What Did We Learn From the 60 Minutes Benghazi Report?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 28 2013 8:56 AM

What Did We Learn From the 60 Minutes Benghazi Report?

On the right, there's bitter celebration over a 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that includes more than a year of reporting. The report "confirms Benghazi is a real scandal, and you've been lied to," according to William Jacobson, for example.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

But the report tells us more about what we've known for a year, and known in detail since the spring of 2013. Lara Logan's big coup is an interview with a British security officer who uses a psuedonym; her other on-camera sources, Andy Wood and Gregory Hicks, had testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. What we learn from the report:

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- The new source reports that "on his first drive through Benghazi, he noticed the black flags of al Qaeda flying openly in the streets and he grew concerned about the guard forces as soon as he pulled up to the U.S. compound." This was echoed in a later cable from Chris Stevens: "the al Qaeda flag has been spotted several times flying over government buildings."

- Online chatter provided clues as to what was coming. "Al Qaeda -- using a familiar tactic -- had stated their intent in an online posting, saying they would attack the Red Cross, the British and then the Americans in Benghazi."

-  Wood, a chief security officer in Libya, told the country team that "the attack cycle is such that they're in the final planning stages."

This colors in some of the story, but it doesn't advance the scandal. The Stevens cables that warned State about what might happen were revealed almost a year ago, sparking off some minor head-rolling at State but not much else. What conservatives want to know—and when I go to conferences or political rallies, I hear this—is what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were doing on the night of the attack, and whether they heard earlier warnings but ignored them.

Conservatives are apoplectic about Clinton's public statements after the attack, which continued to mention the "Innocence of Muslims" video, and did not lead with how terrorists had actually planned an executed an attack. "They lied to the victims’ coffins and then strolled over to lie to the bereaved," wrote Mark Steyn after the Issa hearings. The new report doesn't provide much ballast for any of this, but it does assure conservatives that the media hasn't stopped caring about the story.

What's the next scheduled turn in Benghazigate? I'd say it's the forthcoming release of Hillary Clinton's second memoir.

UPDATE: And there's this, seemingly inspired by the TV report.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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