#Benghazi News: What did the ARB and Benghazi Committee know about Alamir, Eclipse and Xpand?

Posted: 3:53 am ET
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Via HuffPo:

A middleman the State Department relied on to hire unarmed guards at the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, previously worked with a company that’s now at the center of a massive international bribery scandal.

The FBI and law enforcement agencies in at least four other countries are investigating allegations ― first published by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media ― that a Monaco-based company called Unaoil bribed public officials to secure contracts for major corporations in corruption-prone regions. In Libya, Unaoil partnered with a Tripoli-based businessman named Muhannad Alamir. A former Unaoil employee who served as a confidential source for the FBI told investigators that Unaoil and Alamir bribed Libyan officials. Unaoil and Alamir deny they bribed anyone.

Alamir started working with the State Department in early 2012, less than three years after cutting ties with Unaoil. He provided Blue Mountain Group, the small British security firm that won the Benghazi guard contract, with the license it needed to legally operate in Libya.
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Despite the damning internal review and seven prior congressional probes, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to establish a special committee to further investigate the 2012 attack. Two years and $7 million later, the committee released an 800-page report. Democrats dismissed it as a partisan attack on Clinton, by then their expected presidential nominee.

The report echoed earlier criticisms of security lapses, but revealed little substantive information about the contracting process that contributed to the problem. The Benghazi committee report mentioned Blue Mountain 12 times. Alamir, Eclipse and Xpand weren’t mentioned once.

 

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Seriously perplexed journalist asks: Forgive me for asking, how could he not know?

Posted: 1:19 am EDT
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Via state.gov/daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Yeah, just a follow-up, please. Patrick Kennedy was recently on the Hill testifying in front of the select committee, and he told members that he knew about the email server really from the get-go but he did not understand the scope of its use. He thought it was clearly just for personal use with her family. But that is really undercut by his email traffic, which shows that he was using that account for government business. So how do you reconcile those two?

MR TONER: Sure. I mean, Catherine, normally I wouldn’t address or read out what was a private interview between Under Secretary Kennedy and members of the Benghazi committee, but on your specific claim that he knew about Secretary Clinton’s private server, that’s not correct. And that was made clear in his comments to the Benghazi committee. What he said he was aware of is that she was interested in setting up a private computer in the department so that she could email back and forth with her family during the work day. And as we’ve said previously, no such computer was ever set up.

QUESTION: And just – you may have to take this question.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Was Patrick Kennedy her records officer?

MR TONER: That’s a good question. Yeah.

QUESTION: Records officer is the – yeah, the – yeah, if you could find out.

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: Because the records officer is the person responsible for the records, the human resources, but more specifically, signs the non-disclosure agreements for classified and TS/SCI compartmented information.

MR TONER: Right. I’m not sure in this case who would have been her records officer —

QUESTION: I believe it was Patrick.

MR TONER: — or whether there was – right.

QUESTION: Yeah, if you can check. We understand it was Patrick Kennedy.

MR TONER: Okay, we’ll get back to you on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up to that?

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And I take your point that you wouldn’t normally read out what you say was a private interview —

MR TONER: Sure.

QUESTION: — between a congressional committee and an administration official, but you said that in response to the question about whether or not Kennedy was aware of Secretary Clinton’s use of a private server from the get-go, you said that’s not correct.

MR TONER: Right, so – yeah, sorry.

QUESTION: And that – so here’s my question.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Kennedy is responsible for both streams of the department that would be in charge of the Secretary’s communications – the one that actually does the communications and the emails, all of which fall under his purview, and then DS, Diplomatic Security, which also fall – which also report in to him. How could he not be aware that the secretary was using a private email server for all her work email communications? How could he not know if he is responsible both for DS and for the people who do the technical and computer stuff at State?

MR TONER: So again, what I was trying to make clear there was that he was not – his knowledge about her wanting to set up a private computer within the department, not at her residence, so that she could email her family, that’s what he was speaking to about in his interview. And again, as I said, no such computer was ever set up. Your broader question – again, he’s spoken to it before, or we’ve spoken to it before, that he did not have knowledge of the computer server that she had set up, the personal email or computer server. She set it up at her residence. Again, that’s not really our focus here. I would just return to the fact that our focus is on releasing the FOIA.

