Media Hits and Misses Covering Benghazi Press Conference
By Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
On April 22, the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB) released a report on the findings of its months-long search for the truth behind the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012. It has made its report public on its website.
|Ambassador Chis Stevens
(State Department photo)
New revelations in the case of Benghazi, Libya have made their rounds in the conservative media, but the mainstream media have failed to pay attention to this new information. The New York Times and Washington Post were invited to our media roundtable press briefing, but they declined to send reporters. CNN sent a camera and a producer, but failed to cover our revelations. You can now watch the press conference online. Part one is opening comments by the panelists; part two is Q&A.
But Townhall, Diana West, World Magazine, the Daily Mail, PJ Media, Front Page Magazine, Newsmax, WND, Renew America, LiveTradingNews, the Drudge Report, and, yes, even Russia Today are asking questions about Benghazi that the mainstream media apparently find less compelling. “And yet if you had been watching CNN or your network nightly news, you wouldn't have the faintest idea,” writes Scottie Hughes for Townhall. “If you were waiting for feckless Republicans on Capitol Hill to comment, let alone do something, you’d still be waiting.”
Among other things, the report found that “Muammar Qaddafi expressed his willingness to abdicate shortly after the beginning of the 2011 Libyan revolt…” and “The U.S. facilitated the delivery of weapons and military support to al Qa’eda-linked rebels in Libya.”
“Thousands of guns and weapons were handed over to the enemy, and now we are supposed to feign surprise and shock that the September 11th, 2012 attacks in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans were killed,” observes Hughes.
|State Department photo of Sean Smith|
Diana West dug further into this story, interviewing CCB source Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic, who, she writes, “relayed to the U.S. AFRICOM headquarters Qaddafi's interest in truce talks.” As we’ve reported, these talks were scuttled by someone above AFRICOM at the beginning of the Libyan revolution. “The question becomes, who in the Obama administration scuttled these truce talks that might have resulted in Qaddafi handing over powers without the bloodshed and destruction that left Libya a failed state and led to Benghazi?” West asks.
Despite the favorable reception of some media to our briefing, and the fact that the press does seem interested in demanding answers, we must correct some errors that exist in the record. Firstly, the CCB objects to the provision of weapons to the Transitional National Council (TNC), the government-in-waiting established in the early days of the Libyan revolution in February 2011. The leadership of the TNC comprised the leadership of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, and the al-Qa’eda militias operated under their command.
The TNC had jihadi ties, but the core of the story lies in the fact that half of these weapons were skimmed off the top and sold to Qaddafi’s forces to pay for and extend the war.
And the weapons were sent from Qatar, not the United Arab Emirates. The UAE was the largest financier of these weapons shipments. Commission Member Clare Lopez was explicit in these details during her presentation: “The weapons came from various weapons dealers, primarily in Eastern Europe, such as Croatia, places like Bulgaria, and so forth,” she said. “They were paid for by the UAE, United Arab Emirates, primarily. And they were shipped through Qatar as the logistics hub where they were all put onto ships and the ships went to Libya for the rebels.”
This is key because NATO was controlling the air space and sea at the time, and had to wave the weapons shipments through in order for them to reach the Libyans. The U.S. government and its allies thereby became complicit in this arms shipment.
The dirty skimming deal by the TNC leadership led to an assassination, a key fact that some media present at the briefing missed—and a detail that leads us back to the Benghazi attacks.
A key defector from Qaddafi’s forces, General Fattah Younis, found out about the dirty arms deal and Mustafa Jalil, head of the TNC, had him assassinated by sending a request to none other than Ahmed Abu Khattala, who is under sealed indictment for his role in the Benghazi, Libya attacks. “TNC head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Gen Abdel Fattah Younis was killed by assailants, and the head of the group responsible had been arrested,” reported BBC News in July 2011. “Mr. Jalil did not elaborate on the identity or motivations of the assailants. It is not clear where the attack took place.”
“The kill order went from the Muslim Brotherhood to al Qaeda, essentially, and it was carried out. [General] Younis was killed,” said Lopez. This establishes a command structure between the TNC and a group that the U.S. government now designates as a foreign terrorist organization, Ansar al Sharia.
The media have also, unfortunately, in some cases misrepresented the Commission’s membership and what its members have said. Rear Admiral Kubic (Ret.), who is the CCB source regarding the failed truce with Qaddafi, was described as a Commission member. He is not; he is one of our sources and an eyewitness to the failed Qaddafi truce talks. Admiral Kubic has a deep understanding of Libya and the Middle East, but he is not listed as a CCB member either on our website or in our interim report.
|ADM James Lyons, USN (Ret.)
Member of the Citizens' Committee on Benghazi
As for Admiral James Lyons (Ret.), he referred to a “confidential FBI informant” to support his “speculation” regarding the Blind Sheikh. This was translated into a “senior FBI source.” Lyons ascribes to the theory that Ambassador Chris Stevens was to be traded for the Blind Sheikh, but this view is not held by all CCB members. “We did not include that in our report, because we are not in agreement, all of us, about that,” said Lopez in a recent radio interview on the Jim Bohannon Show. The report was not written by Lopez, who contributed to it, as did other members of the Commission; and it was approved by all CCB Members.
In her radio interview, Lopez echoed Lyons’ statements that F-16s were available for use on September 11, 2012. “Even if they were not armed, even if they were not loaded with munitions, simply flying a jet like that low and fast on afterburner over a scene like this, has, in the past, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, had the salutary effect of absolutely scattering the attackers, who are taken by surprise and frightened out of their wits,” she said. The problem is that the U.S. did not make an attempt.
Some media outlets have also misrepresented former CIA officer Wayne Simmons’ comments. Responding to a reporter’s question, Simmons actually said: “What we’re talking about here is lack of leadership. Or leadership, to use your words, it’s treasonous—to some. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that to repeat what you said. Some look at it as treasonous moves, and our men and women had to follow what many purport as, qualify as treasonous moves.”
We are pleased to see the excellent coverage this story has gotten, albeit mainly in the conservative media. A World Magazine piece, a Town Hall article, and Diana West column, among several others, serve as excellent resources for our story.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi.