U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, provided reporters Thursday with the most detailed explanation yet of the CIA's presence in Benghazi, Libya, and the agency's response to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, while also identifying the two former Navy SEALs killed that night as being employed by the CIA.
But some news organizations, including the Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post, already knew that the two former SEALs -- Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty -- were working for the CIA and had agreed not to publish the information at the government's request.
While AP, the Times and the Post held back this detail following an official request, reporters at other news outlets may also have known or assumed the men were not security contractors given the nature of their work in Libya. ABC News, for example, reported that Doherty had been working to "round up dangerous weapons" in the country. One national security reporter told The Huffington Post that it was an "open secret" in national security circles that the former SEALs were working for the CIA.
However, that detail wasn't widely reported or, if it was, was quickly pulled back .
On Sept. 21, AP reported that Doherty and Woods "were in Libya on contract with the CIA," but removed the line in later versions of the story and didn't describe the men's status in that way again until after Thursday's briefing.
"We omitted mention of the two former SEALs' CIA connection in subsequent versions of the story after CIA officials insisted that other lives would be endangered," AP spokesman Paul Colford said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
Over the past six weeks, the Benghazi compound has been primarily described as a consulate or diplomatic mission, even though it's now being reported that just seven of the more than 30 people evacuated from the city were working for the State Department. As The Wall Street Journal wrote Thursday night, "the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation."
The Washington Post also held back reporting Woods and Doherty's CIA role at the agency's request, according to a source familiar with the decision. Post National Editor Kevin Merida confirmed receiving that request and explained the decision-making process involved.
"We learned shortly after the Sept. 11 incident that two of the dead were CIA employees and that the agency maintained a base in Benghazi," Merida said in an email to The Huffington Post.
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