J.J. Smith In a rare showing of agreement by Capitol Hill lawmakers, officials from both parties have requested the general release of video of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which occurred Sept. 11, 2012. But, not surprisingly, the members of the House of Representatives and Senate who want the video released expect the footage will support opposing views of the attack.
Government Video and our readers largely are interested in technology, not content or foreign policy. But occasionally, headline stories remind us about the serious impact content can have. This is such a case.
Some partisans argue that President Barack Obama lied about the motivations for the attack on the consulate, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Conversely, there are others on Capitol Hill who feel the video would clear up misrepresentations concerning the attack.
The classified video recorded by security cameras at the consulate has been seen by members of House and Senate Intelligence Committees. In addition, intelligence officials have said the security video shows two things: that the attack did not grow out of a protest over the online movie the “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocks Islam; and the attack was not organized.
Releasing the video images will provide the U.S. public with “a full account of events that led to the killing of four Americans and to the subsequent investigation of the attack” and “declassifying and releasing this additional information will help the American public to make an informed determination for themselves,” Fattah’s letter said.
It is not surprising video is at the center of a controversy involving the federal government. What is surprising is opposing sides would claim the video supports their respective contentions. But that leaves the obvious question is: Will the administration release the footage? A less obvious question is: Should the video be released?
The matter is now in President Obama’s court. The only reason to not release the video is that it would be in the national interest to do so; and, if it is in the national interest, the administration needs to make clear what that interest is.
Unless the video reveals classified information, Government Video supports releasing it; the public deserves to be fully informed. What exactly happened in Benghazi? Is the U.S. government pursing the best policy in the Middle East? Those and other questions might be answered by the release of the video.
But for us, this whole debate is one more dramatic reminder for government video professionals. We have the opportunity to reflect—during our daily discussion about the best camera, or the best techniques to shoot video— about the remarkable impact that video content can have on local or world events.