As of Thursday morning, CBS's morning and evening newscasts have yet to mention a revelation made by their own investigative correspondent, Sharyl Attkisson, on Tuesday – that Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress "he will not honor the request to make Benghazi survivors available for questioning."
Wednesday's CBS Evening News aired a full report on the State Department's slow progress in upgrading security at U.S. diplomatic posts in the aftermath of the September 11, 2012 Islamist attack, but failed to mention Kerry's refusal. Margaret Brennan also let the Obama administration and Senator Robert Menendez hint that congressional Republicans were to blame for not appropriating the $2.2 billion needed for the security upgrades. [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
Anchor Scott Pelley noted the anniversary of the terrorist attack in Libya during his introduction for Brennan's report: "One year ago today, in Benghazi, Libya, militants linked to al Qaeda stormed the U.S. mission and another building about a mile away. In an attack that lasted for hours, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. That brought calls to strengthen security at U.S. diplomatic outposts. Margaret Brennan tonight takes a look at what's been done."
The CBS correspondent spent much of the segment documenting the ongoing security weaknesses at U.S. embassies and consulates:
MARGARET BRENNAN: Former diplomatic security agent Todd Keil just finished an internal investigation for the State Department that discovered extensive security flaws at U.S. diplomatic posts. For instance, he pointed to the high-threat American embassy in Beirut, where the ambassador's office was not blast-resistant, and not protected by a sufficiently high enough wall. It was the 1983 bombing of the previous American embassy, which killed 63 people, that prompted the creation of the Diplomatic Security Bureau....
The State Department still has not fully implemented recommendations made after an earlier investigation into the Benghazi attacks. Those included 1,000 Marines to be sent to 27 high-threat posts – only 100 have deployed; new training for embassy personnel to prevent injury by fire – but that is still 10 months away; hiring an additional 150 of the State Department's own security staff – many won't start for another year.
Later, Brennan noted how she had asked State Department about the lethargic pace of the upgrades. As you might expect, the Cabinet agency adopted the Obama administration's blame Congress talking points: "It [the State Department] says it has requested $2.2 billion to fully fund the reforms. A bill in Congress to authorize that money has yet to come up for a vote." She continued with the soundbite from Senator Menendez, who echoed the White House:
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: I would have liked to have seen – you know, the Congress move more expeditiously on this. But at a time of fiscal cliffs; at a time of fiscal challenges, I have to continue to convince members that this is the right thing to do. It's right by our diplomats. It's right by our security interests.
In the past, the CBS journalist has been tougher on the Obama administration regarding the Benghazi issue. On the May 2, 2013 edition of CBS This Morning, Brennan pointed out how "what happened that night is still the topic of debate in Washington", and noted that members of Congress "want to speak to those Americans evacuated from Benghazi, but claim the White House won't release the names."
Four days later, the correspondent spotlighted how Greg Hicks, "the number-two U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attack...directly contradicts administration claims that the attack was first thought to be nothing more than a demonstration gone awry." Brennan also underlined how Susan Rice's now-discredited claim about the terrorist attack "contradicted the president of Libya, who appeared just before her on 'Face the Nation'." During that interview, Libyan President Mohamed al-Magariaf stated, "This leaves us with no doubt that this was pre-planned – pre-determined."
[Update, Thursday, 1:16 pm Eastern: the full transcript of Margaret Brennan's report from Wednesday's CBS Evening News is available at MRC.org]