Is It Time for an Independent Counsel to Investigate State Department?
January 20, 2014
Corruption, malfeasance, and complacency represent the stories we heard about the State Department regarding its actions in 2012. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed a fatal attack on an American ambassador and three other Americans on an anti-Islamic video then inflaming the Middle East. Her response when questioned before Congress? “What difference at this point does it make?”
It still makes a lot of difference, and not just because of Benghazi itself. There is a larger culture of corruption at the Department of State.
Newly declassified transcripts released by the House Armed Services Committee show that the State Department, at least internally, may not have been considering it a demonstration that night. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) asked Colonel George Bristol back in July 31 of last year, “Did anyone from the State Department throughout the course of the events, that you are aware of, call this a demonstration that got out of control during the course of events?” Colonel Bristol answered “Not that I am aware of, sir.” Bristol was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Task Force—Trans Sahara from April 2012 to March 2013.
As for the military, they referred to it as an “attack” at the time as well, Colonel Bristol testified. And, as AIM has recently reported, General Carter Ham admitted in his testimony that he had told then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey that it was an attack the night of September 11, 2012—right before they went to meet with President Obama.
With a presidential election less than two months away, however, the President, the Secretary of State, and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice maintained for weeks that the video was largely what sparked the attack. But the record shows that they knew that wasn’t true. Clearly the President had been informed that it had been a planned terrorist attack—not the result of a spontaneous demonstration.
State’s house-cleaning supposedly started after Benghazi, but Secretary of State John Kerry gave the four suspended officials positions back at the State Department, representing a total lack of accountability.
New reports seem to indicate how just how far people are willing to go to hide the problems at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), in particular, and the Clinton Department of State in general.
Aurelia Fedenisn’s infamous interviews of Diplomatic Security personnel took place between July 2012 and October 2012. That means it covered the time period including the Benghazi, Libya attacks and the immediate aftermath. Patrick F. Kennedy, Cheryl Mills, and Assistant Secretary Eric Boswell all played their part in this tragedy, and their conduct with regards to Diplomatic Security should not be swept under the rug.
As Accuracy in Media reported last year, former State Department investigator Fedenisn was subject to State Department bullying after exposing eight Department of State investigative cover-ups, one of which reached as high as the Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, who retired last July. Another investigation exposed by Fedenisn involved Hillary Clinton’s security agents, who were allegedly hiring prostitutes at the hotel where then-Secretary of State Clinton slept.
Fedenisn’s lawyers’ offices were broken into over the July 4th weekend in 2013. Although a petty thief was apprehended for the crime, the theft seemed on its face more politically motivated. After all, computers were stolen while silver bars nearby were not. “My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information,” Schulman told John Hudson of The Cable at the time.
Now, another closely related case that Schulman is working has experienced a break-in; this time it was a sophisticated cyber attack. “The personal e-mail account of a State Department whistleblower was hacked, and four years worth of messages—some detailing alleged wrongdoing at the agency—were deleted” reported the New York Post in December. “They took all of his e-mails and then they deleted them all,” Cary Schulman told the Post. “He said that he could not prove who was responsible for the hack job, but said the attack was ‘sophisticated’ and called the targeting of [Richard] Higbie ‘alarming.’” Higbie is a Diplomatic Security Service criminal investigator.
“We feel like we’re in a movie,” said Schulman. “It’s nuts. It makes us wonder . . . . maybe we’ve got something we don’t even realize or maybe they’re worried about something.”
The Post noted that the deleted emails included legal strategy notes between Higbie and his lawyer.
Higbie has filed an employment lawsuit against the State Department, a lawsuit that has roped in high-ranking officials such as the new Assistant Secretary of Diplomatic Security at the Department of State, Gregory Starr. Starr was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security on November 14, 2013, but became the Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in February 2013, according to The Cable.
“More recently, Starr has been accused of abusing his position to benefit those around him,” reported The Cable last September. “One former DS officer said Starr was able to waive certain medical standards, in this case, color blindness, to get his son a job as a special agent within DS.” This is serious, considering that one of the problems exposed by Fedenisn was allegations that investigations within Diplomatic Security were unduly influenced by higher-ups, as much as once or twice a year.
Starr was deposed by Schulman in February of last year, and was asked, “Have you been made aware, during…after your, your retirement from DS and prior to your arrival back recently here, have you been made aware of any department officials improperly influencing inquiries or investigations relating to employee complaints?” He answered, simply, “No.” Yet there was a report in the works that said as much.
Schulman’s law firm argues that “The failure of all of the witnesses”—Starr is not the only one—“to identify the OIG investigation or the Report at any point in all of their questioning demonstrate collusion of concealment and creates, at a minimum, an appearance of impropriety.”
In a confirmation hearing in September 2013, Gregory Starr was not asked about his conduct in the Higbie case. It is encouraging to hear, however, that Higbie’s deleted emails included contact with Members of Congress who are concerned about this ongoing issue.
The problem appears to be the same one that keeps the Obama team and the IRS from being thoroughly and independently investigated. As long as Eric Holder remains as U.S. Attorney General, there will continue to be no controlling legal authority—to borrow a concept that helped keep former Vice President Al Gore from facing prosecution—prepared to investigate perjury and corruption in the Obama administration.