Dept. of State’s “Unmitigated” Failure

Mr. Philippe Reines, who evidently has no idea how to manage himself, let alone the media. No, you didn’t elect him.

The news about the Libyan attack keeps getting worse. The Czar was particularly troubled at an emerging story that shows how dimwitted the State Department is, and wonders why on Earth the President is doing something to stop this disastrous lack of competence.

All right, you obviously know how Ambassador Stevens was brutally attacked and killed by al-Qāʿidah. And the administration now admits that, yes, they had very specific warnings about the Benghazi attack in particular.

You might have heard that CNN reporter Arwa Damon went to the embassy and found it more or less unsecured. While there, she noticed Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ personal journal (somehow this is being called a diary, but technically it is a journal) laying out among the wreckage and mess. She didn’t know what it was; she just started flipping through it and was shocked to find it contained significant information of a very secure nature.

Damon also realized there was some personal information in there, and asked the Department of State whether she could send it to Stevens’s family, as there was presumably much in there the family would appreciate knowing.

Not so fast, the State Department replied: there is considerable national security information in that journal, and they need it back. By the way, how did she even get hold of it? Damon basically replied that she walked through the front door and found it laying there. There was no security at the embassy; it was a processed and now abandoned crime scene open to the public.

This is where CNN looks bad. They turned the journal over to the Department of State—but not before they read it. CNN discovered that Stevens was aware of the impending attack, knew al-Qāʿidah was coming for him, and worried that no one was taking his security concerns specifically. This part became evident when Anderson Cooper broke that story—and the only place it could have originated was the diary. Two days later, Cooper explained on air that indeed CNN read it, but revealed neither classified information nor personal information that would upset the ambassador’s family. Either way, the journal was back in the family’s hands, likely after sensitive information was redacted.

CNN claims the information was newsworthy, and defends their actions accordingly. After all, once Damon read the contents, she couldn’t very well unread it, could she? And the bit about the ambassador knowing what was coming was certainly not classified nor revealing anything—it merely corroborated claims by other sources that the administration knew about the attacks beforehand. Nothing more.

That may be the case. But you have not heard what happened next.

Secretary Clinton’s senior advisor, Philippe Reines, issued a statement that CNN acted improperly, stating that:

What they’re not owning up to is reading and transcribing Chris’s diary well before bothering to tell the family or anyone else that they took it from the site of the attack. Or that when they finally did tell them, they completely ignored the wishes of the family, and ultimately broke their pledge made to them only hours after they witnessed the return to the United States of Chris’s remains.

Whose first instinct is to remove from a crime scene the diary of a man killed along with three other Americans serving our country, read it, transcribe it, email it around your newsroom for others to read, and only when their curiosity is fully satisfied thinks to call the family or notify the authorities?

Well, okay—now CNN is going to go the extra step.

CNN did not initially report on the existence of a journal out of respect for the family…but we felt there were issues raised in the journal which required full reporting, which we did. We think the public had a right to know what CNN had learned from multiple sources about the fears and warnings of a terror threat before the Benghazi attack which are now raising questions about why the State Department didn’t do more to protect Ambassador Stevens and other US personnel. Perhaps the real question here is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.

In other words, CNN wasn’t going to go there, Mr. Reines, but since you decided to get nasty, let us ask the question why the State Department ignored his concerns despite credible evidence he was going to be killed? How do you explain this tremendous screw up?

A good question, thought Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings. He emailed the following to Mr. Reines:

A few quick questions for you. 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?
Let me know if you have a second.

Mr. Reines offered back a lengthy response stating that he found the email’s tone rather antagonistic, suggested Hastings ask CNN if they took anything else from the ”crime scene” (though most of us would call it the scene of a terrorist attack), and asked whether CNN had any sense of responsibility to the family—or did they just take what they wanted first? Reines asked the following legitimate question (but put it in an astonishingly whiny way):

I realize that the way this works is that you only you get to ask me questions, but I have one for you: if you were in Benghazi, went to the scene of the attack, found the ambassador’s diary, read every word of it, would you have called them and asked their permission to use it, then when you weren’t granted that permission agree that you wouldn’t use it in any way, and then a few days later just change your mind?

If the answer is yes, then you obviously agree that CNN handled this perfectly fine.

If the answer is no, if you would have decided its contents demanded reporting immediately, how would you have handled this differently then CNN?

And you should feel free to use every word above, in its entirety. Though I suspect you won’t.

Hastings wrote back to say he found the State Department’s press release offensive, and that serious questions need to be answered about national security: how was a reporter able to walk freely into an embassy, pick up a sensitive journal that was sitting out, and why the Department believes it should attack CNN who followed ethical rules of journalism and quite frankly did the US a favor by getting hold of that journal before al-Qāʿidah did. The only organization who is having trouble with the facts, Mr. Hastings concludes, is the Department of State.

Reines responded:

Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?

To which Hastings replied quite unprofessionally but, let us be honest, something three-quarters of Americans are asking:

Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?

To which Reines represented current State Department protocol with:

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 asshole.

How’s that for a non-bullshit response?

Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day.

And by good day, I mean Fuck Off

Hastings, knowing a junior high school muscle pumping when he sees one, replies:

Hah–I now understand what women say about you, too! Any new complaints against you lately?

Knee slapper. And Reines needs to get the last word in:

Talk about bullshit – answer me this: Do you only traffic in lies, or are you on the ground floor of creating them?
And since Fuck Off wasn’t clear enough, I’m done with you. Inside of 5 minutes when I can log into my desktop, you’ll be designated as Junk Mail.
Have a good life Michael.

Well, now. And lest you dear readers think we are using satire, we are not. This indeed happened: feel free to check any of these quotes out on the link we provided above. Or, if you scrolled down already, click here.

Two questions:

First, do you begin to understand the intense loathing that the Czar has for the media? No, not CNN so much: they appear to have followed the few rules journalism still has. But the way Hastings went about it was intentionally provocative. Yes, Hastings was right to ask the questions: there is no longer any question that the Department of State is just as incompetent as the rest of the Obama administration. Sigh, and we had such high hopes for SoS Clinton. But Hastings is a tool: he could have come out on top of this exchange, but wound up looking like a jerk. Which is really too bad; he could have gotten the same response with a lot more class.

Second, do you begin to understand how a tragic lapse of security could occur at the Department of State, when the Secretary’s own senior adviser has such a tenuous grasp of the scandalous nature of the situation? There are hundreds of perfectly good canned responses he could have used to calm down Michael Hastings, but he chose to underscore how woefully amateurish and inexperienced the Department of State is. When the ambassador notifies his superiors that he is in grave danger, and when those same superiors have word of the attack in advance, you see a comment like “Now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, have a good day. And by good day, I mean Fuck Off.”

Yeah, talk about an unmitigated asshole, Mr. Reines. Quadruple down on this incompetence if you must, but do not be surprised when people suspect you have little idea what is going on, no clue how to handle it, and that you cannot even manage yourself.

Imagine what We the People will hear about when the Obama administration is removed from power. Imagine the stories that are going to come out across the board. We cannot wait.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.