Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
ABC News is falsely suggesting there is a contradiction between the Obama administration removing references to terrorist groups in Libya from talking points about the September 11 attacks on diplomatic facilities in that country and pointing to President Obama's statements that those attacks were an "act of terror."
The original September 14 version of a set of talking points compiled by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis stated that "Islamic extremists with ties to al Qa'ida participated in the attack," and specifically suggested the involvement of the group Ansar al Sharia. Those specifics were subsequently removed, with the final version of the talking points stating only that "extremists participated" in the attacks.
In closed congressional testimony following his resignation as CIA director, Gen. David Petraeus reportedly said that these specifics had been "removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them." Administration officials have also said that there were other intelligence and legal concerns with naming the suspected perpetrators:
"The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack," said a senior official familiar with the drafting of the talking points. "There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly."
Some intelligence analysts worried, for instance, that identifying the groups could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants -- a fact most insurgents are already aware of. Justice Department lawyers expressed concern about jeopardizing the F.B.I.'s criminal inquiry in the attacks. Other officials voiced concern that making the names public, at least right away, would create a circular reporting loop and hamper efforts to trail the militants.
Indeed, ABC News has reported that in an email in response to the initial talking points, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland "objected to naming the terrorist groups because 'we don't want to prejudice the investigation.'"
By contrast, in his September 12 and September 13 remarks, President Obama described the attacks as an "act of terror," but did not specify who the perpetrators of that act might be. Presumably such comments would not alert the perpetrators that they were being tracked or jeopardize the criminal probe in the same way that the naming of the specific group might.
Despite that clear distinction, ABC Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz and White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl both suggested that the White House is trying to "have it both ways."
In their reports on subpoenas issued by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, media outlets uncritically quoted the White House claim that "[i]t's unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation" to suggest that Democrats were solely responsible for the committee's action. In fact, three Republicans voted with the Democrats to approve the subpoenas.
Reporting on President Bush's announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, media outlets, with few exceptions, have avoided characterizing Bush's assertion the previous week that he wanted Rumsfeld to stay on as a "lie" or intentional misrepresentation -- this, despite Bush's own admission of a deliberate deception. Some outlets even failed to acknowledge Bush's previous statement that Rumsfeld would stay on as defense secretary until the end of his presidency.
In her report on President Bush's signing of the controversial detainee bill, ABC's Martha Raddatz noted Sen. Russ Feingold's general opposition to the bill but gave no indication of Feingold's specific criticism -- that the bill "allows the government to seize individuals on American soil and detain them indefinitely with no opportunity to challenge their detention in court." Nightly news broadcasts on NBC and CBS devoted little attention to the bill's signing and ignored Democratic criticism of it altogether.
Evening newscasts on ABC and NBC uncritically aired President Bush's nonsensical non-responses to questions about declassified portions of a National Intelligence Estimate; NBC and CBS presented misleading reports on the NIE's conclusions, both asserting that the declassified portion of the report at least in part backs up Bush.
Various media outlets ignored President Bush's statement during an August 21 press conference that the United States will not withdraw its forces from Iraq as long as he is president. Those outlets simply reported that Bush pledged to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until "the mission is complete," and offered no indication that Bush pledged to keep troops there for the remainder of his term.
An ABC World News report on a federal district judge's ruling that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program is unconstitutional featured only Bush administration officials and a senior research fellow from the conservative Heritage Foundation defending the "necessity" of the program. The report did not note that the program's effectiveness has been called into question.
In the wake of the recent thwarting of an alleged terrorist plot in Britain, numerous media outlets have posed the question of whether news of the event would benefit President Bush, often letting conservatives or Republican officials spin the news in favor of the administration. Many of the reports neglected to consider whether the news could actually hurt Bush politically.
On ABC's This Week, Martha Raddatz argued that Democrats "don't want" to call for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq because "the lesson from Vietnam ... was you have to support the troops or there's tremendous backlash." This is not the first time the media have suggested that opposition to the Iraq war and support for U.S. troops are mutually exclusive positions.
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