The Obama administration's curiously meh Christmas Eve data dump on Benghazi

What’s better than a Friday afternoon document dump? The Holiday Eve Document Dump. It’s the Christmas gift that keeps on giving … to government officials that want a pretense at transparency while keeping too much notice falling on embarrassing revelations. The Obama administration used that option on Christmas Eve, but as reported by Politico’s Hanna Trudo, so much is redacted that it may not have made much difference anyway:

Thursday’s document dump, put out by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in compliance with a Freedom of Information request, includes correspondence sent from American intelligence officials in 2011 and 2012.

The emails — edited to conceal what is considered to be sensitive information — provide few new details about the lethal September 2012 terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Libya or American-born Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki.

In the first email, only two of 17 lines of text were not blacked out. Another email consists of the text “Attached it the final draft; we need comment/coordination by 1000, Friday (tomorrow) 19 October 2012,” followed completely by blacked-out text. Other emails consist of the text of news clippings from Reuters, the Washington Post and other organizations. …

Other memos grouped with the Thursday morning release include specific instructions from 2013 on how to implement existing protocol on protecting intelligence, as well as a schedule of a counterintelligence executive from 2015.

The Houston Chronicle wasn’t impressed, either:

“Acutely redacted” isn’t an overstatement. Practically the only items that aren’t redacted out of this are several media reports passed around the intel communities for “situational awareness” of the political landscape. The redactions are to keep classified information under wraps, according to the codes linked to the blacked-out text. The original messages were classified at the highest levels: TOP SECRET, NOFORN (no foreign dissemination), and designations for compartmentalization appear throughout the 16 pages of e-mails. The Awlaki memo was released separately and is lightly redacted, apparently only to protect the identity of an intelligence operative who worked on the review.

What doesn’t appear is anything new of significance about either the Benghazi attack, although there is a tantalizing reference to “an IC-coordinated summary of our assessment of the threat in advance … and our assessment post-attack” that is dated from October 22, 2012. That report went to “our oversight committees on the Hill” at the same time, and was classified TOP SECRET//HCS/SI-G/TK/ORCON/NOFORN. Interestingly, that message alone has a declassification code of “50X1-HUM,” which means that it bypasses the regular 25-year declassify date and is instead scheduled for default declassification in 2062. I’ll be 99 years old by that time, so maybe one of my younger Townhall colleagues will have to follow up on this lead.

Otherwise, we have a dump without much data. It seems like an odd opportunity to waste, but perhaps the FOIA release will turn out to be less responsive than required. It’s worth watching, even if it’s into our dotage.

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David Strom 2:31 PM on May 28, 2023