QUESTION: Forgive me for asking.

MR TONER: That’s okay.

According to the National Archives (PDF), Mr. Kennedy who is the Under Secretary for Management is also the Senior Agency Official for Records Management at the State Department.

Pardon us, we are poor sods, perplexed at the goings on of this world.

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Democrats vs Republicans at Benghazi Committee: Pew, Pew, Pew, Tzing! Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

Posted: 6:52 pm EDT
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On October 7, Chairman Gowdy wrote a 13-page letter to Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Benghazi Committee (see pdf).  On October 18, Rep. Cummings responded with a 2-page letter stating that the alleged classified information in a Blumenthal email dated March 18, 2011, was not in fact classified, and was redacted by Gowdy himself.  That email is available to read here (pdf); note the absence of redaction codes.  On October 18,  responded to ’ letter on whether that Libya source was classified info in his letter here (pdf).

The Democrats charged that the Select Committee “has never held a single hearing with anyone from the Department of Defense in 17 months, and the Select Committee has conducted nearly ten times as many interviews of State Department employees than Defense Department employees (39 compared to 4).” 

The report says that the Committee has conducted a total of 54 transcribed interviews and depositions to date. Previous congressional committees and the independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) had already spoken to 23 of these individuals. The actual number of “new” interviews is 31 according to the Democrats contradicting the “50 interviews” apparently cited by Mr. Gowdy.

Going by the report, below is a list of 31 people interviewed by the Committee. We note that that are no DOD or CIA folks included here, only State Department people:

  • 1: State Department Chief of Staff State Department Chief of Staff from 2009 until February 1, 2013
  • 2: Senior Watch Officer in the Diplomatic Security Command Center from 2011 to 2013
  • 3: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the fall of 2012
  • 4: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the summer and fall of 2012
  • 5: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the summer and fall of 2012
  • 6: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the summer of 2012
  • 7: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring and summer of 2012
  • 8: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the spring and summer of 2012
  • 9:  diplomatic security agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2012
  • 10: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2012
  • 11: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the winter and spring of 2012
  • 12: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the winter of 2012
  • 13: Principal Officer who served in Benghazi in the fall and winter of 2011-2012
  • 14: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the fall and winter of 2011
  • 15: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the fall of 2011
  • 16: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 17: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 18: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 19: Diplomatic Security Agent who served in Benghazi in the spring of 2011
  • 20: Post Management Officer for Libya from 2011 through June 2012
  • 21: Communications Officer for the State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from the fall of 2008 to the present
  • 22: U.S. Ambassador to Libya from December 2008 until May 2012
  • 23: U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations from July 2010 until July 2013
  • 24: U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya from 2009 until June 15, 2012
  • 25: Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from July 2011 until September 2014
  • 26: Contracting Officer in the State Department Office of Acquisitions starting in May of 2012
  • 27: Executive Secretariat Director of Information Resources Management who served from spring of 2008 until November of 2012
  • 28: Chief of the Records and Archives Management Division from fall of 2014 to the present
  • 29: Spokesperson in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2011 through 2013
  • 30: A speechwriter for Secretary Clinton
  • 31: A speechwriter for Secretary Clinton

Here’s one thrown over by WaPo’s Pinocchios:

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Here’s one who was a student in Cairo in 2011:

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Here’s one who wasn’t at the State Department anymore at the time of the incident:

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Here’s one who says “I don’t know of anything.”

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Boy! Who wrote these questions? A secretary of state “ordering” a secretary of defense?  What universe is that?

Who signed off on the April 2012 cable “denying security resources to Libya?” Can these congressional folks really be this ignorant? Every cable that goes out must have clearance. They all include the name or names of draftee/s and the names of the clearing and approving officials. How could a DS agent in Benghazi know if the secretary of state in WashDC “personally” signed off on any cable? And are these folks really ignorant of the hierarchical structure of the State Department? Or are they purposely ignorant because reality is not sexy enough to blow up?

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New hearings, please, on the topic of what can be done so politicians grow a conscience instead of playing offense/defense when they search for the “truth” — the kind where we don’t have to wrap the word “truth” in air quotes.

