The Latest Benghazi ‘Bombshell’ is Old News and Bad Reporting

FILED TO: Politics Abroad

benghazi_gate_simpsonsAfter a week in which the Republicans and Fox News Channel had eagerly anticipated a bombshell from the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings, essentially nothing new was revealed during the proceedings other than some of the whistleblowers were hoppin’ mad. But on Friday, ABC News reported that a State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, worked with the CIA to sculpt the wording of the CIA’s Benghazi talking points for Susan Rice’s September 16, 2012 TV appearances regarding what had happened and who might’ve been responsible.

Shock horror! Well, there it is: the cover-up I’ve been spammed about by right-wing conspiracy trolls for the last several days. Game over.



Other than the acquisition of a State Department memo (revised 12 times), nothing else in Jonathan Karl’s report is, you know, new information. How do we know this? Republican superhero and former CIA chief David Petraeus testified last year during the Senate’s Benghazi hearings that the CIA authorized and approved the State Department’s revisions. He also revealed that the proper names “al-Qaeda” and “Ansar al-Shariah” (an al-Qaeda affiliate) were edited out of the talking points so the groups wouldn’t be “tipped off” to the fact that they were being investigated by the FBI and closely surveilled by U.S. intel.

The ABC News report also revealed that the State Department removed a line from the talking points about a CIA warning gleaned from the Ansar al-Shariah Facebook page (yes, Facebook) that demonstrations were planned for September 11 and that “jihadists” might try to break into the embassy. Cue dramatic orchestra blast. This might be the big cover-up! In the third paragraph of Karl’s report:

“The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.” [emphasis mine]

For some reason, Karl uses the phrase “warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi” even though the only specific CIA warning about an impending attack was about a jihadist attack planned for the U.S. Embassy… in Cairo. Not the Benghazi consulate.

How do we know this? Because it’s in the actual talking point revisions document provided by ABC News: “On 10 September we [the CIA] warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy Cairo and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.” [Emphasis mine.]

The ABC News report is totally misleading about this point, and so most of the conservative wingnutosphere has exploded in a massive group freakout about how the administration was warned about the attack in Benghazi, did nothing to protect our ambassador, then tried to cover it up by deleting the line. But, again, the only specific CIA warning was about Cairo. Not Benghazi. Now it’s possible that Karl interpreted some other part of the memo as a “warning,” like the mention of random “attacks” by “unidentified assailants” that took place earlier that year in Libya. However, Karl didn’t write a single word about the Cairo warning to differentiate it from his mention of so-called Benghazi warnings.

By the way, for the benefit of any conspiracy theorist fire-eaters joining us today: located 675 miles from Benghazi, Cairo is an entirely different city in a different nation called Egypt. Also, the administration, acting on the CIA’s warnings, supplemented embassy security in Egypt in advance of September 11. The very pro-Obama Wall Street Journal reported on September 21, 2012: “U.S. officials issued alerts and ordered security precautions in neighboring Egypt ahead of protests and violence on Sept. 11.” There was nothing about this in Karl’s report.

So this is the scandal? A big, fat nothing?

As with the testimony in Darrell Issa’s hearings, the “shocking” ABC News report is stale, recycled information with a few minor details added for flavor. Furthermore, the existence of the edited memo is being treated as if it was the centerpiece of everything that happened during the week of the attack — the magic bullet of the Benghazi story. It was nothing more than notes for the Sunday morning TV shows, which, by the way, aren’t bastions of integrity and substance these days. Meanwhile, it ought to be common knowledge that any memo intended for public consumption is severely edited for content, national security considerations and, yes, politics, regardless of which party occupies the White House. But it’s the amateurish purview of desperate reporters and neophyte conspiracy theorists to grapple onto documents like this because they reveal a behind-the-scenes, sausage-making glimpse into how top-level officials communicate in the aftermath of a crisis. Stop the presses! Public remarks were edited and some political considerations were incorporated into a memo provided to a political appointee! Impeach! Impeach!

Worse than anything else connected with this ABC News item, of course, is the unforgivably misleading nature of the reporting about the September 10 warning. Until Jonathan Karl clarifies his story, it’s fair to ask why he omitted such an important detail — that the CIA’s September 10 warnings were about Egypt and not Benghazi, and that the administration did, indeed, augment security in Cairo.

But now, due to shoddy, specious reporting and no real evidence of malfeasance, we’re facing years of conspiracy-mongering about Benghazi, especially given how the Republican mob is being ushered in the direction of Hillary Clinton and clearly for the purpose of 2016 politics.

The Republicans are determined to find a scandal in this non-scandal. And if they look hard enough they’ll find mistakes — and certainly the administration’s reaction wasn’t flawless, but neither was Bush’s reaction to September 11, or his reaction to Abu Ghraib, or his reaction to the long list of attacks on our embassies during a time when he claimed to be “keeping us safe.” By the way, there were also whistleblowers regarding the Bush administration’s manipulation of CIA intelligence in the lead-up to Iraq. Just thought I’d mention it.

This is a scandal simply because the Republican Party and Fox News are actively colluding to turn it into one. They keep trying and trying, with investigation after investigation and bombshell after bombshell. Still, nothing. They’re inflating national security sausage-making into malfeasance and mistakes into conspiracies, and they’re exploiting the deaths of four Americans as a means of scoring political points and to derail Obama’s second term agenda while, using their well-honed Orwellian chops, wagging their fingers at the administration for playing politics with the attack. And yet they’ve got nothing. No evidence, no smoking gun, nothing.


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  • Michael K Pate

    > This is a scandal simply because the Republican Party and Fox News are actively colluding to turn it into one.

