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September 14th, 2014
12:43 PM ET

Web Exclusive: Former diplomat Daniel Benjamin says media outlets are "hyperventilating" over ISIS

In the above video, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's most senior counterterrorism adviser during President Obama's first term, tells Brian Stelter that media outlets have been overstating the threat that ISIS poses to the U.S. homeland.

Benjamin was quoted in The New York Times this week saying that public discussion of the threat has been a "farce."

"I do think ISIS is a very serious challenge," Benjamin told Stelter. "But the public debate has really lost touch with reality."

"We've had a lot of people from Congress suggesting that there were plots in the offing that are completely unrealistic. We've had senators talking about bombs that will destroy whole cities, cities in flames. We’ve had governors talking about ISIS operatives streaming across the southern border. And we've had an awful lot in the media about simply preposterous plots about spraying Ebola all over transit systems, about cities being honeycombed with sleeper cells. And yet, at the same time, those senior-most officials in the government who deal with counterterrorism have said time and again there is no imminent threat."

With regards to media outlets, Benjamin said that "the argument that it’s not that titanic a threat is not really a great sell on the airwaves, so we've had competing talking heads who have been trying to top each other with outrageous scenarios. And I'm afraid that this is the way the market goes in reporting on terrorism all too often."

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  1. apopesocal

    I wish more people could have seen this interview and wish you had cut something else, like the interview with the liberal Democrat, even though I am one and agree with her viewpoint.
    Juxtaposed with Lindsey Graham's frantic screams of terror that we must go over there and wipe out ISIS before "they come over here and kill us all", I think Daniel Benjamin's wise words help us all take a deep breath. People like Senator Graham are taking the bait and doing exactly what ISIS wants him to do, make them seem far worse and a far more imminent threat to the US than they were just a few weeks ago. Yet all that has really changed, sadly, is the smart use by ISIS of propaganda (as Reliable Sources demonstrated with excellence yesterday) by killing Westerners in a gruesome and Social Media savvy manner. Dan Rather's comparison to the brilliance of the Nazi Propaganda machine was a bit overstated but still a good comparison. Someone working with ISIS understands how to manipulate the USA and how to, (as mentioned) plant a flag and tell our generals where to go. I hope you will build a segment around Daniel Benjamin, not relegate him to the net where only a few of us will take time to find and watch him. Keep up the great work, I love your show and watch it every week. It is better now than ever

    September 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  2. Leon Cervantes

    O, come on. What is desired more by the average American than lopping off of heads? Not much. It is actually more of a reflection upon the viewers than the producers.

    September 15, 2014 at 4:50 am | Reply

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