The kerfuffle over Ambassador Chris Stevens’s diary is emblematic of the Obama administration’s meltdown over the Benghazi consulate attack. CNN recovered the diary from the compound where he died (astonishingly, it seems that no US personnel searched the premises), and they used it, reporting that Stevens was concerned about growing Al Qaeda activity in Libya and was concerned that he might be on a hit list.
The diary made a mockery of the State Department’s contention that there was no advance information to suggest that maybe the consulate should have some security. So, the Obama administration being the Obama administration, they counter-attacked, saying that CNN should not have used the diary. Now, I have no love lost for CNN, but they were just doing their jobs. Given a scoop of this importance, no self-respecting reporter would sit on it.
Some reporters refused to be distracted, and asked questions about the journal. Byron York asked:
Is fact that US govt didn’t know about Amb. Stevens’ diary indication US investigators didn’t get on case as quickly as White House claimed?
Indeed it was such an indication. In fact, we now know that (at least as of Saturday), the FBI investigators still have not reached Benghazi.
But the reporter who really got under their skin was BuzzFeed’s Michael Hastings, who asked Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines (Hillary Clinton’s spokesman):
Why didn’t the State Department search the consulate and find AMB Steven’s diary first? What other potential valuable intelligence was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds? Was any classified or top secret material also left? Do you still feel that there was adequate security at the compound, considering it was not only overrun but sensitive personal effects and possibly other intelligence remained out for anyone passing through to pick up? Your statement on CNN sounded pretty defensive–do you think it’s the media’s responsibility to help secure State Department assets overseas after they’ve been attacked?
These are all very good questions, and Reines didn’t like being asked them. After a contentious exchange (in which Hastings was the first to use a mild profanity), Reines exploded:
I now understand why the official investigation by the Department of the Defense as reported by The Army Times The Washington Post concluded beyond a doubt that you’re an unmitigated [expletive].
How’s that for a non-[expletive] response?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day.
And by good day, I mean [Expletive] Off
Why would Reines lose his cool to the extent of spewing profanity? Because Hastings’s questions were unanswerable: Why didn’t they search for intelligence? Do they still maintain they had no reason for security? Is it the media’s job to collect this stuff for them? And why, as Hastings asked in exasperation during their exchange, don’t they give some answers that “aren’t [expletive] for a change?”