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“Intentional Deception”: Latest Gowdy Fakery; Name Of CIA Source In Clinton Email Was No Secret

For anyone disappointed by the absence of troubling material from Hillary Clinton’s emails – not to mention the cratering of the House Select Committee on Benghazi — Michael Isikoff provided a moment of hope last Monday on Morning Joe. According to the Yahoo News investigative correspondent, one of the emails newly released by the Benghazi committee was “evidence of the commission of a federal crime by someone, not Hillary Clinton,” because it included the name of a CIA source in Libya.

Even more thrilling, to some people at least, was the identity of the supposedly incriminating message’s author: none other than Clinton’s often-demonized friend Sidney Blumenthal (who also happens to be a friend of mine).

“This is maybe the single most problematic email exchange we’ve seen with Hillary Clinton yet of all the emails that have been raised,” explained Isikoff. “What you have there is Blumenthal telling the secretary that somebody at the CIA gave the name of a sensitive human intelligence source to somebody who wasn’t at the CIA.”

Certainly this appeared to be a damaging story, if accurate – but its origin in Rep. Trey Gowdy’s discredited outfit should have raised immediate suspicion. Had any of the journalists covering Gowdy checked carefully, we might have learned earlier what we now know: The CIA had reviewed that same email at the behest of the State Department before it was released and “made no redactions to protect classified information.”

In other words, Blumenthal’s email naming a certain Libyan political figure – the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa — did not disclose any classified information, let alone intelligence secrets.

So why did Isikoff – and other credulous journalists – consider that March 18, 2011 email so damaging to Clinton and Blumenthal? Evidently because Gowdy or his staff had redacted the name of the former Libyan official themselves — while adding the usual CIA phrase “redacted due to sources and methods” for dramatic emphasis. As released, the document seemed to show that the agency had blacked out the man’s name to protect a source. That was an intentional deception, reminiscent of the dirty trick that got David Bossie fired from the staff of the House Oversight Committee.

On Sunday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Benghazi committee’s ranking Democrat, sent a stinging letter to Gowdy, which noted that the Republican chairman had accused Clinton of receiving “classified information from Blumenthal—information she should have known was classified at the time she received it,” and that Clinton had then “forwarded that information to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.”

Wrote Cummings: “To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, ‘redacted due to sources and methods.’  To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines… Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified.”

So here is yet another absurd episode, humiliating both for Gowdy and the journalists who promoted this fraudulent story and highly reminiscent of the bogus “criminal referral” leak that made the front page of the New York Times last summer.

This latest episode is even more clownish than it seems at first glance, however. Far from being secret, the close connection between Moussa Koussa and US intelligence was detailed, at great length, more than eight years ago in former CIA director George Tenet’s memoir, At the Center of the Storm (HarperCollins 2007), which was reviewed by CIA censors before publication, of course.

Koussa’s CIA ties came up again in March 2011 during Libya’s bloody civil war, reported in an excellent story on NBC News’ website by senior investigative producer Robert Windrem, just weeks before Koussa defected to the West. (It is worth noting that Windrem’s story appeared while Isikoff still worked at NBC News.) And on March 17, 2011, one day before Blumenthal sent the Koussa email to Clinton, the New York Times published a story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane reporting on the Libyan intelligence chief’s post-9/11 cooperation with the CIA.

Nevertheless, in Gowdy’s effort to stir fake outrage over the Blumenthal email, he described the Koussa disclosure in apocalyptic terms: “This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.”

But when his committee released the full email to the press, Gowdy’s own staffers failed to redact Koussa’s name from the subject line – so it was Gowdy, not Blumenthal or Clinton, who released that “most protected information” to the press and public.

By the way, there is one more angle on Moussa Koussa that sheds a darkly comical light on Gowdy’s deep concern for his security. As Tenet explained in his book, the former Libyan intelligence chief is believed by Western intelligence services to have ordered the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew. So Koussa was probably a murderous terrorist, too.

But at least he isn’t Hillary Clinton or one of her friends.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | CIA, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Kevin McCarthy Will Be Worse Than Boehner”: Boehner Isn’t Going To Be Holding The Worst Speaker Title For Very Long

John Boehner has been far and away the worst speaker of the House of Representatives in many decades, presiding over the two least productive Congresses in modern American history, overseeing those endless and ridiculous Obamacare repeal votes, and most of all not having the stones to bring the immigration bill to the floor. It would have passed any day he chose to let that happen, which at least would have given the newspapers one positive item to include in the lead paragraph of his obituary when the time comes.

But from the looks of things, Boehner isn’t going to be holding the worst speaker title for very long.

There was a time in this country when the speaker of the House thought of himself more as a servant of the entire country. He’s called speaker of the House, after all, not speaker of a certain party in the House. He was third in line for the presidency, which meant he needed to hold the idea in the back of his mind that someday, he might be called upon to run the country under circumstances that would inevitably be tragic, thus requiring that he not be seen as too partisan a figure.

It was norms and traditions like these that led Democratic Speaker John McCormack, who ran the House in the 1960s, to say after Richard Nixon’s election that “direct confrontation between Congress and the president is going to be harmful to the country and should be avoided if possible.”

Boehner hardly had a single McCormack cell in his body. But compared to Kevin McCarthy, he’s a virtual David Broder. You know of course by now what McCarthy said about the true nature of the Benghazi committee. But what you may not know, if you’re just relying on news accounts that snipped the quote, is the full context in which he said it. Usually, the full context of comments reproduced in news snippets has a way of making them not as bad as they first seemed. But here, the context makes McCarthy’s words far worse. See for yourself:

HANNITY: But in February didn’t you guys end up funding it, you passed the “crum-nibus,” you gave up your leverage.

MCCARTHY: No, no. Sean, no, because the courts had put a stay on that. So there was no funding going towards that. The question I think you really want to ask me is, how am I going to be different?

HANNITY: I love how you asked my questions. But go ahead, that is one of my questions. Go right ahead.

MCCARTHY: I knew you’d want to ask it. What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win.

And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened—

In other words, he and Hannity were having an exchange about substance—about how Republicans had failed, from Hannity’s point of view, to control spending, defund Obamacare, defund the president’s executive orders on immigration. Then McCarthy volunteers that he will be different. And how will he be different? Not by controlling spending or defunding Obamacare or Obama’s immigration initiatives. By being more political and more partisan!

And anyway, why is the Benghazi committee a relevant example of how McCarthy is going to be different from Boehner? Has he been some secret power behind the whole thing from the start, like Akim Tamiroff in The Great McGinty, calling the shots, telling Trey Gowdy whom to depose and badger with nine hours’ worth of questions that have nothing to do with the deaths of Chris Stevens and other three Americans? It would be very interesting, I think, for America’s taxpayers, on the hook here for $4.6 million so far, to know whether the next speaker has been the Rasputin behind Gowdy’s little throne.

That McCarthy would say this reveals to us that he doesn’t remotely think that the American people are a constituency with which he need concern himself. The constituencies that concern him are Hannity, Fox viewers, and conservatives. Not even all Republicans, some of whom are reasonable human beings who do not wish for perpetual political war. Only all highly partisan conservatives. This is the man who’ll be presiding over the people’s chamber. People think Donald Trump is a farce, and he is, but he’s no worse a farce than this.

Meanwhile, what can Hillary Clinton and the Democrats do with this egregious statement? Probably not as much as they’d like, alas. Wednesday, in the wake of McCarthy’s comments (uttered Tuesday night), there was some discussion among Benghazi committee Democrats about whether they shouldn’t just end the whole charade, or at least their part in it, by boycotting any remaining proceedings.

That sounds great on the surface, but remember that Clinton is testifying on Oct. 22. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, is apparently of the view that leaving Clinton to fend for herself in a committee room full of Republicans is a really bad idea, so he’s going to make sure the Democrats are there that day to pull the reins on Republicans when they start galloping off into fantasy land. A boycott would be emotionally satisfying, but Cummings is right. Clinton has to be broadly seen as winning that showdown to start putting this mess behind her, and she probably can’t do that without Democrats in the room.

So my guess is that McCarthy’s statement may not do the damage to him or his party that it so richly deserves to. But if you’ve read this deeply into this column, I hope that you, at least, care. This is not just about Clinton and the next election. This is about customs and norms that once kept this government functioning (admittedly sometimes better than other times, but functioning).

But those customs and norms have been under assault for two decades. Newt Gingrich wounded them. Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, that great American now desperately negotiating a plea bargain so that Americans never learn the details about his career as a “wrestling coach,” killed them. John Boehner pissed on their corpse. And Kevin McCarthy looks like the guy who’s going to set the corpse on fire.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Little To Show For The Significant Rabbit Hole Expenditure”: Benghazi Investigation Spends Fortune To Harass Hillary Clinton

The Benghazi Select Committee moves slowly but spends quickly, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee.

