On September 11, 2012, Islamist militants attacked U.S. complexes in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed, the first U.S. Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Three other men were killed and 10 were injured.
The media immediately turned it into a political story, focusing more anger on Mitt Romney’s comments about the administration’s blaming of a YouTube video critical of Islam than determining the facts of the attack itself. Many in the media thought it fine that President Obama jetted off to a high-dollar fundraiser before the bodies cooled. When various high-level government officials blamed either a YouTube video critical of Islam — or our laws protecting free speech, it didn’t generate much controversy among big media.
The media tended to parrot White House talking points about the attack even years later. So even though everyone with knowledge of the scene in Benghazi knew otherwise, the New York Times was claiming until Friday — just this past Friday — that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi.
Really. Less than one year ago, the New York Times ran one of its massive “projects” — Pulitzer Prize attempts, basically — around the following claim:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
If there’s something true in that pile of horse manure, you’ll have to point it out. Within days this was thoroughly debunked by those in the know (albeit highlighted by media outlets such as CNN). But just this past Friday afternoon, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released “the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans” in Benghazi. We’ll look through all the flaws with this report (.pdf) here soon, but first we need to talk about the media reaction to same.
Things seemed to kind of get going with this tweet at 5:47 PM:
The report and its appendices are hundreds of pages long. And I’d argue that the executive summary of the report is not well supported by the contents. It took me several hours to read and research it on Saturday and Sunday and I’m not even done with all the appendices. But let’s look at how journalists and media outlets responded:
What *ought* to happen now: audiences of conservative sites express anger at being misled about Benghazi for so long.
Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) November 22, 2014
Biggest abuse of power regarding Benghazi turns out to be media huffing and puffing about it for years.
Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) November 21, 2014
Solyndra! Solyndra! Solyndra! OK Solyndra wasn’t really a scandal but Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! OK Benghazi wasn’t really a scandal but
Michael Grunwald (@MikeGrunwald) November 21, 2014
Do you sense a pattern here? The groupthinkers got to the keyboards and pounded out surprisingly similar headlines, whether they were from far-left partisan groups or just the typically left-leaning (in some cases left-careening) big media:
CNN: Republican-led report debunks Benghazi theories and accusations
Slate: GOP-Controlled Intelligence Committee Debunks Benghazi Conspiracies
Talking Points Memo: GOP Intel Report Debunks Its Own Party’s Nutty Benghazi Theories
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: GOP-led report obliterates Fox News’ version of Benghazi
And within a few hours, the story about this report became about Fox News’ coverage of same. See these tweets with links to stories:
We’re going on six years of many major media outlets completely failing to inform their viewers and readers about numerous Obama administration scandals, but this is what the “media reporters” choose to focus on? Really? In just this past week alone, for instance, we had updates to the IRS scandal relating to targeting of conservative groups (some 30,000 irretrievably lost emails were found), updates to the many scandals surrounding Obamacare’s drafting (note which outlets are carrying substantive updates about Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber) and implementation (thank God for Peter Suderman or we might not have learned about the latest Obamacare surprise coming out in the latest Friday night document dump), news a huge Obama bundler and major gay rights activist being arrested for child rape, reports of emails revealing Department of Justice attempts to silence one of the rare tenacious reporters covering the administration, a teensie weensie little Constitutional problemo about President Obama usurping the legislative process, signing a secret order to extend the war in Afghanistan, and probably a half dozen other things I’m missing.
If there’s a story about media downplaying Obama administration scandal news, and boy is there, this Fox News not giving enough coverage to a weak-sauce Benghazi report sure as hell ain’t it. Let’s look at what else the media missed.
1. Many journalists obviously didn’t read the report.
Much less read it critically.
One might assume this both because of the speed with which they joined the groupthink and their complete and uncritical acceptance of what they heard the report said. I grant that they may have read the 2-page executive summary.
2. They forgot the well-known problems with Congressional oversight
The relationship between intelligence agencies and the members of Congress who are supposed to oversee them could not be more damaged. I’m not even talking about stuff like how the CIA admitted to spying on members of the Senate committee that is supposed to oversee the agency.
It’s actually the good relationships that are even worse. (And I’m not even talking about how sometimes members are married to people who work in the private sector on related topics.) One of the most common criticisms levied against the intelligence oversight committees is that they’re far too approving and accepting of what the intelligence community wants. I’ve covered the federal government for more than 10 years, so I’m familiar with bureaucratic jargon. Still, I was stunned by the level of obfuscating jargon I found in the report, and what a reasonable person might assume that meant:
Exactly. This is, like, reporting 101. How did so many big-shot reporters miss just that initial skepticism we should all share when reporting on — especially — politicians?
