CNN's initial reporting on its Benghazi special raises serious questions about the integrity of the special, as factual inaccuracies and uncritical reporting privileges the conservative witch hunt.
At 10 PM on August 6, CNN's Erin Burnett will host an hour-long special, The Truth About Benghazi. To preview the special, Burnett appeared on The Situation Room. When asked by host Wolf Blitzer, “What's the biggest takeaway that you take yourself from this documentary?” Burnett responded, “Among our conclusions, Wolf, is that the administration was focused foremost on re-election. It's a painful truth, but it appears to be the case.”
If that is one of Burnett's biggest takeaways from her special, it does not bode well for the factual accuracy of the upcoming report. The day following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, President Obama addressed the nation in the Rose Garden where he referred to the attack as an “act of terror.” Obama then referred to the attack as an “act of terror” twice on September 13, 2012, once in Colorado and once in Nevada.
Furthermore, on October 4, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened an Accountability Review Board “to examine the facts and circumstances of the attacks.” Additionally, the FBI began its investigation in the first days following the attack.
Hardly the work of an administration “focused foremost on re-election.”
Earlier in the day, CNN's John King previewed the special with a CNN.com piece that was also full of manufactured Benghazi controversies that have been debunked numerous times. King's piece included questions such as “Why, especially given the weeks of threat warnings, there was no viable military option to assist the State Department personnel at the Benghazi mission,” and “the warnings didn't reach the point where the State Department either sent more security help or ordered the Benghazi mission closed.”
King's question regarding the lack of military options to assist the Benghazi mission has been answered numerous times, but most recently by Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol who told a congressional panel in late July that the site security team in Tripoli was given initial freedom of action to respond to the attack.
Also, King's query into the supposed warnings of a potential attack on the mission has no basis in fact. In September 2012, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers (R-MI), appeared on Fox & Friends and declared, “I have seen nothing yet that indicates that they had information that could have prevented the attack.”
Additionally, as The New York Times reported in October, 2012, there were no warnings that the embassy in Benghazi was going to be targeted:
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.
Burnett and King's inaccurate reporting isn't the only reason to doubt the veracity of the forthcoming CNN special. A “Benghazi attack timeline” posted on CNN's website in preparation for the event features multiple errors. CNN gets the name of the deputy chief of mission in Libya wrong (his name is Gregory Hicks, not Gregory Wallace, as CNN claims). The timeline also states that the final attack on the annex began at 4:00 a.m. local time; both the State Department's Accountability Review Board and the Pentagon say it began at 5:15 a.m.
UPDATE: CNN.com has updated its timeline and appended the correction, “An earlier version of this story misidentified Gregory Hicks, who was deputy mission chief at the time of the attacks.”