The State Department on Monday affirmed that it will continue working to meet House Republicans’ ongoing demands for documents relating to the agency’s handling of the September 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
In the latest request, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Aug. 8 sent a letter to former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland demanding her emails concerning the much-debated television “talking points” from the days following the attack that left four Americans—including Ambassador Chris Stevens—dead.
“You wrote that changes to the talking points did not ‘resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,’ " Issa said in his letter. “Your email makes clear that department leadership shared concerns with you about the draft talking points. It is my hope and expectation that the documents I am requesting will identify those concerns, and whose concerns they were.”
Issa went on to describe as inadequate the State Department’s response in handing over 97 pages to comply with his May 28, 2013, subpoena, saying it failed to explain the email language. “The State Department continues to refuse to make the documents available that would clarify what aspects of the talking points your bosses were concerned about.”
In a statement emailed to Government Executive acknowledging receipt of Issa’s letter, a department spokesman said, “the 100 pages of emails on the talking points were publicly released months ago, but Chairman Issa still issued a subpoena on the topic, with which we fully complied. He continues to ask about the talking points and we will again work with him to address these issues.”
State has “demonstrated an unprecedented degree of cooperation with the Congress on the issue of Benghazi,” the statement continued. “Specifically, in support of the investigation, the State Department has participated in nearly 50 congressional hearings and briefings for members and staff, shared more than 25,000 pages of documents with committees, and made State Department employees available for interviews with the House Oversight committee.”
The spokesman reiterated that the facts surrounding the Benghazi incident were laid out to Congress and the public in the independent Accountability Review Board report, and that State is committed to implementing all 29 of the report’s recommendations. “Our diplomats continue to serve in dangerous places,” he continued. “People at the State Department are willing to step up and put themselves in harm’s way, and it is a disservice to them to politicize this issue.”
Issa gave State a deadline of Aug. 15.