(WASHINGTON) — Following President Obama’s comments about the allegations that the administration is impeding survivors of the 9/11 Benghazi attack to talk to Congress and share their stories, Secretary Kerry Tuesday addressed the issue to reporters following his bilateral meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister.
Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the premeditated terror attack the administration initially blamed on the negative response to a YouTube video.
Saying that, “There’s an enormous amount of misinformation out there” about Benghazi, Kerry referenced his testimony before the House two weeks ago when he clearly stated that he wanted lingering questions about the attack cleared up so that the State Department and Congress could begin to focus on other issues. During his testimony, he promised to assign someone from his staff specifically to work with Congress and answer all of the members questions.
Kerry confirmed Tuesday that he has done that, tasking his chief of staff, David Wade, with working “openly and accountably” to answer any Benghazi questions. But he also expressed some exasperation about the politics of the continued debate.
“We have to demythologize this issue and certainly depoliticize it,” said Kerry. “The American people deserve answers. I’m determined that this will be an accountable and open State Department as it has been in the past, and we will continue to do that, and we will provide answers.”
At the State Department briefing Tuesday, Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell went further, denying the allegations that GOP House Members have made that the State Department is trying to stop whistleblowers in the department from talking.
“Let me be very clear: The State Department is deeply committed to meeting its obligation to protect employees, and the State Department would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on any issue, including this one. That’s an obligation we take very seriously, full stop,” said Ventrell. “The department regularly sends notices, as we do to our entire staff, to employees advising of their right to federal whistleblower protections.”
Ventrell said the State Department sent a “routine” update just last week advising department staff of their whistleblower protections.
He also flatly denied reports in The Washington Times and elsewhere that State Department employees who were survivors of the attack have requested security clearance for private attorneys because the administration is trying to block them from talking to Congress or the public.
“People have been threatened and not just at the State Department,” former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing recently told Fox News. “People have been threatened at the CIA.” Toensing is reportedly representing one of the State Department officials who survived the attack.
“We’re not aware of any employees who have requested clearance for private attorneys, security clearances for private attorneys in connection with Benghazi,” said Ventrell. “In the event of such requests, the department has a security clearance process in place under which clearances can be provided to private attorneys who are representing individual employees of this building.”
A report representing input from five House committees recently concluded then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department was responsible for security failures that led to the attack, and the Obama administration downplayed the Al-Qaeda link to it afterward, choosing instead to blame a YouTube video that in reality had nothing to do with the massacre.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Eliott C. McLaughlin, Holly Yan and Euan McKirdy, CNN Newswire
Steve Visser and Masoud Popalzai, CNN