On June 16th, the Benghazi Select Committee, meeting behind closed doors, questioned Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal for nine hours about emails he sent to the then-Secretary of State containing privately gathered intelligence reports from inside Libya.

The release of new emails from Mr. Blumenthal marked a milestone for the committee, characterized committee chairman, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, as “noteworthy,” because no Congressional committee that “has previously looked into Benghazi or Libya has uncovered these memos.”

Yet there was no explanation as to how these emails contained any new insights or information about the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Mr. Blumenthal himself noted “my testimony has shed no light on the events of Benghazi—nor could it—because I have no firsthand knowledge.”

This has been a consistent theme of the House’s investigation—a frenzy of media fireworks, with little substantive progress made in pursuit of the committee’s actual mandate. (The majority staff of the Benghazi Select Committee did not respond to requests for comment).

Led by a an 18-member Republican staff, whose full time employees are paid an average of $128,750 per year, the Benghazi Select Committee has proceeded at a plodding pace. Thus far, it has held only three hearings and by the end of this week will have interviewed just 29 witnesses. In comparison the Congressional investigation into the Iran Contra scandal lasted 10.5 months, during which time investigators conducted 500 interviews along with 40 days of public hearings.

The lack of progress is especially striking considering seven Congressional committees and a State Department Accountability Review Board already conducted inquires into the attack. Most recently the findings of the Republican led House Intelligence Committee found no evidence for many of the accusations hurled at President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other government officials.

Over 13 months the Benghazi Select Committee has spent more than $3,500,000, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee. This figure does not include significant expenditures made by the State Department and Defense Department to find and declassify material requested by the committee or the expense of witness travel for those who work for the government.

While exact dollar amounts spent by federal agencies are unavailable, details released about other declassification processes shed light on these costs. In March 2014 the Defense Department informed Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, they had spent “millions of dollars” and “thousands of man-hours to responding to numerous and often repetitive Congressional requests regarding Benghazi.” Currently the State Department has 12 full-time staff members paid between $63,700 and $150,000 reviewing Hillary Clinton’s emails “a process that could cost more than $1 million” according to the National Journal. The total cost for these document queries could run well into the eight figures. For example, the IRS spent $14 million responding to Congressional investigations into accusations it politicized the tax-exemption application process.

The Benghazi Select Committee has little to show for the significant expenditure—aside from a trail of unfulfilled promises by its Chairman. “We will have hearings in January, February and March,” Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) announced in December.

That never happened.

The committee held a single hearing in January, focused on berating State Department legislative liaison Joel Rubin about the production of documents. CIA representative Neil Higgins escaped with a mild talking to.

Two days after his December announcement, Rep. Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren the committee would hold a hearing in January to explore why the State Department was in Benghazi. That hearing never occurred.

In February, Rep. Gowdy sent a letter to the committee’s ranking Democratic member Elijah Cummings (D-Md) informing him that “beginning as early as April I intend to start interviewing” a list of twenty prominent members of the Obama administration including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Clinton State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills among others.

According to a Democrat committee staff member, “The committee has yet to interview a single person on Gowdy’s list.”

In April, Gowdy again appeared on Van Susteren’s show claiming, “we’re doing four witness interviews a week, whereas we were doing two.”

A Democratic committee, who requested anonymity, aide told the Observer, “The Select Committee has never done four interviews a week.”

Rep. Gowdy now states the committee will continue its work into 2016 raising its cost to taxpayers to more than $6,000,000, casting his inaction as the result of the Obama administration’s slow pace at producing requested documents, a questionable premise. Rep. Gowdy began receiving documents in August. The committee did not make its first request to the State Department until mid-November, six months after beginning its work. His document request to the Department of Defense was only delivered in early April of this year.

Rep. Gowdy has proceeded in a similar vein while attempting to schedule Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the committee. In early September Stop Hillary PAC, which was “created for one reason only—to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States,” delivered a petition with 264,000 signatures demanding Gowdy call the Secretary of State to testify.

The next day, he asked Rep. Cummings to reach out to Ms. Clinton on his “behalf to determine whether she would testify.” On a November 12 phone call with majority and minority committee staff, Clinton’s team confirmed she would be willing to testify before the committee in December. Rep. Gowdy recently moved the goal posts, asking she appear for a private transcribed interview, as opposed to a public hearing.

Recently, the committee has shifted some of its focus from investigating the actual attack in Benghazi, to reviewing policy decisions made by Hillary Clinton regarding Libya more than nineteen months prior to the attack. Rep. Gowdy, confirmed this to Politico, which reported that “broader problems with the Obama administration’s Libya policy—could prove to be an ugly albatross weighing on the Clinton campaign.”

Rep. Cummings believes these efforts are part of “a fishing expedition for anything they can use against Secretary Clinton in her presidential campaign.” He continued, “After a full year, it now seems obvious that this investigation is being dragged out in order to attack Secretary Clinton and her campaign for president—squandering millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.”

In May of 2014 it was reported that Republicans worried that if they created a Benghazi Select Committee it would fail to produce tangible results. “Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives,” wrote Eli Lake. One House member told Lake, “This could be a rabbit hole.”

It has turned out to be an extremely deep one.


By: Ari Rabin-Havt, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 18, 2015; This piece originally appeared in The New York Observer

June 19, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Conspiracy-Minded Conservatives, Be Warned”: Sorry, GOP. There’s No Smoking Gun In Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails

If Republicans were looking for a silver bullet to use against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the State Department’s Friday document dump about Benghazi wasn’t it.

There’s no illicit weapons Libyan program to be found in the emails, as some have speculated. No ‘stand-down’ order. Just a hectic flow of information to and from Hillary Clinton—about danger, about death, and ultimately, about condolences.

The State Department released Friday 296 emails involving Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State, from 2009 to 2013. The documents include some 300 emails related to Benghazi, which were turned over to the Congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks. The attacks left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The hundreds of emails released by the agency show a Secretary of State who was deeply engaged on Libyan issues—but usually just in a crisis. While Clinton was a key proponent of intervening in Libya to protect civilians under threat from then-Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi, her emails show that she took a largely hands off approach towards the country.

Of course, this document trove is an incomplete view, at best. It excludes any phone calls, briefings or memos. It doesn’t include the emails that were deleted by Clinton—and we know there were many. (Republicans noted “inexplicable gaps” in Secretary Clinton’s emails over several time periods, such as from Oct. 2011 to Jan. 2012, and from April 2012 to July 2012. ) And it was released by a State Department that was formerly helmed by Clinton and is still part of a Democratic administration.

But according to her Benghazi-related email traffic, Clinton appears to only have been involved at times of crisis and even then deferred to those on the ground, including Stevens and friends outside government.

Clinton’s emails show that the late Amb. Christopher Stevens had multiple brushes with danger in Benghazi in 2011—more than a year before the September 2012 attacks that would ultimately take his life.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received an update about Stevens’ 2011 security situation: that there had been intelligence indicating a credible threat to his safety, and that officials were moving swiftly out of the hotel he was staying at in Benghazi.

“There is credible threat info against the hotel that our team is using—and the rest of the Intl community is using, for that matter… DS [Diplomatic Security] going to evacuate our people to alt locations. Info suggested attack in next 24-48 hours,” wrote top Clinton aide Jacob Sullivan in an email to Clinton on June 10, 2011, with the subject line, ‘Hotel in Benghazi.’

At the time Stevens was a special envoy to Libya, and the U.S. had joined a U.N. campaign to set up a no-fly zone to assist rebels in the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi.

In a separate incident, in April 2011, a State Department official wrote:

“The situation in Ajdabiyah has worsened to the point Stevens is considering departure from Benghazi. The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc). He will monitor the situation to see if it deteriorates further, but no decision has been made on departure.”

The communications received by the Secretary of State illustrate the fast pace of security decisions made on the ground—but don’t show Clinton with a direct role in these decisions. For example, there’s no indication that Clinton intervened in the decision-making process when told about Stevens’ 2011 security scares.

Clinton was heavily criticized when it emerged in March that she had used a private email server to conduct business while she was Secretary of State. Her private email accounts prevented the normal process of archiving official government records. Clinton’s staff had turned over some 55,000 pages of email correspondence to the State Department in December 2014.

Democrats on the Select Benghazi Committee had urged the release of Benghazi-related emails for months. Clinton herself had urged the State Department to swiftly publish the emails, telling reporters earlier this week that she wanted them in the public domain as soon as possible.

“I am pleased that the State Department released the complete set of Secretary Clinton’s emails about Benghazi—as Democrats requested months ago,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee.

The American people can now read all of these emails and see for themselves that they contain no evidence to back up claims that Secretary Clinton ordered a stand-down, approved an illicit weapons program, or any other wild allegation Republicans have made for years.

In the time between the June 2011 security scare and the September 2012 terrorist attacks, the mood in Libya ebbed and flowed—Stevens left Libya in November 2011 before returning as U.S. ambassador in May 2012.

