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Benghazi documents scrubbed to protect Hillary Clinton, ex-State Dept. official claims

A portion of documents released in Congress' Benghazi investigation. (AP file photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - As Congress' select committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing Wednesday, a startling allegation from a former state department diplomat: Hillary Clinton confidants separated out potentially damaging documents from those turned over to the accountability review board. That board is investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The allegation comes from Ray Maxwell, who was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department bureau in charge of Libya. Maxwell said it was his office that turned over documents for the probe into the Benghazi terrorist attacks that killed four Americans including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Maxwell said that after documents were gathered and boxed for the Accountability Review Board, which first met Oct. 4, 2012, there was an unusual weekend session in the basement at State Department headquarters in Washington.

"I was not invited to that after-hours endeavor, but I heard about it and decided to check it out on a Sunday afternoon," Maxwell said.

When he arrived, he says an office director told him, "Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the Front Office or the 7th Floor in a bad light."

According to Maxwell, "7th Floor" was shorthand for Secretary Clinton and her top staff.

Maxwell says he asked, "Isn't that unethical?" and that the officer replied, "Those are our orders."

A few minutes later, according to Maxwell, in walked two high-ranking State Department officials. They acknowledged him, he says, seemed to check on the operation, and then left. Clinton declined an interview request and offered no comment.

The State Department did respond saying the allegations were "totally without merit," employees were instructed to cooperate "fully and promptly" with the Accountability Review Board, and the Board invited direct contact so it was "impossible for anyone outside to control its access to information."

Maxwell was among four officials originally singled out for discipline, he says "scapegoated," for security lapses in the attacks. All were later cleared and Maxwell retired. He recently told several members of Congress, including Republican Jason Chaffetz, about the basement operation.

"There could be some people who are going to get a criminal referral. You cannot, cannot separate out documents and hide things from Congress, from the ARB," Chaffetz said.

Democrats have long called the Benghazi investigation a Republican obsession.

"Eight reviews have been conducted in house and senate, 25,000 documents released, millions of taxpayer dollars spent," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said back in May.

Republicans insist there are unanswered questions. The House Benghazi committee holds its first public hearing Wednesday amid the backdrop of the newest allegations.

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