Revealed: How the State Department avoided disclosure of subpoenaed Benghazi documents
The charitable interpretation of the actions of the Department of State in response to a congressional subpoena is incompetence. Given the need to keep Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding the Benghazi slaughter out of the headlines until after the election, I am not feeling particularly charitable. Protecting the ample rear end of the former secretary of state is a common practice at Foggy Bottom.
It has just been revealed that after the receipt of a congressional subpoena for Benghazi documents, those documents were removed from the office that received the subpoena and sent to another office, where they were not searched. This has been defended as a “routine” matter, despite the fact that the subpoena contained language cautioning against the removal of any documents relevant to the subpoena. As a result, the reports of the committee investigating Benghazi were based on incomplete information.
Alana Goodman reports at the Free Beacon:
Attorneys for the State Department said the electronic folders, which contain hundreds of documents related to the Benghazi attack and Libya, were belatedly rediscovered at the end of last year.
They said the files had been overlooked by State Department officials because the executive secretary’s office transferred them to another department and flagged them for archiving last April, shortly after receiving a subpoena from the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The new source of documents includes electronic folders used by senior officials under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They were originally kept in the executive secretary’s office, which handles communication and coordination between the secretary of state’s office and other department bureaus.
As is so typical of reports regarding government bureaucratic misbehavior, the agents acting are identified as “offices,” not individuals with names who could be held accountable. Only lawyers have names, apparently. Thus:
The House Benghazi Committee requested documents from the secretary’s office in a subpoena filed in March 2015. Congressional investigators met with the head of the executive secretary’s office staff to discuss its records maintenance system and the scope of the subpoena last April. That same month, State Department officials sent the electronic folders to another bureau for archiving, and they were not searched in response to the request. (snip)
The State Department’s attorneys said the executive secretary’s office transferred the folders to the Office of Information Programs and Services for “retiring” in April 2015. Public records officials did not realize for almost eight months that the folders had been moved, and so they were not searched in response to FOIA requests or subpoenas.
“In April 2015—prior to its search in this [Judicial Watch] case—the Secretariat Staff within the Office of the Executive Secretariat (“S/ES-S”) retired the shared office folders and transferred them to the custody of the Bureau of Administration, Office of Information Programs and Services,” the State Department said in a Feb. 5 court filing.
“The IPS employees working on this FOIA request did not initially identify S/ES retired records as a location to search for potentially responsive records because they were operating with the understanding that, to the extent responsive records from the Office of the Secretary existed, they resided within [the executive secretary’s office].”
According to congressional sources, officials on the House Benghazi Committee had a meeting with the executive secretary’s office to discuss the subpoena and the locations of potentially relevant records on April 10, 2015. Electronic folders of senior staff members were discussed during the briefing.
State Department officials at the meeting included the director of the executive secretary’s office staff, who was responsible for handling the office’s records maintenance, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, and Catherine Duval, the attorney who oversaw the public release of Hillary Clinton’s official emails. The officials gave no indication that electronic folders had recently been transferred out of the office.