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By NWV Senior Political News Writer, Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
June 15, 2015

In the aftermath of the Benghazi scandal, the report of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Internet server and private email account, and a number of other "irregularities," several U.S. Senate lawmakers have proposed new legislation to bring President Barack Obama's “scandal-ridden State Department” under greater scrutiny. The senators believe there must be more congressional oversight to make certain that politicized upper-echelon State Department members are prevented from hiding wrongdoing, according to a copy of the new legislation released on Monday. Some cynics are calling the proposed legislation "The Hillary Law."

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and David Perdue, R-Georgia, introduced a bill that if passed will force the State Department to increase what was promised by President Barack Obama in 2009: transparency. Also the new law would give oversight authorities more assistance in probing alleged malfeasance -- or out-and-out criminal activity -- by State Department employees.

The bill, called "Improving Department of State Oversight Act," is a result of a number of allegations regarding the agency’s inability to police itself. During Secretary Clinton's tenure, for example, the powerful and sensitive department didn't even have a confirmed inspector general for two years. For example, the proposed law would ensure that sensitive computer networks used by the State Department would revamp information-technology security to protect classified and confidential information from attacks by foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups and hackers that officials claim occurs “thousands of times a day,” some of which are successfully breaching IT networks.

The senators' bipartisan bill is aimed at improving the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to conduct effective audits, probes and investigations. According to the bill's sponsors, as it stands today, the OIG is not informed of all incidents of suspected State Department wrongdoing. It also shares the same network with the State Department, making OIG investigations vulnerable to both internal and external threats.

“Conducting Congressional oversight is critical to making Washington more accountable, and a good place to start is at the scandal-ridden State Department,” said Sen. Perdue in a statement. “The State OIG must be able to conduct thorough, independent investigations on the State Department without obstruction from the very individuals who might warrant investigating. Making the OIG more independent is an important first step in turning our State Department from a liability into its proper role as a strategic foreign policy tool. This bipartisan bill will help make sure the OIG is fully independent and empowered to conduct critical oversight of the State Department’s IT systems and high-risk posts around the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kaine notes, “Effective management and accountability are key to the success of our institutions. This legislation would make commonsense reforms that improve oversight at the State Department and help protect the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General IT systems from external cyber threats.”

In April 2015, Senators Perdue and Kaine led the initial hearing about the ongoing challenges in performing adequate oversight of the State Department. Inspector General Steve Linick testified that State administrators “could read, modify, delete any of our work.” The IG systems are vulnerable to external threats as well, Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom confirmed that the State’s IT systems “are attacked every day, thousands of times a day.”

The Obama White House on Wednesday slammed GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives for their threats on Tuesday to delay funding for the scandal-ridden State Department. The lawmakers said they would take the action as a way to force the Secretary of State John Kerry's cooperation with their Benghazi select committee's investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 Islamist attacks in Libya, according to several reports.

The congressmen by adding their directive into the House Appropriations Committee’s state and foreign operations funding bill for the next fiscal that states they will cut funding by 15 percent of Diplomatic and Consular Programs "pending certain [Freedom of Information Act] related and record-keeping actions is counter-productive as it would affect funding for this activity and also could adversely affect global diplomatic operations unrelated to the intent of the provision,” Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shaun Donovan said in a letter to the leaders of the panel.

The bill, which passed unanimously, is the latest in a long line of attempts by the House GOP to received the Obama administration's cooperation by handing over all documents that directly or indirectly refer to the bloody and destructive Islamic terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission. They are also being stonewalled in their efforts to obtain information and documents related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role before, during and after the shocking attack on U.S. diplomats by suspected Islamists associated with al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Speaking to a gathering to Republicans in Tennessee last weekend, House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, explained his latest tactic of using the upcoming appropriations bill for funding of the Department of State as leverage.

Gowdy informed the GOP members and supporters of the National Federation of Pachyderm Club that the 12-member panel “tried public shame, it didn’t work. We’ve tried threats and subpoenas and letters, that hasn’t worked.”

“What has worked was when we partnered with our friends on appropriations and let the State Department and other agencies know, your money will be cut if you do not provide us with documents,” Gowdy said to cheers and applause.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, Benghazi panel’s top Democrat, criticized Chairman Gowdy for mentioning the probe at what he considered a political event. "Republicans continue to use the deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi as a political rallying cry — and fundraising tool — which is offensive, reprehensible, and contrary to the promises we made to the loved ones of those who were killed during the 2012 attacks,” Cummings said in a statement. “Chairman Gowdy should halt these activities immediately," Cummings demanded.

Rep. Cummings and other Democrats in both houses of the Congress have not complied to a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in the case. On Tuesday, Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the select committee, refuted Cummings’s claims.

“A majority of Americans in a recent poll approve of how Chairman Gowdy and the Republicans are handling our fact-based investigation into the Benghazi terrorist attacks,” he said in a statement, referring to a CNN poll conducted last week.

Ware noted that an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed about six out of ten Americans believe President Obama, Hillary Clinton and members of the administration attempted to cover up the facts about the September 11, 2012 attack, which left U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

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In addition, the same poll shows that 50 percent of the respondents, half of those questioned in the poll, said they don't approve of how she responded to the attack and its aftermath, including her continuous blaming of an obscure anti-Muslim video circulating on the Internet.

Ware added that the panel had uncovered “poor record keeping and the failure of transparency at the State Department” and that many media outlets have reported on the funding threat.

“Chairman Gowdy noted this fact in his speech,” Ware noted. “If some do not see the importance of government transparency for the people and don’t think it should be mentioned, then that is their own issue, but Chairman Gowdy believes in it."

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In April 2015, Senators Perdue and Kaine led the initial hearing about the ongoing challenges in performing adequate oversight of the State Department.