Another Challenge To CBS' Benghazi Report

Lara LoganMcClatchy News has offered a damning critique of 60 Minutes' now-retracted story on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, pointing out that several aspects of the story feature minimal sourcing and contradict the statements of experts.

The report comes as CBS News discloses that a “journalistic review” of the heavily criticized October 27 segment, which featured a since-discredited “witness” and promoted his book on the attacks without disclosing that the book was published by a CBS division. CBS has declined to explain who is conducting that review, how it is being conducted, and whether its findings will be public.

During the segment, correspondent Lara Logan made a number of claims about the attack and its perpetrators, often sourced only with the statement "[w]e have learned" or with nothing at all. McClatchy News Middle East Bureau Chief Nancy Youssef's reporting suggests that these claims were also inaccurate. Given that the report's sources included a man whose account CBS News has already acknowledged was fraudulent, it's fair to question the sourcing of other claims in the report.

A full, complete, and independent investigation of the segment could provide answers to these and other questions about CBS News' reporting.

“Other weaknesses” identified in Youssef's “line-by-line review” include:

The Role Of Al Qaida

The report repeatedly referred to al Qaida as solely responsible for the attack on the compound, and made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack. While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims - al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state.

It is an important distinction, experts on those groups said. Additionally, al Qaida's role, if any, in the attack has not been determined, and Logan's narration offered no source for her repeated assertion that it had been...

Logan claimed that “it's now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault.” But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator. Rather it is believed a number of groups were part of the assault, including members and supporters of al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah as well as attackers angered by a video made by an American that insulted Prophet Muhammad. The video spurred angry protests outside Cairo hours beforehand.

The Planning Of The Attack

Moreover, questions remain over how far in advance the attack on the U.S. compound was planned. Rather than a long-planned attack, investigators have told McClatchy the attack was likely planned hours, rather than days, in advance.

Control Of The Benghazi Medical Center

Another questionable assertion in the “60 Minutes” report was Logan's unsourced reference to the Benghazi Medical Center as “under the control of al Qaida terrorists,” an assertion that McClatchy correspondents on the ground at the time and subsequent reporting in Benghazi indicates is untrue.

The Suspects

The piece also named three known insurgent operators as top suspects in the attack, but did not explain the source of that news.

The three are long suspected of having been involved, Zelin said, but there is no evidence of their specific roles in the attack.