The former deputy director of the CIA writes that “The State Department facility in Benghazi has been widely mischaracterized as a US consulate. In fact it was a Temporary Mission Facility (TMF), a presence that was not continuously staffed by senior personnel and that was never given formal diplomatic status by the Libyan government. The CIA base—because it was physically separate from the TMF—was simply called “the Annex.” [….] CIA does not provide physical security for State Department operations. Why so few improvements were made at the TMF, why so few State Department security officers were protecting the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, why they allowed him to travel there on the anniversary of 9/11, and why they allowed him to spend the night in Benghazi are unclear. I would like to know the conversations that took place between Stevens and his security team when the ambassador decided to go visit Benghazi on 9/11/12. These were all critical errors.

Well, the temporary mission did not issue visas, nor had a consular officer tasked with providing citizen services. The State Department must have had another mission, what was it?  To lend cover to the “Annex”? If there was no State Department temporary mission in Benghazi, would the CIA have had an outpost there? How many people from the CIA did this Committee talked to? What the frack were they thinking when they interviewed UN personnel and speechwriters but not interview the spooks?

Or could it be that State was there for a very simple reason — the need for a reporting outpost? Click here (pdf) for the Action Memo from the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau (NEA) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) requesting approval for the continued operation of the U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012. That’s why there was a “tent” and not a fortress.  The memo was approved in December 2011.

Also see the email chain in this document collection (pdf) on Diplomatic Security coverage and the “Banghazi Plan;” RSO Eric Nordstrom’s emails are clear enough, the status of Benghazi post was undefined and Diplomatic Security did not want to devout resources to it.  NEA wanted to be there, why?  DS did not want to put resources there, why? The email from Shawn P. Crowley, the Principal Officer in Benghazi from January-March 2012 is also instructive.  Plenty of lessons there, but folks are not seriously looking, why?

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Ex-Staffer Pours Fuel to the Benghazi Select Committee House Fire

Posted: 5:18 pm EDT
Updated: October 11, 3:26 pm EDT
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Several days ago, before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the speaker’s race, he did this:

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CNN reports that Major Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Podliska served nearly 10 months on the committee before he was fired in late June.  According to CNN, Podliska plans to file the lawsuit next month after a 30-day mediation phase required under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act passes. The spokesperson for the House Select Committee for Benghazi has released a 5-paragaraph statement in response to the ex-staffer’s allegation.

Major Bradley Podliska’s exclusive TV interview with CNN will air Sunday at 9 a.m. on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Updated, PowerPoint as obsession:

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@StateDept Officials on Clinton Private Email Debacle: Yo! Had Been Caught Off Guard? Ay, Caramba!

Posted: 11:25 am EDT
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Excerpt below with annotation:

“When we were asked to help the State Department make sure they had everything from other secretaries of state, not just me, I’m the one who said, ‘Okay, great, I will go through them again,’ ” Clinton said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And we provided all of them.”

But State Department officials provided new information Tuesday that undercuts Clinton’s characterization. They said the request was not simply about general rec­ord-keeping but was prompted entirely by the discovery that Clinton had exclusively used a private e-mail system. They also said they *first contacted her in the summer of 2014, at least three months before **the agency asked Clinton and three of her predecessors to provide their e-mails.
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She has said repeatedly that it was “permitted” by the State Department and widely known in the Obama administration.

But the early call from the State Department is a sign that, at the least, officials in the agency she led from 2009 to 2013 were concerned by the practice — and that they had been caught off guard upon discovering her exclusive use of a private account.
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***In the spring and summer of 2014, while it was in the process of trying to find records sought by the newly formed House Select Committee on Benghazi, the State Department’s congressional affairs office found Clinton’s personal e-mail address listed on a few records in a batch of Benghazi documents but no government e-mail account for her.

“We realized there was a problem,” said a State Department official who until that moment had not been aware of Clinton’s private e-mail setup. The official, like some others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
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The agency is releasing those e-mails in batches, in accordance with a court order stemming from a public-records lawsuit.

The issue has led to frustrations within the State Department in recent months, as some officials have grown tired of having to answer for a political controversy not of their making, according to three senior officials.

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Ay, caramba!

If the State Department had first contacted her in the summer of 2014, we have yet to see that correspondence. It was potentially sent sometime in August 2014, three months before the letters to Clinton and predecessors went out in November 12, 2014 from “M” (see below).  Three months is an early call?  C’mon! Secretary Clinton left State in February 2013.

