My review found that the Benghazi story aired by 60 Minutes on October 27 was deficient in several respects:
--From the start, Lara Logan and her producing team were looking for a different angle to the story of the Benghazi attack. They believed they found it in the story of Dylan Davies, written under the pseudonym, “Morgan Jones”. It purported to be the first western eyewitness account of the attack. But Logan’s report went to air without 60 Minutes knowing what Davies had told the FBI and the State Department about his own activities and location on the night of the attack.
--The fact that the FBI and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to 60 Minutes was knowable before the piece aired. But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside FBI sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.
--Members of the 60 Minutes reporting team conducted interviews with Davies and other individuals in his book, including the doctor who received and treated Ambassador Stevens at the Benghazi hospital. They went to Davies’ employer Blue Mountain, the State Department, the FBI (which had interviewed Davies), and other government agencies to ask about their investigations into the attack. Logan and producer Max McClellan told me they found no reason to doubt Davies’ account and found no holes in his story. But the team did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account of his own actions and whereabouts that night.
--Davies told 60 Minutes that he had lied to his own employer that night about his location, telling Blue Mountain that he was staying at his villa, as his superior ordered him to do, but telling 60 Minutes that he then defied that order and went to the compound. This crucial point – his admission that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions – should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.
--After the story aired, the Washington Post reported the existence of a so-called “incident report” that had been prepared by Davies for Blue Mountain in which he reportedly said he spent most of the night at his villa, and had not gone to the hospital or the mission compound. Reached by phone, Davies told the 60 Minutes team that he had not written the incident report, disavowed any knowledge of it, and insisted that the account he gave 60 Minutes was word for word what he had told the FBI. Based on that information and the strong conviction expressed by the team about their story, Jeff Fager defended the story and the reporting to the press.
--On November 7, the New York Times informed Fager that the FBI’s version of Davies’ story differed from what he had told 60 Minutes. Within hours, CBS News was able to confirm that in the FBI’s account of their interview, Davies was not at the hospital or the mission compound the night of the attack. 60 Minutes announced that a correction would be made, that the broadcast had been misled, and that it was a mistake to include Davies in the story. Later a State Department source also told CBS News that Davies had stayed at his villa that night and had not witnessed the attack.
--Questions have been raised about the recent pictures from the compound which were displayed at the end of the report, including a picture of Ambassador Stevens’ schedule for the day after the attack. Video taken by the producer-cameraman whom the 60 Minutes team sent to the Benghazi compound last month clearly shows that the pictures of the Technical Operations Center were authentic, including the picture of the schedule in the debris.
--Questions have also been raised about the role of Al Qaeda in the attack since Logan declared in the report that Al Qaeda fighters had carried it out. Al Qaeda’s role is the subject of much disagreement and debate. While Logan had multiple sources and good reasons to have confidence in them, her assertions that Al Qaeda carried out the attack and controlled the hospital were not adequately attributed in her report.
--In October of 2012, one month before starting work on the Benghazi story, Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack. From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.
--The book, written by Davies and a co-author, was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation. 60 Minutes erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment.
Executive Director of Standards and Practices
That's nice. But there's more to it than that. Logan has a very distinct worldview and it shows in the stories she covers.
LARA LOGAN: What it means, what we originally-- go back to your original aims when you invade-- well, it wasn't an invasion. The Afghans are very quick to point out that they were actually the ones that toppled the Taliban with U.S. help. There were less than several hundred U.S. personnel on the ground at the time. But the original aim was to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban and to insure that they were never able to threaten the national security interests of the United States ever again. That clearly is not the case.
And when you're sitting down and you're avoiding the hypocrisy of not putting the Taliban on the terror list because you want to preserve the right to sit down and negotiate with them and they’ll bring out every academic in Washington that they can find who will tell you that every insurgency in history has been won through negotiation and settlement, you don’t win it on the battlefield. Well, tell that to the Sri Lankans. I believe they just won their insurgency on the battlefield.