In July, Libya held national elections which went off well, leading to people heralding the country worldwide. Meanwhile, Islamist flags had emerged on buildings throughout Benghazi.

The correspondence in summer 2012 shows a somewhat positive situation in Libya: the last email from Stevens that Clinton receives paints a rosy picture: in July 2012 Sen. John McCain is in Tripoli, Libya, being lauded for his support of the rebels.

“The atmosphere in Tripoli is very festive,” Stevens wrote in one email on July 7, 2012. “The gov’t declared today a holiday and people are driving around honking and waving flags and making peace sign gestures… McCain was applauded and thanked for his support wherever we went.”

The world’s focus doesn’t dwell on Libya, and Clinton doesn’t receive additional emails about Benghazi again until the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities.

By September 2012, the situation in Libya had deteriorated. In a diary entry on Sept. 6, Stevens wrote about a “security vacuum” and “dicey conditions,” even suggesting that he was on an “Islamist ‘hit list’ in Benghazi.”

On the fateful day of Sept. 11, 2012, at approximately 4 p.m. in Washington, D.C., the first attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound occurred. Clinton had previously testified (PDF) that she was at the State Department that day, which could explain why she did not send or receive a large volume of emails about Benghazi.

She becomes more active on emails that evening, and at 11:37 p.m., she receives word through her Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills that the Libyan government had confirmed Amb. Steven’s death.

“Cheryl told me the Libyans confirmed his death. Should we announce tonight or wait until morning?” Clinton wrote in an email to top aides.

Throughout the morning after the initial attacks she has a lot of activity: in particular she received a large number of messages expressing condolences to her and the State Department over the death of the ambassador.

“The Ambassador was a perfect role model of the kind of person we need representing us around the world, and the others had so much to give—and already had given so much,” said former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

“What a wonderful, strong and moving statement by your boss. please tell her how much Sen. McCain appreciated it. Me too,” wrote a top national security aide for Sen. John McCain.

That weekend, Clinton continued to exchange emails on the Benghazi issue. On Saturday Sept. 15, the day before Susan Rice appeared on cable shows to make the since-rescinded claim that the Benghazi attacks were the result of protests-turned-violent, Clinton was involved arranging calls from her home and the collection of an action memo via classified courier.

The emails give insight into how Clinton operated at the time: using classified couriers to move memos and getting on the phone with other world leaders, rather than using email.

None of the released emails show Clinton being involved with Rice’s appearance on the Sunday shows, or the discussion of what Rice should say. She does, however, receive a transcript of what Rice would eventually say.

Findings of the Republican-led Select committee on Benghazi may not be released until sometime in 2016, in the thick of campaign season.

If the Select Committee continues to operate through the end of the 2015, its estimated cost will rise to $6 million dollars. The House Select Committee on Benghazi was established in May 2014. If it continues through to the end of 2015, it will have been investigating for 19 months—longer than other major, comparable investigations.

(To compare, the joint inquiry into the intelligence community’s actions with regard to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks took less than a year. The Senate Watergate committee operated for about 17 months before presenting its findings. And the Warren Commission on the assassination of President Kennedy operated for under a year.)

The release of Friday’s Benghazi-related emails has itself been months in the waiting: the State Department had been going through an excruciating process of assessing the emails for any information that would show sensitive or personally identifiable information, and then removing it. The State Department will now turn its attention to performing the same task on thousands of Clinton emails that are not related to Benghazi.

In fact, Hillary Clinton’s email correspondence has the potential to generate headlines at least through the end of the year, acting as a disruptive force that distracts from her presidential campaign.

For Republican committee chairman Trey Gowdy, the release of these emails are just the first step in a long slog to “collect and evaluate all of the relevant and material information necessary.” Gowdy said that the emails released Friday had all been exclusively reviewed and released only after review by her own lawyers.

Earlier this week, a federal judge had dismissed a State Department plan to release her email archives, comprised of some 55,000 pages of emails, by January 2016. Instead, the judge asked the State Department to come up with a plan to gradually release the emails in stages.

In the nearer term, Hillary Clinton is expected to appear before the Select Committee on Benghazi, Gowdy said last week that he will not schedule the former Secretary of State’s testimony until the State Department turns over more documents.

“The Select Committee should schedule Secretary Clinton’s public testimony now and stop wasting taxpayer money dragging out this political charade to harm Secretary Clinton’s bid for president,” Cummings, a Democrat, said Friday.

