In the days immediately following the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, top White House officials took an interest in a Fox News report that identified the deadly assault as a preplanned act of terror, according to newly released emails.
Seven pages worth of White House emails obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch reveal that members of the Obama administration discussed the Fox report that contradicted the White House’s initial claim that the attacks were a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. Fox reported that the U.S. intelligence community knew within 24 hours that terrorists had coordinated the attacks that claimed the lives of four Americans.
The emails, which were almost entirely redacted, contained the subject line: “FOX News: US officials knew Libya attack was terrorism within 24 hours, sources confirm,” and involved then-deputy national security adviser and current Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough; then-Homeland Security Adviser and current CIA Director John Brennan; then-Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.
Citing “deliberative process privilege,” the State Department has refused to remove the redactions from the emails, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told TheBlaze Tuesday. Judicial Watch is currently in the process of suing to have the redactions removed.
“It’s going to be up to the court to decide whether we are able to get these documents,” Fitton said. “But in the meantime, the administration has it within its discretion to not release this information.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has said his department “has nothing to hide,” Fitton added. “But this document shows that that’s just demonstrably false.”
A separate Fox New report said Monday that there are also “discrepancies” between the documents provided by the State Department to congressional investigators and Judicial Watch.
“The key question is whether Congress now has all the documents,” House Oversight Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox.
He added in reference to the different set of documents: “They are playing games. The classification and redactions are different. Why should Judicial Watch get more than Congress after issuing a subpoena?”
Additional emails released last week revealed that the White House coordinated in the wake of the Benghazi attacks to portray the event as being “rooted in [an] Internet video” and not “a broader failure of policy.”
Judicial Watch received a batch of documents that show Rhodes was the author of the bulk of these emails. Congressional investigators were given copies of these same documents, but the names had been redacted.
The State Department’s refusal to remove redactions from White House emails regarding the 2012 Fox News report raises serious questions, a Judicial Watch spokesman said.
“A seven-page dialogue concerning one Fox News report … demonstrates an alarm bell situation where they are reacting to and trying to shape a response or commentary to react to or to shut down reporting,” Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell told Fox Monday. “The reporting itself would appear to be at odds or at least to challenge strongly the White House position that had been announced. And so this report from Fox News would run counter to what the Obama administration was attempting to put out there as their position.”
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