The Benghazi bureaucracy moved today. In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the State Department said it has issued instructions on how lawyers representing Benghazi whistleblowers may seek clearances to handle classified information. The letter instructs such lawyers to direct their requests to the “Assistant Legal Adviser for Employment Law within the Office of the Legal Adviser.”
Boring stuff, but also important stuff.
Washington lawyer Victoria Toensing is working pro bono with a State Department employee who wishes to testify before Congress on the events that claimed the lives of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others on Sept. 11. Yet Toensing had received no such instructions on clearances, even though Issa, in letters dated April 16 and April 26, specifically requested them from the State Department.
So Toensing went on Fox News on Monday, complaining that whistleblowers are being threatened and blocked.
On Tuesday, Fox News’s Ed Henry asked President Obama whether he’d allow such whistleblowers to testify.
Then the letters started flying. In addition to the May 1 letter from the State Department, there’s a similar April 30 letter from the Defense Department. The media even made a brief appearance in the State Department letter: “We would emphasize that, despite some of the recent media reporting, to date, we are unaware of any such request having been made to the Office of the Legal Adviser regarding Benghazi.”
Also: State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell yesterday answered allegations that there has been any retaliation against Benghazi whistleblowers:
Let me be very clear. The State Department is deeply committed to meeting its obligation to protect employees, and the State Department would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on any issue, including this one. That’s an obligation we take very seriously, full stop. In fact, the Department regularly sends notices, as we do to our entire staff, to employees advising of their right to federal whistleblower protections. We do so annually, and in fact, I checked and we did so just last week, which is our routine process in the spring to send an update like that.
Toensing reports that she’s following the instructions outlined in the State Department’s letter and hopes to get her clearances soon. She credits Fox News for breaking government gridlock on this matter. “All the rest of the media was ignoring it,” says Toensing, who also credits CNN’s Dana Bash for hopping on the story yesterday.