State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the accuracy of a story in the Los Angeles Times on secret depositions from Benghazi witnesses earlier this month Monday in a State Department press conference.
Psaki said she did not have a reaction to every line of the piece, but broadly characterized it as "accurate":
MATT LEE: So you're — can I just — on the — what you just said, are you confirming not just that these depositions happened but the — is the entire LA Times story accurate, to your mind?
JEN PSAKI: I did of course see the story. It is accurate that there was — that we did make a Diplomatic Security official who was present in Benghazi the night of –
LEE: I understand, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the rest of the story, the stuff that you didn't talk about, like the letters from the Justice Department and what they said. Would you say that those — that that accounting is an accurate reflection of what those letters said?
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PSAKI: The reporting — I understand the report is primarily accurate. I don't — I don't have a specific analysis of every sentence in it, but –
LEE: OK, but — well, is there anything that stood out as being blatantly wrong about it or –
LEE: There's — OK, so –
PSAKI: There was not.
The report alleged the Justice Department wrote three separate letters to the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) asking the congressman not to interview the witnesses for fear of compromising future prosecution of the Benghazi suspects.
However, given the Obama administration's continual stonewalling on Benghazi, Issa decided to go forward with the subpoenas of the two State Department security officers:
The interviews have not been released. But the Justice Department expressed concern that Issa might reveal some details from the interviews, or that defense lawyers could subpoena them if suspects are apprehended, according to the sources, who did not have permission to speak publicly, citing the ongoing investigation. 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," and would give defense lawyers a golden opportunity to review the depositions and impeach the agents if they testified as prosecution witnesses, the Justice Department warned in one of the letters, according to sources.
"For over a year, department prosecutors and FBI agents have been investigating the attack and preparing for prosecution," top Justice Department officials told Issa on Sept. 23, in the first of their letters. "They have made substantial progress despite the difficulties in obtaining evidence, locating witnesses, and other issues.… We believe that a successful prosecution here is vital to protecting our national security interests."
Issa, mounting his own congressional investigation, learned the agents' names in May, and in September began pushing for access to them. The agents are Alec Henderson, who was stationed in Benghazi, and John Martinec, then based in Tripoli.
The California congressman complained that the administration was not interested in the full story of what happened in Benghazi, and that an internal State Department review was "not fully independent." He is unhappy that four State Department officials, initially placed on paid leave, were reinstated.