House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R- Calif.) has come under fire after posting 166 pages of "sensitive but unclassified" State Department cables online Friday afternoon.
The documents relate to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four others. Administration officials, speaking with Foreign Policy magazine, accused Issa of endangering the safety of Libyans working with the U.S. government, whose names were not redacted from the report:
Much like WikiLeaks, when you dump a bunch of documents into the ether, there are a lot of unintended consequences," an administration official told The Cable Friday afternoon. "This does damage to the individuals because they are named, danger to security cooperation because these are militias and groups that we work with and that is now well known, and danger to the investigation, because these people could help us down the road.
The Benghazi attack has become the subject of intense Republican scrutiny over the past month. The administration's initial statements suggested it was triggered by a protest against the anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims" at the consulate's gates -- when later reports said no such protest occurred. (Contemporaneous CIA documents do, however, point in that direction, according to the Washington Post's David Ignatius.) The State Department has also received significant blowback after reports surfaced suggesting that it had turned down requests from the American mission in Benghazi for additional security.
While the Romney campaign has seized on the attack, and the administration's response, as evidence of President Barack Obama's foreign policy weaknesses, Issa has launched his own investigation, and convened a hearing on the matter last week.
The documents in question, which Issa posted to the Oversight Committee's website Friday, show that security was a persistent concern at the Benghazi mission. One correspondence, written by a representative from the mission in February, emphasized dwindling personnel:
Apologies for being a broken record, but beginning tomorrow Benghazi will be down to two agents. … We have no drivers and new local guard contract employees have no experience driving armored vehicles …
Shortly thereafter, another memo sent to State echoed the concern:
While the status of Benghazi remains undefined [Diplomatic Security] is hesitant to [devote] resources and as I indicated previously, this has severely hampered operations in Benghazi.
The document also contained a memo from March suggesting that al-Qaeda activity in eastern Libya was accelerating.
Along with the document dump, Issa co-signed a letter to the president with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), which reads:
The American people deserve nothing less than a full explanation from this administration about these events, including why the repeated warnings about a worsening security situation appear to have been ignored by this administration.
Nevertheless, some prominent conservatives took to Twitter to express dismay that Issa would release the documents without redacting sensitive information.
John Podheretz, editor of Commentary:
John Tabin of the American Spectator:
Former RNC strategist Liz Mair:
The Benghazi attack will likely be a major topic of conversation in Monday's final presidential debate, which focuses on foreign policy.