Mike Morell Attempts to Repair His Damaged Credibility
By Roger Aronoff and Bethany Stotts
Mike Morell, the former Deputy CIA Director and Acting CIA Director, has a newly released book, The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism–From al Qa’ida to ISIS, and has been making the rounds on virtually every TV network.
This is supposed to be his time to set the record straight, but he has apparently decided not to do that. Instead, his truthful revelations are mixed in with obvious falsehoods, so it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other.
We noted his difficulty with the truth back in this 2014 column by former CIA officer Clare Lopez.
Lopez cited that Morell and then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice met with several Republican senators about the editing process for the Benghazi talking points. Points Rice used on the five Sunday morning shows, just days after the attacks in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Lopez, in her column titled “Benghazi and the Politicization of Intelligence,” wrote:
Under questioning from the senators about the talking-points editing process, Morell tried to blame the FBI for cutting the reference to al-Qa’eda terrorism; he said the FBI didn’t want to compromise an ongoing criminal investigation.
When Graham called the FBI and told them what Morell had said, ‘they went ballistic,’ Graham said in an interview with Fox News. ‘Confronted with this, Morell changed his statement and admitted that he, and the CIA, had been responsible after all.’
Although Morell has made statements undermining Hillary Clinton and President Obama on other intelligence issues, he is actively assisting both the mainstream media and the Obama administration in an effort to ignore and revise the 2012 events in Benghazi with his new book, The Great War of Our Time.
“One of the most striking aspects of Morell’s chapters on Benghazi is his dogged insistence that the attacks were simply the result of a mob spinning out of control,” writes Steven Hayes for The Weekly Standard. “But Morell maintains that the attacks were not planned and claims, repeatedly and bizarrely, that the attackers did not necessarily want to harm Americans.”
This, Hayes notes, does not match the Abu Khatallah indictment, which contends that the objective of the attackers in Benghazi was to “kill United States citizens at the Mission and the Annex.”
A Defense Intelligence Agency email, obtained by Judicial Watch and made public on May 18, shows that the DIA reported on September 16, 2012 that the terrorist attack had been planned 10 or more days prior by Al Qaeda.
“The memo was copied to the National Security Council, the State Department and the CIA,” reports Catherine Herridge of Fox News. “A third DIA memo, dated Oct. 5, 2012, leaves no doubt that U.S. intelligence agencies knew that weapons were moving from Libya to Syria before the attack that killed four Americans.”
Morell refused to comment on the flow of weapons to Syria during his recent Fox News interview with Bret Baier, host of Special Report. Morell’s carefully crafted chapters on Benghazi, a total of 47 pages, deceive so systematically and so completely as to create an entirely false account of these events. He seeks to rewrite history by contradicting other witnesses. All evidence supporting this scandal that is not ascribed to the White House’s stonewalling efforts is reduced to spurious claims or myths.
But it is his word against those on the ground that night—from Gregory Hicks to the former Libyan president, including the security contractors and diplomatic security agents. Morell’s own account is irredeemably sullied by the fact that he won’t even admit to conversations he’s had concerning the CIA’s Benghazi talking points.
“I told my colleagues that I had some concerns about the talking points and that I knew other agencies did as well,” he writes of his controversial participation in a Deputies Meeting.
“I did not say what my concerns were. I concluded by saying I would edit the talking points myself and share them with the relevant deputies before sending them to the Hill. McDonough simply said, ‘Thank you, Michael.’” McDonough is Denis McDonough, then-Deputy National Security Advisor, now White House Chief of Staff.
Contrast this with email records obtained by Judicial Watch, and you find that Morell’s assertions prove entirely false.
“On the SVTS [call], Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy editing hand to them,” states an administration email from September 15, 2012. “[Morell] noted that he would be happy to work with Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points. McDonough, on Rhodes’ behalf, deferred to Sullivan.”
Rhodes is Ben Rhodes, former Obama speechwriter, Deputy National Security Advisor, and brother of David Rhodes, the president of CBS News.
“It was agreed that Jake would work closely with the intelligence community (within a small group) to ﬁnalize points on Saturday that could be shared with HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence],” it continues.
In order for there to be an agreement, there must first be a conversation involving multiple parties. And the details of this email clearly demonstrate that there was more of a discussion with others than Morell would like to admit.
But the mainstream media aren’t interested in asking Morell about his factual inaccuracies or contradictions.
During a Q&A, Michael Hirsh of Politico asked Morell a softball question on Benghazi, saying, “You say the CIA reevaluated its security posture in Benghazi after that but it’s unclear why State did not do more. Can you explain?”
