Latest Benghazi “bombshell” is a dud

There was a coverup in Benghazi -- but it was to protect the body of Ambassador Stevens from his attackers

Topics: Benghazi, chris stevens, State DEpartment, Fox News,

Last night, CBS News corespondent Sharyl Attkisson broke the news that U.S. officials asked Libyan allies on the ground in Benghazi to list the name on Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ death certificate as “John Doe,” so as “to avoid drawing undue attention to the importance of the victim.”

Not surprisingly, the “bombshell” quickly fanned flames of “coverup” allegations. Fox News included the revelation in its hourly news roundup every hour so far today, starting at 5 a.m., and it’s a safe bet that by this afternoon, “John Doe” will become the latest confirmatory data point for those who have long believed that the Obama administration essentially let Stevens and the other Americans die by delaying a rescue mission, and then covered it up.

Attkisson has doggedly pursued the Benghazi story, as she did Fast and Furious, so the context is probably obvious to her, but what’s missing from her report is any explanation of why covering up Stevens’ identify makes perfect sense. After all, Gregory Hicks, the No. 2 State Department officer in Libya, testified that the hospital Stevens was taken to was “controlled by Ansar Sharia,” the very same jihadi group that had launched the attack on the diplomatic post.

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Ansar Sharia — or, for that matter, any other group that wanted to embarrass or even extract a ransom from the U.S. — would probably have been thrilled to find the ambassador’s body lying in their hospital. So it makes sense that U.S. officials would try to conceal Stevens’ identity as much as possible. He was already widely known in Benghazi, so it’s actually remarkable the Americans and local friendlies were able to escape with his remains, as they did. Imagine how much worse the situation would have become if it turned into a pseudo-hostage crisis, where whoever possessed Stevens’ body would be empowered to make demands for its return or desecrate it for propaganda purposes.

To his credit, conservative blogger Allahpundit at Hot Air recognized this, calling the “John Doe” move “simple” and “common sense.” Indeed, as he notes, Attkisson’s report is interesting and helps explain what happened that night, but it’s no bombshell.

Alex Seitz-Wald
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

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