Chaffetz accuses State Department of revealing classified information

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) caused a stir at Wednesday's hearing on security lapses in Libya when he accused the State Department of publicizing classified information by displaying a satellite photograph of the United States consulate in Benghazi. 

Chaffetz made the comments at the House oversight panel hearing in reference to a photo of the diplomatic mission that came under attack on Sept. 11. 

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American lives were being putting at risk by making the information public, he alleged.

Democrats on the dais, and observers in the hearing room, reacted to the GOP lawmaker's request with raised eyebrows and guffaws.

“You can Google it!” Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the Oversight panel, said of the picture. 

Patrick Kennedy, the State Department under-secretary for management, said the photo was obtained from a commercial satellite.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the committee's panel on national security, replied that Obama administration officials were making documents public that his State Department handlers told him were classified during a visit to Libya over the weekend.

Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), however, sided with the administration.

“It is the prerogative of the executive branch” to decide what's unclassified, Issa said. “I will side with the administration that you have a right to show what you want to show.”

But Issa said the State Department couldn't have it both ways by telling lawmakers things were classified when they briefed on Tuesday, and then using them at the public hearing. 

Issa also used the occasion to place into the record cables he'd obtained from whistleblowers that showed State Department officials turning down embassy requests for more security.