Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Former CIA Official Calls Out Fox News' Latest "Benghazi Myth"

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell threw cold water on Fox News' latest faulty Benghazi narrative, characterizing a report that says the Obama administration knew that the attacks were planned in advance as inaccurate. Morell criticized Fox and the media at large for habitually scandalizing the Benghazi attacks based on incomplete or unsupported claims.

Michael Morell criticized Fox News and other media outlets for perpetuating "Benghazi myths" in a May 25 article for Politico, accusing "pundits [who] don't understand intelligence work" of spreading misinformation. Morell lambasted a recent report that claimed that the "Obama administration knew that al Qaeda terrorists had planned" the Benghazi attack "10 days in advance." explaining that the report was based off "raw intelligence" from a single source and did not accurately represent the conclusions of the intelligence community.

"The only thing that newly released document proves," Morell wrote, "is that the people who trot out these reports do not understand the world of intelligence and do not take the time to ask the right people the right questions before publishing the 'news.'" Morell noted that numerous other unclassified documents directly contradict the single Defense Intelligence report scandalized by the media:

The DIA report in question was an "Intelligence Information Report" or IIR. It is what we term "raw intelligence." It was not the considered view of DIA analysts. Often from a single source, these bits of information represent one thread that some intelligence collector has picked up. The all source analysts in the Intelligence Community are charged with looking at that snippet of information and every other bit of available information from communications intercepts, human intelligence, open source material and much more to come up with an overall judgment.

Those all source analysts--without any input or pressure from above--looked at all the available information and determined that there wasnota significant amount of planning prior to the attacks. You don't have to take my word for it. You can look at the briefing slides produced by the National Counterterrorism Center (which is not part of CIA) and coordinated across the Intelligence Community. These slides were declassified over a year ago and were appended to the report on Benghazi produced by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee. In describing the attacks at the State Department facility, the slides say "attackers moving in multiple directions," "attackers do not appear well coordinated" and "no organized effort to breach every building." Not the words one would expect to see associated with an attack planned well in advance.

Morell went on to blast Fox for also cherry-picking from the indictment of Abu Khattala, the only participant in the attacks currently in U.S. custody, to support its Benghazi claims. During the May 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier quoted the indictment in an effort to push the network's faulty assertion that the attack had been pre-planned, claiming that it had noted "premeditation" and demanding Morell answer whether the indictment was wrong. But Morell notes that Baier left out important context from the indictment that indicated "the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack":

What my interviewer failed to share with his viewers were these words from the indictment: "Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury but no later than on or about September 11, 2012...defendant Khatallah did knowingly and intentionally conspire...." (emphasis mine). What does this mean? It means that the grand jury found no evidence of planning before the day of the attack either. Exactly the point of the intelligence community analysts.

Fox News has similarly continuously seized on every available opportunity to scandalize the attacks on the diplomatic compound at Benghazi. In the 20 months between September 2012 to May 2014, the network aired an astounding 1,098 evening and primetime segments dedicated to Benghazi. Despite numerous reports debunking the network's false narratives surrounding the attack, Fox has relentlessly continuedto promote them.

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