This approach revealed that Hirsh hadn’t done any independent research, and was hoping that the Benghazi scandal could be “explained” away by the most authoritative—and, in this case, incredibly biased—administration source.
Politico also published an article by Morell, which claims to be “The Real Story of Benghazi.”
Hirsh’s question doesn’t even reflect Morell’s actual statements. “It was only …after the tragedy of 9/11/12…that we learned that only a few security enhancements had been made” at the Special Mission Compound, writes Morell.
Members of the Annex Security Team write in their book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, that status updates between them (at the CIA Annex) and the Special Mission Compound (located about one mile from the Annex) occurred “usually every Friday.” Does Morell really expect his readers to believe that these two facilities, located so close together, were not aware of each others’ security efforts? Hirsh apparently does.
By informing his readers about unreleased video footage from the night of the attack at the Special Mission Compound (SMC), Morell seeks to establish himself as a first-hand expert on what happened there. He is not. But because the video footage is not available to others, it is impossible to independently verify the facts.
For Politico to have taken Morell at his word without fact-checking is no better than citing anonymous administration officials.
“Some of the attackers were armed with small arms; many were not armed at all,” Morell writes. “No heavy weapons were seen on the videotape.”
This contradicts another account, from the book, Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz, which maintains that:
“Some of the attackers carried RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] slung over their shoulders, apparently to be used on the armored doors of the safe haven and the TOC [Tactical Operations Center] or to repel any counterattack. The DS [Diplomatic Security] agents knew they were facing superior firepower.”
“…definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who—who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their—since their arrival, said former Libyan President Mohammed al Magariaf on September 16, 2012 on CBS’ Face the Nation.
But, according to Morell, this is merely a “myth,” a false perception “that the attacks were well organized, planned weeks or even months in advance.”
“What’s more, the failure to anticipate and prevent such attacks would be, by definition, an intelligence failure,” writes Steven Hayes. Such a failure would reflect badly on the CIA, and therefore Morell himself.
Morell contends that there was no tactical warning for the attacks. Instead, “We routinely sent such cables each year on the anniversary of 9/11—but we did want our people and their US government colleagues to be extra vigilant.”
“Be advised, we have reports from locals that a Western facility or US Embassy/Consulate/Government target will be attacked in the next week,” reads the warning described in 13 Hours.
Morell recounts the stand down order with as much dishonesty as his description of the secret Deputies Meeting. “While these calls were being made, the response team was frustrated that it was not moving out,” he writes. “Although the delay was no more than five to eight minutes, I am sure that to those involved it must have seemed like forever.”
But, he writes, it wasn’t ordered by anyone up the chain of command and was totally justified.
Morell’s account doesn’t even address whether the security team left with CIA Chief of Base “Bob’s” blessing or otherwise. They did not. And, according to the 13 Hours account, at least 20 minutes “had elapsed since the operators had first mustered at Building C.”
In a firefight, 20 minutes can be an eternity. AST Member Kris Paronto told Fox News’ Bret Baier last year that, without the delay, “Ambassador Stevens and Sean [Smith], yeah, they would still be alive, my gut is yes.”
Admitting as much would concede the CIA’s role in the overall dereliction of duty. Yet Nick Romeo writes for the Christian Science Monitor that although “it’s clear that he wants to defend the reputation of the agency” Morell has credibility because he notices “the many weaknesses and flaws in the design and function of intelligence agencies.”
However, when it comes to the death of four Americans—where it counts—Morell perpetuates the cover-up.
After leaving the CIA in 2013, Morell joined Beacon Global Strategies, started by Hillary Clinton’s “principal gatekeeper”—as described by The New York Times—Philippe Reines. The company serves as a sort of Clinton government-in-waiting. Thus, Morell’s statements become even that much more suspect due to a conflict of interest, while trying to protect Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House.
And the dereliction of duty could have been prevented.
Chief of Base “Bob” had already been given an opportunity to see the February 17 Martyrs Brigade’s lack of action earlier that year when they failed to come to the aid of another operator and Tyrone Woods during an altercation with a group they believed to be Ansar al Sharia. Woods himself later became a September 11, 2012 casualty.
Even the Accountability Review Board notes that on the day of the attacks, the militia “had stopped accompanying Special Mission vehicle movements in protest over salary and working hours.”
But it is easier to ignore and marginalize the Benghazi scandal than for journalists to do independent research. Case in point, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed Morell on May 13 about ISIS and the Osama bin Laden operation, but did not ask him about his false Benghazi narrative.
If Morell has so transparently lied about the death of four Americans and the resulting administration cover-up, why, exactly, should the media trust him on other matters?
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. Bethany Stotts is a freelance writer and featured writer for Accuracy in Media.
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