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Benghazi and the Bombshell

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Jeff Fager, the CBS News chief, loosened oversight.  

Her May 1 description of the incident earned Logan enormous goodwill from CBS colleagues, even ones who’d previously been critical. But the incident had a complicated effect on her career. When she came back from her two-month leave, she was more respected than ever—but no one wanted to see her return to the field. Fager assigned her soft stories, profiles of Aerosmith and Michael Bublé. Logan grew restless.

In an interview with Deadline Hollywood, Logan later described how she girded herself for the return to the war zone: “I honestly don’t think I could do it without Valium and red wine, I swear to God,” she said. “I know it sounds weak. It’s the hardest thing, but I do it for reasons I truly believe in.”

It was around this time that her political beliefs began to be expressed more openly. When the late Michael Hastings wrote a story in Rolling Stone about General Stanley McChrystal, exposing offhand criticisms of Barack Obama over Afghanistan and leading to the general’s ouster, Logan went on CNN to defend the general—and attack Hastings as a dishonest reporter who had tricked McChrystal. “I don’t go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else,” she said. “I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life.

“Michael Hastings,” she added, “has never served his country the way Commander McChrystal has.”

Her colleagues at CBS News were appalled by Logan’s foray into punditry. But Logan felt emboldened now, making sure to let people know that her war reporting made her a serious person. “I mean, politics are critically important, but it doesn’t burn that fire the way it does to be out there in the most impossible situation,” she said in an interview. “Doing something that is truly the difference between life and death.

“I’ve acquired a reputation for having some depth of knowledge,” she said.

Asked whether journalists should give their opinions, as Logan was doing, she said, “I think when you are asked for your opinions, you should be entitled to give it and not be vilified for giving it.”

Then, at a Chicago luncheon for the Better Government Association in October 2012, she gave a speech claiming the government was propagating a “major lie” about the strength of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. “You’re not listening to what the people who are fighting you say about this fight,” she said. “In your arrogance, you think you write the script.” The speech came on the heels of her report “The Longest War,” about General John Allen’s struggles in Afghanistan—and with his superiors in the Obama administration.

Among her colleagues at 60 Minutes, there was shock that Logan’s expression of her political opinions in public was met with no blowback from management. But it was her CBS bosses who had helped arrange the speech. While Logan spoke without notes, David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, was sitting in the audience listening.

Fager didn’t reprimand Logan. At the time, she was a bright spot for CBS news. She had top sources among the military brass, produced the kind of stories that kept 60 Minutes immune to criticism from the right (Rush Limbaugh hailed her Chicago speech), and was great on TV.

Fager himself had begun to realize that Logan was a risk to be managed. Before her infamous Benghazi report would air, Fager expressed fatalism about her: “Well, we’ve crossed the Rubicon,” he told a colleague.

“I think he meant it literally,” says a CBS insider. “We have passed the point of no return with her. We have created this, and now we have to live with this.”

As President Obama began to wind down American military involvement in the Middle East, both Logan and Burkett remained enmeshed in the social world of former and current military personnel. Burkett started a company with the wife of the man who owned Blue Hackle—which itself now has former general John Abizaid as a board member.

Logan did nonwar stories, but they didn’t garner the same kind of attention. Which is why the attack on Benghazi, with its echoes of 9/11, its cast of Muslim militiamen and shadowy U.S. operatives, offered a return to form. At the time of her speech in Chicago, she had already begun searching for an angle. And while she did so, none of the other 60 Minutes correspondents was allowed to pursue stories on Benghazi. “This was her story, and nobody could do anything on it,” says a 60 Minutes staffer.

Then, after months of Logan coming up empty, McClellan was offered an exclusive look at a book published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Titled The Embassy House, it was written under a pseudonym: Morgan Jones, the cover for the former military contractor named Dylan Davies who purported to be an eyewitness to the Benghazi attack, complete with a ripping tale of smashing the face of an attacker with the butt of an AK-47 and seeing the dead body of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in the hospital.


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