“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?” (State Department spokesman Philippe Reines/Chicago Tribune)
“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 U.S. personnel. Perhaps the real question here is why is the State Department now attacking the messenger.” (CNN)
CHICAGO, September 23, 2012 — Some of the best reporters of the Twentieth Century started out as “picture thieves.” Ben Hecht and Weegee come to mind. A picture thief was a reporter sent to interview the family of a tragedy, murder, or the accidental death of a young child.
Their real job was to use all their cunning and guile to cajole, beg, or wheedle a picture of the victim from the family that could be used in the newspaper.
If they could not get a picture from the family, they were supposed to steal it and get it back to the paper before it went to print. Editors did not care how the picture was acquired. They only cared that it was.
CNN obtained entry to the unguarded consulate in Benghazi after the terrorist raid and murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens. One of their personnel found a journal amongst the rubble. It was taken. It was perused before being turned over to family.
CNN host, Anderson Cooper used information contained in the journal during his news report Wednesday.
The conduct was legally and ethically questionable. Technically, the building was a crime scene even if it was unguarded, and everything in it is potential evidence. The ownership of the diary also presents legal issues. Is it personal or government property?
The ethical issues will be argued. As with most of these debates, after the pros and cons argued, there will be no consensus over the taking of and using the material in the journal.
At the end of the day it is moot. Once CNN decided to run with the contents and use it, the cased is closed. CNN got a story and got a story out. News is not only information. It is timely information, which is why it is called “news”.
CNN was industrious in getting the story. Their reporter arrived on the scene and struck journalism gold. He or she scooped all the competition. It demonstrates CNN’s dedication to international reporting, especially in world hot spots.
The fact our government did not get there first and secure the scene gives them little credibility. The State Department was more concerned about getting the movie meme out to cover their fancy pinstriped posteriors.
The Obama administration, the United States Department of State, the President, Jay Carney, Hillary Clinton, and the Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, all lied to the American public about what happened in Benghazi. They lied for days and days.
They continued lying in the face of insurmountable evidence that they were lying.
They claimed, over and over, and over again some lame movie was responsible for the attack on the consulate and the murder of Chris Stevens, the Ambassador.
The compliant cut and paste media kept perpetrating the lies without question. None have questioned the change in narrative or turned on the administration over the lies. Richard Nixon’s grave should be fuming and spewing smoke.
It was readily apparent even to the most naïve and gullible that the attacks were premeditated and timed for the anniversary of 9/11. That did not stop this administration from lying or the media cut and pasting the lies.
It also did not stop this administration from condemning and apologizing to foreign countries for one of America’s core values, freedom of speech and expression. What will the media do when this administration condemns and apologizes for freedom of the press, roll over and play dead?
Had the administration been honest about the situation and tragedy, they could claim all the righteous indignation they wanted. They could even have CNN investigated for tampering with a crime scene, trespassing, stealing private or government property, or anything else the F.B.I. and Department of Justice can come up with.
They could have and should have made CNN’s life miserable and cost them tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to boot.
This administration has nothing to be indignant about, righteously or no. Their calling CNN’s actions “disgusting” are the pot calling the kettle black while living in a glass house throwing stones. The American people and the media should not only be indignant but appalled at the lies over this incident. Lies being perpetrated even after it was proved the attacks were premeditated, timed, and committed by terrorists.
This administration and this president are masters at covering up their sins of omission and commission. Whether it is violence in foreign lands or Fast and Furious. When people die they lie and the media complies. Then there are lies about the economy and unemployment. They spin their lies as truth. The fawning media eats it up without question.
The State Department calls the use of the journal disgusting. What is disgusting is the State Department. They should no longer have credibility with the American people. They and the Secretary of State violated the trust the American people put in them. They also wheedled and begged for forgiveness instead of protecting and defending the First Amendment.
They would kill the messenger and conceal the homicide instead of admitting their gross, wanton, reckless, and egregious errors.
What we, people and the media, should be asking ourselves is this. If the State Department, F.B.I., or other government officials had found the journal, would its contents have been released? Would we know the truth? Will we ever?
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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