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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Reservist Has Words for Benghazi Committee

WASHINGTON (CN) - The House Select Committee on Benghazi sullied the name of an investigator who did not share the "hyper-focus" on Hillary Clinton, he claims in court.

Bradley Podliska says the committee's chair, Rep. Trey Gowdy, called him a "lousy employee" last month in an interview with NBC. The South Carolina Republican dragged Podliska's name through the mud by falsely accusing the intelligence officer of having "mishandled classified information," according to the complaint filed Monday.

Gowdy's committee was convened last year to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in 2012.

The committee has been criticized as being a partisan attempt to weaken Clinton's presidential candidacy, as she was secretary of state at the time of the Benghazi attack.

When Gowdy criticized Podliska in the Oct. 11 interview, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had just embarrassed the GOP, and sunk his chance of being elected House speaker, by telling NBC that the Benghazi committee was purely a political exercise meant to "make a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans."

Criticism of the committee snowballed later that month when it failed to make a dent in Clinton's armor while questioning her for 11 hours.

Podliska says he worked as an investigator for the committee since 2012, having "worked at a federal defense agency on security and foreign policy issues" since 1997.

A resident Arlington, Va., Podliska details impressive credentials in his lawsuit.

With a master's degree from Georgetown University, and a doctorate from Texas A&M, Podliska says he is an experienced intelligence analyst in the private sector and an intelligence officer for the Air Force Reserve since 1999.

Though initially earning positive performance reviews, Podliska says the tide changed when he took two weeks off in March 2015 to complete annual Air Force training. He allegedly returned to find his managers hostile and zeroing in on Clinton.

Podliska says he faced rebuke from his supervisor Philip Kiko for looking into the talking points U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice used in the wake of the attacks, even though Podliska regularly investigated this subject for Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan.

"I know you have your post-attack piece," Kiko told Podliska about looking into the talking points, according to the complaint. "But, only right wing nut jobs [meaning Representative Jordan] care about that. You have no idea what we're doing here. You have no clue what's going on." (Bracketed text in original.)

Podliska says Republican staffers told him, after he returned from his military training, that the committee's investigation was "agency-centric," meaning focused solely on Clinton's State Department, according to the complaint.

Jamal Ware, a representative for the Benghazi committee, fired back at Podliska for using his lawsuit to "strike at the heart of the committee's legislative functions."

Calling the allegations "meritless," Ware added "that the committee did not and does not discriminate or retaliate based on military service, military status or any other unlawful factor."

"We look forward to responding to the allegations in due course and in the appropriate forum," Ware said in a statement. "And we are confident that once all the facts are known - should this case be permitted to proceed - we will be fully exonerated."

The complaint also describes some interesting details about culture at the committee, saying Kiko and the other supervisors routinely shopped for custom-made semi-automatic pistols while at work, and drank in the office.

Podliska says Senior Counsel Sharon Jackson organized "Wine Wednesdays," and had custom-made wine glasses engraved with the words "glacial pace" for their gatherings.

The phrase is a nod to the assertion by Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings that the committee was deliberately prolonging its investigation to damage Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Podliska says disagreements with his supervisors came to a head after he took most of May off to perform military service in Germany. Chief Counsel Dana Chipman questioned whether Podliska actually had to go to Germany, and Podliska's supervisors would not talk to him after he returned, according to the complaint.

Finally, in June Staff Security Manager John McIntyre Tolar accused Podliska of releasing classified information in a report. Podliska says he used only publicly available information to write the report, and Tolar was "at best, a novice in regard to classification review."

Even though Tolar eventually admitted the information was not classified, Kiko called Podliska into his office and told him to resign within 30 days or be fired, according to the complaint.

Podliska named Gowdy and the Select Committee as defendants in the case. He seeks damages for violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the Congressional Accountability Act and Washington defamation statutes.

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