Posted on

Federal Court Orders State Department to Conduct a Search of Benghazi Emails of Hillary Clinton’s Closest Advisors


AUGUST 10, 2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC in what can only be considered a major victory for Judicial Watch, Thursday they announced that on August 8, 2017, D.C. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the State Department “to search the e-mail accounts of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Jacob Sullivan,” former aides of Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State. The State Department is ordered to search in those accounts “for records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] March 4, 2015, FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request.” (A separate Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit first broke open the Clinton email scandal.)

Judge Mehta described Judicial Watch’s Clinton Benghazi FOIA lawsuit as “a far cry from a typical FOIA case. Secretary Clinton used a private e-mail server, located in her home, to transmit and receive work-related communications during her tenure as Secretary of State.” Further:

[I]f an e-mail did not involve any user, the message would have passed through only the Secretary’s private server and, therefore, would be beyond the immediate reach of State. Because of this circumstance, unlike the ordinary case, State could not look solely to its own records systems to adequately respond to [Judicial Watch’s] demand.


[The State Department] has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the e-mail server. If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.


State has offered no assurance that the three record compilations it received [from Secretary Clinton and her aides], taken together, constitute the entirety of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails during the time period relevant to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request. Absent such assurance, the court is unconvinced “beyond material doubt” that a search of the accounts of Abedin, Mills and Sullivan is “unlikely to produce any marginal return.”


Accordingly, the court finds that State has not met its burden of establishing it performed an adequate search in response to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of the e-mail accounts of Abedin, Mills, and Sullivan.

“This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal – and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it – as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is remarkable that we had to battle both the Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall. Why are Secretary Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions wasting taxpayer dollars protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration?”

Judicial Watch asked a federal court to compel the Trump State Department to undertake a thorough search of all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the terrorist attack on Benghazi, including those of Clinton’s closest advisors. Judicial Watch also specifically asked the court to compel the agency to produce all records of communications between Clinton and top aide Jake Sullivan relating to Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Sunday following the 2012 Benghazi massacre.

The State Department has until September 22, 2017, to update the court on the status of the supplemental search and production of additional emails to Judicial Watch.

On May 6, 2015, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit when the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015, FOIA request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00692)), seeking:

All emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton relating to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The timeframe for this request is September 11, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

Posted on

The battle to get WH Benghazi emails


The battle to get WH Benghazi emails

By Kristina Wong – 05/03/14 09:43 AM EDT

It took 18 months for Judicial Watch to unearth the emails on Benghazi that led Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday to say he’s forming a special committee to look into the issue.

“This material was not voluntarily disclosed,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told The Hill during a phone interview.

The emails have given new life to Republican attacks on Benghazi. They include a key email from White House official Ben Rhodes outlining “goals” for the talk-show appearances of Susan Rice, who was serving as ambassador to the United Nations at the time.

After the emails, Rice appeared on television and linked the attack in Benghazi to protests of an anti-Islamic video that were occurring in the Middle East.

Rhodes said Rice should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Judicial Watch made its request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. It requested talking points and any related communications about the attack that were given to Rice.

The group made that request on Oct. 18, 2012, a little more than a month after the terrorist attacked killed four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The State Department acknowledged receipt of the request about a week later, but eight months after that Judicial Watch had not heard whether State would comply with the request, according to court documents.  

That led Judicial Watch to sue State on June 21, 2013, for unlawfully withholding information. A district court then ordered the State Department to turn over 41 documents, which were released to the group on April 18, 2014.

Under FOIA, the government is required to release existing documents unless they are exempt under any of nine major categories that protects things like confidential commercial information or personal identification information, said Ginger McCall, director of the Open Government Program at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

McCall said that if an agency is forced to release information via court order, “it basically means that agency shouldn’t have been withholding the information from the beginning.”

McCall said that most FOIA requesters don’t sue, due to lack of resources, and that “often times the agency, knowing that, will take advantage of that.”

Fitton, the Judicial Watch leaders, charges that State’s refusal to hand over the documents to Congress earlier could be an obstruction of congressional investigations.

Such arguments led Boehner to say Friday he would form a special committee.

He argued that the emails suggested the White House hadn’t been forthcoming with a House subpoena.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced on Friday that he would subpoena Secretary of State John Kerry to testify on the emails.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that the emails were not turned over to Congress because they were not specifically about Benghazi.  Fitton said those claims were “ludicrous” and possibly a crime.

“Carney needs to be talking to an attorney and not the press,” he said.

Read more: