April 30th, 2013
07:48 PM ET

Benghazi 'whistleblowers' intimidated, lawyer says

By CNN's Elise Labott and Dana Bash

At least four State Department and CIA employees are being intimidated and blocked from cooperating with a congressional investigation into the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, according to an attorney for one of the officials.

The officials consider themselves whistleblowers and feel threatened with career damage if they decide to give testimony to Congress, according to Victoria Toensing, an attorney for one of the State Department officials.

The story was first reported by Fox News.

"If you are going to take away somebody's job or living then it's a threat," Toensing said.

She would not go into specifics about potential threats her client might have faced. But she said that "it's done in a more subtle way" where suggestions are made that plum assignments will not be available for those who might testify.

Under federal law, employees identified as "whistleblowers" are protected from repercussions by their employer for giving damaging testimony about a government agency to Congress or an inspector general, an independent investigator within an agency.

Toensing, a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, would not name her client or confirm whether they were on the ground the day of the September 11, 2012, attack on the diplomatic facility and CIA annex.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Toensing said her client had relevant information to share with Congress about the attack itself as well as the months leading up to it when requests for more security by Stevens and his staff were largely refused. She also said there was information about the administration's controversial characterization of the attack in the days following.

But Toensing said her client was unable to discuss classified information and key evidence in the case because she (Toensing) didn't have the appropriate security clearance.

"There is a clear obstruction to my client when my client cannot give me all the information because the State Department will not give a process for my being cleared," Toensing said. "What the State Department has to do is clear the lawyer for the information to come out. So even if my client is a witness they will only get half a story."

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said he was unaware of charges that State Department and CIA employees have been intimidated.

"I'm not familiar with this notion that anybody's been blocked from testifying," Obama said in a response to a question at a White House news conference.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Darrell Issa of California complained the State Department needed to establish a process by which attorneys could be provided necessary security clearances to review classified information.

"It is unavoidable that department employees identifying themselves as witnesses in the committee's investigation will apply for a security clearance to allow their personal attorneys to handle sensitive or classified material," the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said.

"The department's unwillingness to make the process for clearing an attorney more transparent appears to be an effort to interfere with the rights of employees to furnish information to Congress," he added.

The State Department said it was unaware of any employees who have requested security clearance for private attorneys in connection with the Benghazi matter, adding that department does in fact have a process in place for gaining such clearances.

"The State Department would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on any issue, including this one," deputy agency spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

Toensing said no employees have come forward asking for clearance for their lawyers because they are afraid of reprisals.

"I have to protect my client and I am not going to let my client go to people in the State Department and expose himself or herself without my being able to be with that person and if I am not cleared, I can't be with that person," she said. "So it's a chicken and egg thing."

When asked about the issue, Kerry told reporters, "there's been an enormous amount of misinformation out there."

Kerry vowed to cooperate with Congress, but added, "We have to demythologize this issue, and certainly depoliticize it."

The Obama administration continues to face criticism from Republicans over security lapses in Benghazi leading up to the attack. Its early account that it was the result of a spontaneous protest turned out to be wrong.

On Tuesday, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona reiterated their call for the Senate to establish a special committee to investigate the administration's handling of the attack.

"Revelations about witnesses being afraid to testify and military assets that could have been deployed in a timely fashion justify appointing a joint select committee," they said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Kerry suggested lawmakers were harping on the administration's response and that it was time to move on.

"Let's get this done with, folks," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in his first appearance before Congress since taking office. "I do not want to spend the next year coming up here talking about Benghazi."

Kerry maintained the administration has been more than forthcoming with Congress over Benghazi. Administration officials involved in the matter have testified eight times before Congress, briefed congressional leaders roughly 20 times and submitted about 25,000 pages of related documents.

"And that should be enough," Ventrell told reporters this week. "Congress has its own prerogatives, but we've had a very thorough, independent investigation, which we completed and [which was] transparent and shared. And there are many folks who are, in a political manner, trying to sort of use this for their own political means, or ends."

Filed under: Benghazi • Libya
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Stephen

    CNN is a joke. But unfortunately the majority of this country is too stupid to realize it

    May 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • Sara

      I listen to Fox News because I will get information on world news. I like to check with CNN for verification or for alternative information. So far CNN is busy with nonsense like a bear in a man's car or the Arias trial which is so overdone. If they do not cover the Benghazi story in full then perhaps they are no longer a news agency and just a celebrity news magazine. I am still trying to find news on the Boston bombers true terrorist status. How on earth did Homeland drop this ball or did they drop it on purpose? Will this be another cover up?

