House investigators issued a subpoena for the State Department official who instructed the Libyan government to denounce the assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi as a terrorist attack, a claim U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice contradicted.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also subpoenaed three other State Department officials after making several interview requests in recent months.
“It does not require weeks of preparation to answer questions truthfully,” Issa wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. ”These delays also take us further in time away from the dates of the events in question.”
Of the subpoenaed officials, Acting Assistant Secretary of Near East Affairs Elizabeth Jones received the most attention during the hearing that featured the testimony of whistle-blowers.
The day after the September 11, 2012 attack, Jones wrote an email to several State Department officials stating that she had told the Libyan government that terrorists carried out the assault.
“I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements,” Jones wrote in the email, from which Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., read during May 8, 2013 hearing. “I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”
In keeping with those instructions, President Magarief of Libya told CBS’s Bob Schieffer that al-Qaeda affiliates had carried out the attack, adding this his government had “no doubt that this [was] preplanned, determined– predetermined.”
Moments later, on the same show, Schieffer asked Susan Rice if she agreed with Magarief’s statements.
“We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned,” she said, directly contradicting him, saying that the assault began as a “spontaneous” protest “sparked by that hateful video.”
Gregory Hicks — the top State Department official in Libya after the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of the people copied on Jones’ September 12 email — asked Jones why Rice had made that claim.
“Her reaction was ‘I don’t know,’ and it was very clear from the tone that I should not proceed with any further [questions],” Hicks said during a congressional hearing.
He then suggested that Jones’ ensuing criticism of his job performance, which led to his demotion to an insignificant job, came about because he confronted Jones about Rice.
“In hindsight, I think it began after I asked the question about Ambassador Rice’s statement on the TV shows,” Hicks said.
Issa emphasized in his letter that the subpoenaed officials had not personally been recalcitrant with his committee, faulting Kerry instead.
“By its very nature, a subpoena can carry the implication that the witness is being uncooperative,” he wrote. ”In this case, that is an unfortunate and misleading consequence since it is the Department, and not the individuals themselves, that appears to be dictating the timetable.”
Along with Jones, the House investigators subpoenaed: Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Diplomatic Security; Scott Bultrowicz, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service, Bureau of Diplomatic Security; and Elizabeth Dibble, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
“All four subpoenaed officials led bureaus where the Accountability Review Board found deficiencies contributing to a lack of security at the time of the attacks,” the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee stated in announcing the subpoenas.