3. “Mistakes were made.”
On May 1, 1973, Nixon’s Press Secretary Ron Ziegler famously said, “I would apologize to the Post, and I would apologize to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein… We would all have to say that mistakes were made in terms of comments.” Ziegler wasn’t the first to use the line “mistakes were made” but he made it so famous that it was included in obituaries when he died. The phrase is a cliched way to avoid responsibility for wrong-doing and to try to diminish the seriousness of allegations.
Guess what page “mistakes were made” appears in the explosive Benghazi report that supposedly exonerates everybody in the intelligence community that was within 3,000 miles of the deadly attack? Did you guess page one of the executive summary? Congratulations. You win.
4. Actual vs. caricatured complaints about Obama’s handling of Benghazi
Now, if you were to ask people who aren’t reflexively defensive of President Obama (as the media tend to be) what their main concerns with Benghazi were two years ago, they’d probably say something along the lines of:
- That we allowed an ambassador to be assassinated by Islamist militants in Libya.
- That we didn’t quite seem as concerned as we should have been, as evidenced by our commander-in-chief heading off to a Vegas fundraiser hours after it happened and a general patience about seeking justice.
- That we claimed that an attack on September 11 probably actually had something to do with a silly video and nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
- The we officially told the world that “since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” as President Obama said.
- That our Secretary of State said of a video made by an American that “We absolutely reject its content and message.”
- That these statements were dangerously untrue. In America, you’re actually totally allowed to disparage any religion you want. (I myself have fun targeting Methodists.) (Sidenote, check out how our Secretary of State gave a rhetorical beatdown to the Nazis when they complained about a mock trial of Hitler held in Madison Square Gardens in 1934.)
- That our media seemed more obsessed with covering for Obama than investigating what the heck happened that night.
Now, the report whitewashes, excuses or glosses over almost all of this and fails completely to get at any of the deeper and troubling questions about what’s wrong with our intel community. It only “debunks” claims if you think that bureaucratic ass-covering and rather strained justifications of what I would hope all Americans would agree was a clear intelligence failure count as “debunking.”
5. Let’s talk about the Feb. 17th Brigade
Here’s a case in point.
The report says that at “appropriately” (I assume they meant “approximately”) 9:40 PM, dozens of militants approached the compound and that “as the men approached, three Libyan security officers in a car outside the [Temporary Mission Facility] drove away without warning U.S. personnel.” Further:
“The State Department had contracted with the February 17th Brigade and the Blue Mountain Group to provide local security for the TMF facility. All available information indicates that the February 17th Brigade guards were inside the walls of the compound and did not detect or report information about the attackers before the attackers breached the gate.”
Now, the report doesn’t mention the Feb. 17th Brigade too much again (we hear the telling — for what it suggests isn’t mentioned — reference to some “helpful” members of the group a few pages later). And maybe it’s telling because the Feb. 17th Brigade — our security contractors — are now allied with Ansar al Sharia — the perpetrators of the attack — and the two groups have taken over large parts of Benghazi. Now, I know that you have to contract with bad guys when you’re doing shady but important work. But don’t you think that maybe a definitive report about how absolutely nothing went wrong in Benghazi that could have been prevented should include that we contracted out our compound security to al Qaeda affiliates there? I mean, maybe the group used to be totes awesome and only went bad after we left. Or, given how things went down, maybe they totally sold us out. But to not even discuss this issue strikes me as odd in the extreme.
Or what about this guy:
Wissam Bin Hamid’s name has surfaced time and again in the investigation into the Benghazi attack. He admittedly met with American officials in Benghazi just days before the assault to discuss security, and he reportedly refused to provide assistance once the attack was underway. The post-revolution Libyan government also worked with Bin Hamid and his Libya Shield militia, which was supposedly one of the strongest “security” forces inside Benghazi.
You will never ever ever guess where this guy is now. OK, if you guessed that a few weeks ago Ansar al Sharia released a 42-minute video featuring him, you win. However, you won’t find any mention of him in this report.
Another weird paragraph says that a Tripoli security team arranged with someone for some particular equipment to be there when they landed in Benghazi. But when they got there, the equipment was nowhere to be found and their interlocutor’s cell phone was turned off. Interesting.