      May 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  2. BudW

    Benghazigate is about to blow up in the Presidents lap, clinton has some splaing to do along with the Prez.

    May 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  3. Skipper Sam

    Where were the whistle blowers, on the two invasions of Iraq ? And the invasion of Afghanistan ?

    May 2, 2013 at 8:32 am | Reply
    • Stephen

      Your an idiot. Please get your head out of the clouds before you and your liberal clan destroy the foundation of this country.

      May 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  4. Stellar17

    "At least four State Department and CIA employees are being intimidated and blocked from cooperating with a congressional investigation". Show us the proof! Or perhaps this attorney knows she doesn't have to, just sling enough mud and some of it will stick.

    May 2, 2013 at 8:03 am | Reply
  5. Anne Harris

    So, we can all look forward to their testimony & the truth about why Obama said "Stand Down"& "Do Nothing",, Unless of course they too end up on his endless "DEATH LIST" like hundreds (yes hundreds) of others who simply got in his way!

    May 2, 2013 at 5:17 am | Reply
    • Stellar17

      "Toensing said no employees have come forward asking for clearance for their lawyers because they are afraid of reprisals". So unlike Valerie Plame none of those wanting to testify have the courage of their convictions. If they go ahead and process a request for clearance for their lawyers through the proper channels, how can anyone fear reprisals after Toensing has spread this all over the news media? Surely they have nothing to fear from speaking up now?

      May 2, 2013 at 7:55 am | Reply
  6. GonzoinHouston

    If you think this is going to have any effect on Hillary's chances in 2016 you're dreaming. The only people who give a hoot about Benghazi any more are wingnuts and former birthers and the self-deluded fools that still believe the Iraq invasion was justified. You're preaching to the choir, and the congregation is tired of listening to it. Every time McCain or Graham repeat their calls for a major investigation they just drive a few more moderates and independents to the democrats. The GOP isn't going to win by attacking Hillary's reputation; you are going to lose because of your own. Enjoy hearing:
    "President Hillary Clinton"

    May 1, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  7. carljr

    I am not an American, I am not white and while I am not overly religious even though I believe in god. The Benghazi story was the real reason I started watching more of fox, it was the only place to get real news on the situation. It was the first time I could tell their were major problems in the media. I also cannot understand why they don't concern themselves with your countries biggest issue the debt. I have many friends in the USA and do believe they have to stand up for democracy in many parts of the world. I am not a conservative, I am not in the tea party but my points are obvious. 20 trillion debt will be a problem and then at one point real cuts to honest down and out people will come, that will cause massive protests, possibly even violence.

    May 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Reply
    • Stellar17

      "I also cannot understand why they don't concern themselves with your countries biggest issue the debt.". Its because the biggest issue for the Republicans is getting rid of President Obama and the Democrats from office. This is nothing new.

      May 2, 2013 at 7:58 am | Reply
      • pedro bundol

        Which should be the priority of every patriotic American. Obama had done a tremendous damage to this country by his incompetence and dithering. This is perhaps the laziest President this country ever had.

        May 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • pammy6444444

      Shame on the people who are making excuses for the Benghazi coverup by obama & his admin. CNN at least is reporting some of it now vs what the other media are doing. Fox truly is the place where you can find both sides, as they have Juan Williams, Alan Colmes and many more libs. It's time to expect more from obama in doing better for our country. Let's quit the drooling and admit he has a less than admirable record of leading America or anything for that matter.

      May 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  8. Mayowa

    First I want to say I am Nigerian from Africa a black women, our people
    sold you all over the world not just the US. You dont have one city in
    the world you built yourself. You will be the down fall of America. Why
    wont you work for your self. I know there are plenty of jobs.Look at all
    the foreigners that come here and work. Not you, let me get anything I
    can for free and sale drugs,thieve,rob,anything that is easy. Go to work
    or go back to your country and yell at your own family members that
    sold you in the first place. Do you have a number for your great grand
    father because my friends great grand father wants a refund. When the Hispanics come into power they dont feel obligated like the whites and this Will stop.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • pedro bundol

      I agree with you Mayowa. Liberals have been the bane of every strong society. They are like termites eating the foundation of a strong structure. But let me add something to your posting. People do not know that if Latinos ever come to power it is the black population that will be left out. They have to learn Spanish now .