As to the notion that officials had been “caught off guard” upon discovering her exclusive use of a private account, do spin doctors seriously expect us to buy this on a double discount?

The NYT broke the news that Secretary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state on March 2, 2015.

It took six months for three senior State Department officials to tell WaPo that they “had been caught off guard” by the secretary of state’s exclusive use of a private account?  These officials “were concerned by the practice”, so much so that they issued a three month-“early call” in the summer of 2014, 1 year and 6 months after the end of the Clinton tenure.  And we’re only hearing about this concern now, 2 years and 7 months after Secretary Clinton left office? Yeah.

Dates of note:

December 11, 2012: NARA Chief Records Officer Paul M. Wester Jr. Email to NARA’s Margaret Hawkins and Lisa Clavelli on how they “should delicately go about learning more” about the transition plans for Secretary Clinton’s departure from State. Concerns that “there are or maybe plans afoot to taking her records from State to Little Rock.” Invokes the specter of the Henry Kissinger experience vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton (view email in pdf). So there were discussions within NARA about the Clinton records as early as December 2012. It appears that NARA’s main contact (pdf) at State is Margaret P. Grafeld, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Information Services (A/GIS).It should be interesting to see how or when the Clinton federal records were discussed between NARA and State.

* August 28, 2014: State Department U/S for Management sends memo to department principals on Senior Officials’ Records Management Responsibilities (view memo pdf). See State Department issued instructions for Preserving Email of Departing Senior Officials (view memo p.13 pdf)

** November 12, 2014Letter to Hilary Clinton’s representative, Cheryl Mills re: the Federal Records Act of 1950, November 12, 2014; to Colin Powell, to Condoleezza Rice; to Madeleine Albright;

*** August 11, 2014: The State Department sends its first group of documents to the new Select Benghazi committee, a partial response to a previous subpoena. The production contains a few — less than 10 — emails either to or from Clinton. Committee staffers notice immediately that the emails are from a previously unseen address, hdr22@clintonemail.com. Meanwhile, the committee presses State to meet its legal obligation to fully respond to the pair of subpoenas originally issued in August 2013. (Via Washington Examiner)

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Congressional Drama Features Ex-Clinton IT Staffer Bryan Pagliano, Good Excuse to Check Your PLI Coverage

Posted: 5:27 am EDT
Updated: 3:03 pm EDT
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Bryan Pagliano worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and reportedly helped manage her server at that time. When Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, Pagliano got a job at the State Department.  This report citing public federal records says that he was classified as a GS-15 in his job as a special advisor and deputy chief information officer at the State Department. He earned around $140,000 per year from 2010-2012.  He was also reportedly paid personally by the Clintons to continue managing the private server from 2009 to 2013.

The State Department confirmed on September 3, that Mr. Pagliano was employed by the State Department from May 2009 through February 2013 as an IT specialist, and that he currently serves as a contractor working in the Bureau of Information Resource Management (State/IRM). The State Department also said that it was not consulted on Mr. Pagliano’s decision to take the 5th.   “He has pleaded the Fifth, so to speak. It’s certainly not an admission of guilt, as we all know, but it’s his constitutional right, so we respect that,” the official spokesperson said.

That’s not the end of it, of course. The House Select Committee on Benghazi is reportedly requiring Mr. Pagliano’s presence, which prompted a stern letter Wednesday from Pagliano’s lawyer, who accused the panel and its chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), of engaging in political theater and abusing its subpoena power, according to the Washington Post. Politico also has a report today noting that Pagliano’s lawyer, Mark MacDougall has said in a letter to two congressional panels that he did not ask any Congressional committees for immunity, but “in the event that any committee of the Congress” does authorize such a judicial order, “Mr. Pagliano will, of course, comply with such an order.”

Even if you’re in no danger of getting snared in the Clinton controversies, isn’t this case a good reminder to review one’s Professional Liability Insurance coverage? PLI covers not just admin and disciplinary matters, but also congressional and OIG investigations. For eligible employees, the State Department regulations allow the reimbursement of up to 50% of PLI cost (see 3 FAM 3840 – pdf).

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