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CIA workers intimidated into silence over Benghazi attack – report

Published time: May 01, 2013 11:59
A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012.(Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012.(Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)

Several State Department and CIA workers were allegedly intimidated into keeping silent over the attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi last year. The unnamed officials feel if they testify their livelihood and their jobs could be put at risk.

“If you are going to take away somebody's job or living then it's a threat,” said Victoria Toensing, one of the officials’ attorneys to Fox. She did not describe how the intimidation occurred but stressed that it was done in a “very subtle way.”

She went on to stress that her client had invaluable information to share with Congress regarding the attack that killed the American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his aides last September. Moreover, Toensing signaled that her client also had information about the days following the attack and the way in which it was dealt with by US intelligence.

“What the State Department has to do is clear the lawyer for the information to come out. So even if my client is a witness they will only get half a story,” Toensing stated. She hinted that other employees had not come forward with their testimonies because they were afraid of the consequences. She described it as “frightening” that cooperating with congressional investigators could end a career in one fell swoop.

Republicans have repeatedly attacked the Obama Administration’s handling of the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, alleging security lapses in the run up to the incident and attempts at a cover-up.

The president addressed the claims on Tuesday during a press conference, maintaining that he was aware of no such reports of intimidation among CIA employees.

"I'm not familiar with this notion that anybody's been blocked from testifying," President Obama said.

The State Department echoed the president’s words, stating it was unaware of any requests of security clearance for private attorneys for employees.

"The State Department would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on any issue, including this one,"
deputy agency spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

Obama’s government has always maintained it treated the incident with the utmost transparency. There have been eight hearing into the matter thus far, as well as a testimony from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January.

Conjecture has been rife since the attack in September over whether or not the White House had information in advance on Benghazi. The Obama Administration initially insisted that it was a knee-jerk reaction to an inflammatory American-made video, ‘Innocence of the Muslims’, which sparked protests across the Muslim world.

However, it was later suggested that the attack may have been orchestrated by an affiliate of Al-Qaeda and it was labeled as an act of terrorism rather than a spontaneous reaction to the video.  

An independent inquiry from The Accountability Review Board concluded that the State Department was woefully unprepared for the attack on the consulate and that failures in leadership and management had led to the blunder. The probe stopped short at personally blaming Clinton.

Clinton’s private emails to former presidential aide Sidney Blumenthal regarding the Benghazi attack were leaked to RT in March by a hacker using the alias ‘Guccifer’.

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