Merrick Garland, President Obama’s choice to fill Antonin Scalia’s position on the Supreme Court, falsely blamed the YouRube video “Innocence of Muslims” for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens during the Benghazi attacks, court transcripts show.
Judicial Watch flagged Garland’s comments, which came during a Jan. 10, 2013 hearing as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the conservative watchdog group for 52 photos of the body of Osama bin Laden.
The al-Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan during a May 2, 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Judicial Watch was appealing the Obama administration’s decision to withhold the images based on the claim that releasing them would pose a national security risk.
As judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Garland was one of three jurists to consider Judicial Watch’s argument.
As Judicial Watch explains:
On that day in Washington, D.C., in a packed courtroom before Garland and judges Harry Edwards and Judith Rogers, JW was appealing the administration’s claim that releasing dozens of bin Laden postmortem photos would hurt national security.
Garland and the two other judges voted unanimously in favor of the government against Judicial Watch, thus withholding the photos.
During the hearing, Garland seemed to agree with the government’s argument that releasing certain images and information could pose risks to Americans. And to support his case, he cited the video that the Obama administration has falsely blamed for sparking the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.
Stevens and three other Americans were killed during that onslaught, which was carried out by terrorists with links to groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.
After a Judicial Watch attorney argued that releasing the photos would not unearth any government secrets, Garland asserted that he was more concerned that the release could spark direct attacks on Americans.
“But so the question really is isn’t this worse?” Garland asked. “They’re telling us this could result in death, not just release of secret information, but death.”
“And we do know of examples where in this country we would think that the release of certain things would not have lead to this, and yet there were, not very long ago a video was released that did lead to death of an American ambassador, of other people, of riots in other cities, when the Government tells us that this is likely to lead to death isn’t that even more, something we should defer to even more than when they say well, this is going to lead to, you know, the release of some secret information?”
As Judicial Watch notes, the claim that the YouTube video was the catalyst for the terrorist attacks had been debunked by the time Garland made his comments.
The claim gained traction within the Obama administration when then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice blamed the videos during several Sunday TV show interviews on Sept. 16, 2012.
Garland’s nomination is currently at the center of a bitter partisan battle. Republicans are torn over whether to consider holding a vote. Some Democrats are also unhappy with Obama’s choice, pointing to Garland’s moderate positions on many issues.