Benghazi witnesses quizzed in secret House committee hearing

Oct. 28, 2013 at 2:06 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A U.S. House panel took testimony despite the chairman being told it could hurt prosecuting the U.S. Consulate in Libya terrorists, the Los Angeles Times said.

Weeks before the interviews, Justice Department officials warned Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., against subpoenaing the two agents, saying it would jeopardize any criminal prosecution of the terrorists in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which four people, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.

The Times reported Monday Justice officials wrote three times to Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging him not to push to interview State Department security agents, identified as Alec Henderson, who was stationed in Benghazi, and John Martinec, based in Tripoli when the attack occurred.

While the interviews haven't been released, the Justice Department voiced concern Issa might reveal some of the interviews' details or defense lawyers could subpoena them if suspects are apprehended, sources told the Times.

At least one person has been named in a sealed indictment in the Benghazi attacks.

The interviews "would prematurely alert individuals who may be charged about details of the government's case against them," the Justice Department warned in one of the letters, one source told the Times on condition of anonymity.

"For over a year, department prosecutors and FBI agents have been investigating the attack and preparing for prosecution," Justice Department officials told Issa in the first of three letters, dated Sept. 23. "They have made substantial progress despite the difficulties in obtaining evidence, locating witnesses, and other issues."

Issa has complained the administration didn't want the full story of what happened in Benghazi and the State Department review was "not fully independent."

He also is unhappy over the reinstatement of four State Department officials who were initially placed on paid leave.

The Times said Issa initially gave the Justice Department until Sept. 24 to comply with his request or he would issue subpoenas.

However, Sept. 18, six days before that deadline, he announced he signed and issued subpoenas for Henderson and Martinec.

"We finally have reached the end of our rope," Issa said at a congressional hearing as he announced his decision.

"We want to make certain that our government learns the proper lessons from this tragedy so it never happens again, and so that the right people are held accountable," Issa said in explaining why he didn't wait until Sept. 24.

On Oct. 8, Henderson was interviewed for eight hours. Martinec was interviewed for five hours on Oct. 10. The Times said prosecutors or FBI agents weren't allowed inside, but the witnesses were accompanied by their attorneys. Democratic committee staff also was permitted to sit in.

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