When Did Fox News Cite Dylan Davies?
One of the curious sub-plots to the ongoing drama of 60 Minutes and its since-retracted October 27 Benghazi report is the extent to which Dylan Davies, CBS News' discredited Benghazi “witness,” informed Fox News' reporting. The day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Fox News' Adam Housley disclosed on-air that “some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes witness' account,” but added that he stopped talking to Davies “when he asked for money.” Even still, Housley said at the time that Davies' story on 60 Minutes “reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting.” After CBS retracted their story, Fox News vice president Michael Clemente stated unequivocally: “We stand by our reporting on Benghazi.”
This is an awkward situation for Fox: they cited a “witness” whose credibility has since been trashed, and they had suspicions about his credibility before it was publicly destroyed, but they're nonetheless defending every scrap of their Benghazi reporting, including the pieces that cited Davies. So which Fox News articles featured the now-discredited British security contractor as a source? That's tough to nail down, as Fox News never cited Davies by name. But there are a couple of FoxNews.com reports from late 2012 that cite British sources to make claims that are incorrect or unsupported by other accounts of the attacks.
On November 3, 2012, Housley published an “exclusive” for FoxNews.com challenging the CIA's timeline of Benghazi attacks and claiming that “security officials on the ground say calls for help went out” before the attack on the diplomatic compound actually started at 9:30 p.m., Libya time. Housley's report cited “multiple people on the ground” who said that the “Blue Mountain Security manager” -- a possible reference to Davies, who was training the British firm Blue Mountain's security forces at the consulate -- “made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier.”
One source said the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed “distraught” and said “the situation here is very serious, we have a problem.” He also said that even without these phone and radio calls, it was clear to everyone in the security community on the ground in Benghazi much earlier than 9:40 p.m. that fighters were gathering in preparation for an attack.
Even if this isn't a reference to Davies, the report appears to be incorrect. Several different accounts of the night of the Benghazi attack make no reference to any “distraught” messages from the Blue Mountain security force prior to the attack -- indeed, they all describe a scene of (relative) normalcy until the moment the attack started. “The radio on the Blue Mountain frequency was silent,” write Fred Burton and Samuel L. Katz in Under Fire. “There was no chatter on the February 17 [militia] frequency either. There was, for the most part, silence.”
Burton and Katz also described the moments the attack began, making clear that it caught the Blue Mountain guard force completely by surprise:
There was no trip wire pulled to provide the guard at Bravo-1 with the time needed to sound an alarm. There was no loud rumble to forewarn the guards at Charlie-1 that danger was slinking its way onto the street in front of the Special Mission Compound. There was no loud roar of chants or gunfire. There was no demonstration. The attack was announced suddenly, with a rifle-butt knock on the guard booth glass.
The State Department's Accountability Review Board report on the attacks also indicates that there were no roadblocks or fighters gathering outside the compound prior to the assault:
Some 30 minutes later, between 2010 and 2030 local, a UK security team supporting a day visit by British diplomats dropped off vehicles and equipment at the SMC (per arrangements made after the UK diplomatic office in Benghazi suspended operations in June 2012). When the UK security team departed via the C1 gate at about 2030 local, there were no signs of anything unusual, including no roadblocks outside of the compound, and traffic flowed normally.
And it's worth noting that in Davies' book (which was pulled from the shelves by its publisher) he didn't make any mention of radio or cell phone distress calls being sent by him or anyone else at Blue Mountain prior to the attack. Instead, Davies wrote (under the pseudonym “Morgan Jones”) he was at his villa eating chicken and watching TV when he got call saying the consulate was under assault:
I ate lunch, after which I checked the guards and hung around with them for a few hours, by which time it was the boiling heat of late afternoon. I got Massoud to take me back to the villa. I went for a dip in the sea to cool down, then settled down to do some paperwork -- checking the guard roster, when their next wages were due, that kind of thing. I got my evening barbecued chicken delivery and settled down to eat it in front of the TV.
It was half past nine when my cell phone rang. I checked the caller ID. It was Omar, my guard force commander.
“Morgan here. Anything to report?”
“Morgan, we are under attack! We need help!”
A second FoxNews.com report by Housley and national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, published on November 11, 2012, cited “British sources who were near the consulate and annex” in challenging the Defense Department's timeline of the Benghazi attacks. After all surviving Americans were evacuated from the diplomatic consulate to the nearby CIA annex, the annex itself came under fire. Housley and Griffin wrote:
Upon returning to the annex, the CIA team and those that were rescued immediately begin taking fire and at midnight, according to sources on the ground that night, begin making radio calls for help and air support. Almost immediately, they begin taking fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, “This was not one long continuous fight, but two separate incidents at two separate facilities with some separation of time.”
However, British sources who were near the consulate and annex that night tell a different story, saying there was almost continuous fire on the annex after the team fled from the consulate.
Again, the “British sources” may or may not refer to Davies, but the report of “almost continuous fire on the annex” appears to be incorrect either way. The team arrived at the annex at midnight, Libya time, after fleeing the consulate, at which point the annex came under sporadic, probing attack. Those attacks abruptly stopped sometime around 1 a.m. Testifying before the House Oversight Committee on May 8, the State Department's deputy chief of the mission in Libya at the time of the attacks, Gregory Hicks, who has criticized the administration's handling of the attack, said: “After the second phase of the evening occurs, the timing is about 11:30 or so. The second phase commences after the teams have returned to the annex, and they suffer for about an hour and a half probing attacks from terrorists. They are able to repulse them and then they desist at about 1:30 in the morning.”
Burton and Katz wrote in Under Fire:
And then, just as quickly as it began, the terrorist gunfire ceased. Shouts were heard in the distance, all unintelligible, even to the Annex translator. Some engines rumbled nearby. But the attacking elements, the mysterious and faceless muzzle flashes in the night, had simply had enough and appeared to have headed home.
The defenders didn't know what to make of this sudden cessation of hostilities. Nothing about the night made sense.
Far from being under “almost continuous fire,” the annex remained quiet for over four hours until the attacks resumed at 5:15 a.m., at which point former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed by a mortar barrage.
It's possible that both these sources were Davies. It's also possible that neither was Davies. Regardless, the information Fox News sourced to the “Blue Mountain Security manager” and “British sources who were near the consulate and annex” appears to have been wrong. Whether it was Davies or not, Fox News should not be standing by this reporting.