Should these angles have been discussed in the “definitive” report on how everything is awesome? I kind of think so, don’t you?
6. Remember that New York Times report that was only updated on Friday?
I just want to point out that the first line of the report that supposedly makes Republicans look bad places blame for the attack on “armed militias with ties to terrorist organizations, including al-Qa’ida.” And while, yes, the Times did finally get around to updating their report to note that these militias have ties to al Qa’ida, they hedged as much as you could imagine and buried it on page 8. Why are we making fun of FOX, again?
7. Our response was slow.
Now, you can read the report as a big intel agency CYA or you can read it as just a really charitable defense of the decision making that night. But no matter how you read it, it’s striking how slow we were in responding to this crisis.
You know that line about how when seconds count, the police are minutes away? Well, here we had a situation where seconds counted but the nearest security team was 42 minutes away, because of various delays. And the Tripoli team didn’t even start for the air field in Tripoli until after that. And both cited traffic concerns.
Once the Tripoli team finally got to Benghazi, the equipment they arranged for wasn’t there and the group supposed to take them to the hospital (where they believed the ambassador to be) decided they didn’t want to go. The explosive report simply says, “it was not clear why those individuals did not want to travel to the hospital.”
Oh, and the “confusion at the airport lasted for about three and a half hours.” Oh. OK. And then the reason why they were able to leave was because the Libyan Shield brought vehicles to them. But the committee “uncovered no evidence” that the militia tipped off the attackers to the Tripoli Team’s presence. The attack of lethal and deadly accurate mortar fire just happened to take place 11 minutes after they finally arrived at their destination. After some difficulties, they were able to convince Libyan Shield drivers to help them evacuate.
8. Intelligence failures explained away.
A good example of how the report treads softly happens in Section 2, where we’re told that while intelligence agencies knew the threats in Libya were rising, they didn’t have any knowledge of a specific attack.
“There is no evidence of an intelligence failure,” the report says. But by that it simply means that nobody had given the CIA blueprints for an attack. I mean, we do know that Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri “had called for Americans to be targeted in Libya the day before the diplomatic mission was attacked, leading to speculation that al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan had some sort of role or influence in the attack.” This would seem to indicate that maybe our confidence al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attack was as misguided as our belief that there was no intel failure in predicting an attack on Americans there.
“One of the first questions [the committee] pursued is whether the U.S. government had or should have had intelligence that could have prevented or disrupted the attacks, and thus whether there was an intelligence failure.” This is idiotic. I mean, you might explain why we had an intel failure but there’s no question that we failed. By definition we failed. We have a dead ambassador, three other dead Americans and 10 severely wounded. All because of a surprise attack we were unprepared for. That’s a failure of the intelligence community.
But instead the report says the Committee “found no evidence of an intelligence failure, and an internal CIA analytic review provided to the Committee on January 4, 2013, corroborates the Committee’s findings.”
Wait, the CIA said the CIA didn’t fail? That’s not surprising at all. I mean, this may be what passes for intelligence committee oversight, but I think most Americans want to know why we weren’t more on top of the Al Qaeda leader’s warning or why we didn’t connect that to one of Al Qaeda’s favorite targets (diplomatic compounds) or why we forgot the significance of September 11. Or just why we weren’t better informed of who was friend and who was foe, who was working with whom and why and what we could do to prevent more dead Americans.
Examples of intel failures are brushed away as uncorroborated. To wit, the CIA apparently reported that “a former Transitional National Council security official in Benghazi said he received, very shortly before the attack, information of a possible imminent attack against the TMF and tried to notify the Libyan Intelligence Service the day of the attacks. However he was unable to make contact and relay the information.” Sounds like a failure. But the committee says it wasn’t corroborated by anyone. OK?
9. Try cutting through the jargon here.
Finding #2 says that the “CIA provided sufficient security personnel, resources, and equipment to defend against the known terrorist threat and to enable CIA operations in Benghazi. There is no evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security resources at the Annex.”
Well, we’ve already excused failures by saying that the CIA couldn’t have known of the threat. So the first line that they had appropriate resources for “known” threats is basically meaningless. And we already knew two years ago that Ambassador Stevens requested a beefing up of security.
Now, let’s say the request was never officially turned down but just never fulfilled, which is, in fact, extremely plausible. The end result is a lack of requested security but you could report that “There is no evidence that the CIA turned down requests for additional security.” See how bureaucratic jargon works? It’s like magic. (And if you’re immediately wondering how that first line about “known threats” doesn’t work in conjunction with the knowledge that Stevens requested more security, you are smarter than a typical reporter.)
