Congressman: State, Defense forced Benghazi survivors to sign non-disclosure agreements

posted at 12:01 pm on July 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) accused the State and Defense Departments of forcing survivors of the Benghazi attack to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to keep their stories under wraps.  The effort to impose silence on the survivors continued until very recently, Wolf alleges, which he says “raises serious concerns” about the Obama administration’s priorities in investigating and resolving the failures that took place before and during the terrorist attack that sacked the diplomatic outpost and killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens (via the Weekly Standard):

“According to trusted sources that have contacted my office, many if not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign additional non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the Benghazi attacks. Some of these new NDAs, as they call them, I have been told were signed as recently as this summer.”

Wolf continued: “It is worth nothing that the Marine Corps Times yesterday reported that the Marine colonel whose task force was responsible for special operations in northern and western Africa at the time of the attack is still on active duty despite claims that he retired. And therefore could not be forced to testify before Congress.

“If these reports are accurate, this would be a stunning revelation to any member of Congress, any member of Congress that finds this out and also more importantly to the American people. It also raises serious concerns about the priority of the administration’s efforts to silence those with knowledge of the Benghazi attack in response.

“So today I ask, how many federal employees, military personnel, or contractors have been asked to sign additional non-disclosure agreements by each agency? And do these non-disclosure agreements apply to those undercover or have non-covert State Department and Defense Department employees?”

Wolf added, “I do not expect the Obama administration to be forthcoming with answers, but if this Congress, if this Congress does not ask for the information and compel its delivery, the American people will never learn the truth. Any federal employer employee or contractor who has been coerced and is silenced through a non-disclosure agreement should expect that Congress [will] ask to speak out on their behalf and compel their voice to be heard. That’s why I, along with 159 of my colleagues, support a Select Committee to hold public hearings to learn the truth about what happened that night in Benghazi.”

Perhaps this answers the question Politico raised today about the relative silence over the Benghazi investigation:

After months of fiery hearings and vows to get to the bottom of Benghazi, House Republicans are now barely making a peep when it comes to an issue they once couldn’t stop talking about.

Democrats say Republicans are lacking damaging evidence against the Obama administration in the aftermath of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya. They argue the House GOP is in retreat over the investigation that some conservatives believed could bring down the White House or tar a 2016 presidential candidate.

If witnesses are being gagged, it makes it difficult to pursue an investigation, does it not?  It certainly has an intimidation effect on those who might otherwise have come forward on their own to talk about what happened.  And with the US now out of Benghazi altogether, it’s not clear exactly what State and/or Defense intends to protect with these NDAs, especially from Congress.

But … would an NDA gag a witness subpoenaed by Congress? Not even a security clearance does that; whistleblowers have an ultimate path to Congress when other routes are closed or impractical.  That’s why a press leak is both illegal and irresponsible.  Congress can override both clearances and NDAs, with proper precautions to avoid publicizing truly sensitive material and not just that which might embarrass the executive branch, by compelling that testimony under subpoena.  Expect them to do that, and perhaps add a few more to those demanding the NDAs, too, to get an explanation of where those orders originated.


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NDAs signed while you are already employed are generally not enforceable

faraway on July 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Why the frig didn’t Nixon think of that? He should have just had John “cancer on the presidency” Dean sign an NDA.

rhombus on July 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Hillary has got to keep this quiet for three more years…

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

So Repubs do something! Someone needs to go to jail!

neyney on July 18, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Tying an NDA to someone’s retirement would be coercion at best, and blackmail at worst.

faraway on July 18, 2013 at 12:09 PM

It has been impressive to watch the media track down the Benghazi survivors and get their stories on the record…

The indentity of the Zim jurors will be known before the indentity of the Benghazi survivors…

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:10 PM

The pesky little NDA…extortion. Sign it. Shut up. Or you will be fired. The Chicago way.

coldwarrior on July 18, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Wolf continued: “It is worth nothing that the Marine Corps Times yesterday reported that the Marine colonel whose task force was responsible for special operations in northern and western Africa at the time of the attack is still on active duty despite claims that he retired. And therefore could not be forced to testify before Congress.

