Defense Expert Concludes the NY Times’ Benghazi Report ‘Backfired’ on the Paper

Rothman: Defense Expert Concludes the NY Times' Benghazi Report 'Backfired' on the Paper

Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Thomas Joscelyn joined WSJ Live host Mary Kissel on Monday to discuss an investigative report on the September 11, 2012, attack on an American consulate in Benghazi by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick. Both Kissel and Joscelyn agreed that, while Kirkpatrick’s reporting was extensive, the conclusions he reached were erroneous. Furthermore, if there was a political objective that the Times sought to achieve with this report, the effort has thoroughly “backfired.”

Kirkpatrick’s central conclusion, after speaking with a number of sources in Libya suspected of participating in that deadly attack in 2012, was that there is “no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”

Discussing his thorough dissection of the Times’ report in The Weekly Standard, Joscelyn said that the distinction that Kirkpatrick uses to insist that there was no Al Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi attack was “phony.”

“Al Qaeda’s always been this international network,” Joscelyn said. “The idea that, somehow, that Al Qaeda is just this core group in South Asia that we need to kill with drones and everything else is unaffiliated with Al Qaeda is just simply false.”

Joscelyn extensively cited the Times own reporting to contend that Kirkpatrick’s report omitted several key details about the planning that went into that deadly, multistage raid and the attack planner’s links to Al Qaeda international.

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Finally, Kissel asked if the Times’ effort “backfired,” in the sense that the paper may have sought to create the definitive record of events on the night of the Benghazi attack but achieved the opposite effect.

Joscelyn agreed. He asserted that by publishing a report that contradicts the findings of not only a series of independent investigations but reporting in the Times, the paper has revived the debate surrounding the Benghazi attack and the White House’s response to it.

Furthermore, the paper has done some unnecessary damage to its credibility. Whether it is deserved or not, Congressional Republicans are linking the Times’ report to an effort to acquit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of any negligence in her response to that attack. They imply that the paper is directing its journalists to perform a political function in order to lay “the groundwork” for a prospective 2016 presidential bid.

That may or may not be the case, but even New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal has been forced to respond to these allegations and defend the paper’s impartial reporting.

If the Times sought to put the Benghazi issue to rest with this well-researched report, it did the opposite by reaching the maximally beneficial conclusion for Clinton’s political prospects – one that contradicts the preponderance of evidence about the attack which is already part of the public record. By any metric, it is clear that the Times’ Benghazi report has most certainly “backfired.”

Watch the clip below via WSJ Live:

[Photo via screen grab ]

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An experienced broadcaster and columnist, Noah Rothman has been providing political opinion and analysis to a variety of media outlets since 2010. His work has appeared in a number of political opinion journals, and he has shared his insights with television and radio personalities across the country.