POLITICS

House committee subpoenas State Department papers on Benghazi

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Photo - A Libyan man walks in the rubble of the damaged  U.S. consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012.  The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
A Libyan man walks in the rubble of the damaged U.S. consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
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Citing a lack of cooperation from the State Department, a House committee on Tuesday subpoenaed the Obama administration's talking points on the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said the State Department has not provided emails and documents related to Benghazi, despite promises by both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to provide answers lawmakers seek.

Issa, R-Calif., asked that the information covered by the subpoena be handed over to the committee by June 7.

"In a series of letters, my colleagues in Congress and I have requested documents and information related to the ongoing investigation," Issa wrote to Kerry on Tuesday. "To date, the administration has largely ignored these requests, despite various pledges both you and the president have made to cooperate with Congress."

The subpoena is the boldest attempt yet by House lawmakers seeking more information from the State Department about what happened in Benghazi.

Many House and Senate Republicans have clamored for the creation of a special committee to investigate the attacks, but both Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner have resisted.

The subpoena was issued with Boehner's blessing, however.

"Chairman Issa and his members are doing their best to get answers," said Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith. "It's sad that this administration is working overtime to deny the American people the truth."

Lawmakers have accused Obama of misleading the public about the nature of the Benghazi attacks. The administration originally insisted that the attacks were a spontaneous violent response to an anti-Muslim video, but later acknowledged that it was a coordinated terrorist attack by a group affiliated with al Qaeda.

The oversight committee wants to know who at the State Department edited the administration's Benghazi talking points and removed any reference to terrorism.

"The documents the enclosed subpoena covers will help the committee understand why, although on the day after the attack senior state department leadership believed that Islamic extremists were involved, there were reservations about publicly acknowledging any such involvement just three days later," Issa wrote to Kerry.

Issa said the subpoena covers 10 former and current state department officials, including former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, Deputy Secretary William Burns and former Chief of Staff and counsel Cheryl Mills.

The subpoena does not cover former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The White House released dozens of emails relating to Benghazi, including messages from Nuland that show her concern about the original talking points. Nuland, according to the letter, had "reservations" about the talking points that made clear the State Department was warned of threats in the region ahead of the attacks and that the killings were linked to Islamic extremists.

Issa said Nuland's emails merely raise more questions about who ordered the talking points to be altered.

"For example, after changes were made to address State Department concerns," Issa noted, "Nuland responded that the changes did not 'resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.'"

Issa said the emails suggest officials in the days following the attack were trying to shield the State Department from criticism.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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