Today via Sharyl Attkisson of the Daily Signal:
As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.
“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.
“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”
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A quick note: We’ve previously written about Raymond Maxwell in this blog; the latest was this one: The Cautionary Tale of Raymond Maxwell: When the Bureaucracy Bites, Who Gets The Blame? Last year, we also posted, with his permission, his poem “Invitation“ in this blog. (see Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem
In Ms. Attkisson’s report, Mr. Maxwell criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including Secretary Clinton. We actually see no point in the ARB interviewing Secretary Clinton, given that she tasked the ARB to do the investigation and that the report is submitted to her. The regs as it exist right now does not even require that the Secretary submits the actual report to Congress, only that the Secretary of State “report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them.”
12 FAM 036.3: The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.
So we’re not hung up on the fact that she was not interviewed But who gets the actual ARB report is probably one more thing that Congress really do need to fix in the regs.
Mr. Maxwell also named other officials who allegedly were never interviewed by the ARB: 1) Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; 2) Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and 3) White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.
ARB Benghazi in its public report never identified all the people it interviewed in the conduct of its investigation. ABB Kenya/Tanzania did that and the list is online. We still cannot understand why those names in the Benghazi investigation are not public. What kind of accountability is it when we can’t even tell who the ARB investigators talked to? Redact the names of the CIA people if needed, but the names of those interviewed should be public unless there is a compelling security reason not to do so. There is an opportunity here for the State Department to declassify that part of ARB Benghazi’s report.
At the heart of this latest bombshell on Benghazi is that the weekend document session, according to Mr. Maxwell, was reportedly held “in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.”
This would be the 21st Street entrance; and the room is underneath the jogger’s entrance [insert room number for prospective Foggy Bottom visitors]. We understand that FOIA has had offices there in the past but that most of the FOIA offices moved to SA-2. Apparently, the only office the A organization chart shows to be in the Harry S. Truman basement are B2A61 the Facilities Managment Office and B258 the Office of General Services Management. But which office is called the Emergency Management Operations Center? Some media sites are already calling this the “boiler room operation.”
We have generally been disappointed with the Benghazi investigations. The fact that it has become a political football to throw back and forth with all the offense and defense attendant of the game makes us cringe; even more so, every “new” book or revelation gave us a sad.
But we think this one is a most serious allegation and cannot be swatted away by a State Department spokesman simply calling the implication that documents were withheld “totally without merit.” A State Department spokesman also told Ms. Attkisson that “it would have been impossible for anybody outside the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to control the flow of information because the board cultivated so many sources.” So, hypothetically, if folks scrubbed through the documents as alleged, then an instruction went down to IT to removed those docs from the system — that could not really happen, could it?
If this is not true, if no document scrub happened in the basement of the State Department as alleged by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, then we’d like the agency spokesman to say so clearly and call out Mr. Maxwell on this. Security access records should also indicate if these five individuals were at the State Department that weekend, when this alleged “review” took place.
So, let’s hear it people. But. Without the word salad, please.
In any case, now that this allegation is out in the open, the individuals named or positions cited in the Attkisson report are presumably candidates for an appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee:
1) two officials, close confidants of Secretary Clinton (Congressman Chaffetz said that he was told then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan were there and overseeing the operation)
2) one office director (??? from NEA bureau)
3) one intern (??? about to become the second most famous intern in Wash, D.C.)
4) State Department ombudsman (Office of the Ombudsman – Ombudsman Shireen Dodson)
One entity not included in the report but potentially a candidate for an appearance in the Select Committee is the Office of the Inspector General. In September 2013, State/OIG under the then acting OIG issued a report on the “process by which Accountability Review Boards (ARB/Board) are established, staffed, supported, and conducted as well as the measures to track implementation of ARB recommendations.”
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- Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review (dailysignal.com)
- Benghazi Accountability Review Board comes under renewed criticism (cbsnews.com)
- OFFICIAL: I was her ‘scapegoat’ for Benghazi… (thedailybeast.com)