When Washington bureaucracies rumble, they often avoid directly savaging one another by using the press as proxies. By leaking selectively to news outlets they believe will give them the most sympathetic hearing, they hope to shape the news by making it. The strategy doesn’t always work. Sock puppetry revolts good reporters and some bad ones, too, because they know carrying tainted water for a source today may stain their reputations tomorrow.
The Benghazi story hasn’t turned any reporters into absolute dummies—yet—but as the tag-team match of blame being played by the White House, the State Department, a congressional committee, and the CIA escalates–and with the Romney campaign eager to pounce on anything that makes the administration look bad–don’t be surprised if unnamed sources start spinning the facts in a self-serving manner.
You shouldn’t feel bad if you’re confused about Benghazi and have no idea who should be sacked for not doing his job: Press accounts and comments from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all congealed into one murky, confusing stew. Now, clarity has arrived in a new ultra-narrative given yesterday to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and others, sourced to a “senior administration official,” “senior intelligence officials,” “a senior American intelligence official,” “a senior U.S. intelligence official,” and “U.S. intelligence officials,” respectively.
It’s hard to believe these officials are anyone other than CIA brass, something Ignatius’s column said quite literally when it was first posted with a headline reading, “CIA Offers Detailed Account of Attack in Libya.” Later, that headline was swapped out with the more generic “U.S. Offers Detailed Account of Attack in Libya,” as this screenshot tweeted by Jeremy Scahill attests.
In the time line put out by the CIA, the agency essentially takes the blame for the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi on Sept. 11. But it also takes credit for the rescue of 30-plus other U.S. officials. The Journal reports: