By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
As with so many issues, when it comes to Benghazi, the media are divided into two camps. The liberal, mainstream media condemn any and all concerns about the 2012 Benghazi attacks as a phony scandal, while many in the conservative media wonder what damaging information the Clinton emails and the Select Committee on Benghazi investigation could bring to light. However, the Benghazi scandal has moved well past the question of whether a cover-up has occurred, and whether or not it can be proven.
The record of what has already been released definitively demonstrates that a government cover-up of Benghazi is ongoing, far-reaching, and damaging to America’s interests at home and abroad. The question is not who is responsible; the question is, when will the ringleaders be held accountable?
It appears that reporters such as Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times cannot stomach the idea that anything about Hillary Clinton’s duplicitous behavior on EmailGate might add legitimacy to citizens’ concerns about that cover-up. His March 23 article serves as damage control for the administration while simultaneously exposing Mrs. Clinton’s lies about who, exactly, sent emails from their private accounts.
Yet this front-page article states that the as-yet-unreleased Clinton Benghazi emails provide “no evidence that Mrs. Clinton…issued a ‘stand down’ order to halt American forces responding to the violence in Benghazi, or took part in a broad cover-up of the administration’s response, according to senior American officials.”
That’s right: according to “senior American officials.” In fact, Schmidt’s entire news report is based on bold assertions by “four senior government officials” who refused to go on the record, but “offered” Schmidt “descriptions of some of the key messages.”
“The emails have not been made public, and The New York Times was not permitted to review them,” writes Schmidt. In other words, the Times couldn’t verify what it reported before the story went to print. Anonymous sources are fine, but the information they provide should stand up to scrutiny when set against the known record.
Schmidt and The New York Times appear to have been so eager to get this momentous scoop defending the administration narrative on Benghazi that they were willing to violate basic journalistic practices in the process. If the sources wouldn’t show them the documents, why are they so confident that what they are being told is the truth—especially if the information is self-serving to the administration, as these revelations clearly were.
Schmidt’s resulting article is full of the politically motivated holes, inaccuracies, and half-truths we’ve come to expect from the Times, especially after David Kirkpatrick’s December 2013 article claiming that al Qaeda was not involved in the Benghazi attacks.
Within weeks of that article, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a report establishing exactly the opposite—al Qaeda was involved. How much of Schmidt’s reporting will be proven false?
The most recent New York Times report serves as another attempt to bolster the administration’s beleaguered reputation on Benghazi—once again at the expense of the truth.
Schmidt focuses on the idea that Mrs. Clinton was not to blame for the “stand down” debacle.
The Washington Post gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) four Pinocchios last year for expressing “suspicions” that Clinton had “told Leon [Panetta] to stand down” regarding military personnel in Tripoli, Libya. Yes, Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson has walked back Gregory Hicks’ assertion that he was told to stand down when he wanted to travel from Tripoli to Benghazi to aid the defenders. Lt. Gibson told lawmakers he was not told to “stand down,” but to “remain in place.”
But there is more than one “stand down” scandal. “On the day of the attacks in Benghazi, whether or not there was an official order to stand down, the result was the same,” the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi wrote in its April 2014 interim report. “The failure to attempt to rescue these Americans amounts to a dereliction of duty.”
Later that year I noted that the “stand down” order was issued—to the members of the Annex Security Team (AST) by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Schmidt selected the most convenient target he could find, and ignored these revelations.
Three members of the AST have gone public with their book, 13 Hours, and outlined how they were told, repeatedly, that they should stand down and not leave to aid the Diplomatic Security agents under attack at the Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, because an al-Qaeda-linked militia was responsible for their safety.
The other half of Schmidt’s carefully worded sentence, that Mrs. Clinton took no part in a possible government cover-up, is also untrue.
Judicial Watch’s emails gleaned through the Freedom of Information Act have already definitively demonstrated that Mrs. Clinton had “guilty knowledge” of Benghazi as a terror attack before she issued a statement blaming it on an inflammatory video.
