Rep. Darrell Issa fired back at the Obama administration after Democrats complained his decision to release 166 pages of documents on the security situation in Benghazi threatened the lives of several Libyans who are named and worked with the U.S.
Administration officials had said those named in the documents could be in danger in Benghazi, a city with known Al Qaeda sympathizers. They claimed Issa, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, failed to ask the State Department to review the documents for sensitive information before releasing them to the public.
Those accusations were echoed by top Democrats in Congress -- including Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democrat on Issa's committee, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But Issa rejected the claims in a statement Sunday night -- he suggested one Libyan rights activist identified in the documents was already publicly associated with the U.S. following a State Department-sponsored trip to the U.S. in 2011.
“The Libyan rights activist who was highlighted by the Obama administration in news accounts as having not been, ‘publicly associated with the U.S.’ until the Oversight Committee released documents had actually been brought to the U.S. in December 2011 by the State Department and her trip is highlighted on the Internet," Issa said. "President Obama should be ashamed of yet another example where his administration has been caught trying to mislead the American people about what happened in Libya.”
Issa also shot back at the remarks from Kerry and other Democrats.
“Obama Administration officials and their surrogates are clearly reeling from revelations about how the situation in Benghazi was mishandled and are falsely politicizing the issue in a last ditch effort to save President Obama’s reelection effort," he said. "To see such prominent officials as Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Carl Levin, Rahm Emanuel, and Obama Senior Advisor David Axelrod paraded out over to weekend to make false charges about the Oversight Committee putting Libyans in danger only shows their desperation to hide the truth."
Kerry was early to criticize Issa, saying in a statement: "It's bad enough that it's becoming a political sideshow presumably driven by the calendar of Monday's upcoming presidential debate, but even worse is that in their rush to make news they've exposed Libyans who were working side by side with America."
Issa held a hearing this month in which a State Department official acknowledged she declined requests from U.S. officials in Benghazi for more security. The official, Charlene Lamb, said she believed before the attacks that security at the Benghazi consulate was sufficient.
Frederick Hill, Issa's spokesman, said the documents were given to State Department officials and Cummings almost two weeks ago.
"That Cummings and State Department officials did not express specific concerns about Libyans mentioned in these unclassified documents obtained by the committee until three days before the presidential debate on foreign policy is telling," Hill said. He added the department has yet to directly contact the committee with any requests for specific redactions to the documents.
Hill added that the committee did make redactions in the documents, and the Libyan individuals mentioned in the records worked in positions where their interactions with westerners would not be surprising.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.