- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
So here is a bizarre twist in the David Petraeus resignation saga.
Paula Broadwell, the biographer revealed as the woman having a secret affair with the now-former CIA director, gave a talk at the University of Denver on Oct. 26 in which she appeared to reveal sensitive, maybe even classified, information about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The most interesting revelation is her claim that the CIA was holding several Libyan militia members prisoner, which may have prompted the attack. (Though she also sought to explain the Obama administration’s initial view that the attack was linked to the YouTube video Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islam polemic that sparked riots across the Muslim world.)
[UPDATE: The CIA has denied holding prisoners at the annex, according to the DailyBeast‘s Eli Lake. The Washington Post‘s Greg Miller adds in a tweet, "CIA adamant that Broadwell claims about agency holding prisoners at Benghazi are not true."]
Broadwell also said flatly that forces at the CIA annex had requested backup from a special Delta Force group she called the CINC’s in extremis force. It was not clear whether she was basing her comments on an Oct. 26 Fox News report by Jennifer Griffin, or whether her information came from elsewhere. (Griffin refers to it as "Commanders [sic] in Extremis Force," but does not mention Delta Force. The report does, however, cite "a source on the ground at the time of the attack" saying that "the team inside the CIA annex had captured three Libyan attackers and was forced to hand them over to the Libyans. U.S. officials do not know what happened to those three attackers and whether they were released by the Libyan forces.")
A CIA spokeswoman disputed the Fox News account at the time, saying, "no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate." The agency later released a timeline of that evening’s events that cast doubt on Griffin’s story; the Pentagon also released its own timeline.
In any case, Broadwell’s remarks, which were first reported by Arutz Sheva, are very interesting in light of this week’s big news, as well as the Wall Street Journal‘s revelation that the FBI found that Broadwell was in possession of classified documents (though she was never charged with any crime).
Her comments came in response to a questioner who asked her to comment on Petraeus’s handling of the events in Libya. I’ve transcribed them in full here:
Well, just to create some context for those in the room. As you know, the ambassaador in Benghazi was killed along with a couple of security agents who happened to be CIA security, paramilitary forces. That just came out today in Fox News.
But the challenge has been the fog of war. And the greater challenge is that it’s political hunting season, and so this whole thing has been turned into a very political sort of arena, if you will.
But the facts that came out today were that the ground forces there at the CIA annex, which is different from the consulate, were requesting reinforcements.
They were requesting the, what’s called the CINC’s in extremis force — a group of Delta Force operators, our very, most talented guys we have in the military. They could have come and reinforced the consulate and the CIA annex that were under attack.
Now, I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually, um, had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that’s still being vetted.
The challenging thing for General Petraeus is that in his new position, he’s not allowed to communicate with the press. So he’s known all of this — they had correspondence with the CIA station chief in, in Libya. Within 24 hours they kind of knew what was happening.
But if you remember at the time — the Muslim video, the Mohamed video that came out, the demonstrations that were going on in Cairo — there were demonstrations in 22 other countries around the world. Tens of thousands of people. And our government was very concerned that this was going to become a nightmare for us.
So you can understand if you put yourself in his shoes or Secretary Clinton’s shoes or the president’s shoes that we thought it was tied somehow to the demonstrations in Cairo. And it’s true that we have signal intelligence that shows the, um, the militia members in Libya were watching the demonstration in Cairo and it did sort of galvanize their effort. Um, so we’ll find out the facts soon enough.
As a former intel officer it’s frustrating to me because it reveals our sources and methods. I don’t think the public necessarily needs to know all of that. It is a tragedy that we lost an ambassador and two other government officials. Um, and something — there was a failure in the system because there was additional security requested. But it’s frustrating to see the sort of political aspect of what’s going on with this whole investigation.
Um, so the most recent news that came out was a Fox News report by Jennifer Griffin. I got it on a distribution list I’m on, and it has some pretty insightful stuff in it, if you want to look for it."
In her prepared remarks, Broadwell, who attended the university’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, spoke at length of her career ambitions. "My longterm goal had always been to become national security advisor," she said.
That’s probably not going to happen now.
You can watch the video below. The relevant portion begins at minute 35: