Months After Benghazi Survivors Spoke, Fox News Claims They've Been Silenced
Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
Insisting there are "growing questions about a possible government cover-up," Fox News' Megyn Kelly this week assured viewers that new information about the Benghazi terrorist attack suggests the White House is trying to silence several dozen Americans who survived the assault on the United States consulate in Libya. They're "being told by the feds to keep quiet," Kelly reported.
Fox's ongoing cover-up allegation is built around Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) claim that he recently met with Benghazi survivors who said they're being "told to be quiet" about the affair. He's urging they be subpoenaed and forced to testify in public.
In hyping the story though, Fox ignores the fact the survivors have already spoken to investigators, and that there are reasons to keep people with sensitive positions in the intelligence community from speaking publicly that don't involve government conspiracies. That, and the fact they're witnesses in an ongoing FBI investigation.
The survivor claim is part of the recent right-wing media effort to build a controversy surrounding the men and women who lived through the terror attack last year in Libya and turn them into pawns in the never-ending Benghazi 'scandal.'
Two weeks ago on Fox, Greta Van Susteren was urging that the survivors be hounded into testifying in public and relive the bloody events of the terror attack. "You keep bringing these people and putting them under oath," Van Susteren demanded. The new Fox angle is that the Obama administration, for political purposes, is denying the victims the chance to tell their tale. The White House is "trying to cover it up," Graham told Fox.
The unsubstantiated claim of a cover-up, which the White House has denied to Fox, represents a strategic shift for the far-right press as it heads towards their seventh month of trying to politicize the terror attack. Just recently, Republicans in Congress complained they had no idea who the survivors were; they didn't know their names or how to contact them, and demanded the White House provide the information.
But now Graham insists he's met with some of the survivors and talked to them. So which is it, are the survivors being hidden by the White House, or are they sitting down and talking to senators such as Graham? Fox can't have it both ways.
More importantly though, is what Fox leaves out of its telling of the alleged Benghazi cover-up. What facts do Fox hosts often omit when detailing how the government is supposedly silencing the survivors?
They're leaving out the fact that the survivors have already spoken. They have already told their stories of the terror attack. And they have done it on the record. In fact, they've done it twice. Within days of the attack, survivors were interviewed by FBI investigators who are currently conducting an on-going criminal investigation into the assault. Transcripts of those interviews have reportedly been made available to the Senate Intelligence Committee (with some redactions). Later, survivors spoke to investigators working for an independent review conducted on behalf of the State Department.
So if there's a White House conspiracy to keep the Benghazi survivors from recounting what they saw during the assault, the plot's been a failure to date.
The simple explanation might be the survivors aren't allowed to further discuss the attack, or do so in public. As Washington, D.C. attorney Bill Bransford explained to Breitbart News last month [emphasis added]:
It is customary and probably consistent with valid non-disclosure policy to tell somebody who is a witness in an ongoing criminal investigation, which of course the FBI is there, so it's criminal and counter-terrorism, to tell (witnesses) they are not to discuss the substance of the interview or what they discussed with the investigating agents with anyone. And that would be consistent with a valid non-disclosure policy. So, at this stage, to get (Benghazi survivors) to talk might be tough.
Additionally, as former Bush administration official Brad Blakeman explained to Megyn Kelly, survivors who are members of the intelligence community wouldn't be able to testify in public about their clandestine work. Instead, they'd have to tell their stories behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. Just like they've already told their stories behind closed doors to the FBI and to State Department investigators.
Nonetheless, on Fox & Friends today, Republican attorney Victoria Toensing hyped the notion of a wide-ranging survivor cover-up, insisting the CIA would ruin the careers of any employees who cooperated with Congress. Toensing failed to note the survivors had already spoken to investigators. She also stressed that the survivors' testimony would be key in determining if there had been security problems at the Benghazi consulate. But the State Department's review already concluded there had been systematic management failures, which led to "grossly" inadequate security in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, Fox News has taken to issuing public requests for the survivors to come forward and speak to them.
Fox's Bret Baier made a similar on-air plea on Special Report: "And we invite any of those survivors, you are welcome on this show anytime."
Considering how closely Fox has been working with Graham in hyping the alleged survivor cover-up story, it's odd Graham hasn't facilitated a meeting between the Fox hosts and the Benghazi survivors.