Hillary Clinton is running her first national television commerical, and amidst a cloud of scandal and falling poll numbers, she’s already playing defense. The ad claims that the House Republicans’ committee to investigate Benghazi “was created to destroy her candidacy.” That was hardly the purpose of the committee, but it’s true that the revelations have been politically fortuitous for Republicans. Since the committee exposed Clinton’s apparently illegal use of a private server to conduct State Department business, she’s been caught in more than a few untruths. Clinton can’t seem to answer questions about her conduct as secretary of state fast enough to keep her presidential campaign on track.
And the latest question to emerge is a doozy: Did a former CIA officer on Hillary Clinton’s payroll orchestrate a major media scandal in order to discredit Benghazi critics?
In March, a joint investigation by Gawker and ProPublica dug through Hillary Clinton’s emails and found that longtime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal had been working with a former CIA officer named Tyler Drumheller as part of a “private spy ring.” Blumenthal is a particularly oily operative best known for accusations that he dishonestly smeared Monica Lewinsky to the press. Of late, he’s drawn a salary from the Clinton Foundation while, according to the New York Times, acting as “a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.” If Blumenthal has a particular role in Clinton World, it’s manipulating the media.
Like Blumenthal, Drumheller has a somewhat questionable reputation. He left the CIA in 2005 and wrote a book accusing his superiors of ignoring his warnings that evidence used to justify invading Iraq was flawed. Former CIA director George Tenet, who served under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, used several pages of his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm to discredit and otherwise challenge Drumheller’s version of events.
As for what these two men were doing working together, emails show Drumheller was producing intelligence reports on Libya and other trouble spots that Blumenthal was passing on to Secretary Clinton. Drumheller was also coordinating operations with Osprey Global Solutions, an outfit headed by David L. Grange, a retired major general with a background in special forces. Osprey Global Solutions was being paid—we don’t know by whom—to send men to terrorist hot spots such as Tunisia to gather intelligence that was also passed on to Clinton.
Emails documenting this activity went on through much of 2013. But just recently, on September 29, The Weekly Standard reported online that Drumheller was working as a consultant on intelligence matters for CBS News and 60 Minutes while simultaneously working for Blumenthal and Clinton. The overlap here raises questions, because this roughly coincides with 60 Minutes stumbling into the biggest media scandal in recent memory.
A 60 Minutes report aired on October 27, 2013, told the tale of a private military contractor named Dylan Davies who claimed to have heroically tried, but failed, to save the four Americans killed in the Benghazi attack the year before, on September 12, 2012. According to Davies, more could—and should—have been done by the U.S. government to rescue those who died. Davies’s eyewitness account of what went down was a damning condemnation of the Obama administration’s conduct.
But Davies, who had a book deal to tell his Benghazi story with a publisher owned by CBS’s corporate parent, suddenly went silent after the October 27 report aired. Questions were being raised about the truth of his account, and his tale was contradicted by statements he had given to his employer, private security company Blue Mountain Group, and to Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
With Davies unwilling stand by his previous account, 60 Minutes retracted the report, going so far as to ask that the transcript be pulled off of news services. It was the worst television news screw up since Dan Rather rushed onto the air with documents, later shown to be fabricated, claiming President George W. Bush had failed to fulfill his obligation to the Texas Air National Guard. And once again, the phony news was a product of 60 Minutes, and the integrity of CBS’s legendary flagship news program was being called into question. Speculation immediately began to swirl that the reporter behind the segment, Lara Logan, would be let go by CBS News. (Logan ended up taking a seven-month leave of absence from the network.)