CBS broadcast helps revive Benghazi furor
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — In an explosive report on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, the British supervisor of local security guards protecting the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, provided a harrowing account of the extremist attack that killed four Americans.
The man whom CBS called Morgan Jones, a pseudonym, described racing to the Benghazi compound while the attack was underway, scaling a 12-foot wall and downing an extremist with the butt end of a rifle as he tried in vain to rescue the besieged Americans.
The "60 Minutes" broadcast, in which Jones also recounted his clandestine visit that night to a Benghazi hospital to view the body of slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, helped propel a new round of partisan conflict this week over the attack.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republican lawmakers referred to it repeatedly during a Wednesday news conference. Graham said he would block confirmation of all of President Barack Obama's nominees, including Jeh Johnson as homeland security secretary and Janet Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve, until the administration allowed government witnesses to the attack to appear before Congress.
But in a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night.
In Davies' 2 1/2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, "we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up."
He learned of Stevens' death, Davies wrote, when a Libyan colleague who had been at the hospital came to the villa to show him a cellphone picture of the ambassador's blackened corpse. Davies wrote that he visited the still-smoking compound the next day to view and photograph the destruction.
The State Department and GOP congressional aides confirmed that Davies' Sept. 14, 2012, report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was included among tens of thousands of documents turned over to lawmakers by the State Department this year.
Davies' book on the attack, titled "The Embassy House," by "Sergeant Morgan Jones," was published this week and largely comports with the "60 minutes" account. It says that he served 14 years in the British military before becoming a private security contractor.
A person answering the telephone Thursday at Blue Mountain, based in Wales, said no one was available to discuss Benghazi or Davies, who no longer worked there.
Damien Lewis, co-author of the book, said in a telephone interview that Davies was "not well" and is hospitalized. Lewis said he was unaware that the Blue Mountain incident report existed but suggested that Davies might have dissembled in it because his superiors, whom he contacted by telephone once he was informed that the attack was underway, told him to stay away from the compound.
"All I can presume, and again I'm speculating, is that his boss told him to stay in the villa and not go anywhere. So he would have penned a report and said he had done what was ordered," Lewis said.
Kevin Tedesco, a spokesman for "60 Minutes," said, "We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday."
Administration officials seized on the discrepancies to again criticize GOP zeal in pursuing the Benghazi incident. "The people who were injured and the families of those who died are owed an apology" by Davies and "60 Minutes," said a senior administration official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. "There were real heroes that night, including the quick response team that actually got into the U.S. compound and saved lives. Davies was, according to his own after-action report, not one of them."
Asked Thursday about Graham's threat to hold up Obama's nominations, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "The fact is, we have been enormously cooperative and gone to extraordinary efforts to work with seven different congressional committees investigating what happened before, during and after the Benghazi attacks, including testimony at 13 different congressional hearings and participation in 40 staff briefings and the provision of over 25,000 pages of documents."
Republican aides said discrepancies in Davies' accounts do not undermine wider points made by him and others in the broadcast and hammered on by GOP lawmakers for the past year — that al-Qaida-linked forces were known to be rampant in Benghazi and the administration ignored warnings that the compound was not secure; that the White House and the State Department lied in their initial accounts of the incident; and that the administration has actively impeded congressional investigation of the security lapse.
"Outside his narrative of his own individual actions that night, [Davies'] information about key Benghazi events appeared consistent with a well-established consensus of an inadequate security posture," said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Hill said the committee had not spoken to Davies and had not requested an interview with him, though administration officials confirmed that the FBI has interviewed him.
The several dozen employees of the State Department and the CIA who were present that night at the diplomatic compound, or at the nearby CIA annex that was also attacked, have been told that they are free to speak to members of Congress. But neither agency has actively encouraged them to do so. The State and Justice departments have instructed lawmakers that testimony by security agents could compromise their value as witnesses in any future prosecution of the attack perpetrators.
"That's a bunch of garbage," Graham told CNN on Thursday. "How can you close the chapter on Benghazi when you've never talked to the witnesses?"