Reporters should uncover facts about the attack rather than provide cover for culpable officials
The newspaper was among the first to reveal that U.S.-approved arms for the Libyan rebels had fallen into the hands of jihadi groups and, more generally, on the rise ofÂ al Qaeda-affiliated groups inÂ LibyaÂ and North Africa.
So the paperâ€™s Dec. 28 â€œinvestigationâ€ that determined with utter certainty that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi were caused by aÂ YouTubeÂ video would be baffling if it werenâ€™t so obvious an attempt to exonerate theÂ Obama administrationÂ andÂ Hillary ClintonÂ from responsibility for the deadly failures inÂ LibyaÂ that cost the lives of four brave Americans.
The Timesâ€™ report misconstrues known facts and simply sweeps under the table mountains of evidence ofÂ al Qaedaâ€™s ties to Libyan jihadi groups.
In June 2012, for example, more than a dozen different jihadi groups put the black flag ofÂ al QaedaÂ on parade in Benghazi in what they hoped would be a three-day show of force.
Thousands of jihadi fighters, many of them in Pakistani and Afghan dress, paraded through the streets of Benghazi with hundreds of gun trucks.
ForÂ The New York Times, though, the black flags were merely â€œthe black flags of militant Islamâ€ and apparently bore no relation toÂ al Qaeda. â€œBenghazi was not infiltrated byÂ al Qaeda,â€ The Times flatly asserted.
In August, AmbassadorÂ J. Christopher StevensÂ put his name to a cable with the auspicious title, â€œThe Guns of August,â€ that explicitly warned about the security vacuum in Benghazi and Tripoli. â€œWhat we have seen are not random crimes of opportunity, but rather targeted and discriminate attacks,â€ the cable warned.
It was one of dozens of cables detailing the growing chaos inÂ LibyaÂ that were turned over to theÂ House Oversight and Government Reform CommitteeÂ after repeated stonewalling by theÂ State Department. My sources say it came on the heels of an alarming security briefing by theÂ CIAÂ chief of station forÂ StevensÂ and the Embassy security team. But forÂ The New York Times, the cable simply â€œstruck an understanding tone about the absence of effective policing.â€
Citing unnamedÂ State DepartmentÂ sources, the newspaper claimed thatÂ StevensÂ and the 20-manÂ CIAÂ station in Benghazi had â€œlittle understanding of militias in Benghazi and the threat they posed to U.S. interests.â€
That is a breathtaking assertion, given the record of reporting byÂ State DepartmentÂ diplomatic security officers, especially following the assassination attempt on the British ambassador in June that caused the British to evacuate Benghazi.
The New York TimesÂ goes on to assert that intelligence briefings failed to mention the threat fromÂ Ansar al-Shariah, the group that initially claimed responsibility for the attack. â€œI donâ€™t know if we ever heard anything aboutÂ Ansar al-Shariah,â€ an unnamedÂ State DepartmentÂ source said.
That is understandable if you believe the newspaperâ€™s reporting thatÂ Ansar al-ShariahÂ â€œfocused on charitable missionary work.â€
â€œThey are like Boy Scouts,â€ the Times quotes one of their sympathizers as saying. â€œAnything that promotes good, they support.â€
As I will relate in my book, theÂ CIAÂ station chief in Tripoli and the chief of base in Benghazi were regularly briefing their bosses in Langley as well as U.S. diplomats inÂ LibyaÂ on theÂ al QaedaÂ presence and specifically onÂ Ansar al-Shariah.
These included six high-level briefings for President Obama and principals of the National Security Council (renamed the National Security Staff by Mr. Obama); 23 briefings to variousÂ CIAÂ offices and units; nine briefings to the Defense Intelligence Agency; 11 briefings at theÂ Department of State; seven briefings to the Pentagonâ€™s Africa Command, then headed by Lt. Gen. Carter Ham; three briefings to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and eight briefings to the U.S. European Command.
Investigative reporting 101 starts by uncovering the facts â€” especially those facts that the government seeks to hide or obscure â€” and allowing them to lead you to conclusions.
The New York TimesÂ expose starts with the conclusion thatÂ al QaedaÂ was not involved in the attacks, and that the administration fairy tale of theÂ YouTubeÂ video was true, and desperately invents â€œfactsâ€ that might support it.
This is journalistic malpractice. Itâ€™s not surprising that none ofÂ The New York Timesâ€˜ excellent stable of investigative reporters signed their name to this meretricious parody of journalism.