On Friday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry outlining the State Department’s continued obstruction into the investigation of the tragic events in Benghazi. In that letter Issa notes that while the Secretary stated in a House hearing this month that he was “not aware” of any State Department generated delay or obstruction into the investigation, there were specific incidences where the Department has used various tactics to stall and impede the investigation.
Issa said the obstruction includes unusual restrictions on documents, threats to destroy Committee property, and attempts to hinder whistleblowers from obtaining legal representation cleared to view classified information.
The State Department has refused to provide requested information about procedures for attorneys representing whistleblowers and how they can be cleared to handle classified information, according to Issa.
“During the course of the Committee’s investigation, numerous individuals have come forward with information related to the Benghazi attack,” wrote Issa in the letter. “Some witnesses may be required to retain personal counsel to represent them before the Committee and in case the Department retaliates against them for cooperating with the Committee’s investigation. Additional witnesses may be compelled by subpoena to give testimony to the Committee and can be reasonably expected to retain personal counsel at that time. In each case, witnesses may need to share sensitive or classified information with their lawyers. The Department’s unwillingness to make the process for clearing an attorney more transparent appears to be an effort to interfere with the rights of employees to furnish information to Congress.”
“The Department’s actions in this matter highlight a larger issue concerning the relationship between the branches of government. Under the Constitution Congress and the executive are coequal branches of government. Congress is charged by the Constitution with the right and a responsibility to conduct oversight of the Executive. However the actions of the Department with respect to the congressional investigation of the attack in Benghazi belie that principle; rather it gives the impression that the executive can dictate the terms of the oversight prerogative vested in Congress by the Constitution.
Issa continues, “The Department’s actions raise questions as to why the department is treating the investigation of Benghazi differently from other matters that have been investigated by Congress. As a former Chairman of the Senate committee on Foreign Relations, I expect you share my view that access to information is the lifeblood of congressional investigation. I also expected when you were Chairman you would not have allowed officials from an agency under investigation to be in the room while investigators reviewed and discussed key documents. When a federal agency insists on terms such as these it begs the question, “What is it the department seeks to hide?”
“I recognize the restrictive and obstructionist practices described above were implemented by your predecessor, Secretary Clinton, and that you may not even be aware of them. With that in mind, I hope you will review the Departments actions in response to the Committee’s investigation and reevaluate the degree to which the Department will cooperate,” concluded Issa.