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“Layers of Editing” is no defense for NY Times Benghazi bias

“Layers of Editing” is no defense for NY Times Benghazi bias

That the NY Times’ failed Benghazi blockbuster went through “layers of editing” makes claims of bias more, not less, credible.

Last week David Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief of the New York Times tweeted:

Kirkpatrick_Benghazi_Tweet_01202014

The article, by the editor of the Columbus Dispatch, Benjamin Marrison, Some think, mistakenly, that stories fit agendas, was a defense of Kirkpatrick’s recent in depth report on Benghazi that was later used for a New York Times editorial, The Truth about Benghazi. Kirkpatrick’s main findings were that al Qaeda was not involved in the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic mission, that the attack was not pre-planned and that the administration did not cover up what really happened.

In his defense of Kirkpatrick, Marrison wrote:

According to the story, “the investigation by The Times shows that the reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of those story lines suggests. Benghazi was not infiltrated by al-Qaida, but nonetheless contained grave local threats to American interests. The attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.” …

It saddens me to hear people accuse employees of any newsroom of writing stories to help or harm a particular candidate or party. Layers of editing in the newsrooms of major newspapers are designed to prevent that from happening. News organizations and the journalists within them care deeply about their credibility and won’t stand for agenda reporting.

Marrison quoted Kirkpatrick’s thesis that the story was “murkier” than politicians would have it and then lamented that anyone could think that a reporter or newspaper has an agenda. There is no doubt that Kirkpatrick did in-depth reporting. One critique at National Review had something positive to write about Kikrpatrick’s report:

First, the good: Times reporter David Kirkpatrick did what the American security establishment has apparently failed to do in more than a year since the Benghazi attack — get face-to-face with key players on the ground in Libya. While he’s entirely too credulous in relating their account, he does provide a vital sense of the mish-mash of competing militias and loyalties within Benghazi in the days and weeks leading up to the attack. And at least one part of the account rings true for those of us who’ve spent time in the Middle East: that the initial assault was soon supplemented by a rumor mill (that Americans were shooting unarmed Libyans) that greatly swelled the attackers’ ranks — at least after they’d already taken the compound. If you want to know how the Benghazi militias spin the story, read Kirkpatrick.

Note in that praise, the problem with Kirkpatrick is implied: Kirkpatrick chose to focus on a single set of sources for his reporting. He mostly talked to Libyans who were on the ground. Who did Kirkpatrick miss?

For example Eli Lake wrote at the Daily Beast:

On Fox News Sunday, Schiff, a Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the intelligence indicated that al Qaeda did play a role in the attack. The intelligence community knows this, he said, from insights gleaned from eavesdropping on the night of the attack. Speaking of the Times report, Schiff said “they did not have the same access to people who were not aware they were being listened to. They were heavily reliant obviously on people they interviewed who had a reason to provide the story they did.” But Schiff also said sometimes eavesdropping has its limits as well. “Sometimes though the intelligence which has the advantage of hearing to people when they don’t know they are being listening to, that can be misleading as well, when people make claims, they boast of things they were not involved in for various purposes,” he said. The Daily Beast first reported that an intercepted phone conversation from one of the attackers to a person connected to al Qaeda’s north Africa affiliates boasting of the attack. The Times says this intercept was the “only intelligence connecting al Qaeda to the attack,” a claim disputed this weekend by two U.S. intelligence officials. The Times reports the phone call showed the person connected to al Qaeda sounded “astonished,” suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

Thomas Joscelyn shows that Kirkpatrick didn’t just ignore intelligence reports, but previous reporting of the New York Times itself!

On October 29, 2012 three other New York Times journalists reported that Jamal’s network, in addition to a known al Qaeda branch (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), was directly involved in the assault. The Times reported (emphasis added): “Three Congressional investigations and a State Department inquiry are now examining the attack, which American officials said included participants from Ansar al-Shariah, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Muhammad Jamal network, a militant group in Egypt.” …

Since the New York Times and other press outlets first reported on the Jamal network’s involvement, both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations have designated Jamal and his subordinates as terrorists. Both the U.S. and UN designations tie Jamal’s network directly to al Qaeda.

In addition to these omissions in Kirkpatrick’s reporting, Stephen Hayes takes issue of a claim made by Kirkpatrick, that “I think honestly if you asked anybody in the U.S. intelligence business, they would tell you the same thing,” that al Qaeda played no role in the attack.

Consider what Senator Dianne Feinstein told host Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, back on December 2, 2012, about a briefing from CIA director David Petraeus shortly after the attacks. “General Petraeus briefed us on the 13th,” she said. “There is a transcript. He said very clearly that there were al Qaeda elements involved.”

