President Obama on Tuesday said he was unaware of complaints from Benghazi whistleblowers inside his own administration who contend that they are being intimidated over their cooperation with investigators into the September 2012 attack, but pledged to look into the matter.
“I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody’s been blocked from testifying,” Mr. Obama said in response to a question during a press conference in the White House briefing room. “What I’ll do is find out what exactly you’re referring to.”
“What I’ve been very clear about from the start — our job with respect to Benghazi is to find out exactly what happened … and bring those who carried it out to justice,” he added.
At least four career officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have hired lawyers or are in the process of doing so and are complaining that administration officials are trying to intimidate them as they prepare to cooperate with congressional investigators, according to a Fox News report.
Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official and GOP counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, represents one of the State Department employees. She said her client and others have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials not to cooperate with Congress on their Benghazi probes. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound.
“I’m not talking generally, I’m talking specifically about Benghazi — that people have been threatened,” she told Fox News Monday in an interview. “And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”
The administration initially said the attack in Benghazi last year was spontaneous violence sparked by an anti-Muslim video, but later called it an organized terrorist assault.
After Mr. Obama’s remarks, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a prominent member of the Armed Services Committee, said both Benghazi and the bombings in Boston are compelling examples of how U.S. national security has “deteriorated” under this president’s watch.
“If Benghazi is not an example of system failure before, during and after the attack what would be? If Boston is not an example of a pre-9/11 stove-piping mentality what would be?” Mr. Graham asked.
In Benghazi, Mr. Graham noted, State Department officials ignored multiple requests for increased security from Ambassador Chris Stevens and the attack went on for seven hours without a response from the U.S. military.
In Boston, he said, the Russian government warned both the FBI and the CIA about the now-deceased suspect’s potential for becoming a radical Islamist, but the suspect was still able to travel back to Russia unimpeded.