      May 2, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  9. jboh

    Give it up TEA/GOP. There is nothing here but more TEA/GOP nonsense conspiracy theories. If you read the article, the "lawyer", a GOP operative, didn't say anyone was intimidated, only that HE fears it. As to national security "secrets", a certain waste of a perfectly good heart removed his house from Google Earth, and has a man sized safe.

    May 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Reply
    • chrisdj614

      Yeah. Nixon had fans too. In the beginning. No one died in Watergate.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Reply
      • jboh

        Just the rule of law.

        May 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  10. Story Girl

    I had to search for this story on CNN. I really think its time left and right stop their bashing and look at the real issue to attack. Amber Lyon multiple award winning journalist no longer with CNN due to their cover ups and how they are hired even by the Obama Admin. Everything is to be presented in a favorable light! She is what many right would call left but is now asking other journalists to stop selling out and stand up and speak the truth of whats happening. She is underground now trying to get her story past the blockades of the mainstream fraudulent news agencies. I may lean left but I am thankful there are people out there uncovering this!!

    May 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • Story Girl

      I also would like to add if we stop covering up for what we deem "Our side" and start wanting "Truth" no matter what side of the coin things might change. We need to hold these news agencies to the fire. The ones speaking truth are in a war to be silenced. It is supposed to be about truth no matter who, what , when, or where. This Pres or any other, Dem or Rep. We have gotten so bad because of this propaganda mindset that the other side is total embodiment of evil. We are now a nation of I don't want to "see no evil, speak no evil, touch no evil if it happens to be our political choice. It is so wrong!! Its like saying I have no use for a father because I like my mother's attributes better?? Yet as we grow we learn the need for both so we don't run into a ditch of error in our belief system. I wrote this with a flu or virus so excuse any errors!

      May 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
      • Tod

        Kyrsten Powers (also on the left) has been sounding the same alarm. It is bad enough when when the main stream media slants a story, or over-reports a story they like, but the ocross-the-board omissions are the most disturbing. Neither side should be afraid of the truth!

        May 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • pedro bundol

      It is sad to watch a prestigious cable network like CNN trailing even that garbage MSNBC. CNN should just stick to fair reporting and stop being the Democrat`s and liberal propaganda arm. Stop kissing Dear Leader Obama`s behind and be the strong and fair news outlet you used to be. Remembered too well when Ted Turner promised to squash Fox News like a bug. Guess who is like a squashed fly now.

      May 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  11. Jbawild1

    Hey CNN, why is this not headline news? 4 Americans killed and then a political cover up and the press was lied to, you were lied to. Also, what about Fast and Furious? Not only was an American killed but how many Mexican citizens so you think have been killed by the guns that the obama administration let cross the border. Where is your outrage? Where is your desire to find the truth and facts? This is why your ratings are on the floor, you promote an evil liberal agenda, start being honest and find the truth

    May 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • pammy6444444

      jba, I, too, would like more forthcoming and honest reporting from CNN. We need the truth, at all levels, and we are not receiving it.

      May 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  12. massoud

    I wonder if this horse faced reporter likes carrots or mints. This lil' establishment mouthpiece hounded the Great Ron Paul during the Republican primaries, she like many others in the corporate controlled mainstream media who shill for the establishment are a disgrace to journalism.

    May 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  13. Southern Lady

    Why are you not covering this, the fraudulent elections, the Gosnell trial, obama's sealed records, and other important issues instead of the frivolous nonsense you favor? A real reporter, a true journalist, a genuine truth seeker would be all oven these issues instead of such useless babble that you favor today. Do you not have at least one person of integrity that will be allowed to seek and truthfully report what is happening in our much beleaguered nation? There are still plenty of the liberal stooges on staff to cover for the current administration, gush over the singer's outfits, distort information to their hearts' content.

    May 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Reply
    • jboh

      Funny that you can spew the usual TEA trash about an article that isn't here.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  14. George Winston III

    Should be OBVIOUS, first it was covered up so that the president could be re-elected, and now it continues to be covered up so that Hillary can be president. Disgusting.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:40 am | Reply
    • jboh

      TEA pushing this nonissue as political strategy is disgusting. Issa's involvement is proof enough that there is no story here.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Reply
      • Flibbida

        What exactly are you putting in your kool-aid. . . or are you really that blind or stupid?

        May 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  15. Jim

    obama has put his political position again above the American People. He stonewalled the investigation into the 'Fast & Furious' criminal case. He stopped the FBI from questioning the Boston Bomber, and how this. It is sad America has put such a coward into the White House.

    May 1, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • Duane Allen

      But at least they let right-wing idiots run off at the mouth!

