Dylan Davies, the disgraced contractor at the center of 60 Minutes' retreat on its story about the terror attack in Benghazi last year, has gone into hiding. That leaves CBS standing alone in the spotlight of continuing critique over the controversial story.
60 Minutes's October 27 report, since withdrawn, centered on Davies' tale of his actions that night: his sneaking into an Al Qaeda-controlled hospital, his striking a terrorist in the head with the butt of his rifle. As The New York Times and The Washington Post reported, Davies told both the FBI and his employer (contracting firm Blue Mountain Security) that he was never able to get to the diplomatic compound on the night of the attack.
That inconsistency prompted CBS to rescind its story and Simon & Schuster, the CBS-owned publisher producing a book by Davies, to take it off the shelves. Shortly before it did so, Davies made it impossible for anyone to question him further about his claims: He vanished. The Daily Beast's Eli Lake reports:
Davies wrote that on Sunday November 3 at 4:00 am, he was hand-delivered a note to his home address in Wales that said, “Stop talking now or your wife and son will disappear.” In the email to [Simon & Schuster vice president Jennifer] Robinson, he went onto say, “Due to this threat I will not discuss the book with anyone under any circumstances for the foreseeable future, I am not prepared to put my family in danger. I stand by my story however I understand that it continues to be rubbished, which I expected.”
This is his defense: having spoken truth to power, power is now fighting back.
Unfortunately for CBS, Davies wasn't the only flawed part of its report. As McClatchy's Nancy Youssef reported on Wednesday, the original 60 Minutes report, from veteran reporter Lara Logan, included a number of errors unrelated to Davies's story.
Logan claimed the attack was launched by Al Qaeda alone. According to Youssef's reporting, the attack included elements of Al Qaeda, Ansar al Shariah, and protestors angry about a video offensive to Islam. "Logan claimed that 'it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault.'," Youssef writes. "But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator."
The hospital into which Davies claimed he snuck was not under the control of Al Qaeda. According to Youssef, Ansar al Shariah — admittedly an extremist group, though not part of Al Qaeda — was guarding the hospital that night and preventing people from entering. Local residents denied that claim.
Logan named three suspects in the attack, none of whom are known to have participated. Youssef points out that Logan "did not explain the source of that assertion."
Documents that CBS claimed to have found at the compound in October almost certainly weren't. Youssef outlines the evolution of the site's clean-up, which was largely completed earlier this summer.
On Wednesday morning, Youssef reported that CBS was conducting an internal review of how the 60 Minutes segment was developed. Whether or not that review will include an assessment of Logan's impartiality in preparing the report isn't known. Earlier this week, multiple outlets noted a speech Logan presented shortly after the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack, in which she railed against the administration's response. ("I hope to God that you are sending in your best clandestine warriors to exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil, its ambassadors will not be murdered..." Logan said.) On Monday, Gawker reported that Logan's husband is a defense contractor who worked for the Department of Defense on public relations at the height of the Iraq War.
Among those that CBS won't be able to talk to about the development of the report, of course, is Dylan Davies. At least not until he emerges from hiding.