Mike Morell will fit right in at Dan Rather's old network
Freedom of the Press is at once a virtue and a vice. The virtue is underwritten by the belief that candor and an informed electorate make for honest government. Press freedom becomes a vice when journalists choose to be government surrogates; enablers of half-truths, evasions, or lies. There may be no better example of this dark side of the First Amendment than the ongoing CBS/CIA collaboration to spin the Benghazi fiasco. You might recall that, with Dan Rather on point, CBS was the network in 2004 that sought to discredit George Bush with fake records. Seems the Rather spin chair is now occupied by Charlie Rose, double-dipper extraordinaire for two networks; CPB and CBS.
If you want to understand how cozy American journalism and national intelligence has become, you might audit Washington’s newest odd couple: Charlie Rose of CBS and Michael Morell late of the CIA. Both seem to be “front running” for Hillary Clinton so that she is not damaged by fiasco Benghazi in 2016.
Michael Morell was a former deputy and sometimes acting director of CIA. He was also the Svengali of the infamous Benghazi talking points. Before his 2 April testimony before Congress, and the Rose interview the next day, Morell was the invisible man in the cover-up. In fact, he was the go-to guy at CIA during the brief David Patraeus tenure and aftermath. Recall that the Petraeus sex soap opera overlapped the Benghazi charade and Obama’s 2012 campaign finale.
Morell was “retired” last June after the White House finally admitted that the former CIA deputy director had unilaterally altered the now infamous Susan Rice talking points just before the November election. Truth often makes a tardy appearance when “what difference at this point does it make?” to steal Hillary Clinton’s sentiments on the subject.
Morell before Congress
Morell joined Charlie Rose at CBS News in January. Morell also collects a sinecure from Beacon Global Strategies, a revolving-door consultancy staffed largely by former Democratic Party appointees. Beacon Global is a likely bull pen for a Hillary campaign and/or regime staffers.
Those who insist that American Media outlets are politically neutral might also contrast the Sunday chat show coverage of Susan Rice’s Benghazi spin on 16 September 2012 with the Michael Morell’s tortured Benghazi confessions during the first week of April 2014. Rice appeared on most network Sunday shows prior to the election. Yet, not a single Sunday talk show, including FOX, mentioned the recent Morell confession before Congress and the subsequent Charlie Rose soft ball interview a day later. Administration spin gets wall-to-wall coverage before the election; but, when mendacity or “mistakes” are examined after the fact, somehow political journalism is AWOL.
The original September 2012 Benghazi talking points were drafted by a CIA HQ analyst at Langley at the request of congressional Intelligence Committees because members needed some cover with constituents over the neglect and malpractice in Libya.
The neglect involved CIA and State Department failure to respond to field requests for improved security. The incompetence centered on the failure to respond to US agents in peril at two facilities in Benghazi as three sequential Islamist attacks were underway. Indeed, General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon claimed he didn’t send military help to Benghazi because Hillary didn’t ask. The lying played out when reference to previous security requests and even the word “Islamist” were stricken from the after-action draft that was supposed to chronicle the FUBAR fiasco.
Morell now admits that he altered, without consulting field agents or HQ analysts, as much as fifty percent of those now infamous Susan Rice talking points. Morell also admits that General Petraeus, upon seeing the bowdlerized report, concluded that it was useless.
Morell dispatched the talking points to national security principals anyway and Rice took them to the Sunday morning airways. Withal, Morell insists that the White House didn’t have anything to do with “substantive revisions.” We are supposed to believe that Rice led the Sunday damage control charge without Mrs. Clinton or Mister Obama approving the strategy or tactics of what was clearly a very sensitive political defense.
Throughout the Benghazi flail, Clinton and Obama behaved like cat house piano players, ignoring tarts and bouncing bedsprings alike. If adult supervision was absent that controversial September weekend, what specifically were the President and Secretary of State doing during the Benghazi slaughter? We still don’t know.
