CNN's special The Truth About Benghazi pushed long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with host Erin Burnett and CNN correspondent John King asking questions that were answered months ago -- often by CNN itself -- and leaving important context out of many claims.
CNN Recklessly Speculated About Why Terrorist Groups Were Removed From Benghazi Talking Points. During The Truth About Benghazi special, CNN chief national correspondent John King questioned why the names of specific terrorist organizations were removed from the unclassified talking points on the Benghazi attacks that were provided to then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. King asked whether the editing was done “to protect the investigation” or whether “it was done just politically to protect the department? Or more nefariously” to protect the State Department or President Obama. During a prepared video package, CNN played haunting music behind their description of the talking points edits before King noted that the first draft “referenced Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda,” but that former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland “objected to naming terror groups” in an email discussion about the talking points without providing the reasoning behind her objection. [CNN, The Truth About Benghazi, 8/6/13]
Answer: Talking Points Altered For Security Purposes, As CNN Itself Has Reported
Former CIA Director David Petraeus: Names Of Terrorist Groups Were Removed To Avoid Tipping Them Off. In November, former CIA Director David Petraeus explained to lawmakers in congressional testimony that the names of terrorist organizations suspected of participating in the attacks “were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them.” [The New York Times, 11/16/12]
Former State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland Was Concerned Naming Terrorist Groups Could “Prejudice The Investigation.” In emails exchanged between the CIA, State Department, and other administration officials concerning the drafting of the talking points on Benghazi -- emails made public by CNN in May -- Nuland expressed concern that publicly naming specific terrorist organizations could “prejudice the investigation” into who was behind the attacks. [Media Matters, 5/15/13]
CIA's General Counsel: FBI Instructions Said Not To Reveal Names Of Terror Groups Due To Criminal Investigation. In another email released by CNN in May, the general counsel of the CIA expressed concerns that naming terrorist organizations in the talking points could “conflict with express instructions from NSS/DOJ/FBI that, in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this.” [Media Matters, 5/15/13]
CNN Special Pushed Republican Claim That Military Could Have Responded To Attacks Faster, Ignores Initial Assistance Sent To Benghazi. During CNN's special, John King highlighted a Republican congressman's claims, contrary to testimony from military officials, that military responses could have responded to the first Benghazi attack in time to assist with the second attack hours later at a nearby compound:
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): The bottom line is there was not a force available that could get there in time. And that has been clearly and unequivocally established and answered over and over again.
KING: Republican Jason Chaffetz begs to differ.
CHAFFETZ: They're in Northern Libya, right there on the coast. That we couldn't get U.S. military there for 24 hours, that's embarrassing if it's true. But I really question whether or not that's the actual truth.
KING (on camera): So essentially you're saying General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the United States of America, isn't telling the truth?
CHAFFETZ: I think there are other assets and other things that could have been put into motion. That cavalry never comes over the hill to help. That's just stunning to me.
Later, Erin Burnett expressed shock that the military could not respond faster:
BURNETT: So John, the military says, right, they couldn't have gotten to Benghazi in time, but the United States has the greatest military in the world. So, that seems shocking.
KING: It does seem shocking -- 24 hours for the first boots on the ground, for the fire department to first make it to Libya, and then only to Tripoli? I think a lot of Americans are stunned by that. [CNN, The Truth About Benghazi, 8/6/13]
Answer: Notion That U.S. Forces Could Have Assisted Sooner Shows “Cartoonish Impression” Of Military
Former Secretary Of Defense Robert Gates: Notion That Military Forces Could Have Assisted Sooner Shows A “Cartoonish Impression” Of U.S. Military. In an interview on CBS' Face the Nation in May, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained that claims that the military response to the Benghazi attacks could have arrived sooner than it did “would have been very difficult if not impossible” and shows a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.” [Media Matters, 5/12/13]
Decision To Not Send Second Force From Tripoli Was Made By The Head Of The Military's Africa Command, Who Was Concerned About Security In Tripoli. The commander of U.S. Africa Command during the attacks was concerned about threats to the Tripoli embassy complex, and a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that the assessment of Special Operations Command Africa leadership at the time was that “it was more important for those guys to be in Tripoli” for embassy security. [Media Matters, 5/9/13]
Deputy Chief Of Mission In Libya: Additional Reinforcements Would Not Have Been Able To Get To Benghazi Before The Second Attack Was Concluded. In an interview with congressional investigators, Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission in Libya at the time of the attacks, stated that while a team of special forces troops in Tripoli had been told to protect the embassy in Tripoli instead of traveling to Benghazi, the flight they would have taken to Benghazi was scheduled to take off after 6 a.m. local time -- approximately 45 minutes after the attack at the CIA annex that killed two people. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), a member of the House Oversight Committee who has actively pursued investigations into the Benghazi attacks, also told The Washington Post that the special forces team that Hicks was referring to “would have arrived after the attack.” [Media Matters, 5/7/13; The Washington Post, 5/6/13]
John King: U.S. Had “Warning After Warning That Benghazi Was A Disaster Waiting To Happen.” King suggested that the U.S. had plenty of warning that the Benghazi attacks would occur, yet was caught unprepared:
KING: Michael Hayden is the former CIA director.
HAYDEN: Act one is, what were the intelligence estimates? What kind of warnings were given? What was the plan? Why do we have so few options in act two?
KING: Act one is numbing, warning after warning that Benghazi was a disaster waiting to happen.
KING: The evidence was overwhelming: attacks that convinced the British, the Red Cross and the United Nations to leave Benghazi; two prior attacks on the U.S. mission; an IED thrown over the fence by former security guards in April and another IED in June that blew a huge hole in a compound gate; and detailed warnings, CNN is told, in 4,000 classified cables, including updates on new Al Qaeda training camps near Benghazi.
CHAFFETZ: How come that didn't rise to the level where somebody said, “You know, we just can't operate in this environment”? It was a death trap. [CNN, The Truth About Benghazi, 8/6/13]
Answer: Experts Say There Is No Known Intelligence Warning Of The Attacks
GOP Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: No Evidence U.S. Had Information To Prevent Attacks. During an interview on Fox News days after the Benghazi attacks, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers was asked whether the U.S. had knowledge that could have prevented the attacks. Rogers responded: “As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I have seen nothing yet that indicates that they had information that could have prevented the event.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/14/12]
NY Times: No Evidence Of “A Warning That The Diplomatic Compound Would Be Targeted And That Was Overlooked By Administration Officials.” The New York Times reported in October that there was no evidence that the government knew of an attack in Benghazi and ignored it:
Interviews with American officials and an examination of State Department documents do not reveal the kind of smoking gun Republicans have suggested would emerge in the attack's aftermath such as a warning that the diplomatic compound would be targeted and that was overlooked by administration officials.
State Department officials have asserted that there was no specific intelligence that warned of a large-scale attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, which they asserted was unprecedented. The department said it was careful to weigh security with diplomats' need to meet with Libyan officials and citizens.
“The lethality of an armed, massed attack by dozens of individuals is something greater than we've ever seen in Libya over the last period that we've been there,” Patrick F. Kennedy, the State Department's under secretary for management, told reporters at a news conference on Oct. 10. [The New York Times, 10/29/12]
State Department Accountability Review Board: There Was “No Immediate, Specific Tactical Warning” Of Benghazi Attacks. The State Department's Accountability Review Board's unclassified findings about the Benghazi attacks found that there was no specific warning of the Benghazi attacks:
The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community's understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist. [State.gov, accessed 8/7/13]