Does a finding like that really “debunk” the supposed conspiracy theory that there wasn’t enough security? I don’t see how it does. Further, Finding #2 is something of a slap in the face of Ambassador Stevens’ memos to his superiors. These aren’t mentioned in the section.
Should I mention that this section about how everything was hunky dory mentions that “perhaps all of the [Diplomatic Security] agents were unarmed and one of them was not wearing shoes”? Or should I instead Groupthink my way into poking fun at conservatives and telling them to be ashamed?
10. Scathing indictment of how little our Feds understand about al Qaeda
As recently as Friday, the State Department was being mocked for its refusal to acknowledge that Ansar al Sharia is tied to Al Qaeda.
Finding #5 is fairly explicit about how a ragtag group of Al Qaeda affiliates launched the attack.
What’s going on with the State Department’s downplaying of Al Qaeda links? Well, I think it has a lot to do with Obama campaign pledges regarding Al Qaeda. You’d have to be a Major League Gruber to claim that the global Islamist militant movement is waning. But President Obama did make a lot of claims about Al Qaeda being “on its heels” or “on the run” or “decimated” and so on. To wit:
“Now, four years ago, I made a few commitments to you. I told you I’d end the war in Iraq, and I did. I said I’d end the war in Afghanistan, and we are,” said Obama. “I said we’d refocus on the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 — and today, al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more.”
To make this campaign rhetoric stick, our executive branch has claimed that it meant “core” al Qaeda as opposed to all the groups al Qaeda oversees and works with. Because if we know anything about al Qaeda it’s not that it’s a powerful decentralized operation with a global network. Oh wait, that’s precisely what we do know.
So Finding #5 says “A mixed group, including members of al-Qa’ida in the lands of the Islamic Meghreb (AQIM), al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), the Muhammad Jamal Network (MJN), Ansar al-Sharia (AAS), and Abu Abaydah Ibn Jarah Battalion (UJB) participated in the attacks, along with Qadafi loyalists.
Of course it was a mixed group such as this! It was the White House that consistently downplayed al Qaeda’s involvement for so long. It’s not entirely clear why this finding is such a debunking of what people other than the New York Times have been saying.
11. The involvement of prisoners released from Gitmo
So that New York Times report I keep going back to includes a portion that says this:
The C.I.A. kept its closest watch on people who had known ties to terrorist networks abroad, especially those connected to Al Qaeda. Intelligence briefings for diplomats often mentioned Sufian bin Qumu, a former driver for a company run by Bin Laden. Mr. Qumu had been apprehended in Pakistan in 2001 and detained for six years at Guantánamo Bay before returning home to Derna, a coastal city near Benghazi that was known for a high concentration of Islamist extremists. But neither Mr. Qumu nor anyone else in Derna appears to have played a significant role in the attack on the American Mission, officials briefed on the investigation and the intelligence said.
Again, if you were reading conservative sites, you already knew that this wasn’t true.
But the report says he was almost certainly involved and that he was trained by al Qaeda. And that others who were involved were part of al Qaeda.
12. “They told us to wait.” “Yeah, We told them to wait.”
Remember a few months ago when FOX News had a special documentary “13 Hours at Benghazi”? This was an explosive documentary hosted by Bret Baier that featured three American security forces who were in Benghazi saying they disagreed with how long they were told to wait before trying to rescue folks at TMF.
You can watch the relevant portion here but I’ll just note that these men are speaking on the record about their experience:
If you’d rather read the relevant portion, here’s a transcript. The guys said they were ready to go within five minutes but they were held back by a top CIA officer named “Bob.”
“It had probably been 15 minutes I think, and … I just said, ‘Hey, you know, we gotta– we need to get over there, we’re losing the initiative,’” said Tiegen. “And Bob just looks straight at me and said, ‘Stand down, you need to wait.’” “We’re starting to get calls from the State Department guys saying, ‘Hey, we’re taking fire, we need you guys here, we need help,’” said Paronto. After a delay of nearly 30 minutes, the security team headed to the besieged consulate without orders. They asked their CIA superiors to call for armed air support, which never came. Now, looking back, the security team said they believed that if they had not been delayed for nearly half an hour, or if the air support had come, things might have turned out differently. “Ambassador Stevens and Sean [Smith], yeah, they would still be alive, my gut is yes,” Paronto said. Tiegen concurred. “I strongly believe if we’d left immediately, they’d still be alive today,” he added… In a statement to Fox News, a senior intelligence official did allow that the security team was delayed from responding while the CIA’s top officer in Benghazi tried to rally local support.