Where in the world is the Colonel..?

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Most, if not all, NDAs have a clause that permits disclosure of information that is requested by a court, that is subject to a subpoena or other administrative or regulatory procedures. A subpoena from a congressional investigative body would likely count.

Therefore, each of the survivors should be served with a subpoena from the appropriate investigative body (whatever that is), and it is likely the NDA would permit them to testify.

Doodad Pro on July 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

What was in it for them?

They must have gotten a year’s salary signing bonus at least, so it’s more like bribery than extortion.

Akzed on July 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Where in the world is the Colonel..?

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Hanging out with Carmen Sandiego.

Fired? No pension? Hah. Try Vince Fostered.

oryguncon on July 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM

The GOP is biding their time waiting for the midterm candidate lineup then they will spring all of Benghazi scandal out for all to see,right?

docflash on July 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Congress has oversight of Executive Branch agencies. NDA should not mean anything to Congress.

freedomfirst on July 18, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Pic of the Day: Justice 4 Chris!

Resist We Much on July 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Priceless…LOL.

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:18 PM

This is for Chris…

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

I’m telling you right now that the ultimate responsibility for what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi rests with the Jug-Eared Traitor.

This was his gig from the get-go.

And that is why you see such resistance from all quarters to efforts to uncover the truth.

What Obama engaged in is treason, and it lead directly to the death of an American diplomat.

Since there seem to be no vertebrates in either political party, this crime will likely go unprosecuted.

turfmann on July 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

NDAs are to prevent the writing of books and selling stories to magazines or for movies. NDAs should not prevent them from testifying as far as I know. Congress has oversight authority and that trumps any NDA.

ted c on July 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Where in the world is the Colonel..?

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 12:13 PM

In the conservatory with the candlestick.

Happy Nomad on July 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Well, I had not been on the Select Committee bandwagon before this. But now, I think ti may be the only way to really get to the bottom of this massive, massive coverup.

Frank Wolf is one of the most respected, honest, and thoughtful Members of Congress. If he is pissed, the White House had better start paying attention.

Most, if not all, NDAs have a clause that permits disclosure of information that is requested by a court, that is subject to a subpoena or other administrative or regulatory procedures. A subpoena from a congressional investigative body would likely count.

Therefore, each of the survivors should be served with a subpoena from the appropriate investigative body (whatever that is), and it is likely the NDA would permit them to testify.

Doodad Pro on July 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM

This. It is a major separation of powers issue that should go straight to the Supreme Court if the Administration claims it can enforce a NDA against a Congressional subpoena. I’m assuming they hoped the existence of the NDAs would simply remain a secret from Congress so they would not have to deal with it.

rockmom on July 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Why all the enforced silence over a riot inspired by a youtube video that no one saw?

rbj on July 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Ed, from Ace: COLONEL BRISOL HAS NOT YET RETIRED

Wolf continued: “It is worth nothing that the Marine Corps Times yesterday reported that the Marine colonel whose task force was responsible for special operations in northern and western Africa at the time of the attack is still on active duty despite claims that he retired. And therefore could not be forced to testify before Congress.

“If these reports are accurate, this would be a stunning revelation to any member of Congress, any member of Congress that finds this out and also more importantly to the American people. It also raises serious concerns about the priority of the administration’s efforts to silence those with knowledge of the Benghazi attack in response.

Here’s that Marine Corps Times article noting that Colonel Bristol is apparently on an Administration-arranged half-retired/half-not plan.

Defense Department officials have told members of Congress that Bristol cannot be forced to testify because he retired after stepping down during a March change of command ceremony, according to several media reports. The Pentagon reinforced that point of view to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday.

That isn’t the case, however. While Bristol is preparing for retirement, he is on active duty through the end of July, said Maj. Shawn Haney, a Marine spokeswoman, on Wednesday. He will be placed on the inactive list on Aug. 1, she said. That contradicts statements that Pentagon officials have issued to both Congress and the media.

Resist We Much on July 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM

Which are you more likely to survive? A full-on jihadbot attack in Libya, or the wrath of the Administration once you tell the truth about it???

ted c on July 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM

What was Ambassador Stephens doing there?