      May 1, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • jboh

      Quit getting your "info" from pill-popping drug smugglers w/radio shows, clusterFOX, and TEA bloggers. You might learn facts if you follow REAL sources of news instead of paid Koch stooges.

      May 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Reply
      • Flibbida

        What a troll. . . or someone without enough intelligence to handle the truth

        May 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm |


    May 1, 2013 at 11:03 am | Reply
    • Jose

      The obamie regime is lying, spinning, and covering up. They will not allow the truth out about Bengazhi. obami made a decision not to send US air-power and troops because of the election. obami would rather cover this up, then lose the initiative of after pictures of dead muslims and Al-queda attackers are spread worldwide.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
      • Pete

        @Jose,go back to the Reagan era and 300 killed in embassy,marine barricks attacked by terrorists and nobody prosecuted.Bush with wars created by lies murdering over 5000 innocent military personnel and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and what was done to Bush,Cheney nothing..Forget it pal,she's retired and you're not impeaching Pres.Obama on this alone,it won't work and if Hillary runs your partys toast anyway just face it !!

        May 1, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • jboh

      Funny how you can spew TEA trash about an article that was never published. You make yourself look like a foolish clown.

      May 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
      • Flibbida

        Same old blah blah blah. . . . quit commenting if you cant comment like the rest of us grownups. Its obvious you are afraid of doing any investigating in order to find out the truth. . . go hide your head in the sand troll

        May 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  17. Hahahahahahahha

    The only thing "blown" was a general's d_ck! Get over it. Hahahahahahahah

    May 1, 2013 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • Jbawild1

      Get over it????? 4 Americans were killed and it was covered up for obama and clinton's political gain. On top of the fast & furious cover up that killed an American Border Patrol agent and countless Mexican citizens. There is no getting over it until obama and clinton get prosecuted

      May 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Reply
      • Hahahahahahahha

        When are Bush and Cheney going to get prosecuted? Hahahahahhahaaha

        May 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • Pete

        @jbawild1,you're delushional like Jose thinking prosecution for Hillary,Pres.Obama, won't happen!!Just read my post of your maniacal expresidents and the deaths more than Benghazi on their watches and nothing done..Clean up your own partys past mistakes costing innocent lives before condemning others.Typical uninformed,ignorent republicans the plague that keeps on giving !!

        May 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
      • Stellar17

        And thousands were killed on 9/11 so when will Bush/Cheney be prosecuted?

        May 2, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  18. wideawake

    This Lawyer is what is wrong with America , Blame and insinuation as a lawyer she could not even give a straight answer about something she is claiming !! Rules are rules and why should rules be relaxed for some tinpot lawyer? In my opinion she is almost politicing this ! The CNN reporter herself was seemed to be almost agreeing with her every word!
    Come on CNN your standards are rapidly falling , please demand better journalism !

    May 1, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
    • chris

      Actually CNN's ratings have gone through the floor because they have been one of the many lapdog media sources that never question this incompetent, crooked White House. As much as Obama worhsipers will hate it, this is story that is about to blow.

      May 1, 2013 at 8:12 am | Reply
      • sherman

        I have been refraining from reading or seeing the details until it lands in congress because there is a sufficient lack of detail to suggest that it would be a waste of time before it all comes out. – is that going to be soon? or at all now?

        May 1, 2013 at 10:22 am |
      • massoud

        Dana Bash hounded the only politician in the District of Corruption with principles and conviction Congressman Ron Paul during the Republican Primaries, she is an establishment pig who has the face of a horse.

        May 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
  19. CNeder

    CNN is shameless.

    May 1, 2013 at 6:28 am | Reply
    • CNN demise

      "The story was first reported by Fox News."

      Funny how CNN makes an extraordinary effort to disclose that Fox News is ahead of them on reporting the news of the Benghazi cover-up and witness reprisals. Just like the viewer ratings: Fox News wins; CNN loses consistently..

      May 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  20. Jim

    CNN doesn't think this warrants front page coverage as a major headline? Have to search to even find it? Yet some lousy basketball player claiming he's confused and likes male parts better than female is major news for them! Absolutely pathetic. The Enquirer is looking like a much better true journalistic site than this rag has become. Is everyone at CNN gay? I just can't figure it out...

    May 1, 2013 at 6:27 am | Reply
  21. conchytonker

    Add this to the list of things Obama is unaware of......
    kal....to get the news...you have to go to foxnews.com, this story is at the top of page one.

