State Department Still Refusing to Allow Oversight Committee Interviews of Benghazi Witnesses
9/11/2013 12:00:00 PM - Katie Pavlich
The State Department, under the direction of Secretary of State John Kerry, is still refusing to provide requested Benghazi eyewitnesses to the House Oversight Committee for interviews about what happened one year ago today.
Yesterday, Chairman Darrell Issa sent a letter
to Kerry stressing the only people who can provide a full picture of the 9/11 terror attack are witnesses who survived.
“The survivors of the attacks are the only people who can give testimony to the Committee about what happened on the ground in Benghazi,” Issa wrote in the letter. “Details provided by the survivors will not only help the Committee determine what took place during the attack, but will also help the Committee and other interested parties determine ways to prevent future tragedies.”
A request was made by the Oversight Committee on August 14, 2013 for transcribed interviews with Benghazi survivors. The State Department responded on August 23 by saying it was "not prepared to provide witnesses for those interviews." The Accountability Review Board [ARB] has interviewed Benghazi witnesses Issa is requesting.
"The ARB considered the surviving eyewitnesses to the attack to be part of a 'core group' of witnesses," Issa said. "Furthermore, the ARB recommended that the Department establish a panel of outside independent experts to identify best practices and evaluate security issues at diplomatic posts around the world. That panel, chaired by former U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, enjoyed the Department's full support, with unfettered access to documents and personnel. The panel met with over 200 people, including at least one individual whom the Department is now refusing to make available to the Committee."
It is suspected the State Department has allowed witnesses to speak to the media for interviews. Issa's letter cites a recent article in Vanity Fair
in which great details are described regarding the Benghazi attack, including "details that only persons who survived the attack could possibly know." Fox News has also been able to get in contact with some of the witnesses.
"The State Department has further restricted the Committee's access to these witnesses, claiming that they must be insulated from congressional investigators as they 'would very likely be witnesses in any criminal proceedings relating to the Benghazi attacks,'" Issa said. "The Department's claims that it needs to 'insulate' witnesses 'from any perception of political accountability in fulfilling their responsibilities' actually creates the impression that the Department is exerting its own political influence to prevent survivors from speaking to Congress."
President Obama pledged to cooperate with Congress after the attack as did Secretary Kerry.
"The State Department has not lived up to these unequivocal commitments to 'provide answers.' Instead, the Department has attempted to limit the Committee's access to important documents and information, including witnesses such as the Benghazi survivors."
Issa is demanding Kerry provide interviews with witnesses by September 24 or be issued subpoenas.