Citizens United Files New Lawsuit Seeking State Department Watchdog Documents
By Arit John, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Citizens United filed its fourth lawsuit against the State Department on Thursday, this time seeking documents related to the agency’s Office of Inspector General during former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure.
In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the conservative advocacy group complains that the State Department has not responded to two of its Freedom of Information Act requests in more than six months, beyond acknowledging receiving them. The statutory requirement is 20 business days.
The lawsuit follows the revelation that Clinton exclusively used a personal email account during her time as secretary of state. In December, her office sent 55,000 emails to the department, which the agency is now sorting through.
On September 16, the conservative advocacy group filed two FOIA requests seeking emails between Clinton, her allies, assistants, and other State Department officials on the decision to keep Harold K. Geisel as acting Inspector General and anything related to a February 2013 inspector general’s report that found agency investigators vulnerable to “undue influence” from senior officials.
The State Department’s policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, spokesman Alec Gerlach said. The department has said in the past that it receives thousands of FOIA requests a year, and tries to respond to them in the order they are received.
“We expect to get all of the documents that we request, which will be very fascinating reading to see exactly what type of influence, if any, was being put on the Inspector General,” David Bossie, the president and chairman of Citizens United, told Bloomberg.
Over the last month, Citizens United has filed lawsuits seeking documents from Clinton’s tenure at State, including her flight manifests, correspondence between top Clinton aides and the Clinton Foundation, and more information on her foreign trips. On March 13 a federal judge ruled in favor of Citizens United and gave the State Department a timeline for releasing Clinton’s flight manifests.
In total, Citizens United officials said they have 18 unanswered FOIA requests, all of which are research for its upcoming sequel to 2008’s “Hillary the Movie,” which the group hopes to release sometime next year.
Bossie — known as a “partisan hit man” to some on the left, and a hero to some on the right — has focused on the Clintons since Bill Clinton’s early days in the White House. In the early 1990s, he was the political director for Citizens United and went on to become the House Oversight Committee’s chief investigator, working for Republicans during Bill Clinton’s time in office. He resigned under pressure in 1998.
The goal of this latest lawsuit is to see how much influence Clinton and her team had over the State Department Office of Inspector General, Bossie said.
The first FOIA in the latest complaint is based on an April 2011 Washington Post article on the vacancy in the top job at the Office of the Inspector General. Geisel, a former ambassador, was serving as acting inspector general. The Post article reported that:
One high-ranking official familiar with the selection process said the State Department’s current leadership had opposed filling the top slot because it prefers the office to remain under Geisel’s supervision.
The FOIA requests any correspondence between Clinton and a list of her aides and agency officials related to Geisel and the search for a permanent inspector general nominee.
The second FOIA request involves a February 2013 report from the Office of Inspector General, released in response to an internal 2012 memo that accused the agency’s Diplomatic Security Service of backing off investigations at the request of senior State Department officials. The report found that the Special Investigations Division “lack(ed) a firewall” to prevent agency officials “from exercising undue influence in particular cases.”
In June 2013, whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn gave CBS News the 2012 memo listing eight examples of such cases. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the time that “all cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation.”
The second FOIA request in Thursday’s lawsuit requests any emails sent to or from Clinton and a team of allies and aides (including Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, and Jennemaire E. Smith) on the initial February 2013 report.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr