State Dept. Gives Senators Temporary Access to Benghazi Docs… When They’re Out of Town

U.S. Marines stand next to a television monitor that is displaying a photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Ambassador Christopher Stevens during a memorial service for Stevens at San Francisco City Hall on October 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California. Christopher Stevens served as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya from June 2012 to September 11, 2012 when he was killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Credit: Getty Images)

After nearly two months of stonewalling the U.S. State Department is finally giving some lawmakers access to cables and other documents related to the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi on Thursday and Friday of this week. While that may seem like good news, it seems the apparent gesture of transparency was made when senators are not in Washington in the first place, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reports.

Both the Senate and House are preparing for a number of congressional hearings on Benghazi. The House Intelligence Committee will hold its hearing on the attack on Nov. 15 where Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus and Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, are expected to testify.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to convene on the same day to discuss the Benghazi attack, but that hearing will conducted behind closed doors and will not be open to the public.

Additionally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), will hold a private meeting on Nov. 13 to talk about Libya. Kerry has personally written a pair of letters to the State Department asking for access to Benghazi-related documents concerning the lead up to the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11.

Per Foreign Policy’s Rogin:

Several sensitive documents have already been leaked to congressional offices and the media, so the State Department has decided to let some senators view Benghazi documents but not take them home.

“We are currently in the process of gathering and reviewing record responsive to Congressional requests. Our efforts have already identified a large volume of potentially responsive records that address the security situation leading up to the attack,” State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs David Adams wrote to Kerry on Nov. 2 in a letter obtained by The Cable.

“To facilitate your committee’s work, we want to offer you and other members of the committee the opportunity to review these cables and memoranda. This set of material contains classified and other sensitive information… Mindful of these concerns, the Department is prepared to make copies of these documents available for the committee’s in camera review.”

A senior GOP Senate staffer told The Cable that “State is only making the documents available for senators and committee staff to view today and tomorrow, which won’t actually allow the members to prepare for the hearing. Staffers for committee members are also not allowed to see the material,” the report states.

“Funny since no member is in town,” the aide told The Cable. “The timing and limited access clearly demonstrates the administration cares more about playing politics with the tragedy than accepting responsibility.”

However, a spokesperson for Rep. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Cable that following a conversation between Corker and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department agreed to allow staffers for Sens. James Risch (R-Ind.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to review the Benghazi documents while senators are out of town. Corker will also reportedly be in Washington on Friday and will view the docs.