If it has legs, it leads newscasts and has a synergy that engages the energy of a lot of reporters.
Some conservatives believe there is a media conspiracy to keep that from happening. I don’t know the answer, other than to say that if there is one, I’m not part of it. Also, in a 30-year career that includes gigs at several newspapers and one news service in New York City, I’ve never seen evidence of competing news outlets conspiring with each other.
I can’t imagine what would make them do that.
But there has been some interesting reporting on Benghazi lately, mostly under the radar.
First, Fox News published this story a few days ago citing sources that say a CIA team near the consulate was told to “stand down” when requesting permission to offer aid during the attack on Sept. 11. A few of them ignored the order and came anyway.
When the attack turned on the CIA safe house, superiors again denied requests for military support, the story said.
The attack at the CIA annex continued for four hours. That was plenty of time for air support from a base 480 miles away to come.
Also, Fox reported that surveillance drones were sent to Benghazi soon after the attack began, capable of sending video back to Washington.
The CIA has denied that it wouldn’t provide support. Even if that were true, support was not provided in any way approaching what was necessary. The obvious question is how high up in the government were people aware of, and monitoring, the attack? Did the White House know what was going on?
More good reporting has come from the New York Times. This story, published two weeks ago, describes how Ahmed Abu Khattala, one of the men believed to be a leader in the attack, sits in the open on the patio of a crowded luxury hotel, sipping a strawberry frappe as he mocks the United States.
Obama has vowed to bring the people responsible for the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans to justice, but Khattala says it’s all just election-year politics.
This Times piece provides a measured look at the warnings that violence was imminent in Benghazi. It says Republicans won’t find the smoking gun they seek in the form of evidence that clear warnings were ignored. Instead, evidence shows the State Department had a security strategy “formulated in a very different environment a year earlier.”
The Benghazi angle that does seem to have been mostly ignored, however, is the Obama administration’s initial response to the attack, which was to blame an obscure anti-Muslim movie made by an American and published on YouTube.
This was mostly brushed aside in the second presidential debate, thanks to moderator Candy Crowley who helped everyone get hung up over whether the president blamed terrorism early on.
This is the sort of issue that has to be carried by pundits — columnists and editorial writers. Hard reporting may reveal some new facts about who knew what when, but the story about the administration’s initial response is fairly straightforward. Officials such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and White House press secretary Jay Carney were publicly blaming the video for days after the attack. The administration tried to pressure YouTube to remove the video, and the man who produced it was thrown in jail, ostensibly for violating the conditions of his parole for an unrelated crime.
The obvious angle for criticism here concerns the First Amendment. In the United States, we value the freedom to publish just about anything we wish, even if it offensive. There are good reasons for honoring that freedom and it ought to be one of the core principles we try to export to the rest of the world.
Instead, the administration used the video as a catalyst to arrest the filmmaker on unrelated charges that, frankly, were a stretch.
Taken together, all of these aspects to the story point to some key missing information. What really was going on in Benghazi that would prevent the military from a full response and prompt the administration to divert attention to an obscure video?
These sound like the sort of questions that ought to give real legs to a story.