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It's usually the White House that does Friday late afternoon document dumps. But this time it was the House Oversight Committee, and it released leaked State Department cables and documents concerning the security environment in Libya. And, while the motive for a Friday document dump is usually to minimize press attention to embarrassing information, I assume the Committee wanted those documents to get all the press attention they possibly can before Monday's Presidential debate.
That's fair. This is politics (and I don't mean that in a derogatory way; all elected officials make all their decisions for political reasons, which is how representational democracy is supposed to work).
However, this document dump splattered on some innocent victims in Libya. From Foreign Policy's The Cable:
[House Oversight Committee Chairman] Issa posted 166 pages of sensitive but unclassified State Department communications related to Libya on the committee's website afternoon as part of his effort to investigate security failures and expose contradictions in the administration's statements regarding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
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But Issa didn't bother to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables, and just as with the WikiLeaks dump of State Department cables last year, the administration says that Issa has done damage to U.S. efforts to work with those Libyans and exposed them to physical danger from the very groups that had an interest in attacking the U.S. consulate.
"Much like WikiLeaks, when you dump a bunch of documents into the ether, there are a lot of unintended consequences," an administration official told The Cable Friday afternoon. "This does damage to the individuals because they are named, danger to security cooperation because these are militias and groups that we work with and that is now well known, and danger to the investigation, because these people could help us down the road."
-- snip --
"It betrays the trust of people we are trying to maintain contact with on a regular basis, including security officials inside militias and civil society people as well," another administration official told The Cable. "It's a serious betrayal of trust for us and it hurts our ability to maintain these contacts going forward. It has the potential to physically endanger these people. They didn't sign up for that. Neither did we."
-- snip --
The Cable pointed out that even WikiLeaks had approached the State Department and offered to negotiate retractions of sensitive information before releasing their cables. Hill confirmed that Issa did not grant the State Department that opportunity but said it was the State Department's fault for not releasing the documents when they were first requested.
Whoever took it upon himself to leak those documents to the Committee in the first place was in the wrong, but that's another matter. Presumably, whoever it was didn't believe that the Administration would be fully responsive to the Oversight Committee's request for documents about the State Department's deliberations over the correct level of security in Benghazi. Who would believe that, given the election year timing and the Administration's stonewalling on the Fast and Furious investigation? So, the leaker is either a whistle-blower or a traitor, depending upon your partisan leaning.
I don't fault the Committee for releasing the documents when they did. Like I said, that's
But the Committee was reckless and irresponsible. They backed the dumpster up and tilted all that Sensitive But Unclassified info all over the street without first asking the Department to redact anything damaging. (I mean, damaging to anyone other than the intended political target.) There was no good reason not to give the Department a day to do some redacting. Apparently, the Committee leadership just didn't think about that before they acted.
I guess that why it's called the oversight committee.