316 questions -- and we already knew the answers.
The 11-hour Benghazi Select Committee hearing featuring former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a marathon of old news. Media Matters' review of the entire "pointless" event found that the vast majority of questions demanded Clinton confirm facts that were already on the record, thanks to previous testimony by other officials, reporting on the ground, and Clinton's own past statements.
In particular, a significant number of the questions from Republicans rehashed common conservative media myths about Benghazi, or seemingly bore no relevance to the 2012 terrorist attacks.
Of the 316 total questions, according to our count Republican members of the committee asked 249.
About 75 of their questions -- 30 percent -- involved information that was already specifically discussed during Clinton's first day of hearings in front of Congress in January 2013. Those hearings (she appeared twice on the same day before both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee) only lasted a total of about five hours and 35 minutes, but Clinton and her questioners managed to provide a plethora of information that yesterday's Select Committee was apparently unaware existed.
For instance, Clinton had already answered questions about who handled requests for increased security at Benghazi prior to the 2012 attacks. She had already answered questions about why, in the days following the attacks, she had -- like the intelligence community and eyewitnesses on the ground -- discussed the anti-Muslim video that sparked worldwide protests and which the alleged terrorists themselves cited as a motivation. And she had already explained that the compound in Benghazi was a "temporary" facility, and thus not under the normal regulations for more typical consulates and embassies.
Despite Clinton having answered all of those questions before, Republicans on the committee kept asking them, including at least 12 full questions referencing the anti-Muslim video and how the attacks were initially described by the administration. This fixation on old news came straight from right-wing media, which has spent the last three years doing backflips trying to insist that there are unanswered questions -- even occasionally contradicting their own previous reporting.
One question from Republicans, in fact, came directly from a conservative media conspiracy theorist. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) asked Clinton if she had personally signed a waiver for the Benghazi facility, allowing it to not meet certain security requirements (emphasis added):
But I have to ask you if you're familiar with the fact that in the wake of the 1998 bombing attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Congress passed something referred to as SECCA -- the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act, which requires the secretary of state to issue a waiver if, under two conditions, if U.S. government personnel work in separate facilities; or if U.S. overseas facilities do not meet the security setback distances specified by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The law specifies that only the secretary of state may sign these waivers and that requirement is not to be delegated. Was a waiver issued for the temporary mission in Benghazi and the CIA annex after the temporary mission compound was authorized through December of 2012? And did you sign that waiver, Madam Secretary?
The Benghazi temporary mission, as Clinton explained to Brooks, did not require this kind of waiver. As Media Matters previously laid out over a year ago, the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated Benghazi noted that the Benghazi facility was exempted from SECCA. SECCA applies to diplomatic facilities, such as consulates, that are officially notified to the host governments. Instead, the special mission in Benghazi was a "temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government," and as such SECCA rules -- waivable or not -- did not apply.
This question of waivers first surfaced in conservative reporter Aaron Klein's conspiracy book, The Real Benghazi Story. Klein is a reporter for conspiracy website WND, which is probably best known for its obsession with President Obama's birth certificate. He has previously speculated that Obama might be a Muslim who works "with" Al-Qaeda, given his "Islamic background," and wondered whether Obama is Satan, because a fly landed on him.
That's who Republicans got their hard-hitting Benghazi question from.
But at least those questions were (sort of) related to Benghazi in 2012. About 52 of the GOP's questions to Clinton were not directly about Benghazi or Libya at all, while about 56 questions -- over 20 percent -- focused on Clinton's use of private email and a private email server. (And those 56 don't count many questions that were based on the content of those emails.) Finally, 35 questions revolved around Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton friend and former staffer in her husband's White House and a consultant to Media Matters.
In fact, Media Matters was mentioned three times.
Republicans on the committee insisted that questions about Clinton's email and association with Blumenthal were related to their investigation, because "to get to the truth about Benghazi we need the complete record."
37 months, seven completed investigations, a litany of media fact checks, and 11 hours later, it's unclear what could possibly be missing from the record. But right-wing media are already defending the committee and restarting the endless cycle of falsehoods, so we can look forward to hearing those 316 questions again and again and again.
