The State Department has informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi that it is withholding "a small number" of documents from investigators on the basis of "important executive branch institutional interests." The statement, made in a letter from Assistant Secretary of State Julia Frifield to committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, amounts to a de facto claim of executive privilege.
Frifield made the claim in a letter turning over 3,600 pages of Benghazi-related documents from three current and former administration officials: Susan Rice, Jake Sullivan, and Cheryl Mills. Rice, a former United Nations ambassador, is now national security adviser, while Sullivan and Mills are close aides to Hillary Clinton who worked at the Department when she was secretary of state.
The State Department has long insisted that it is fully cooperating with lawmakers investigating the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack. One might assume that with such a high level of cooperation, State would have long ago handed over all relevant documents. But that is apparently not the case.
State has insisted on certain restrictions before turning over its documents, including those from Rice, Sullivan, and Mills. "Under the terms of this agreement, the documents are being provided without the majority of Department redactions that would normally be applied to protect national security, law enforcement, and diplomatic efforts of the United States, as well as the safety and privacy of the individuals named herein," Frifield wrote to Gowdy. "In return, the Benghazi Committee has agreed that, in the event that it considers it integral to the satisfaction of the Benghazi Committee's mandate to release any of these documents publicly, it will first give the State Department a reasonable opportunity of at least five days to review the documents proposed to be released and to discuss with the Benghazi Committee any sensitive information the Department believes should be redacted prior to the public release. The Benghazi Committee has agreed to consider such requests in good faith prior to making any such release."