NEW YORK (AP) — CBS News said Wednesday that it is conducting an "ongoing journalistic review" into how "60 Minutes" aired a story about the 2012 attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, based in part on the testimony of a man who said he was there when now there is considerable doubt he was.
The source, former security contractor Dylan Davies, claimed to CBS that he had taken part in fighting at the mission on the night of the attack, even though he had told his bosses at the Blue Mountain security company that he had not been there. CBS backed off the story late last week when it was reported that Davies had also told the FBI that he was not at the scene, and CBS' Lara Logan apologized to viewers Sunday for the Oct. 27 story, saying the network could no longer trust Davies.
The network would not say Wednesday who is conducting its review, whether anyone outside the network was involved, or whether the results would be made public. "I'm glad to see CBS take this step," said David Brock, founder of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America, which has doggedly criticized CBS for its story on the contentious political issue. "An ongoing review means the network acknowledges that a serious journalistic transgression occurred."
CBS has given no indication that Logan or anyone else involved in reporting or vetting the story will face disciplinary action. There are several questions ripe for discussion, among them whether there was enough in the story to advance public knowledge of what happened in the Sept. 11, 2012, raid, said Marvin Kalb, a former CBS News reporter who is senior adviser to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Among other issues: —What importance did Davies' book play in advancing the story? Davies' publisher, CBS-owned Simon & Schuster, withdrew his book, "The Embassy House: The Explosive Eyewitness Account of the Libyan Embassy Siege by the Soldier Who Was There," last week when questions were raised about the author's account. The book had been published two days after the "60 Minutes" story aired.
—How thorough was CBS' investigation into Davies' background and his claims? Should his admission that he lied to his employer about his whereabouts given CBS more reason to doubt him? CBS News has one of television's most thoroughly sourced reporters on law enforcement and investigative issues in John Miller, although he doesn't work for "60 Minutes." Was he brought in to help vet Davies' claims?
"Somewhere in the preparation of this story there was inadequate checking of information passed on by what amounts to a sole source for the news," Kalb said. "It seems to me that was always something I've counted on '60 Minutes' to do."
—Does Jeff Fager's dual role at CBS News cut off opportunities for further questioning of a story like this before it goes on the air? Fager is both chairman of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes." He's received praise for giving the news division a clear direction — and ratings are up for the morning and evening newscasts — but should the same person have authority over the newsmagazine and the news division as a whole?
—Does CBS News, particularly "60 Minutes," owe a more thorough explanation to viewers about what happened? "As soon as we had confirmation of a problem with this report on Thursday, we issued a statement to that effect; we then went on the air Friday morning to address it, correct it and apologize, spoke at length to media outlets about the matter and now have explained it to our audience in a correction on our broadcast," ''60 Minutes" spokesman Kevin Tedesco noted this week.