    May 1, 2013 at 6:26 am | Reply
    • wideawake

      Obama does not know was a sarcastic retort to a stupid question !
      All of these so called events are by faceless people who in my opinion are planted or are GOP sympathisers who would do anything to defame and disgrace Obama ! But I got news for you , all this is doing is to show to the world how backward and inward looking Americans really are , by doing whatever it is to damage their president regardles of the long term damage the the country itself ! So carry on watching and quoting Fox , It was created for people just like you!!!

      May 1, 2013 at 7:44 am | Reply
      • chris

        You know a lot for someone who knows so little.

        May 1, 2013 at 8:13 am |
      • sher69

        planted GOP sympathizers seriously? You are a sick one

        May 1, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • eartohear

        I'm sure the four dead guys are GOP plants too. Someone should demonize them and then blame Bush.

        May 1, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  22. wjm

    Okay so if your a whistleblower the law of the land says you can't be punished, these people know this. Next he or she or they said that they wouldn't get plum assignments. Okay so this is a national security issue, if its of such importance, why is there this cloak and dagger stuff. If it were in the best interest of the country, then your personal job security shouldn't even be an issue. What a load of crap, let's see a republican lawyer is stating these on behalf of maybe a person, who might have something to say about Benghazi. He, she or they might have been on the ground, might? This is just a load of crap, but I know these people will be able to talk during the next election campaign. Somebody is blowing smoke up someone elses butt. This is a Fox story, and it took one knucklehead here research to find the story, yet I just click on the blog site and find it right there. No wonder people doubt the republicans version of events, story tellers, telling stories, fiction. Oh yeah and the republicans just found this story, meanwhile a multi million dollar investigation knows nothing about this, wholly crap. If the amount of time and money went into investigating the war with Iraq, Cheney and Bush would already be in jail.

    May 1, 2013 at 3:28 am | Reply
    • eartohear

      Hmmm... Maybe you didn't actually read the whole story..

      "I have to protect my client and I am not going to let my client go to people in the State Department and expose himself or herself without my being able to be with that person and if I am not cleared, I can't be with that person," she said. "So it's a chicken and egg thing."

      So a whistle blower has to go to their boss to follow the "process in place for gaining such clearances." without their lawyer because they're lawyer has no clearence to discuss such information... and of course they would need to disclose the information they were going to discuss with their lawyer so the decision could be made as to whether clearence would be granted.

      Sounds like the perfect "Catch 22" to me.

      May 1, 2013 at 10:33 am | Reply
  23. USMC1371

    Hahaha their goes Hillary's run at the Whitehouse

    May 1, 2013 at 3:08 am | Reply
    • Pete

      @marine1371,you forget bud people have short memories,remember Sanford he's running again isn't he or are republicans just let off easier because its more previlent in their party that's all in political corruption and infidelity,you tell me..Ask Reagan and Bush who got away with a hell of a lot worse than anything Hillary or anything involving democrates..Quit being so sanctumonious because even bible toters fall off their wagons some time!!

      May 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  24. Thomas

    Because the "Gay in the NBA" section is taking up so much space. People's careers are being illegally threatened and CNN is licking the boots of this administration by not covering it. "Journalistic Inegrity" my behind.

    April 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Reply
  25. Kdrtyui Fdftuk

    Maybe they would benifit more from a regular treatment of medical mara-jew-wanna...DONT DO IT THOUGH (SMOKE IT) THE GOV. WILL USE IT AS A EXCUSE TO JAIL THEM (thanks for nothing DHS). Hey...has anyone written a song about PUTIN yet?

    April 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  26. Kdrtyui Fdftuk


    April 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • Duane Allen

      And afraid of their own shadow too! If they were truly patriotic they would come forward and wouldn't hide behind an attorney or be worried about their jobs.

      May 1, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  27. Nick Brennan

    I love the fact that CNN has this story buried all the way down on the right hand side of the page.


    April 30, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      WhiteHouse Gangnam Style

      May 1, 2013 at 5:43 am | Reply
  28. kal

    Why is this not front page story on Cnn.com???? Why do I have to search the site to find it

    April 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Reply
    • CNN Lies

      Get real KAL, it's CNN after all! What made you log on to CNN expecting to find the truth...... Hell, you might as well be looking at MSNBC.

      May 1, 2013 at 5:29 am | Reply
      • conchytonker

        Add this to the list of things Obama is unaware of......

        May 1, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Duane Allen

      It was on the front page... all you have to do is put your eyes on!

      May 1, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply

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