus testified before Congress that the initial speaking points produced by the CIA stated there were indications the attack was linked to al Qaeda. Petraeus suggested that the terrorism reference was removed sometime during an interagency review process.
The speaking points memo would indicate that intelligence officials believed from the outset that terrorists were behind the attack despite public statements to the contrary issued by Obama administration officials, including Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and then-Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton.
‚??From the beginning, the Obama White House has been more concerned with self-protection than to disclosing the truth about Benghazi,‚?Ě Fitton said.
‚??The Obama administration‚??s lawless Benghazi cover-up is a disgrace and an insult to the victims of the attacks and their families,‚?Ě he said. ‚??The Obama Benghazi scandal makes Iran-Contra seem like patty-cake by comparison.‚?Ě
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged receiving Judicial Watch‚??s request on Oct. 19 and was required by law to respond by Nov. 26, he said.
Instead, the agency failed to produce any records responsive to the request, to indicate when any responsive records will be produced, or to demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production, he said. Fitton, who is also an attorney, said in the days and weeks following the Benghazi attacks, the administration blamed the incident on a rudimentary Internet video deemed offensive to Muslims.
This false claim was repeated by both Rice and Clinton in multiple public statements and press interviews, he said.
‚??For example, at a Sept. 14 event honoring the four victims of the Benghazi attack, Secretary Clinton made the following statement: ‚??We‚??ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We‚??ve seen the rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful video that we had nothing to do with.‚??‚?Ě
Months later, at a Senate hearing, Clinton was asked about the gap between the intelligence community‚??s assessment and the Obama administration‚??s public statements, and she shouted: ‚??What difference does it make? and then said: ‚??I personally was not focused on talking points.‚??‚?Ě
In December, Judicial Watch released its special report, ‚??The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent.‚?Ě The report provides a detailed timeline of the Obama administration‚??s actions before, during and after the Benghazi assault, as well as the State Department‚??s actions to protect overseas diplomats.
As Judicial Watch presses for answers about Benghazi, Republicans in the Senate have indicated they plan to put a hold on the nomination of John O. Brennan, former Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, who is Obama‚??s pick to serve as director of the CIA.
The GOP senators will lift the hold when the White House releases more details on the Benghazi attacks, including the speaking points memos.