Gov’t Memo Proves CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson Got Benghazi Email Story Right

-By Warner Todd Huston

One of the earliest reporters revealing the internal emails about Benghazi exchanged between the U.S. Department of State and the intel community was CBS’ Sharyl Attkisson. Her original report was based on “written notes” and, as she said from the beginning, was not derived directly from the emails themselves. Despite this disclaimer, some called her reckless for her reporting. But in the end her reports are still quite close to the actual emails and shows she did not get the story wrong.

Attkisson was accused of not disclosing that her report was written from congressional insiders that gave her access to notes taken after they had been given access in Committee to the actual emails. To put to rest the accusations against Attkisson, Mediaite obtained an internal CBS memo that shows that she never claimed that her report was derived directly from the emails themselves.

When Attkisson handed in her original report on the email exchange, she clearly noted that her work was based on notes taken by her sources.

Note: *Emails were provided by the Administration to certain Congressional Committees for limited review. The Committees were not permitted to copy the emails, so they made handwritten notes. Therefore, parts of the quoted emails may be paraphrased.

This notation, however, did not make it to the May 10 story CBS posted to the web, nor was it pointed out on any of the CBS TV reports on the story.

No explanation was given for that lapse.

Mediaite also discovered that after the CBS reports began to air, Attkisson reminded her CBS bosses that her report was based on hand written notes, not the actual emails.

Attkisson’s note read, “Just an FYI: The talking point draft emails read to CBS News last Friday were from handwritten notes, and the attorney source explained why they were not direct quotes and could not be represented as such, as I noted at the top of my reporting for important context (highlighted in red below).”

Noah Rothman goes on to point out that Attkisson’s original report, even though taken from notes on the emails and not the emails themselves, “is strikingly similar to what was actually written by members of the CIA, the State Department, and the National Security Agency.”

It all amounts to a vindication of Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting not any sort of proof that her work was “reckless” or irresponsible.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

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