Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday Document Dump Dumps On Some Unintended Libyan Victims

beep ... beep ... beep

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.

-- snip --

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 politics representational democracy. The voters are the ultimate decision-makers, and they need a reasonably free flow of information. It was a fair hit. Releasing damaging information is the most bipartisan activity in Washington.

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.  


Anonymous said... Good reporting TSB! I like the dump because it's the only way to show voters the desperate situation the Benghazi state people were in as it developed for over a year. Hopefully some elected heads will roll and the good bureaucrats won't. gwb

TSB said...

GWB: The documents don't show the global resource decisions that managers have to make, so they tend to reinforce the idea that if the embassy asked for anything and didn't get it, then the Department was negligent.

From the Washington perspective, anything you give Tripoli is something you can't give Pakistan or Afghanistan or the other 270 places that have needs. Most people probably assume U.S. government resources are unlimited, but they really do have limits.

Mark Main said...

Any organization that pays the idiot (and political payback) Alec J Ross half a million dollars to take taxpayer-funded luxury vacations whenever/wherever he pleases is an organization that needs to be under a lot more scrutiny. At a bare minimum, they clearly had the resources but opted to pay out the political kickbacks of the O administration instead. The state dept is broken and Alec J Ross was its first broken window.

And per Issa, the O administration had 2.2 billion dollars it could have used to fulfill security requests. What is this that he talks of and do you believe him?

Just out of curiousity, could you take a guess at how much a single overseas luxury vacation/"talk" that Alec J Ross takes costs? I would guess 10k each.

TSB said...


Hi! I'm always happy to meet another fan of Alec Ross. I assume Alec needs to do so much travel because he's been holding down the entire Twitter-revolution portfolio by himself since his buddy @jaredcohen moved on to Google. Ross was in Pakistan a week or so ago, which I will grant is not a vacation spot. However, I urge you to write to your Congressman and ask why Hillary needs an "innovation guru" in the first place. If he knows why, please tell me.

Based on my own experience with travel, I would think $10,000 is maybe $2K too high for a week-to-ten-day trip. That's assuming Alec doesn't go business class, which he just might be able to finagle. If so, then it's $6K to $8K for the ticket alone.

What I want to know is, why doesn't he have an app for doing his thing online instead of in person? Isn't he the "twitterversation" guy?

Regarding the funds available for security requests, I'm guessing Issa was referring to the Worldwide Security Protection budget. That is $1.3 billion for 2012. The Heritage Foundation had a good item on this:

They have a nice chart which substantiates a popular talking point that says the security budget 'is twice as large as it was ten years ago.' That's true; it is indeed twice as large as it was before we had Iraq and Afghanistan to deal with. But if you look at recent years, you'll see that the 2012 appropriation was smaller in all categories than it was in 2011, and the 2011 appropriation was smaller in all categories than in 2010. So, the funds available for worldwide security programs are shrinking.

If you dig down into what resources the embassy and RSO in Tripoli requested but didn't get, it was mostly more personnel. And specifically, personnel who were permanent party rather than TDY-ers. (There were usually as many agents on the ground as the RSO wanted, but not all of them were long-term assignees.) That is the kind of resource that can't be developed overnight. As best I can tell, new DS agent hiring was reduced by 300 slots in the budget cuts of the last few years.

Without new hiring, every agent you send to Place A has to come out of B or C.

Anonymous said...

You can't "leak" documents to Congress. You can "whistleblow" documents to Congress. No treason here.

Everyone knew that the corrupt Clintons and Chicago crowd would not release anything that hurt either camp.

The whistleblower is a hero. The Libyans who are under threat are another victim of Chicago pols and the Clintons. Neither of which ever cared for innocent victims. Just ask any of the women that Billyjeff Bentpecker raped or the hundreds of dead brown people in Mexico killed by the first black president.

Anonymous said...

And another "oops" for the Chicago crowd and all those supersmart FSOs like Charlene Lamb: DOS outed some of the cooperating Libyans.

How do you know an FSO is lying? Their lips are moving.

State Department bureaucrats long ago surrendered to partisanship and joined the Demoncrat Party. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak.

Mark Main said...

Thank you very much for the information! Very good stuff!

As for writing to my congress person, I will hold off on that unless Obama wins...I hold a theory that the State Dept is the laundering-scheme of political paybacks and that Alec, being in charge of the shady credit card ""verification"" aspect of Obama online campaign contributions, earns himself 180k a year and free luxury vacations to yammer about che guervara being a 21st century network or something.

I honestly don't know how much time Alec J Ross spent in pakistan but I like to give myself the impression that seal team 6 spent more time in there than Alec did. Seriously though, I do have to give him credit for flying somewhere and sitting for an hour in a highly secured embassy to type highly incoherent stuff in twitter.

