Earlier this week, a bipartisan report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the September 11, 2012 terror attacks on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya laid fault for the U.S. vulnerability to such attacks to incompetence and terrible management decisions on the part of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But you’d never know that from coverage by the mainstream media. The coverage of the report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is illustrative.
The report was significant in that senators from both parties, in a body controlled by the President’s party, set partisan differences aside and joined together publicly to blame the Administration. Of course, partisan considerations did water down the report by using vague obfuscatory language like “analysts,” “officials,” “policymakers” and classically “those in decision-making positions in Washington, D.C.” instead of identifying either President Barrack Obama or former Secretary of State (and likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton by name. But anyone who read the report got the point.
The bipartisan report’s official conclusion was that it was “imperative” both that the U.S. intelligence community position itself to anticipate, rather than just react to, potential terrorism hotspots and, most significantly, that “those in decision-making positions in Washington, D.C. heed the concerns and wisdom of those on the front lines and make resource and security decisions with those concerns in mind.” The bipartisan report concluded pointedly, “The United States government did not meet this standard of care in Benghazi.”
Readers of the Post-Dispatch wouldn’t know that. While the paper did cover the report the next day with the Number 3 front-page article totaling 30 column inches (counting the jump to a back page and headlines on both pages), the report’s official conclusion wasn’t even mentioned. (In contrast, two days earlier, the Post devoted more space (34 column inches) to the week-old controversy about the closure of lanes to a Fort Lee, NJ bridge by the administration of potential Republican presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie.)
So how do you cover a report without mentioning its official conclusion? The Post‘s highlighted bullet points leading the article in the print edition distributed to subscribers (which does not appear in the current online version of the article) spun three of the report’s 14 specific “Findings” that led to the report’s official conclusion:
- A tamer finding that operations in Benghazi continued although the mission crossed ‘tripwires’ that should have led to cutting staff or suspending work. (Finding #5)
- “Analysts” referred “inaccurately” to a protest at the mission, “leading officials” to make “incorrect” statements. (Finding #9) [The report never said that the references to a protest “led” officials to make incorrect statements; the report merely stated that erroneous reports “influenced” the public statements of policymakers.]
- Blamed deceased Ambassador Chris Stevens for twice declining extra security help (based on facts recited in Finding #2).
The lead in the print edition stated, “The account spreads blame among the State Department, the military and U.S. intelligence for missing what now seems like obvious warning signs.” The current online version blames “systemic failure of security for U.S. diplomats overseas.”
As to former Secretary Clinton, whom the Post and other mainstream media are actively seeking to insulate from blame, instead of identifying her as one of the key policymakers who failed to heed the concerns and wisdom of those on the front lines or to make resource and security decisions with those concerns in mind, the Post wrongly inferred that the report had cleared her. Both the print and online versions state deceptively, “The report does not name Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time and now is a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.” In the print edition, that statement appeared under a bolded subhead “CLINTON NOT NAMED.”
In one candid moment, though, the Post account in the print edition did concede that that the Administration’s original characterization of the assault as a spontaneous mob protest against an anti-Islamic video was due to the Administration’s “relunctan[ce] to deal publicly with a terrorist attack weeks before the presidential election.” That validates Republican charges that the Administration deliberately lied to the American public in order to continue its pretense that it had kept the country safe from terrorism. The observation was scrubbed entirely from the current online version.