The New York Times obtained and published about a third of the Clinton Benghazi emails earlier this week, revealing that longtime Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal had frequently written to her about Libya, serving as a source of information about the country before and after the 2012 attacks.

While Blumenthal had originally blamed demonstrators in the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, a subsequent memo fingered a Libyan terrorist group for the attacks, arguing that they had used the demonstrations as cover for the violence. This week, the Select Committee on Benghazi subpoenaed Blumenthal to appear before the panel.


By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, May 22, 2015

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Conservatives, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Titillating The Republican Base”: Under Pressure From The Right, Gowdy Renews Benghazi Shenanigans

The Benghazi Select Committee shed the bipartisan cloak it had worn in public, as Republican members used Tuesday’s hearing to bully Joel Rubin, deputy undersecretary of state for legislative affairs. For more than two hours they badgered their witness, apparently haven taken cues from Eric Cartman (a petulant child portrayed in the cartoon South Park) demanding the State Department respect their “authoritah.”

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Neil Higgins, director of the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs, for the most part sat silently at the witness table, happy to allow his State Department counterpart take the brunt of the public flogging as successive Republican lawmakers berated Rubin.

The exchanges between Rubin and the Republican members of the committee were a sideshow to the real fight in the room. For months tensions have been brewing between the majority and minority staff.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, made this clear in a series of letters he wrote to Gowdy, two of which were made public on Tuesday morning. At the heart of the dispute are interviews the majority staff conducted without the knowledge or presence of Democratic staff.

Investigating the accusations reported by Sharyl Attkisson at The Daily Signal, a website owned and published by the Heritage Foundation, that Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell witnessed members of the department’s staff removing documents that might put [State Department officials at the Bureau of Near East Affairs] in a bad light,” the committee interviewed a second witness whom Maxwell claimed would confirm these allegations.

Instead that witness contradicted the story, saying that they had never been a part of such an effort, according to the letter penned by Cummings to Gowdy on November 24. This came as a surprise to the committee’s minority staff, who, according to Cummings, had been told by the Republicans via e-mail that they “learned nothing else of note in our discussion, so we don’t plan to conduct any additional follow-up.” Far from nothing of note, debunking a major conservative allegation is a seemingly important detail.

From the perspective of Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the select committee, the source of tension was the State Department’s inability to fully respond to the committee’s request for documents and the availability of witnesses, despite the 40,000 documents that State had already forked over. The wide-ranging request delivered on November 18 was for “two full years worth of emails from 11 State Department principals.”

Democrats were quick to point out that this first request for documents came a full six months after House Speaker John Boehner created the committee. They repeatedly noted at the hearing that the committee created to investigate the federal government’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina had started and completed its work in this time span.

In the eight months since the committee’s formation was first announced, Gowdy has yet to present a single question about the attacks that has not already been answered. For six months, the committee had not requested a single document. Now it was suddenly claiming that State’s failure to comply with the entire document request in two months was unacceptable. Republicans tried to smooth over this uncomfortable fact by citing subpoenas from other committees.

Yet as recently as mid-December, Gowdy seemed to indicate he was pleased with the performance of the State Department, in response to his committees request telling Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren:

“They are making an effort to be cooperative. The timing issue we may work on a little bit. But you know as lawyers look at documents it may lead them to make another request for production. So if the State Department were here they’d tell you: ‘Look quit asking us for more documents. We’ve given you what you wanted so far.’ But for us to be able to do the kind of job you expect and the people who watch your show expect we’re going to have to have access to the witnesses and the documents. But sometimes that means lawyers decide late in the game that I need this batch. So the State Department hasn’t been difficult to work with and I don’t expect that will change.”

Clearly Gowdy’s comments on Tuesday signaled a change in tune.

Conservatives have begun to turn on the chairman, calling him “ineffective.” Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James “Ace” Lyons spoke to the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, claiming that “the idea that government-agency stonewalling—continuing now for over two years—is the reason Gowdy’s committee can’t make progress is pure nonsense.”

Gowdy now seems intent on pleasing the right by taking his investigation down the same path that led Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, and other Republicans astray. (Issa’s Benghazi investigations became something of a national joke.) To show his toughness in front of the conservative media, Gowdy took to abusing a deputy undersecretary of state. Then, at the end of the hearing, he acknowledged that Rubin was not responsible for his purported anger.

Just the kind of BDSM display that seems to titillate the Republican base.


By: Ari Rabin-Havt, The American Prospect, January 27, 2015

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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