- - Tuesday, November 4, 2014

By Sharyl Attkisson
Harper, $27.99, 432 pages

Full disclosure first: I was one of those military analysts regularly seen on network television until a 2008 New York Times expose accused us of succumbing to improper influences by the Rumsfeld Pentagon. Because congressional Democrats howled for our heads, it took three years, four federal investigations and more than $2 million in tax dollars before The Times report was discredited and we were exonerated.

Ironically, we were accused of precisely the same pattern of government-media corruption at the heart of Sharyl Attkisson’s new blockbuster, “Stonewalled.” Her path-breaking CBS News investigative reports uncovered “phony scandals” from Fast and Furious to Benghazi and Obamacare. All were inconvenient truths that the Obama White House constantly stonewalled — hence the title and three of her eight chapters. Those revelations alone compare favorably with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men,” the canonical account of Watergate and the crimes of President Nixon.

With the heart of a lion and a beaver colony’s work ethic, Mrs. Attkisson also possesses the lockjawed determination of a pit bull. She needed that courage in 2012, when a “well-informed acquaintance” with intelligence connections warned that her Benghazi stories were raising eyebrows. “Keep at it. But you’d better watch out.” Her Deep Throat added, “The average American would be shocked at the extent to which this administration is conducting surveillance on private citizens.”

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Attkisson’s phones and computers began acting strangely. As she prepared to confront Ambassador Thomas Pickering about his Benghazi report, “Suddenly the data in my computer file begins wiping at hyperspeed before my very eyes. Deleted line by line a split second: it’s gone, gone, gone.” While they might have been remaking the movie “Enemy of the State,” an exhaustive forensics analysis of Mrs. Attkisson’s iMac found evidence of classified documents planted deep in her hard drive; systematic intrusions allowing remote control of her personal files; most damning of all, “a backdoor link to an ISP address for a government computer.” It was slam-dunk confirmation of a deliberately planned government penetration, all predictably denied by Eric Holder Jr.’s Justice Department.

Mrs. Attkisson sees those attacks as the covert side of a White House public relations strategy aimed at “controversializing potentially damaging stories, reporters and opponents to undermine them” rather than challenging their arguments. When Jonathan Karl of ABC uncovered evidence of another White House cover-up on Benghazi, “I felt sorry for Karl. He doesn’t have a chance against the White House spin machine, its surrogates on the Web and a complicit media on Obama’s side.”

This is a shocking assertion coming from a veteran CBS News reporter. Yet Mrs. Attkisson never fires more effectively than when taking dead-aim at CBS. Her in-house memo concerning a Benghazi report by “CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley states: “Tonight’s CBS story is inaccurate, misleading and unfair. It may as well have been written by the White House.” Mr. Pelley’s report also failed to mention that the president’s deputy national security director, Ben Rhodes, is “the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes.” Brotherly love, gentlemen, or just another cover-up?

Even more damning, CBS concealed a “60 Minutes” interview of President Obama the day after the Benghazi attacks. The full transcript of that interview clearly indicated that the president consciously avoided using the word “terrorist” — despite his assertions to the contrary while debating Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. “Why wouldn’t [CBS] have immediately released the operative sound bite after Romney raised (it)? … We had our hands on original material that no other news outlets had But we hid it I feared that we’d once again mischaracterized facts in advance of a presidential election to hurt a Republican .” The nonreaction from CBS News President David Rhodes: “Look, we [screwed] up.”

The author documents many other examples of intimate relationships between the Obama White House and media elites. In this three-ring circus, the elephants and clowns constantly change costumes. One post-publication confirmation: White House spokesman Jay Carney’s seamless transition into a CNN “analyst.” Worst of all, “under a new, popular African-American, Democratic president, few are as eager to point fingers” at possible wrongdoing.

Instead, Mrs. Attkisson suggests that the press has been trivialized into a spin cycle where big media and big business play constant access games, where “AstroTurf” masquerades as genuine grass-roots movements. While serious issues are starving for in-depth media coverage, every governmental agency operates its own PR machine — all at taxpayer expense.

The differences between my 2008 experience and what Sharyl Attkisson reveals in this marvelous book: Intelligence has become more intrusive, the media more ideological and the government incomparably more powerful — and all seem determined to squelch either people or issues that get in their way. Just ask Dinesh D’Souza.

Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel, is a military analyst and author on national-security issues.

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