The Obama administration is withholding the full contents of a "media strategy" discussion over a Fox News report on Benghazi, claiming that releasing them would have a chilling effect on their "frank deliberations."
The seven-page email chain was in reference to a Fox News report on Sept. 27, 2012, that the intelligence community knew within 24 hours that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
The emails, with the subject line "Fox News: US officials knew Libya attack was terrorism within 24 hours, sources confirm,” was circulated at senior levels of the administration. Denis McDonough, the president's deputy national security adviser during Benghazi; John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism adviser; and presidential communications adviser Ben Rhodes, whose Sept.14 email linked the anti-Islam video to Benghazi, were all part of the discussion.
"A seven-page dialogue concerning one Fox News report to me demonstrates an alarm bell situation where they are reacting to and trying to shape a response," senior Judicial Watch investigator Chris Farrell told Fox News. “There was a contrarian news report that didn't align with their position and they were clearly reacting to it in a way that would help reinforce their position."
While originally designated "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED," Justice Department lawyers told a federal court May 1 that the State Department rightfully withheld "...comments, opinions and assessments related to the formulation of a media strategy with respect to an ongoing sensitive matter....The release of this information could reasonably be expected to chill the frank deliberations that occur when State Department and other U.S. government officials are formulating public responses to address sensitive issues."
Two days after the emails, a spokesman for the nation's intelligence chief, the director of national intelligence, released a lengthy statement explaining the evolution in the intelligence community’s thinking from the assault being a spontaneous attack to it being pre-meditated terrorism.
The statement does not mention a video originally cited by then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as being behind the attack. It also does not, on its face, constitute the "media strategy" that was the subject of the seven-page email chain.
An DNI spokesman told Fox he could not comment on what may or may not be in the redacted emails.
When previously asked about the Sept. 28, 2012 release, the DNI spokesman said the suggestion to “develop the statement came from within the intelligence community.”
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.