A key figure in the State Department’s Benghazi attack response team has become the central target in an email probe launched by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.).
Issa on Thursday demanded that Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s former spokeswoman and current nominee to be assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, hand over every email she sent between Sept. 11, 2012 and Sept. 16, 2012.
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Nuland played a key role in crafting the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi, Libya attacks that killed four Americans. Congressional critics such as Issa believe that Nuland helped the White House obfuscate the true nature of the terrorist attacks in the days after it occurred.
While Nuland has released some emails sent during this period of time, Issa is demanding that she provide unredacted emails sent from both her official and private accounts.
"Include any e-mails related to officials business that were sent or received using a non-governmental account," Issa wrote to Nuland on Thursday. "Please produce unredacted versions of those communications as soon as possible, but by no later than noon on Aug. 15, 2013."
Issa is hoping to learn "why State Department leadership was concerned by the original talking points drafted following the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi," according to a statement released by his committee.
It came to light earlier this year that Nuland and others had expressed concern about the administration’s public talking points and had urged the White House to remove references to al Qaeda and terrorism.
Former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on television in the days following the attacks and inaccurately referred to them as a "spontaneous" event, despite evidence the attacks had been pre-planned.
Issa maintains that the State Department "continues to refuse to make the documents available that would clarify what aspects of the talking points your bosses were concerned about."
"The documents produced in response to the subpoena were most notable for what they did not include—there was not a single e-mail from a senior Department official expressing any view about the talking points," except for Nuland and two others.
Issa demands answers to what he says are two key questions that could shine greater light on the ongoing controversy surrounding the attacks.
"What were State Department leadership’s concerns about the early drafts of the talking points?" Issa said.
Secondly, "Who shared those concerns?" he said.
"Unfortunately," Issa adds in his letter to Nuland, "the State Department has withheld the documents and communications that are most likely to answer these questions."
The Obama administration continues to maintain that the Benghazi attacks have become a partisan issue, dubbing it a "phony" scandal.