Here’s how this is “debunked” according to the report:
Finding #7: Prior to the CIA security team departing for the TMF, the Annex leadership deliberated thoughtfully, reasonable, and quickly about whether further security could be provided to the team. Although some security officers voiced a greater urgency to depart for the TMF, no officer was ever told to stand down.
Oh where to begin? Now, what the report does is explain the delay, not deny it. It characterizes the delay as thoughtful and reasonable. The guys who went on the record thought it overdone, but that’s a natural disagreement.
But note that while the guys said they were told to “stand down” by a top CIA officer, the “debunkers” say that no CIA officer was told to stand down. Later they say that no “stand down” order was given from CIA HQ or from the Tripoli Team.
Of course, these security guys never said that. They said they were told to stand down by an officer right there who looked them in the eye and was named Bob. Further, it’s rather obvious from the actual interview that their big point of dispute is that they were told to wait. The report confirms that is exactly what happened.
13. Explanations aren’t eviscerations
Similarly, Finding #9 explains “The Tripoli Team’s decision not to move to the hospital to retrieve Ambassador Stevens was based on the best intelligence at the time.”
And yes, this report says, that intelligence turned out to be completely inaccurate. (But remember, there were no intelligence failures, just inaccurate or insufficient intelligence that turned out to be disastrous.) But if the claim is that nobody moved to the hospital to help Stevens, explaining why no one moved isn’t the same thing as “debunking” the claim.
14.No focus on State Department or Defense Department
This isn’t a big thing but it’s worth noting that this review was of intelligence agencies. Therefore, it lacks a substantive discussion of State Department and Defense Department performance. Not that I’d expect any biting oversight of those departments, either, but since those departments also played (or didn’t play, as the case may be) roles in what happened, the lack of focus is just something to consider when declaring, as one media outlet did, the release date of this report the date when Benghazi was no longer up for discussion.
15. Did we mention that there was nothing good about the talking points?
Yeah, so, late in the report we learn that “the Administration’s initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate.” You don’t say! Also that “The process and edits made to these talking points was flawed.”
And for this, the GOP should be ashamed? Really? It’s almost like a less obsequious press might think something else might be amiss.
Much of the report wishy-washily explains that there is a fog in intel gathering that makes things difficult to assess and that this kind of sort of excuses all the horse manure that was shoveled by the administration during the campaign-season terrorist attack.
Now, earlier in the report we’re told that “[Ansar al Sharia] posted a video on YouTube on September 12, 2012, claiming participation in the attacks” and we know that the head of al Qaeda called for attacks on the U.S. in Libya the day before the attack. We know that the attack took place on September 11, what even the most casual observer might note is a significant date. We’re told that the Defense Intelligence Agency said the attacks were pre-planned on September 12.
But you see, man, like a few weeks later the CIA totally thought it just happened to fall on September 11.
Let me be clear, as President Obama might say, if you’re a reporter reading this and think this sounds even remotely plausible and you think that this section is anything other than a great explanation of how idiotic the CIA can be, you are an idiot.
Everything about this section is groan-inducing. Such as that when a cable came from Tripoli to the CIA on September 14 that was the “first indication that there may not have been a protest,” according to deputy director Mike Morell, he wasn’t sure if he’d read it. Nevermind that we later learn that folks in Libya had within hours assessed that there was a lack of protests that day. I just have a hard time believing that the deputy director wouldn’t care if a Tripoli intelligence cable came around. Either way, by September 15, he’d gotten an email specifically saying there’d been no protest.
And when did Susan Rice go on television blaming a YouTube video for sparking a protest that somehow magically transformed into this super-effective double-location onslaught that took four American lives including an American Ambassador’s? That would be September 16.
That was when she said the actions in Benghazi were a “direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated.”
This report that supposedly makes Republicans look bad notes that Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote on September 14 that “one of the goals of Administration public statements should be ‘To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.'”
Exactly the opposite, Ben.
Anyway, this report then claims, more or less completely implausibly, that Rice couldn’t have really known until afterwards that her assessments were incorrect. Um, OK. But maybe when you’re, I don’t know, trying to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” because you’re focusing on campaigning more than truth-telling, you end up underscoring something that isn’t true. I don’t care if we have some difficult-to-swallow bureaucratic BS explanation that avoids tough questions and instead pats Susan Rice on the head as if she couldn’t be expected to do better. Or, rather, I don’t see why we let certain administrations get away with this type of explanatory defense while nailing other people to the wall for the smallest slight.
