On Wednesday, Citizens United, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit conservative political advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for its failure to provide expense records and passenger manifests of overseas flights taken by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The group made its first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the documents nearly five months ago, according to its press release. The Department of State has so far failed to provide the records although by law, it wads required to do so by August 12.
“The State Department has stonewalled our request for public records on official taxpayer-funded travel overseas,” said David N. Bossie, President of Citizens United.
Because Clinton is the apparent Democratic frontrunner seeking the presidency in 2016, conservative groups have an interest in the disclosure of these records. For the exact same reason, Clinton may want to see them kept under wraps.
Bossie’s statement continued:
The American people have a right to know who accompanied Secretary Clinton on these trips. Were there any big political contributors to previous or future Clinton campaigns on board? Were there any Clinton Foundation financial supporters on board? These are important questions that need to be answered, especially considering the allegations that arose regarding Commerce Department trade missions during the Clinton Administration in the 1990s.
Citizens United first gained public attention in 2009, when it won a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case against the Federal Election Commission to overturn campaign finance laws. The decision was later criticized by President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address.
If five months seems a long time to wait for records that should be readily available, the Associated Press reported that it’s been waiting for more than four years for FOIA requests from the State Department.
Other news outlets have been waiting for as long as five years, and the department has even missed some of its own self-imposed deadlines, according to the AP, which reported:
The State Department is among the U.S. government’s worst-performing federal agencies under the Freedom of Information Act. There is no direct evidence that political considerations in a Democratic presidential administration have delayed the release of files about the party’s leading contender for 2016. But the agency’s delays, unusual even by government standards, have stoked perceptions about what could be taking so long.
“There may not necessarily be political interference, but if the department went out of its way to speed these documents there would be no way for people to accuse them of it,” said Thomas Blanton, who has previously sued the State Department for access to records as director of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, according to the AP.
However, “political interference” might be inferred when one considers a report made almost three months ago that Clinton confidants were ordered to “separate” items that could be damaging her before being sent to the Accountability Review Board investigating the Benghazi attack. This was reported by former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, writing for The Daily Signal.