On November 15, news outlets reported that the State Department revealed … that it “secretly,” some reports says it “quietly,” others say it “covertly” offered, a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
How does one communicate secretly that there is such a reward? Do you pass it on a whisper campaign, on a rumor campaign, in Morse Code or do you use a tin can telephone? Here is the $10 million reward imagined in Morse Code.
On November 18, the $10 million reward made it to the State Department’s daily press briefing. On the red corner, as usual, is AP’s Matt Lee, and on the blue corner is the official spox, Jennifer Psaki. Below is the word cloud if you want the DPB in 2 seconds.
QUESTION: Can the State Department provide documentation that the $10 million you have offered, dating back to September, exists?
MS. PSAKI: Documentation?
QUESTION: Documentation. On Friday afternoon there was a press release that said —
MS. PSAKI: I’m very familiar with it. I think we confirmed at the time that the Rewards for Justice program has had a reward offer of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual. That is conveyed to the appropriate parties. We haven’t made the decision beyond confirming it to put on the website or publicize it further. So I’m not sure what you’d be looking for.
QUESTION: When you said “at the time,” do you mean last January?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I said that’s when we made the decision to put them on the list. Obviously, there have been an incredible level of interest. We – through consultations, we decided to confirm, but we have made the decision to publicize it by putting it officially on the website, et cetera. But beyond that, in terms of specific documentation, I’m not sure that’s something that we would have available for a program like that.
QUESTION: Understood. Can you describe how a secret reward system works?
MS. PSAKI: Probably not. What are you looking for specifically?
QUESTION: Just the process, like who made the decision? Was it Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, the White House? Who made the decision to offer a reward and keep it a secret, and if —
MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, this is – Secretary Clinton made the decision to, in consultation with a range of parties, to put them on this list. In terms of the decision made about whether to publicize it or not, that’s discussion made through a range of parties. Sometimes we are especially cautious about publicizing the names of suspects or bringing any additional public attention to them if there’s a belief that it would be – that the investigation is sensitive and it would adversely affect the process. So that’s part of the decision-making, and obviously you reconsider that decision just like anything over the course of time.
QUESTION: But if you have a secret rewards program, if nobody knows about it, how can you expect to get any answers?
MS. PSAKI: I can assure you that although the reward was not posted, has not been posted on the website, our interagency partners have a range of ways of making this reward offer known as needed, and they’ve done that since January.
QUESTION: What – could you just be a little bit more specific about what that means? Does that mean they go up, walk up to some dude on the street in Benghazi and say, “Hey, buddy, we got some cash here if you can let us know who did this.” Is that what that means?
MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that is probably not an accurate depiction —
MS. PSAKI: — but I don’t have – I can’t outline for you —
QUESTION: Okay, so exactly how is it – how is it?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I can’t outline for you more specifics. Obviously, there are a range of contacts, a range of steps that are taken. I’m not going to outline those more specifically.
QUESTION: The other thing, I – the one thing I don’t – perhaps you can explain it to me, I don’t really understand this. You said that one of the reasons for not publicizing it is because you don’t want the names to get out there, right? But as I understand it, there are no names on this list, that it’s an event-specific award. In other words, if you have information leading to the arrest of anyone who was involved in the attack – not Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. So if it’s an event-specific award, I just – the argument that publicizing the names is – would be bad or could compromise the investigation seems to vanish into vapor.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I will have to check on that for you in the specifics of what’s being publicized or not publicized. Obviously, anything that could impact an investigation is one of the bottom lines.
QUESTION: Right. But is it not correct that the reward is event-specific? In other words, it is for information leading to the arrest and conviction or capture or whatever of anyone who was involved in the attack on the Benghazi mission and not for Mr. X, specifically, who was involved in the attack? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on whether individual names are a part of that process.
QUESTION: Now, if Secretary Clinton approved the decision to keep this reward a secret, who made the decision within the building to make it a secret?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Lucas, I’m not going to outline decision – internal decision-making, but there is a process in place that discusses what is the appropriate way to handle. That was a decision made. Obviously, it continues to be reviewed, and we decided to confirm it.
QUESTION: So the State Department’s position is you had a secret negotiations about a secret rewards program – how do you expect to capture —
MS. PSAKI: It’s hardly a secret rewards program. Our desire to catch these suspects is hardly secret. It’s a top priority for the Administration. The decision was made for a range of reasons that we were not going to publicize the fact that they are a part of this list. Obviously, we’ve made a decision to confirm it, but I don’t think anybody should question our desire to catch these suspects.
QUESTION: And why was that decision made after repeated questions about these suspects?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s obviously an ongoing review of any of these cases on whether to keep public or private. There was a great deal of interest. In response to an inquiry from Congress, we confirmed that and we’ve confirmed it for all of you since then.
We do not doubt our government’s desire to apprehend the people responsible for the attack. But do you understand how this is done? We have a hard time understanding how one can put up a reward but not put it up on the RFJ website, not use posters, not use matchbooks, has no paid advertisements on the radio and newspapers, the Internet, and any other appropriate avenue to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for this terrorist attack.