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If your level of outrage over Lara Logan’s botched 60 minutes piece on Benghazi has reached the point that you would take pleasure in watching those responsible undergo a diabolically sadistic form of psychological torture, then you should check out Newsweek editor Jeff Stein’s latest piece "Lara Logan’s Mystery Man."

In his brilliant hit piece, Stein uses as a starting point his investigation of Lara Logan’s husband, Joseph W. Burkett, and the potential role he may have played in the discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi report:

While Davies was the central on-camera personality in that report, the most interesting figure in this mystery was never on screen, nor listed as a contributor to the piece. It is Logan’s husband, Joseph W. Burkett, a former Army sergeant and onetime employee of a private intelligence outfit hired by the Pentagon to plant pro-U.S. stories in the Iraqi media in 2005.
While he holds Burkett’s feet to the fire, Stein brilliantly eviscerates Lara Logan, 60 Minutes, CBS News, and puts them on notice that until they take responsibility for their journalistic malpractice and punish those responsible, they will continue to suffer long-term collateral damage to their professional reputations.
The piece works brilliantly on so many levels. Continue below for just a few...

1) It sends a line drive straight at Burkett’s head, forcing him to either duck or attempt to catch the ball.  

Stein simultaneously presents Burkett’s own claims to playing a key role in fabricating stories in the Iraqi media during the Iraq war next to statements of anonymous acquaintances who paint him as an egotistical fabulist with the same level of credibility as the discredited security contractor Dylan Davies on whom Logan’s piece was built.

Is Burkett a brilliant super-spy?

“He was an employee of the Lincoln Group, a now-shuttered ‘strategic communications and public relations firm’ hired by the Department of Defense in 2005 to plant positive stories written by American soldiers in Baghdad newspapers during the Iraq War,” the website Gawker reported.
The Gawker account also implied Burkett was a key operator in the covert action. A source intimately familiar with Burkett’s family told Newsweek that he regularly suggested he was some sort of super-spook.
According to an internal company document obtained by Newsweek, the Lincoln Group specialized in producing films, news clips, and print stories in Baghdad that would be fed to the media through cutouts on an unattributed basis, making them appear as originating from legitimate news organizations.
Or is Burkett an egotistical fraud?
But others who claim to have known Burkett in Baghdad paint a starkly different portrait of the former enlisted man, one more akin to the role Steve McQueen played as a gofer for army supply sergeant Jackie Gleason in Soldier in the Rain.
According to a source intimately familiar with his family, Burkett routinely implied, without foundation, that he was a key player in classified operations in Iraq.
“He’s what we call a puffer – he puffs himself up,” said the source, on condition of anonymity. “He alluded to top-secret work, but he didn’t make as much money as a truck driver over there. He had some kind of minuscule position.… He was kind of an errand person or something like that.”

Besides, the source says, “People who are spies don’t really tell people they’re spies.”

Burkett is in a Catch-22. If he defends his previous claims of being an important figure in the intelligence community, he increases suspicions that his knowledge and experience of planting disinformation in mainstream media may have played a role in the 60 Minute’s Benghazi debacle. If he disavows his past boasts of meddling with Iraqi media, then he undermines his own credibility and professional pride, and on a personal level will feel humiliated and emasculated.

2) In a very personal way, the story drives a very public wedge between Logan and her husband.

The piece begins by raising the  question of how Lara Logan could have been gullible enough to believe Dylan Davies’ fantastic tale of his role in the Benghazi assault:

Nobody at 60 Minutes has been fired or even publicly disciplined for its odd, inflammatory and dead-wrong October 27 story on the Islamist assault in Benghazi that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But it has apologized. That mea culpa, however, left some large and troubling questions unanswered; the most important one is how CBS’s superstar correspondent, Lara Logan, her producer and other network news executives let security contractor Dylan Davies on the air with his explosive tale about what he did and saw during that attack.
Further on, the piece touches on the relationship between Logan and Burkett and Logan’s own statements that reinforce the view that she may have willingly set herself up in the role of gullible dupe in her quest to get close to her sources.
When Logan and Burkett began their affair in Baghdad, he was married and she was in a relationship. They were married in 2008. “I knew him for about six years before we got together,” she told The New York Times in a soft-focus feature in 2012. “He had a very secretive job, and I always respected that. I know tons of people in that world, and I never ask them questions because it’s a violation right there.”
“He never crossed my boundaries,” Logan said of Burkett. “I never crossed his.”
In this way, the article paints Lara Logan as a willfully gullible sycophant married to an unemployed man with a history of spinning fabulous truth-free tales carefully crafted to support a hidden agenda.
After Logan was named CBS’s chief foreign correspondent, she purchased a $1.5 million home in D.C., which she now shares with Burkett and their two children. When asked for comment on Wednesday at the couple’s Cleveland Park home, Burkett angrily ushered me out the door. (CBS also declined to comment.)
Whatever Burkett is doing now, it doesn’t appear to be a full-time job. When New York Times reporter Sally Singer interviewed Logan at her home last year, she identified Burkett as a “work-at-home Congressional liaison,” without noting his employer. When I spoke to him midday on Wednesday, Burkett was home in jeans and a T-shirt, having just emerged from the shower, helping take care of the couple’s two kids with paid helpers in the kitchen and the backyard.
So exposed, in the ambition-fueled, image-conscious crucible of D.C. society, how is that marriage going to work out?

3)    It drives a wedge between Logan and CBS News.

Until now the agenda of Logan and the leaders of CBS News have been largely in harmony. By targeting Lara Logan’s husband, the story becomes more personal. In turn, as the story becomes more about Logan, the easiest course for CBS News is to cut her loose, place as much blame on her as possible, and move on.

4)    It dares Burkett to sue Newsweek.

If you are a public figure in America, there are few limits on what the media can say about you. Newsweek can only dream that Burkett is foolish enough to sue them  over the story. But given the level of narcissistic injury dealt to him and his wife, Burkett will surely feel the urge. If Burkett convinces Logan to join him in the quixotic quest, and if Logan then begins demanding that CBS News lend their support to the effort, it can only end badly for all of them.

And so the collateral damage continues.

As Media Matters concludes:

Until CBS offers a full accounting of how exactly its botched Benghazi report made it to the air, it's likely going to continue to be the target of speculation about how such a shoddy segment made it onto 60 Minutes.

Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 2:03 PM PT: Lara Logan has now been asked to take a leave of absence.

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