Additional research provided by: Cydney Hargis, Julie Alderman, Tyler Cherry
WND reporter Aaron Klein's history of outrageous conspiracy theories has already cast serious doubt on the credibility of his new book, The REAL Benghazi Story. But the book itself contains major distortions of reality, including selectively-edited evidence and distorted facts, reconfirming Klein's commitment to pushing convoluted hoaxes.
Klein's book, which Media Matters obtained a copy of in advance of its September 9 release, claims to "expose" the "truth" about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya, revealing "What The White House and Hillary Don't Want You To Know." Included are a few of the more conspiratorial analyses that Klein has previously pushed at the birther website WND, such as the claim that Benghazi is linked to the Boston Marathon bombing -- because a handful of members of a jihadist group may have taken part in the Benghazi attacks, and that group also "is behind" a magazine "thought to have provided bomb-building instructions" for the accused marathon bombers.
Klein's book does include one seemingly "new" Benghazi theory, which is also entirely false. Klein attempts to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he claims is her previously "unreported role" in Benghazi, by falsely claiming she must have personally approved security conditions at the Benghazi compound.
The Benghazi mission was unusual for government buildings overseas, as it featured a CIA annex that was separate from the diplomatic compound, roughly a mile apart. Typically government agencies are housed together in the same building, which is called "co-location." According to Klein, State Department regulations would have required Clinton to personally sign a waiver permitting the Benghazi mission to be set up like this, and thus provided "personal approval of security conditions at the compound":
...it can now be said that Clinton personally provided the legal waivers for U.S. personnel to occupy that death trap of a mission. This largely unreported detail was confirmed in the Senate's January 2014 report on Benghazi. Senate investigators found the Benghazi facility required a special waiver since it did not meet the minimum official security standards set by the State Department.
Some of the necessary waivers, the Senate affirmed, could have been issued at lower levels within the State Department. However "other departures, such as the co-location requirement, could only be approved by the Secretary of State." ... This means Clinton herself approved some aspects of the U.S. special mission, including separating the mission from the seemingly more protected CIA annex. In doing so, did Clinton know she was approving a woefully unprotected compound? If not, then at the very least she is guilty of dereliction of duty and the diplomatic equivalence of criminal negligence.
But the fact is the Benghazi mission did not require this kind of waiver. The State Department regulations Klein is referencing lay out the responsibilities of the Secretary under the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act, or SECCA. But as the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) that investigated Benghazi explained, the Benghazi facility was exempted from SECCA. SECCA applies to diplomatic facilities, such as consulates, that are officially notified to the host government. Instead, the special mission in Benghazi was a "temporary, residential facility, not officially notified to the host government," and as such SECCA rules -- waivable or not -- did not apply.
In fact, the document approving the set up and security conditions for the compound has been public since at least September 2013, when it was posted online by Al Jazeera America. It clearly shows the signature of Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, as well as clearance from a number of other low-level officials.
State's ARB report acknowledged that the Benghazi mission's "'non-status' as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult." They recommended State develop minimum security standards for temporary facilities and encouraged co-location in the future. Clinton accepted the recommendation and began implementing it before leaving office.
Real flaws in security at Benghazi do not, however, justify Klein's attempt to ignore the facts and claim Clinton personally signed waivers approving the compound.
WND reporter Aaron Klein is releasing The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know, which claims to "expose" the "truth" about the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya. Klein is utterly devoid of credibility -- he's a conspiracy theorist who claims President Obama has an "eligibility problem," says Obama may be a Muslim who "might be with" Al-Qaeda given his "Islamic background," and previously authored books about Obama being a "Manchurian President" deserving of impeachment.
A new book that seeks to damage Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi reportedly relies on long-debunked conservative myths.
On September 9, WND Books will publish Aaron Klein's The REAL Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don't Want You to Know. The book's release is the latest salvo from a conservative cottage industry that aims to make money and political hay out of both Benghazi and Clinton smears.