Mmmmmbbbbllemmmmbrotherhoodmmmmmbblegunsmmmmmbbbllle…

Fallon on July 18, 2013 at 12:31 PM

NDAs signed while you are already employed are generally not enforceable

faraway on July 18, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Not true. I have signed numerous NDAs specific to events or systems since I was hired. They do generally have to be prior to the events/information, however – ex post facto ones are generally not enforceable, I think.

GWB on July 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

… by compelling that testimony under subpoena. Expect them to do that, …

Actually, I have NO expectation that they will do that.

“Ed, you’re still a believer. Good for you. Innocence is bliss.”

Carnac on July 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

They argue the House GOP is in retreat over the investigation that some conservatives believed could bring down the White House or tar a 2016 presidential candidate.

Gee, I wonder who that could be.

Bitter Clinger on July 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM

What did these witnesses get in exchange for signing the NDA’s? Money? The “right” to keep their jobs? The “right” not to be harassed/retaliated against?

The Obama administration is a criminal enterprise.

AZCoyote on July 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM

If the Republicans were serious about this they have sufficient power to resolve it.

For example, don’t fund the White House operating budget until the DoD produces the attack survivors.

But…they don’t really care.

Likewise, I would have refused to pass a budget for the DoJ as long as Eric Holder is employed there.

But…the Republicans don’t care about that either.

They’ll make some noises…but that is it – nothing substantive.

18-1 on July 18, 2013 at 12:41 PM

General Ham is the key to this.

portlandon on July 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I have signed numerous NDAs specific to events or systems since I was hired.

GWB on July 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

That’s good for you. You would have possible claims of duress or undue influence.

Always delay signing these agreements until you are actually hired.

faraway on July 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

You’re right, ED. The US Congress is not a party to the NDA and it has no effect other than between the parties that signed it. If I sign an agreement that, if I tell mom about the cookies, I have to pay you $10 (pretty steep price for a kid) then, if I tell mom, I have to give you $10. Actually, it’s not an enforceable agreement in the first place and these NDA’s may not be, either. What’s the “consideration?” You get to stay employed? It’s a very tricky area when it’s not done up front at the time of employment.

But, short answer, no. If this were a criminal case (which it might be, if you include gross negligence leading to death), does anyone think an NDA somebody signed, with the mastermind, would immunize the criminal from having to testify?

They’re worthless in this context. I just don’t believe a Congressional Committee has the b**s to deal with this, other than through “strong speech to follow” common practice.

IndieDogg on July 18, 2013 at 12:44 PM

General Ham is the key to this.

portlandon on July 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

I would say that is secondary…..to me what is KEY is
Republicans with a SET who will nail some azzes to the wall!

We could have this General testifying with the proverbial
Smoking Gun, and the Dems and the Media will react with
“So What”. If there is all bark, and no Bite from
Republicans, NOTHING will come from this.

ToddPA on July 18, 2013 at 12:50 PM

This is simply more BS. STOP THE PATRONIZATION!!!

Non Disclosure Agreement’s, Agreements of Confidentiality, et al., are unlawful via a matter of death and unlawful where the possibility of criminal activity exists. Don’t patronize us DOD, we’ll blow a hole through any legal scenario you deem fit to throw against the wall. Now, this just adds another 60% more energy on getting all the information from those through testimony and we will.

NDA’s? LMAO are you kidding me? What a joke now get your arse ready Hillary, your not simply gonna take your pool goggles and your statement of “What does it matter” and simply mosey off escaping testimony. An American Ambassador was murdered as were three Patriots trying to save him Clinton on your f***ing watch. Your going down on this one Hillary, bank it Old Ulgy White Woman and it aint gonna be Bill.

Tangerinesong on July 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

In days of old these actions were called Obstruction of Justice & Impeding an Official Investigation…

workingclass artist on July 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM

18-1,

My guess is that a majority, if not all, survivors at Benghazi were not DoD, but CIA.

