By JAMES ROSEN
‘I do not think,” Nixon campaign aide Jeb Magruder told the Senate Watergate committee in the spring of 1973, “there was ever any discussion that there would not be a coverup.” Mr. Magruder’s lament aptly described the bureaucratic impulse to hide inconvenient facts that seizes every modern White House at some point. His testimony was brought to mind by the growing number of high-profile Republicans accusing the Obama White House of engaging in a coverup in the Benghazi case.
Much remains unknown about the terrorist attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11. To fill in those gaps, three separate probes—by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, and various congressional committees—are now under way. But in our warp-speed information age, enough evidence has already accrued to the record to lead even dispassionate observers to ponder whether the term “coverup” applies.
William Safire, the late New York Times columnist—and one of the few senior Nixon aides to escape Watergate unsullied—once defined coverup broadly to include “any plan to avoid detection of wrongdoing . . . an act to conceal a mistake.”