Klein, a senior reporter for the birther site WND, is not a credible author -- one of his recent books portrayed President Obama as a "Manchurian Candidate" whose autobiography was ghostwritten by Bill Ayers.
The Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard, who reviewed an advance copy of Klein's Benghazi book, reported that Klein argues "Clinton was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost and even played a role in sending Stevens to his 'doomed mission.'"
Klein's contention that Clinton "was unwilling to provide additional security to the diplomatic outpost" seems to reference the long-debunked conservative claim that the then-Secretary of State personally signed off on cables rejecting requests for additional security. When congressional Republicans first made that claim in April 2013, diplomatic reporters noted that every cable sent to the State Department from overseas facilities is addressed to the secretary, and every cable sent from the State Department is signed by the secretary, even though the secretary rarely reviews them.
In her 2014 memoir, Clinton wrote that she had never seen the cables in question, stating, "That's not how it works. It shouldn't. And it didn't."
Klein's claim that Clinton "played a role in sending Stevens" to his death in Benghazi has also been debunked. The State Department's Accountability Review Board reported that Stevens "made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice," with the trip's timing "driven in part by commitments in Tripoli." Gregory Hicks, who was Stevens' deputy, also testified before Congress that the ambassador "chose to go" to Benghazi.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent equated President Obama's decision to have Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts with asking serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer for child-rearing advice.
Nugent recently claimed gun owners will become the next Rosa Parks and offer nonviolent resistance if President Obama issues an executive order confiscating guns, a comparison that drew sharp criticism from civil rights leaders and advocates.
Nugent followed up that comment by appearing on the January 13 edition of WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein's radio show and saying that having Biden and Holder lead a gun safety task force is "like hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children."
The Drudge Report and WorldNetDaily have promoted Nugent's comments on Klein's show, during which Nugent also said that Obama and others must be "psychotic" for trying to strengthen gun violence prevention laws.
Right-wing media are ignoring anti-fraud protections the Obama campaign has in place to allege that the Obama campaign accepted donations from someone impersonating Osama bin Laden.
Matt Drudge is hyping an article by World Net Daily's Aaron Klein who claimed that "Using a Pakistani Internet Protocol and proxy server, a disposable credit card and a fake address, 'Osama bin Laden' has successfully donated twice to Barack Obama's presidential re-election campaign.' "
Drudge linked to Klein's story under the headline "REPORT: Obama camapign [sic] takes money from 'Osama bin Laden' ":
In fact, the campaign has explained that it has anti-fraud protections in place to stop fake or illegal donations and that just because a fraudulent donation "may initially appear to a donor to have been accepted," such a donation will soon be rejected.
In response to another attempt to show that the Obama campaign is accepting illegal donations, the campaign explained its address verification process to Election Law Blog:
"If a billing address is verified via AVS, then the credit card contribution is processed without delay. Some transactions caught by AVS may initially appear to a donor to have been accepted even though this is not the case. Obama for America employs a manual process to review any transaction flagged by AVS, also taking into account other fraud risk factors, and using fraud detection services provided by our credit card processor.
"As an example, the contribution discussed here http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/04/dubious-donations-illustrated-illegal-contributor-edition.php may have initially appeared to have gone through when the donor completed the transaction at 10:18 a.m. but it was rejected at 4:51 p.m. under our standard fraud detection procedures.
"So any claims that Obama for America has disabled AVS are inaccurate; any question about this would have been answered-if the question had been asked."
Right-wing media are demonizing the National Council of La Raza in order to object to President Obama's recent appointment of Cecilia Muñoz as director of the Domestic Policy Council, accusing the organization of being an "amnesty" group with "racist" ties. These attacks are not new: Conservatives have long described the civil rights group as "the Ku Klux Klan Of The Hispanic People."
From the October 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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World Net Daily writer Aaron Klein is lashing out at new White House Director of Special Innovation Jonathan Greenblatt by typing the innocuous words "Soros," "social justice" and "Google" over, and over, and over again.