I was on the Marine Security detail at Camp David in the 70′s. I had to sign a NDA when I left the Marines. Why? Because I was familiar with the classified security in place at Camp David and disclosure would jeopardize the safeguarding of the president. If I disclose the classified information, I would be subject to prosecution and could be fined and imprisoned.

It is my guess that the administration is using the NDA as a threat to the survivors to keep them quiet. I would agree that Congress could subpoena them (if they could find out from the DoD/CIA who they were) and compel them to testify. Those under a NDA could always decline to testify in public to protect the means and methods of DoD/CIA activities, but provide information in closed session.

GAlpha10 on July 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM

General Carter Ham testified in a classified hearing sometime in June of this year…

d1carter on July 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM

“I will have tranparecy in my administration.” – Barack Hussein Obama (a.k.a. King Putt)

Missilengr on July 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM

What about Chris Stevens and Terry Nichols? #Support the Truth!

It would be nice for Attorney General Holder to be as concerned about the deaths of an Ambassador and a DEA agent as he is about a teenager involved in a fist fight.

Hillary would be as bad, or worse, than Obama when it comes to transparency. The media would protect her as much or more than they do for Obama.

HoosierStateofMind on July 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

What about Chris Stevens and Brian Terry Terry Nichols? #Support the Truth.

HoosierStateofMind on July 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Sorry – losing my mind with the insanity all around.

HoosierStateofMind on July 18, 2013 at 1:47 PM

What about Chris Stevens and Terry Nichols? HoosierSoonerStateofMind on July 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

Akzed on July 18, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Sorry, I should read comments before I post!

Akzed on July 18, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Firehose territory here.

I wish we had a free press.

petunia on July 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

NDA’s are illegal and/or moot in this situation.

Just imagine, you shoot someone in the face, then point a gun at 2 witnesses who saw it – and force them to sign an NDA…

There aren’t trade secrets, proprietary information or anything close to an NDA that would hold up in a court of law against the tyranny of a government and it’s divisions.

All they need to do is get the names of people who signed one – and have them testify an NDA was forced upon them. Admitting you sign an NDA is sort of part of the whole disclosure and purpose of an NDA – not even the content within.

Odie1941 on July 18, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Congressman: State, Defense forced Benghazi survivors to sign non-disclosure agreements

Why bother? They could freely admit whatever and go on with business as usual. There are no repercussions-the LSM will spin, lie and obfuscate. Most Americans couldn’t care less and don’t even have the vaguest notion where Benghazi is in the first place.

Besides, there’s ball games to watch, beer to drink, pot to smoke, tattoos to design, sex partners to seduce-you know, all the important things in life, the things the average voter really cares about like the political surrogates are fond of saying.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM

What about Chris Stevens and Terry Nichols?…

HoosierStateofMind on July 18, 2013 at 1:41 PM

I wonder if Bob Woodward would be willing to interview Chris Stevens?

slickwillie2001 on July 18, 2013 at 2:54 PM

If the Obama administration found the Benghazi survivors to get them to sign an NDA, then Congress should be able to find them to get them to testify before Congress in either a public or private session.

wren on July 18, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Has no one ever considered that since this was a CIA base of operations, not an embassy, that perhaps what they were doing, why they can’t talk about it, who was involved, where they were involved, and when it all took place might, just MIGHT, be something that’s not exactly “open to the public” knowledge?

That PERHAPS, there’s more to this than people seem to want there to be?

And, that that is a much simpler, and much more believable answer than its all just a cover up for Obama killing a few officials?

Genuine on July 18, 2013 at 3:58 PM

The left denies all sins yet they are covering something that is very heavy. The stories that came out of this mess go on and on and at one time these stories were sworn to be the truth. I wish the military would arrest the whole administration but the corruption in the military is just as bad. Forget voting them out, they have taken care of that and there is no way we are able to fix this fraudulent voting.

mixplix on July 18, 2013 at 4:41 PM

The GOP is biding their time waiting for the midterm candidate lineup then they will spring all of Benghazi scandal out for all to see,right?

It’s very sad, but the GOP isn’t that shrewd nor that smart.

Hammie on July 18, 2013 at 5:47 PM