Presumably Feinstein, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, qualifies as someone in the “U.S. intelligence business.” So does the CIA director.

Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counter-terrorism Center, testified on September 19, 2012, that there were “indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to al Qaeda or al Qaeda’s affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

In short, then, the New York Times presented an in-depth article purporting to tell the whole story of Benghazi, but rather than giving us a big picture, presented only a very narrow view of what happened. Marrison wants us to believe that because of the “layers of editing” it isn’t possible for a story to be tailored to fit an agenda.

But consider the defects noted in Kirkpatrick’s reporting. Critics noted that 1) he focused on one aspect of the story and that 2) he ignored previous reporting including from the New York Times. If “layers of editing” didn’t catch these obvious shortcomings, it had to be because the editors were not looking too hard. Additionally, from a professional standpoint, Kirkpatrick who initially reported on the supposed role the “Innocence of Muslims” played in inciting the violence had an interest in further supporting that angle. (You could call it “confirmation bias.”)

Andrew McCarthy identifies Kirkpatrick’s report as misdirection:

Because the objective of Kirkpatrick’s novella is not to persuade; it is to shrink the parameters of newsworthy inquiry to a punctilious debate over nonsense: The cockamamie trailer and the dizzying jihadist org chart.

Here’s a case in point. In a weak comeback to his critics’ contention that, as U.S. intelligence sources maintain, the al-Qaeda-linked Muhammad Jamal network was involved in the massacre, Kirkpatrick told CNN that this claim was at once “bogus” and “tenuous.” My friend Tom Joscelyn counters, “The Jamal network’s role in Benghazi cannot be both ‘bogus’ and ‘tenuous,’ of course. Either there are ties, however tenuous, or there are not.” Tom then proceeds to demonstrate that, in reality, this al-Qaeda branch’s role was neither “bogus” nor “tenuous.” He’s right, of course — but that’s not the point. Joscelyn wins the argument, but the Times, Obama, and Clinton win more by the fact that we are having the argument.

Coherence and historical accuracy are not what the Times is after. The aim is to drag our consideration of a jihadist act of war down a rabbit hole of nitpicking over which jihadists did what. Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s derelictions before, during, and after the massacre — the matter of greatest consequence — remain studiously outside this wearying crossfire.

Narrowing the scope of the story and its implications makes Marrison’s “layers of editing” dodge less convincing. A critical reading of Kirkpatrick’s story by editors should have resulted in a more complete report. That the editing didn’t catch any of these flaws in Kirkpatrick’s report could be explained by gross incompetence, a failure of editing process or deliberate bias.

I could believe any of these three explanations. The reason that bias seems most likely is that we know that the current executive editor of the New York Times had been rebuked by the paper’s public editor for publishing a blatantly political hit piece. Despite this obvious black mark against her judgment she was promoted to executive editor. So yes, it would be nice to believe, as Marrison does, that news reporting is not done to suit a political agenda. But from what we can discern from Kirkpatrick’s omissions and the culture of the New York Times that noble belief strains credulity.

[Photo: LSUDVM / YouTube ]

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Comments

“It saddens me to hear people accuse employees of any newsroom of writing stories to help or harm a particular candidate or party. Layers of editing in the newsrooms of major newspapers are designed to prevent that from happening.”

Two thoughts here…

1. If this moke is “saddened” because people see that his ilk are flat-footed propagandists, he must need to be on a suicide watch. More Americans all that time are turning away from their “product”.

2. The “layers” of editors to which he refers must be some kind of monster chickens, laying baby editors, ’cause there ain’t no evidence of any editorial influence apparent in today’s newspapers.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Ragspierre. | January 21, 2014 at 10:42 am

    The New York Times is prejudiced? is bigoted? is racist?

    The layers of “editing” are 100% argument against what the NYT has claimed.

    Real editing is to prevent this.

    But we know the un-professional firm known as the New York Times edits to PUSH propaganda for the leftist Democrats
    like Obama.

    Monster Chicken would be a great band name.

60 Minutes, The New York Times, and the Senate Investigation Committee have each shared their opinion on what happened in Benghazi. But they are only guessing. Sadly, the true story will never be told. Stevens is dead. The witnesses have been gagged. Clinton continues to smile and speak before groups that pay her a fortune, pretending like Benghazi is a figment of the hateful Republicans and their misguided imagination. You know, like what she claimed once before about her husband – the right wing conspiracy.

Worse, Americans don’t seem interested in finding out more. They are content with some version that it was the video and AQ has been decimated.

It’s a tragic state of affairs for four dead Americans.

