Eli Lake’s hackstorm inflames the wingnuts

SO. The New York Times sends David Kirkpatrick to Benghazi for a very long time to investigate what really happened in the September eleventh embassy attacks. It’s about time. The president’s political opposition have threatened to impeach him over it for more than a year. We might like to know some facts about the tragedy. Any facts. Journalism, please? For example the truth about the Beirut bombing of 1983 was that terrorists blew up one of our barracks, killing 200 Marines. That’s why everybody felt real bad for Ronald Reagan, poor guy. It wasn’t his fault, he’s a moron.

After months of talking to the Benghazi locals what Kirkpatrick concluded was that the violence was a product of a number of things. Long simmering hatred of the West. Angry young men who join militias. The Innocence of Muslims video that ignited the Arab world. An opportunistic proto-warlord named Ahmed Abu Khattala. Read the piece here, it’s great reporting. It’s what we expect the New York Times to do (finally).

The wingnuts at first didn’t know how to respond. The piece was a bombshell. It softened every hardline allegation they offered about Obama being unprepared, being weak, being a liar, being a secret Muslim. The ‘heads’ of their intelligence committees, et. al., basically responded by saying ‘Is too!’

But then The Daily Beast weighed in with the worst blog of the year. I don’t know who Eli Lake is or why he calls himself a “senior national-security correspondent” when he really prefers to write about how kewl Grand Theft Auto is, and that’s not quite a national-security issue, is it? Also why the-dashes, douche?

But Eli Lake has today given the compass-less Impeach! crowd wandering the desert a cool drink of water. Because he thinks all of Kirkpatrick’s work, staying in Benghazi all that time, interviewing hundreds of people, including the militia leaders, and the people who participated in the attack, and then not finding anyone with any Al Qaeda affiliations, the whole thing can be debunked by just sitting at a computer. And doing a little routine typing.

Yes, There IS Evidence Linking al Qaeda to Benghazi
By Eli Lake December 29th 20133:27 pm The Daily Beast

But there IS evidence. Al Qaeda MAYBE killed your ambassador. You BETTER read this.

Libyan militants tell the New York Times that al Qaeda is not behind the 2012 Benghazi attack. Some members of Congress have intelligence that says otherwise.

This is journalism? Before even reading the piece, friends, did you think Kirkpatrick claimed that no one in congress said they had ‘evidence’ Al Qaeda was behind the killings? Haven’t the impeachers been using this ‘evidence’ to beat the president like a junkyard dog? For months? Didn’t we just have Christmas a couple days ago? Wouldn’t the allegations provide reasons to do some reporting and check the claims? Thank God Eli is here to deliver the shattering news that Republicans still think Al Qaeda could have, maybe, been behind the Benghazi attacks.

AND HE HAS FOUR POINTS. Four devastating acts of investigative journalism. Four brickbats that destroy any pretension that Kirkpatrick had of having any clue to what really happened. Let’s look at Lake’s startling investigation, shall we? NUMBER ONE:

Abu Khattala: The Times focuses its reporting on Ahmed Abu Khattala, a militia leader who spoke to reporter David Kirkpatrick, last year and claimed to be at the scene of the Benghazi assault with no apparent worry that he would be abducted or killed by U.S. authorities. In his piece Sunday, Kirkpatrick fills in the rest of Abu Khattala’s story, revealing that he was a part-time construction worker who was publicly associated with the abduction and murder of a rival militia commander supported by NATO. In interviews with the Times, Abu Khattala denies any connection to al Qaeda. He does however say he admires the group’s vision. The Times also discloses that Abu Khattala was close to a leader of the militia the U.S. had entrusted to protect its facilities in Benghazi in light of an attack. But Abu Khattala was by no means the only person who participated in the attack.

Abu Khattala was the man who Kirkpatrick found. The CIA missed him. The after-incident reports missed him. Lake takes a long look at him and concludes: “Abu Khattala was by no means the only person who participated in the attack.” Yes, there were hundreds of people involved in the attacks. Kirkpatrick will not dispute this. Boom. TWO:

The Jamal network: Some fighters who attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi are believed to be from a group headed by a former top lieutenant to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qaeda. When Egyptian authorities raided the home of Mohammed al-Jamal, who was an operational commander under al-Zawahiri’s terrorist group in the 1990s known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, it found messages to al Qaeda leadership asking for support and plans to establish training camps and cells in the Sinai, creating a group now known as the Jamal Network. In October, the State Department designated Jamal Network as a terrorist group tied to al Qaeda. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the participation of the network in the Benghazi attacks, and the group’s participation in the attacks has also been acknowledged in the Times. The New York Times Benghazi investigation makes no mention of the Jamal Network in their piece.

Kirkpatrick’s reporting makes clear that the attack was more like a riot, or melee. The participants were young men from a number of militias. These people are usually jobless, angry at the West and prone to violence. The ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video, tinged with rumors of ‘protesters’ being shot by American security forces, sparked a deadly rampage. But The Jamal Network was run by a guy who hung out with Ayman al-Zawahiri back when The Cosby Show was a big deal! And they wanted to be pals with Al Qaeda! That by no means proves they are Al Qaeda. No one claims that this network planned or carried out the attacks any more than Ansar Al Shariah did, because Kirkpatrick’s reporting finds no evidence of the attack being planned or carried out. It was more like spontaneous violence sparked by the video and then exploited and inflamed by Khattal. Nonetheless, like all Republicans, Lake believes the sound of ‘Al Qaeda’ is enough to buoy both a rigorous investigation and proof of conspiracy. THREE:

What militants say when they think no one is listening. On Fox News Sunday, Schiff, a Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the intelligence indicated that al Qaeda did play a role in the attack. The intelligence community knows this, he said, from insights gleaned from eavesdropping on the night of the attack. Speaking of the Times report, Schiff said “they did not have the same access to people who were not aware they were being listened to. They were heavily reliant obviously on people they interviewed who had a reason to provide the story they did.” But Schiff also said sometimes eavesdropping has its limits as well. “Sometimes though the intelligence which has the advantage of hearing to people when they don’t know they are being listening to, that can be misleading as well, when people make claims, they boast of things they were not involved in for various purposes,” he said. The Daily Beast first reported that an intercepted phone conversation from one of the attackers to a person connected to al Qaeda’s north Africa affiliates boasting of the attack. The Times says this intercept was the “only intelligence connecting al Qaeda to the attack,” a claim disputed this weekend by two U.S. intelligence officials. The Times reports the phone call showed the person connected to al Qaeda sounded “astonished,” suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

The smoking-gun phone call, a feature of Kirkpatrick’s reporting:

But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

Lake’s rebuttal? Adam Schiff knows about a phone call on the night of the attack. The type of call where neither of the two people knows they’re being listened to. Somebody said something that was suspicious. But, to be honest, it’s a call that just maybe could have been misleading. The key to the argument here is “What militants say when they think no one is listening,” though Schiff deflates that a bit. Why didn’t the Times report any of that? I don’t know, did you bother with the part below the headline? Yes, lots and lots of words, I know. FOUR:

Ansar al-Sharia: No one has disputed the participation of a local Islamist militia known as Ansar al-Sharia. The Times describes Ansar al-Sharia in Libya as a group formed in 2012 to protest the support other militias had for elections but an organization separate and distinct from al Qaeda. An August 2012 report commissioned by a Pentagon terrorism research organization found that Ansar al-Sharia “has increasingly embodied al Qaeda’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States.” Not everyone however agreed. As The Daily Beast reported last year, Ansar al-Sharia was not a priority for U.S. intelligence collection in Libya [sic] The Times also drew a distinction between the Benghazi branch of Ansar al-Sharia and the Dernaa branch of the group that was led by a former Guantanamo detainee Sufian Ben Qhumu. Others however see Ansar al-Sharia’s activities in Libya more coordinated with al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates. In October, Tunisia’s Prime Minister told Reuters that “there is a relation between leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya.” The Times also states, “the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with al Qaeda’s international terrorist network.” On Fox News Sunday Rogers stuck to his guns. “Do they have differences of opinions with al Qaeda core? Yes,” he said. “Do they have affiliations with al Qaeda core? Definitely.”

This paragraph? The Times says Ansar al-Shariah is not Al Qaeda. The Daily Beast agrees. Mike Rogers disagrees. Thanks everyone and this has been Eli Lake, for The Daily Beast.

Journalism? The entire American right-wing stands atop this ‘report’ and screams at the political world about the vicious lying of David Kirkpatrick and the New York Times. There are no retractions or apologies for this craven hack-job, nor will there be. In a less sophisticated America, Eli Lake would get run out of town on a rail.