So, I mean for me, if you're not-- people think when I say this, that I'm advocating for war, I'm not advocating for war. I think if you're going to go to war, you better go to war and you better win. But if you're not, if you're just going to loiter on the battlefield and mesaround with one disastrous political strategy after another, then get the hell out because you have no right to ask people to go and fight in your name because you're lying to them.
The best analogy I can give you, what you're doing to your U.S. troops on the ground, line up all hundred thousand or so of those troops, handcuff them behind their backs, give them a shove, send them straight into the Taliban guns. Because that's effectively what you're doing. The enemy is not in Afghanistan. The low hanging fruit, the expendable people, are in Afghanistan. The real enemy is across the border in Pakistan, and I'm not advocating for war in Pakistan. But there are a thousand things you could do to address that. As long as you are not going after the command and control and the true source of the enemy-- and by the way, we have the capacity and the information to do that and we have not because of our foreign policy towards Pakistan-- then you have no business being in the fight.
And when people say Karzai is not a strategic partner and he’s corrupt, really? So 30, 40 guys will strap on suicide bombs and they’ll go and blow themselves up in an attack on a U.S. base because they're pissed off that the government's corrupt? Give me a break. This is not about corruption. This is not about whether Karzai is a reliable strategic partner. That's an excuse. That's all it is.
MARVIN KALB: Cut it down to the chase. What do you think is really at the heart of the American effort now in Afghanistan?
LARA LOGAN: Get the hell out. That’s all we care about. It’s costing too much. We don’t want to pay for it, we don’t think the Afghans are worth a fight, it's their problem and we want to get out of here.
MARVIN KALB: And at this particular point, if the U.S. were to work out a way of getting out without having accomplished its original purpose, then it sounds to me that you think it’s just been a waste?
LARA LOGAN: Yeah, it has, it's been a waste. I mean, you have the locations. The Quetta Shura runs the Afghan war from the city of Quetta inside Pakistan.
MARVIN KALB: But to go in there, you're crossing a national border.
LARA LOGAN: You don’t have to go in there, there's plenty of ways. If you've got their phone numbers, as I know we have had for years, you don’t need to go across the border.
MARVIN KALB: What do you do?
LARA LOGAN: You take them out the same way you took out al-Loki and Nek Muhammad and all the others that have been killed that way.
MARVIN KALB: Well.
LARA LOGAN: And you do it, you target not just the Quetta Shura, you target the Miran Shah Shura, the Peshawar Shura, the Haqqani Network.
You take 24 to 48 hours out of your day where you target all the people who you know where they are and you send a message to the Pakistanis that putting American bodies in Arlington Cemetery is not an acceptable form of foreign policy.
Here is what she said a year later on America's lily-livered policy in Afghanistan:
I hope to God that you are sending in your best clandestine warriors to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, its ambassadors will not be murdered and the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.
If CBS thinks her comments about Benghazi show a bias, her comments about Afghanistan and Pakistan show exactly the same one. She thinks that powerful "dark forces" are trying to destroy our way of life and evidently believes they are capable of doing it. She believes that the US should be sending in "clandestine warriors" and drones to "take people out" to send messages and exact revenge. She has a particular hang-up about Pakistan and apparently wants the US government to "teach them a lesson." She identifies very closely with the military brass and her work seems to be aimed at criticizing the pusillanimous politicians in Washington who refuse to allow the Generals to take the gloves off and do what needs to be done. That is a pretty immature worldview which I doubt the Generals she so admires share, even if they find her a useful political tool. (Generals tend to be a little bit more sophisticated than that.)
In other words, she's a hardcore, but somewhat shallow, warhawk and her work needs to be seen through that filter. Perhaps 60 Minutes doesn't care about that and is willing to label her as an advocate for a particular point of view within the military. But she must be labeled that way because that is what she is.