The group Veterans for a Strong America plans to sue the State Department over a Freedom of Information Action request it filed for Hillary Clinton’s emails and phone logs from the days before and after the attack at Benghazi.
Joel Arends, the group’s chairman and founder, has brought on Mark Zaid, an attorney who specializes in national security and FOIA litigation cases, to handle the lawsuit.
Arends filed a FOIA request in July 2014 for Clinton’s emails and phone logs for around the time of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
“We didn’t embark on a fishing expedition,” Arends told The Daily Caller. “All that we want are the records from the night before and the day after [Benghazi].”
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed during that attack.
Arends said his group filed the FOIA request to obtain information to use in a book “What Difference Does It Make?” The title is borrowed from a question Clinton asked during a January 2013 Senate hearing on Benghazi.
Arends set out to write the book for veterans to find out “what it would mean to them if they knew their government or their chain of command was not going to come to their aid or assistance when there’s resources or assets available, similar to what happened in Benghazi.”
“We want to know who she was talking to, what kind of command and control she had, what kind of situational awareness she had,” Arends told TheDC.
Finding out how Clinton immediately reacted to news of the Benghazi is crucial given Clinton’s likely presidential bid, Arends asserted.
“It’s fair game to know what kind of commander-in-chief she’s going to be.”
“Was she talking to President Clinton? Was she talking to a PR crisis team? Because if she making those kind of phone calls it means that that was time wasted or time that she could have been talking to the State Department crisis communications team.”
Clinton turned over 55,000 emails from her personal email account to the State Department in December. Around 300 of those were given to a House committee investigating the Benghazi attack.
That committee, headed by South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, has subpoenaed Clinton’s emails.
Arends said that like everyone at the time, when he filed his FOIA request he had no idea Clinton exclusively sent private emails that were routed through a private server she had set up in her Chappaqua, N.Y. home.
In light of that revelation, “the most prudent thing to do is to seize that server so that we can make sure that we’re getting all of the documents,” Arends said.
Getting control of that server is crucial because the emails Clinton has turned over to State so far were selected by her and her staff.
“It shouldn’t be up to her staff, given the lack of credibility that they have, to determine what gets turned over and what doesn’t,” Arends said.
Zaid, whose most famous case was a successful lawsuit against the Libyan government on behalf of the families killed in the Pan Am 103 flight over Lockerbie, said that the FOIA lawsuit could force a court to confront “grey areas” regarding how federal agencies manage officials’ records.
“The State Department, if they decline to search for telephone records that might reveal what the Secretary did on certain days because she was on her home phone, that explanation may set off a chain reaction elsewhere to Trey Gowdy’s special committee where he subpoenas the phone records,” Zaid told TheDC.
“If we go to court we can certainly dispute what constitutes an agency record,” he added.
With the lawsuit, Veterans for a Strong America joins the government watchdog Judicial Watch and The Associated Press in challenging the State Department over its handling of FOIA request for Clinton documents.