State Department reveals ‘secret’ Benghazi documents

The U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in flames on Sept. 11, 2012. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters) The U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in flames on Sept. 11, 2012. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)

The State Department responded recently — and, for a government agency, with some dispatch — to a Freedom of Information Act request, which was followed by a lawsuit in February, from Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, asking for “any and all videos and photographs” of the U.S. diplomatic outpost and a nearby CIA facility in Benghazi that had been given to the Accountability Review Board for its report on the September 2012 attack by Ansar al-Sharia and others.

After a search of the ARB’s files, “we have identified 32 additional records that are responsive to your request,” Sheryl L. Walter, director of Office of Information Programs and Services wrote in a cover letter to Judicial Watch. State concluded that 16 “may be released in full” and one released with some redactions. The rest were exempt under the FOIA, Walter wrote. It appears that a chunk of the exempt materials were the videos requested that had already been shared with Congress.

Well, half a loaf ain’t bad. So let’s see what State released.

Turns out it’s mostly a bunch of news clips — the first from CBS News — then 13 photos of the destruction: burned out buildings, a car on fire and ransacked rooms.

But then we got to a “secret” document that State unclassified. Wait, that’s the British newspaper The Guardian’s story and photos just two days after the attack. Then we got to a very cogent and thorough report on the events shortly after the attack that said “security was lax before attack that killed U.S. ambassador.” An excellent read, but it seemed familiar.

Ah, yes. It’s an article written by our colleagues Ernesto Londono and Abigail Hauslohner.

You know, you can get carpal tunnel syndrome if you overuse that “secret” stamp.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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Emily Heil · November 19, 2013

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