16. Wait, what’s this about Mike Morell again?
So the same Morell who accidentally didn’t read a memo related to a horrific terror attack and forgot to tell anyone about the cables from Tripoli also was this guy:
“Finding 12: Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell made significant changes to the talking points”
Wait, what? Are you kidding me?
But, the report says, it’s OK because, um, well, you see, he didn’t know Susan Rice or anyone else in the Administration would use talking points he made. And then the report says something about excellent beachfront property for sale cheap. No, actually it says he “made a large number of edits after a September 15 White House Deputies Committee meeting.” Oh dear.
Earlier drafts of the talking points mentioned al Qaeda but by the time Morell was done with them, he didn’t even include “Islamist” in them. Because our CIA is full of people who do not commit intelligence failures but can’t figure out that an al Qaeda attack on September 11 might be related to Islamism.
By the way, the CIA’s office of public affairs also stripped language about attacks and changed it to “demonstrations” and I am sure that had nothing whatsoever to do with it being an election year or their bosses allowing a major attack on the anniversary of September 11.
17. CIA could have done things better? You don’t say.
Finding #14 says “the CIA could have placed more weight on eyewitness sources on the ground and should have challenged its initial assessments about the existence of a protest earlier.” Of course, its initial assessment was right on. Within hours, the CIA noted that the attack was premeditated and there was no protest. It was politics that changed that rather obvious conclusion. And as noted above, the guys in Tripoli specifically told the agency that they had no evidence of a protest before Susan Rice received talking points making contrary claims.
Looking through all of this talking-point changing and reversal of initial assessments, and White House efforts to make sure everyone believed it was a protest, this whole “what difference does it make?” episode from Hillary Clinton sure doesn’t look any better (though I’m sure the media will continue to give her one of their trademarked passes).
18. Wrongly forced to sign NDAs?
Another finding is that no one was improperly forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. This is in response to the claims made by some that they were encouraged to sign multiple non-disclosure agreements.
The report in fact acknowledges that some of those who were told to sign secondary NDAs felt uncomfortable about it. It says “three of the six contractors who signed new NDAs testified that they believed CIA’s request for the new NDAs appeared odd.” But the committee feels strongly that everything was cool about it.
But how does this debunk reporting that contractors were asked to sign further NDAs or that the request felt it odd? The report confirms it. And it seems sensible that some might find it odd. Reporters shouldn’t delight in CIA explanations for why it was totally no big deal over other claims at odds with CIA talking points.
The report goes into twists and turns to explain that these secondary NDAs weren’t really tied to Benghazi, they just super seem like it. And further the report says that Director Brennan was “factually accurate” when he denied it had anything to do with Benghazi but then suggests he didn’t handle it well. What a mess.
19. If you can’t trust the CIA completely, who can you trust?
Finding #16 is “There is no evidence that the CIA conducted any unusual polygraph exams related to Benghazi.”
You’ll note a few things. Namely the word “unusual” and the phrase “related to Benghazi.” CNN reported that some people who had been in Benghazi were being polygraphed once a month. They also reported that was an unusual rate.
Does the CIA justify its claim by saying once a month is a totally usual rate? That the polygraphs were done at an unusual rate but weren’t actually related to Benghazi but, instead, something else agency related? Is the distinction related to the difference between the journalistic claim regarding “CIA operative” and the CIA claim that “no officer” was polygraphed? We don’t know. There is no substantiating evidence that would make someone believe the CIA over Jake Tapper on this one. Should journalists jump up and down and make partisan clowns out of themselves before asking these questions?
20. What a waste of two years.
The conclusion to the report claims “This report is the result of nearly two years of intensive investigation.” I’d like to see how they define intensive.
Because if you spend two years to come up with a report that one of our worst failures was not preventable and you don’t even explore, say, whether we were sold out by supposed friends who turn out to be al Qaeda affiliated, what are you doing with your time?
If I wanted to read a bunch of unconvincing explanations for bad behavior, I’d talk to a group of poorly disciplined children. We should expect a bit more from an oversight committee.
And as for the clown show of our reporter class who spent the last couple of years making B-E-N-G-H-A-Z-I acrostics? Joking about dead ambassadors and lacking curiosity are not as good looking as you think.