By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
This past weekend, the media were doing their usual swooning over Hillary Clinton, as she returned to Iowa to check that box off in her quest for the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency in 2016. But a story that broke this morning stands as a real test to see how clear that path will be for the former Secretary of State.
Clinton has long pointed to the “independent” 2012 Accountability Review Board (ARB) report as the ultimate arbiter of the Benghazi attacks, but newly revealed allegations by a former State Department employee call into question whether the ARB was given the full set of facts by those at State, or if, instead, a massive cover-up was launched to shield those on the 7th Floor from the fallout over Benghazi.
The question is not just whether or not this story by Raymond Maxwell is true, but whether it will prove to be a hurdle for Mrs. Clinton. That depends on the mainstream media’s reaction and how determined Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, is to getting at the heart of the Benghazi scandal. The Select Committee is holding its first public hearing this week to discuss the implementation of the ARB recommendations.
Given the seriousness and relevance of Maxwell’s allegations to this topic, Rep. Gowdy should invite Maxwell to speak before the Committee on Wednesday alongside the already confirmed witnesses Gregg Starr, Mark J. Sullivan, and Todd Keil. Maxwell was “a leader in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which was charged with collecting emails and documents relevant to the Benghazi probe.”
The timing of this hearing couldn’t be more serendipitous, given the story just published by Sharyl Attkisson, who received Accuracy in Media’s Reed Irvine Award for Investigative Journalism for her work at CBS News. Now, Ms. Attkisson is proving that you don’t need a major broadcast network behind you to break big stories. Writing for The Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation’s new news service, Attkisson has a major scoop in the form of Maxwell.
The story is this: A former State Department official, a man who was a supporter and donor to Barack Obama, was suspended by the State Department. But before he was suspended, he discovered that “a State Department office director,” one of Clinton’s “closest advisors,” went on a weekend, after-hours adventure in the Foggy Bottom headquarters of State. She told him, “Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light.” (The 7th Floor is “shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors,” according to Maxwell.) “Maxwell says when he heard that statement, he couldn’t help but wonder if the ARB—perhaps unknowingly—had received from his bureau a scrubbed set of documents with the most damaging material missing,” reports Attkisson.
We must now ask whether Hillary Clinton instigated or authorized a cover-up of the actions of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, shielding key documents from Accountability Review Board scrutiny.
Given President Bill Clinton’s history, this might actually be the case. In 2002 and 2003, Sandy Berger, President Clinton’s former National Security Adviser, visited the National Security Archives and repeatedly stole “original, uncatalogued, highly classified terrorism documents…by wrapping them around his socks and beneath his pants,” according to an archives staff member. Berger admitted to having destroyed at least five documents, but some suspect he destroyed even more. Did Clinton’s wife encourage the same type of behavior in her staff, as well?
Not surprisingly, Hillary’s sycophants at Media Matters have jumped in to attempt to discredit Maxwell, and Attkisson. That’s what they do. “Maxwell himself is a dubious source,” they argued. “He was placed on administrative leave after the Accountability Review Board’s investigation found a ‘lack of proactive leadership’ and pointed specifically to Maxwell’s department, saying some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs ‘showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.’”
That’s rich, coming from the ARB, which was a sham investigation from the start. As Attkisson pointed out, “Maxwell also criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including not only Clinton but Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.”
Those four people should testify under oath before Rep. Gowdy’s committee to determine who it was that actually did fail in terms of “proactive leadership,” and who lacked “ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”
If Maxwell’s allegations are true, this is dynamite. Let’s put Maxwell under oath, and see if he tells the same story. If so, then let’s bring forth the State Department ombudsman who told Maxwell not to worry and that “It’s not about you; it’s about Hillary and 2016,” and put her under oath, as well.
This is just one more of many potential scandals related to Benghazi, as we at the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi have been documenting. But this one has the potential to derail a run to the White House that many consider inevitable.