The cover-up is real and ongoing. “Document after released document shows that the Secretary of State, the Defense Secretary, the head of AFRICOM, and the President of the United States himself, were informed, shortly after the attack began, that Benghazi was an attack by terrorists,” I wrote last month. “Yet most of the media, such as New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, defensively maintain the official narrative years later that the attack ‘was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.’”
This most recent Times report is clearly based on shady facts and assertions, yet outlets such as Politico mostly reprinted its findings. This, despite the fact that The New York Times went to great lengths to avoid discussing basic facts about Emailgate that it had itself reported.
“In December, Mrs. Clinton turned over 30,000 of her emails to the State Department, and the department sent the House committee the 300 related to Benghazi or Libya,” writes Schmidt.
In other articles, but not this one, Schmidt and his colleagues extensively detailed how
- approximately 30,000 additional emails were deleted,
- that gaps of months exist in the records turned over to the Select Committee on Benghazi, and
- that the 300 emails submitted to Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) Select Committee were vetted by Clinton advisers before they were laundered through the State Department.
Somehow, despite Schmidt’s lack of access to the original emails from Clinton’s server, he is able to report excerpts from communications by Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s former deputy chief of staff, verbatim.
“Mr. Sullivan’s message was brief, but he appeared pleased by how it had gone,” writes Schmidt. “[Former United Nations Ambassador Susan] Rice, on the show, described it as a spontaneous eruption of violence, triggered by an offensive anti-Muslim video.”
“She did make clear our view that this started spontaneously then evolved,” wrote Sullivan.
Yet, Schmidt reports, Sullivan later “told Mrs. Clinton that he had reviewed her public remarks since the attack and that she had avoided the language that had landed Ms. Rice in trouble.”
Sullivan wrote Secretary Clinton to tell her that “You never said ‘spontaneous’ or characterized their motivations.”
Mrs. Clinton actually issued a statement on the night of September 11, 2012 stating, “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” a clear reference to the Internet video. This was shortly after she spoke with President Obama, according to her testimony, around 10 p.m. that night. The White House initially denied that phone call took place, but changed their story and acknowledged it following Mrs. Clinton’s testimony.
Schmidt’s report blatantly omits that Sullivan was directly responsible for working with the intelligence community on the controversial talking points, and that he spoke with Rice’s office about them while they were being developed.
“I spoke to Jake immediately after the [secure video teleconference] and noted that you were doing the Sunday morning shows and would need to be aware of the ?nal posture that these points took,” wrote Eric Pelofsky to Rice and others the afternoon before her shows. “He committed to ensure that we were updated in advance of the Sunday shows. I speci?cally mentioned Erin Pelton as the one coordinating your preparations for the shows and also strongly encouraged him to loop in Rexon during the process.”
That same email describes how CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell took a “heavy editing hand” to the talking points.
In his 2014 testimony Morell asserted that those talking points never mentioned the video. “When she talked about the video, my reaction was, that’s not something that the analysts have attributed this attack to,” claimed Morell.
Could the idea have started with the Secretary of State or her staff?
Without seeing the actual emails, in their original unvetted form, America may never know where the false YouTube narrative originated. But despite The New York Times’ reporting, it is, becoming increasingly apparent that this narrative was a convenient fiction sold to the American people during a presidential reelection campaign.
More importantly, what the CCB, and The Washington Times, have revealed is that the U.S. government, partly through the maneuvers of Mrs. Clinton, deliberately and blindly pushed America into intervening in Libya. The result was a conflict ridden, unstable nation serving as a breeding ground for terrorists. As we further documented in our CCB interim report, the Obama administration also facilitated the delivery of arms to al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and refused an opening for truce talks with Moammar Gaddafi, who expressed a willingness to abdicate and leave the country.
Unable to accept the truth about a cover-up, the Times, through Schmidt and others, continues to manipulate the truth hoping this scandal will just disappear. Four brave Americans are dead. The administration lied about the reasons. This is a major scandal based on what is already known, and it’s not going away despite media attempts to smooth it over.