My favorite one I've seen retweeted several times: "You can't become an American ambassador today without being trained by me". What a doozy of an ego! I understand this tweet has inspired an emergency re-writing session of the DSM, they are re-adding Ross's narcissism as a psychosis...

TSB said...


Charlene isn't an FSO, she's a Foreign Service Specialist (big difference, to FSOs, at least). She was a police officer before becoming a DS agent.

TSB said...


I like that! Ross could define the category of narcissistic personality disorder.

Anonymous said...


"Billing records? What billing records? .........Oh! Here they are!" Hillary may not be a great politician but she wrote the book on lying. You always keep a lid on the truth when it could hurt you politically until it can't hurt you politically because then nobody cares! (Certainly not Bob Schieffer!) gwb

TSB said...

GWB: I don't think those e-mails came out with her approval. Hundreds of people would have had them. But, the release doesn't do the Clintons any harm, as far as his and her personal political futures go.

Anonymous said...

TSB: I've been reading R Fisk's book 'Pity The Nation' about Isreal's attempt to wipe out the PLO in Lebanon. So far I got to the point they blow up US embassy and he sees finding his wife outside the rubble. It's amazing how different "real" reporting makes the story. F-16's and artillery leveling apartment buildings for months while claiming
only 400 civilian deaths, all others "terrorists" was the prototype for our endless "war on terror". Maybe if we had gotten the story straight back then we wouldn't have fallen for this "conquer the world" idea quite so easily. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: It was Ryan Crocker and his wife. The whole story is marked by the civilians of Beirut not being able to believe that the Isrealis actually want to destroy their city, cut off the electricity and water and (maybe) kill them all. Feels just like Nazi europe. gwb

TSB said...

I can't feel pity for everyone in Lebabnon at that time. The PLO destabilized the place and did their best to destroy it by making it a battlefield. The whole Muslim-Christian civil war was largely caused by the
PLO's presence.

The PLO was there in the first place because Jordan drove them out (Black September 1970) after they created a Fatah-land enclave that threatened to destroy that country. The world would have been better off if the Israelis had finished the PLO after they had them bottled up in Beirut in 1982.

I don't know if Fisk mentions it, but an Israeli general was court-martialed for refusing to conduct an attack because it would have caused excessive civilian casualties in Beirut.

FYI, I have a co-worker who was a survivor of the Beirut embassy bombing. He and Crocker really share a bond.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true that PLO moved in and destabilized Lebanon, a place with no government that could protect them after a long civil war. (sort of reminds you of the current AfPak). And now 30 yrs later we have the House of Assad going through the same kind of death throes. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Fisk says that the CIA contingent had just arrived and was holding their 1st meetings in the front-center of the building when the bomb went off... killing 14 out of 17? of them. This probably made intelligence hard to come by for quite a while. gwb

Anonymous said...
TSB: Now we know who was protecting the CIA guys in Benghazi. "Seal Team 2"

And if they get into trouble they just call headquarters and get transferred to Leon Panetta. It looks like nobody really knows who protects the CIA guys because they are working inside STATE who is pretending they aren't really there?

TSB said...

GWB: I'm waiting to see on the 'CIA told to stand down' story, since there have been official denials today. Documents might be coming this weekend, or at least named sources.

The Beirut bombing devastated the intelligence community's center of expertise on the Middel East right when it was needed most. See the novel "Agents of Inncence" for a fictionalized treatment based on one of the CIA victims of the bombing, Robert Ames.

Anonymous said...

Thanks TSB! Fox News, Issa and the whistleblowers are making Benghazi a big deal. I think Obama will be hiding from the boo birds for the next 10 days.

TSB said...

GWB: It could get interesting, but the mainstream media is going to ignore the new Benghazi story as best they can this last week before the election.

Anonymous said...

TSB: I got to the best scenes: Where T.Anderson and Fisk go running off to the airport scenes of French and American troop devastation, then are 1st to visit the leader of Hezbollah. He is extremely candid with them and when they leave his security asks only for Anderson's passport which they copy and return to him. Talk about precision warfare! Did you know the US security guards weren't allowed to have loaded weapons when that 4000 lb truck bomb rolled through to blow up the Marines? Off today to find some Ignatius fiction at the library! gwb

TSB said...

Poor Anderson - five years a hostage! My only trip to Beirut was in 1997, when it was peaceful. Our bodyguard detail gave me a tour of the city hitting all the old hotspots, like the former U.S. embassy location and the sports stadium where the PLO had its last stand (before we evacuated them).

Things looked hopeful then, but it seems the place just can't get a break.