WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Brad Podliska, a former Benghazi committee investigator, filed a federal lawsuit against the committee and its chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., on Monday for discrimination and defamation.
Podliska, an Air Force Reserve major, said the House Select Committee on Benghazi unlawfully terminated him because he wished to carry out his military obligations -- a right provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, the lawsuit says.
The suit accuses Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy of breaking the law by publicly defaming Podliska after he was fired. Gowdy said Podliska was fired partly for mishandling classified information.
Podliska's legal team argues Gowdy's claims of Podliska committing a "serious crime" have " ended the careers of many professionals in national security-related industries."
"In June 2015, Podliska was unlawfully fired by the Benghazi committee because he sought to exercise his rights under USERRA. This followed months of increasing hostility towards Podliska because he left work to fulfill his military obligations as a reservist," the lawsuit says. "As soon as Podliska announced that he intended to file a civil suit ... Chairman Gowdy and his Benghazi committee staffers responded by intentionally defaming Podliska, making numerous false allegations to multiple national news outlets."
The suit points to a press release and an interview with NBC News in which Gowdy said Podliska's criticism of the committee was a "lie" and that his work was "lousy."
"Chairman Gowdy, personally and through his agents, tied these defamatory statements to Podliska's firing to damage Podliska's reputation and his ability to seek or secure employment in his chosen field, depriving Podliska of his rights under the Constitution of the United States," the lawsuit says.
The Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012, at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya left four people dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Podliska's lawsuit brings more controversy to the House Benghazi Committee, which has come under fire by critics accusing Republican members on the committee of using it to damage the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The committee has questioned Clinton on her use of a private computer server and email account to conduct official State Department business at the time of the Benghazi attack.
The lawsuit alleges the committee went after Clinton specifically, alleging that in March the "Committee's investigation changed significantly to focus on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department, and deemphasize the other agencies that were involved in the Benghazi attack and the aftermath of the attack."
Podliska's lawsuit also alleges "questionable activities" occurred during committee meetings, including "alcohol-infused drinking sessions" called "Wine Wednesdays."