Morell would also have you believe that anyone in the tedious and untimely Intelligence review and coordination chain can delete evidence or alter conclusions. It took the 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community a week and four lives to just admit that the tragedy was an attack and not a “demonstration.” Indeed, CIA Director David Patraeus, presiding over eleven versions of the talking points, concluded that the final memo was flawed, if not deceptive. Yet, it was disseminated anyway to a national audience. So much for candor and professionalism in James Clapper’s world.
This is not to absolve Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, or Hillary Clinton at Foggy Bottom. Clearly these women were push-back principals, the trio who in concert whipped Morell, chastened him to extract any mention of previous warnings or obvious security negligence. Ultimately, defending the White House and State Department on the eve of an election came at the cost of what little was left of public trust in the American national security establishment.
The Dogs That Didn’t Bark
What was the purpose of those two clandestine compounds in Benghazi? What did Libyan Islamists know that the American national security community pretended not to know? Alas, those facilities in Libya were probably attacked because they were shipping Muammar Gaddafi-era surplus arms to the anti-Assad Islamist “opposition” in Syria. If the Libyan office of al Qaeda knew what the NY Times knew, then it’s safe to assume that even janitors at CIA were aware of the motives, opportunity, and inspiration gun running provided to Benghazi jihadists.
And today, much of Allah’s wet work in Libya and the rest of North Africa is yet to be done. After all, the African jihad needs weapons too.
So let’s reconstruct. With one voice, CIA and Morell tried to deny the role of Libyan Islamists in the killing of American agents. With another scheme, CIA was/is providing Libyan arms to Muslim jihadists in Syria. The boondoggle in Benghazi illustrates both the incoherence and the incompetence of foreign policy in the Obama era. Similar schizophrenic policy prevails at the Justice Department. The real enemy for the Obama national security team seems to be sunshine.
In short, Americans are kept in the dark by mushrooms like Morell at home while gasoline is thrown on narco-traffic, gun running, and global jihad abroad. You can’t make this stuff up!
Clearly, Michael Morell and CBS deserve each other. Morell cinched his place on the Washington walk of shame when he admitted to Rose that he dismissed key eye witness accounts from the field, even a video, from Benghazi in favor of spin from swivel-chair warriors, the ass-kissers that cluster inside the Beltway.
However, there are some dim flickers of journalistic integrity midst the Obama era smog. The Media haze obscuring anything remotely critical of team Obama is penetrated at times, mostly by heroines.
Sharyl Attkisson is the former CBS reporter who did the investigative work on “Fast and Furious,” that gun running scheme in Mexico sponsored by the Holder Justice Department. Attkisson also provided refreshing candor on the Libyan fiasco. Alas, Sharyl resigned under pressure from White House and CBS flacks. She may have taken the last vestiges of CBS objectivity and integrity with her.
Nonetheless, Ms. Attkisson still provides the best dissection of Morell’s tap dance on Capitol Hill. She knows ‘sources and methods’ bat guano when she sees it. Atkinson is now writing a book about Obama era adventures which, insh’allah, should appear before the next American election.
On another beat, Carlotta Gall has specialized in Muslim wars for a decade or more. Her latest book, The Wrong Enemy, breaks ranks with usual administration drivel about Islamist terror as a criminal enterprise with local motives. Ms. Gall calls a Muslim war a war -- from Chechnya to Afghanistan. Finally, a serious mainstream journalist recognizes the global Islamist menace and the role that protected Muslim sponsors, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, play in war from South Asia to the Mediterranean.
The sopranos are hard to hear in Washington midst the bull frog chorus, but distaff dissonance might eventually change the national night music. When a ‘journalist with giblets’ award makes its debut, Attkisson and Gall should be at the top of the queue. Truth doesn’t care whose feelings get hurt.
Recent crises reflect just how much partisan politics has corrupted national Intelligence and journalism. With the American Left, too well represented among government shills and Press partisans, truth puts sacred cows at risk; the Obama past and the Hilary future in particular. The thought that President Obama’s legacy is failure or that Hilary Clinton could be denied the presidency, again, seems to be a mainstream Media nightmare.
G. Murphy Donovan, a former Intelligence officer, writes about the politics of national security.