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

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.