Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sharyl Attkisson Update

She's a busy woman at the moment.   A best-selling book while stories she writes about in said book are breaking all around her.


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence declassified and released their report on Benghazi in what appeared to be a Friday doc dump.  Mainstreamers and blogs like TPM and Huffpo have spent the last several days making it sound like the report officially justifies the president's calling it a 'phony scandal'.

From reading the report's 37 pages a few things come to the front.  One, just as CNN reported in 2012 initially after the event (to almost zero fanfare) members of AQ in Iraq were involved in the attack.  That would be our modern-day ISIS (or Isil, if you prefer Obama-speak).  Those guys weren't there on vacation.  Clearly they and their AQ buddies were there because weapons were likely being funneled out to the 'freedom fighters' in Syria.  The HPSCI report confirms this while dismissing any conspiracy theories that the CIA annex was itself being used to actually funnel the weapons.  They determine that CIA was there to observe and spy on the weapons transfers.

Also, the idea that a bunch of guys walking around suddenly got mad and grabbed their RPGs and mortars and attacked America because of a hateful video was completely waxed in this report. 

Two, the report condemns the process that CIA Deputy Mike Morell used to override the CIA's initial September 12th conclusion that the attack was not spontaneous, not based on a protest, and contained AQ elements.  Morell claims to have later ignored people actually on the ground in Benghazi in the days following, eventually finding himself in the middle of an inter-agency process of developing talking points. He blames this failure on judgment gleaned over his 30 year career.  The White House has persistently said they didn't change the talking points, Morell did, which can also be called plausible deniability.  Morell is now retired from CIA and working with Phillipe Reines at Beacon Global.

But yeah, the overarching conclusion of Rogers' report is that nothing untoward occurred. 

So far Attkisson has not weighed in on the HPSCI report.  She was on Howie Kurtz' Media Buzz this morning but mainly stuck to Fast and Furious (F&F).  Her eventual take will be interesting, since it does appear that Mike Rogers and company, despite clearing up some items regarding the video and leaving open the question of why the talking points were changed, were trying to send a message that Benghazi was nothing more than a tragic attack spun up politically by the right, just as Obama said.  They had to know their conclusion would be spun that way.   

Which is odd, since John Boehner appointed Trey Gowdy to run a Select Committee on the matter just a few months ago.  When Gowdy was last asked about Benghazi by Megyn Kelly on Fox he said they were more or less operating on the down-low without public hearings.  Then this report comes out.  His Select Committee issued a curt statement the other day, saying they will take the report into consideration.  Yeah. John Boehner, like Rogers, is a member of the Gang of Eight and would certainly have known more about what happened than Gowdy, yet he formed the Select Committee anyway almost surely knowing Rogers' report would be fodder for the left wing press.  Something sounds fishy.

Fast and Furious..

As Attkisson alluded in her appearance on Media Buzz, Judicial Watch managed to get a pack of emails through a FOIA request (part of the information the president had hidden behind executive privilege) that outline how DOJ media spinners reacted to the F&F story.  They rake Attkisson pretty good therein, calling her "out of control" and claim they will contact Bob Schieffer at CBS to apparently rein her in.  There are other offhand references to her, with some references to Fox's Greta Van Sustern along with friendly mentions of various AP and WaPo reporters.  At one point Eric Holder says "wow" when notified of an AP story from Pete Yost that snarkily mentions Bush's "Wide Receiver" gun walking program.   Attkisson has been tweeting up a storm on this, referring to this post on her website.

But in sum, there's not much contained in these emails other than a lot of duplication (this is how the administration can later tell reporters they released "thousands of pages of documents" to make it sound more impressive, they repeat pages of the same emails over and over each time someone replies to the same thread).  The main takeaway is watching these taxpayer funded press flacks strategize about how they will go on defense, then "offense", at one point suggesting the Attorney General should blame the publicity of the case on the NRA for trying to destroy the ATF (they say such a thing would have to be managed carefully). But it's likely nothing different than the daily happenings in any press flack office in government or industry.  Of course the Obama administration was supposed to be different.  
The bottom line to F&F seems to be all about what Holder knew and when he knew it, and whether the president knew and used Nixon-esque executive privilege to keep anyone from finding out.  This perhaps goes toward a theory they were trying to use ATF to create a gun-control play, ie, hopes that stories about US-sold guns being used in violent crimes in Mexico might spur the grubers for more gun control. 

Keep in mind F&F ramped up in late 2009 after a blizzard of contacts between US and Mexico where guns were mentioned.  The president met with Mexican president Calderon in April and in another visit in August (North American summit meeting) where gun violence came up.  Hillary visited Mexico in March then met Calderon again in July, blaming America for the gun violence.  The president is still using this blame game meme.  President Calderon then visited America in 2010 and bashed the Arizona immigration law on the floor of the House (again before F&F was a story) and proceeded to say..
Calderon also told Congress Thursday that the fight against narcotics traffickers along the border can only succeed if the United States reduces its demand for illegal drugs. Calderon called on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban. "The Second Amendment is not a subject open for diplomatic negotiation, with Mexico or any other nation," Cornyn said. He said the United States must stop the flow of assault weapons and other arms across the border.
To be clear, when they blame America they are blaming the lack of gun laws, not the ATF for failing to catch the straw purchasers or the Mexican government for allowing the gun runners unfettered re-access to Mexico. So it's natural to assume that after the president and secretary of state spent the spring and summer of 2009 blaming America for Mexico's gun problem and vowing to help stop it, there might be some questions about whether F&F was one of their answers.  If so, there's no way Holder couldn't know about it from the very start.

It seems unlikely a single field office would do that on their own, but maybe they were just trying to score brownie points.  And while the press flacks seemed ready and willing to have Holder use the scandal to attack the NRA (part of going on offense), which makes it sound like gun control might have been a goal, they just as easily could have been opportunistic.  In the end the presidential executive privilege is what makes this seems more nefarious, but as Attkisson points out the bulk of her mainstream cohorts never seemed to smell any rats as they would with a GOP version in the West Wing.  Many probably root for more gun control. 

At any rate, reading through about 3/4ths of Attkisson's book her take is certainly interesting and unsurprising, but have not seen any true smoking guns yet.  The evidence provided that her PCs were hacked or commandeered by shadowy US agencies is not overpowering, however it reads as entirely plausible based on how the AP and James Rosen were treated along with the Snowden leaks.

Even if it turns out she's a closet conservative and has overreacted to some of the treatment given her the story she tells of how newsrooms operate, especially her explanation of how stories would be covered if the situations were reversed (say Mitt Romney was in the White House), ring absolutely true.  Managed media bandwagon outage and saturation coverage only occurs when the big media gatekeepers want it to occur, usually when a conservative does something wrong (fulfills media-created public perception).  Stories like Gruber upset that continuum and the gatekeepers work to downplay them, often in concert with administration officials (many of whom are buddies or even husbands/wives), but this is becoming harder to do in an an age of open internet

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