Obfuscation in service of party? If NYT doesn’t watch itself, it could someday be perceived as an unobjective source of reporting. You heard it hear first.

If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period.

Layers of editing helped the NYT save face when Jason Blair was writing. Early on their Metro Editor fired an email off saying he needed to stop writing for the Times.

Blair was promoted instead.

When theoretical physicists actually prove the theory of multiple simultaneous universes, the New York Times will be a primary part of the evidence.

So they would have us believe the NYT has no agenda, when they tell us they have no agenda. They learned denial from the Clinton school of “I did not have sex with that woman”. THEY LIE.

The pablum of record is pimping for Hillary, as they always do for the left. They trust intelligence when it is leaked from the White House situation room and helps Obama, but not when it comes from Feinstein or others, if it does not propel Hillary’s campaign.

Hillary screwed up and lied about it. My only question is whether she deliberately put Stevens in harms way to back her and Obama’s “al Qaeda band on the run” narrative, or if she is just grossly incompetent and negligent.

And was the “stand down, leave men behind” strategy her decision or Obama’s … or Valerie’s? Did they respond to that 3AM call with a plan to cover their ass, or did they just go back to sleep?

Those are the questions politically driven NYT will not ask, at least not unless it is to provide another alibi for their gal Hillary.

News organizations and the journalists within them care deeply about their credibility and won’t stand for agenda reporting.

Bwaahahahahahaha….oh please…stop!

Here is what we know:

Some verity of jihadists did weaponized editing of their own upon four Americans.

Kirkpatrick’s NYT report is clearly myopic when compared to actual Intelligence reports.

Someone in our government knew the situation and did nothing.

All of the above is very clear right now.

Who, inside all of the layers of government, is the one responsible for not responding?

Anyone else seeing NYT ads on both this and the main page now?

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Jay Jones. | January 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

    That is just a sign of how desperate they are for income and subscribers Jay.

    In this Greatest Depression Evah, I’ve had leftist promoting periodicals extend my subscriptions for free, three times!

Kirkpatrick had already written at least a couple of pieces supporting the Obama line on Benghazi and at least one supporting the “video” lie.

If NYT or any credible news operation wanted to research and find the truth, the LAST reporter you send to do that is one with a position already staked out on the issue.

The fact is he just swallowed what the militia leader he was able to interview fed him, whole, without even chewing, because it fit his narrative. But this is hardly surprising, since the NYT’s dedication for the last 5+ years has not been to the news or accuracy, but to defending the Obama Presidency at all costs.

Those who continue to pay attention to this Old Gray Lady as she slips dishonestly away are doomed to follow fantasies of the left into perdition.

BannedbytheGuardian | January 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Show us their ‘man on the ground’ . Remember the guy who was actually THERE just walkin along singing a song ……

Still only one person repWolfe has asked ‘What was the ‘CIA ‘ annex there for’? That was no CIA operation . I highly doubt Stevens knew they were there himself otherwise he would have asked for assistance surely & we would never have heard anymore.

These guys were so out of line that all the presidents horses & all the presidents men would not save them. I don’t think there was a stand down , I think maybe they did not know WTF they were. It took hours to establish & send SF from Tripoli.

Ok if you were planning a coup against the US – no one would think of looking for the cell in Benghazi. If we ever see these guys released from their cells they will have had their memories zapped & be zombies.

Hey my theory is as good as the NYT & just as believable .

    The state dept was in contact over the phone with the Benghazi consulate before and during the attack and the CIA was watching the attack live from a drone. They knew what was happening in real time. The problem was that this betrayal of our people in Benghazi wouldn’t look good for the Tyrants election campaign of lies or for Hilary’s claim of “competence”. They had to lie in order to distract from the truth.

BannedbytheGuardian | January 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Then there was the guy whose injuries were so severe because he was left for 21 hours . Where was he if they ‘evacuated’ the annex. Somewhere else or they would have taken him first surely .

Then he was ‘in hospital’ for 11 months with visits by high level officials.

I cannot believe that a CIA outfit would leave Americans to die. They have a bad rep in moves but they are for America.

It’s the NY Times, what would anyone expect, not even good for wrapping rancid fish or as birdcage lining.

This is nothing but journalistic B.S. I have seen it time and again where editors/publishers/newsroom grudges have agendas that they push regardless of the facts. Doubtless there are the rare true journalists who report the facts when allowed, but I have personally found that most are fearful of their job and slant the story to the editor/publisher viewpoint. At some point most people realize that the media reports are woefully slanted and you should take the story as a fictional account of events. We all need to remember that the news industry is a business and they need to sensationalize the story to make a profit.

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