    Actually this is a scandal because 4 people died needlessly.

  • Gary Doss

    Republicans have picked a subject, world politics, that is admittedly their weakest.

    I wonder what all these busy bodies were doing leading up to the event. Are they so out of touch as to be completely ignorant of the potentials? Have they become like so many citizens that expect ‘someone else’ to pay attention?

  • ReaganiteRepublican

    Good luck defending your side of the argument after this week

  • Artisticidea

    The only sideshow or “gate” in progress concerning Libya is the complete and utter silence of the heinous and illegal dismantling of a functioning modern society by NATO bombs and ground troops, led by the USA. Over 80,000 were killed by the airstrikes, the country’s economy has catapulted downwards, just as in all of our recent mideast wars of Imperialist aggression against the SECULAR nationalist strong-men (capable of using their nations’ natural resource assets for public purposes – with a few, yes minor, siphons to regime insiders). Only the year before, when a frightened Qaddafi had begun to lure the sharks to the feeding pit by offering limited privatization deals for Libya’s oil extraction, and exploration rights to BP (with Tony Blair himself acting as a secret special envoy for the company, and that information can be fully corroborated in the mainstream press), the puppet leaders of N. America and EU nation states (in Finance Capital We Trust) can be seen publicly embracing the Great Jamahira’s Colonel in press conference & public ceremony ad nauseum. One can find pictures of Qaddafi either hugging or warmly handshaking nearly all of the major marionettes: Obama, Hillary, Gordon Brown, Sarkozy (met over 7x in 2010), Burlusconi (met 11x in 2010), Medvedev, Putin, Zapatero, the list goes on. This gang of backstabbing wolves simultaneously supports far worse dictators than Qaddafi, such as Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang (just look for the shinning Obama&Michelle portrait with that class act murderer), and many were allied – including the US – sometimes until the very moment of backstab, with such favorites as Mubarak, Hussein, Ben Ali and Assad.

    The US even backed CIA liaison Sulleiman, Mubarak’s Torturer-In-Chief, through the entire (epically) failed revolution and afterwards.

    Obama’s unconstitutional proxy war in (per report of the NYT) Libya and subsequent invasion thereof turned a corrupt but functioning country with free public higher education, public transportation, modern infrastructure and an imperfect but functioning social safety net, into a bombshelled pit of warring factions, broken systems, economic contraction, unemployment, disease and unending terrorism. As with both Hussein and now Assad’s case, the latter was far worse than the former state, and it was known clearly that such a state would be the result. However, the interventions in each case had absolutely nothing whatsoever at all – not even 1/2 of 1% – to do with “human rights” or self-determination, as the president of the CFR, himself, Richard Haas, admitted in a terse but incisive op-ed in that very influential group’s journal, Foreign Policy.

    If this were not the case, then the sham transitional council of Libya would not have met with NATO leaders in the early spring of 2011 and announced that they would not only be privatizing all the oil (whose sails constituted upwards of 80% of government revenues, hence decimating the post-revolutionary public sector and national economy) while favoring Western firms (such as Elf Total, the French giant), but also dissolving the Public Central Bank of Libya and creating a privately owned central bank and joining the Bank of International Settlements — an outrageous move which immediately catapulted upwards the nation’s internal debt from near zero and external sovereign debt from moderate to awful. No genuinely revolutionary faction would have ever done such things, as they spell and have spelled – when conducted in a rapid fashion – immediate economic decline of the nation one is supposedly attempting to liberate. To any informed onlooker, the “revolution” was a complete sham, whereby a genuine popular unrest movement of a secular nationalist reformist character was co-opted by US and NATO covert ops forces (as directly reported by the NYT in 2011), who backed proxy Islamist militias, just as in Syria and – if one has any memory at all, even as recently as 2010 – Afghanistan. This campaign of destabilization leading to civil war was then followed by a massive invasion on the absolutely ludicrous and sickly hypocritical grounds of “human rights”. Syria is an exact repeat and, as the Brookings Institute’s “Which path to Persia?” study of 2009 concurs, all roads do indeed lead to Iran (just as they have 3 times in the 20th C), the ultimate pot of black gold.

    The strategy is hydrocarbon hegemony by massive privatization (either outright or by subterfuge, via obtaining all contracted drilling rights from a nominally nationalized company, usually after drastically weakening the scope thereof) of petroleum reserves by international western energy firms, for the purposes of supply REDUCTION (not expansion, as is oft touted) and also monetazation in USD (thus inflating the value of that currency relative to other currencies in the Global South).

  • i_a_c

    One forgotten aspect of the Benghazi affair is that the diplomatic presence in Benghazi was a front for a CIA operation. But for some reason, every wingnut is turning their fire on the State Department for wanting to protect itself in the public sphere. Yet not one person has considered that the CIA has every bit as much desire to protect itself in the public talking points, but they survive scrutiny, probably at least partially because they don’t have to tell anyone squat. All of the right’s missiles have been trained on the State Department, though. I’ll give you one guess as to why.

    And no, I’m not the least bit outraged that someone dared think about political considerations. That’s about as interesting as “dog bites man.”

  • flhume

    Republicans are also looking for a way to blame someone other than themselves for the deaths of four that might have been prevented if the embassy’s security funding wasn’t drastically cut by Republicans.

  • Hugo S LaVia

    Bob, you started out with, “After a week in which the Republicans and Fox News Channel … .”

    Aren’t those two things actually one in the same?

    Other than that …

    ‘warned of attacks’ … now where have we heard that before?

  • Victor_the_Crab

    This sums up the Republicans, Fox News, and their mouth breathing minions over Benghazi quite perfectly:


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