Klein invokes right-wing bogeyman George Soros a total of eight times in his piece, pointing to Greenblatt's past affiliation with the Aspen Institute. Klein conveniently leaves out the fact that David Koch is a member of the Aspen board.
Indeed, Klein claims that The Aspen Institute "works closely with Soros and even was reportedly used by the billionaire in a failed attempt to engineer the defeat of President Bush in the 2004 elections." Klein indicates that it was "used by" Soros when he held a meeting there in 2004. However, The Aspen Institute clearly shows that it has conference centers that are "popular meeting places for outside groups" and can be rented out by anyone.
Klein also erroneously claims that in addition to his White House position, Greenblatt "doubles as the director of a social justice group funded by George Soros." Greenblatt resigned from The Aspen Institute for his White House position.
Aaron Klein also lashed out about the fact that Greenblatt founded "a civic service company" - actually non-profit organization All For Good - that "works in partnership with Google" and that Greenblatt "has several ties to Google." It's not clear what is problematic about "ties to Google." All For Good was recently acquired by the Points of Light Institute, which was founded in honor of former President George H.W. Bush and whose current chairman is Neil Bush - not exactly a radical association. Incidentally, Google just held a Republican presidential debate with Fox News.
WorldNetDaily continues to set the stage for the release of Jerome Corsi's sure-to-be comedy classic, Where's the Birth Certificate?, with a series of articles desperately trying to cast doubt on Obama's citizenship. Today's offering from Aaron Klein, posted with the headline "Bombshell: U.S. government questioned Obama citizenship," alleges that the "U.S. government is on record questioning President Obama's citizenship status as early as when he was 5 years old, stating it lacked documentation to determine his citizenship."
Both the headline and the lead paragraph, however, are wildly misleading -- as Klein later notes (buried at the end of the article) the U.S. government also answered these questions "on record" by definitively stating that Obama "is a United States citizen by virtue of his birth in Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug. 4, 1961." Bombshell!
WorldNetDaily founder and editor Joseph Farah reportedly wrote in a recent email exchange with Salon's Justin Elliott, "Admittedly, we publish some misinformation by columnists." Indeed, Farah is right: WorldNetDaily columnists -- and reporters -- have published numerous falsehoods and smears as well as some of the most absurd anti-Obama conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
As the United States participates in a multilateral effort to establish a no-fly zone over Libya, the conservative media fearmonger that the Obama administration may use the "Gadhafi Precedent" to use military force against Israel. However, Obama has said "[t]he United States is going to be unwavering in its support of Israel's security" and his administration has repeatedly showed support for Israel.
Today, the Fox & Friends co-hosts consulted Aaron Klein, whom they billed as a "Jerusalem based reporter and conservative radio talk show host," to weigh in on Sarah Palin's trip to Israel. Despite Fox's best efforts to give Klein -- a contributor to World Net Daily -- some credibility, the fact still remains that he is an admitted birther and conspiracy theorist who went as far as to publish his inane ramblings in a book.
On the March 3 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money, Eric Bolling devoted a segment -- complete with lame bobblehead-esque animation -- to the idea that President Obama is somehow linked to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi through a series of guilt-by-association connections, like being pictured together with Louis Farrakhan on the cover of a magazine with 17 other people.
An anti-Obama attack this loony and desperate could only come from one place: WorldNetDaily. As we noted when Fox Nation promoted this same claim, it did indeed originate with WND's Aaron Klein, who went even further by suggesting that Obama was being "cautious in his criticism" of Gadhafi because of these supposed links. Of course, Klein didn't mention that the caution in Obama's initial statements about the uprising in Libya was intended to ensure the safety of thousands of Americans who were still there.
The lame animation wasn't enough for Bolling -- he invited Klein on the show to discuss it further. Klein quickly got lost in ranting about Jeremiah Wright and his "anti-white, anti-American, Nation of Islam-linked ideology," and Bolling had to prompt him to talk about Libya. Needless to say, Klein offered up no substantive evidence beyond his convoluted guilt-by-association links.
From the January 31 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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