CBS News correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan are scheduled to return to 60 Minutes quite soon, after the pair took a public beating last year for airing the Benghazi lies of British military contractor Dylan Davies. But they’re not the only ones to blame.
Scant attention has been paid to their counterparts at Threshold Editions, the conservative imprint of Simon & Schuster, which published Davies’ now-pulped Benghazi tell-all, The Embassy House. CBS, which owns the prestigious publishing house, may want to take a closer look.
There are several previously unreported discrepancies in the personal biography Dylan Davies presents in The Embassy House, which he wrote under the pseudonym “Sergeant Morgan Jones.” For one, there is zero evidence Davies obtained the rank of sergeant in the British Army. Two, Davies and his editors seem to disagree about the length of his military service. Finally, a three-year period of his private military career remains mysteriously unaccounted for, while his mid-career foray into a failed lawn-service business doesn’t rate a mention.
Who is Dylan Davies?
The basic sketch of Davies’ biography checks out well enough. According to birth records, a Dylan Alun Davies was born in 1973 in Carmarthen, Wales. (In The Embassy House, the author mentions his place of birth and that his 39th birthday fell on April 5, 2012, approximately the same day jihadists detonated several bombs at the American consulate.) Furthermore, a spokeswoman for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence confirmed to Gawker that a man with the same name and birthday served in the British Army, but was unable to confirm, without Davies’ written consent, the details of his military service.
Those details are murky. “Sergeant Morgan Jones,” the books explains, enlisted at the age of 16 in the Royal Corps of Signals, a combat support arm of the British Army, and left in 2003. With tours in Kosovo, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, and the Falkland Islands, the jacket copy says, “Jones” embarked on an illustrious career in the private military circuit, where he protected, among others, former Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway.
Davies’ claim of a “sergeant” rank is not a flourish; on page 150, after sizing up a fellow contractor, he writes, “I figured Dave was maybe an ex-Army officer, but it turned out that he was, like me, a sergeant.”
Yet promotion and retirement records maintained by the Royal Corps of Signals’ official magazine, The Wire, do not indicate that a Sergeant Davies left the service in 2003.
[There was a video here]
Dylan Davies speaks to Lara Logan on 60 Minutes
Now, there is a small chance that the “Corporal Dylan Davies” whose retirement was announced by The Wire in April 2003 is not the same Dylan Davies that wrote The Embassy House. Perhaps the actual author’s name was omitted by mistake and there happened to be another, unrelated Dylan Davies retiring at the same time at a lower rank. Or perhaps Sgt. Dylan Davies’ rank was mistranscribed by The Wire. It’s impossible to know for sure because The Wire’s retirement notices, while they appear to be comprehensive, are based on voluntary submissions from individual soldiers and units. And since the British Ministry of Defence does not officially publish the promotions of enlisted soldiers like Davies (as it does with officers), any attainment by Davies of the rank of sergeant would have gone officially unheralded.
(Every individual involved with the The Embassy House—including its editor, Mitchell Ivers; and Davies’ co-author, Damien Lewis—declined multiple requests for comment, as did the editorial staff of The Wire.)
That chance seems very small, though. The squadron from which Corporal Davies retired, a signals unit attached to the 101 Logistic Brigade, visited, like Dylan Davies, the Balkans and Kosovo on combat tours. Plus, there are just 48 other Dylan Davies in all of England and Wales who would have been old enough to retire from the British Army in 2003 as a Corporal, according to birth records. The possibility that another Dylan Davies retired from the same 100-soldier squadron in the same year is not impossible, but seems exceedingly remote.
For what it’s worth, 60 Minutes seems to have avoided the issue of Davies’ rank entirely. Whereas Simon & Schuster highlighted the rank of “Sergeant Morgan Jones” at every opportunity—it’s the topmost word on the cover, and adorns the top of every other page—60 Minutes referred to him only as “a former British soldier.”
It gets weirder from there. If Davies was born on 5 April 1973, and enlisted at age 16, then his service spans between 1989 and 2003 — which is 14 years. And on page 65 of his book, he tells a colleague in Benghazi, “I spent fourteen years in the British Army.” But promotional materials contradict this claim. “Sergeant Morgan Jones, writing under a pseudonym for security reasons, is a twelve-year veteran of British military operations,” states the author biography printed on the book’s jacket. “Morgan Jones is a British soldier who has served for twelve years,” says Simon & Schuster’s website. So either Davies is lying about his enlistment date, or Threshold Editions is lying about their own author.
Oddly, Davies’s post-Army career with private militaries is much more fleshed out in The Embassy House. But records show he didn’t tell the entire story there, either.
General James T. Conway
At several points in the book, Davies recounts leading a security detail as a private contractor in Afghanistan for the (now retired) commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General James T. Conway. “I looked after him in Afghan and took him around the place. We were his close protection squad in Helmand Province,” Davies says on page 65, adding that Conway was “a really nice guy.”
But when contacted by Gawker, Conway couldn’t verify Davies’ story. “[His] name is vaguely familiar but [I] cannot put a face with it,” he wrote in an email. “That is not to say his claim is not true.” Conway’s head security office at the time, Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent Ken Minnick, explained in a subsequent email that British forces supported Conway’s security team only when they visited Lashkar Gah (where Davies says he was stationed), not the entire Helmand Province. He didn’t recall Davies by name, either.
The only time I can remember in all our trips out that way where we were not supported by U.S. Forces was when we visited Lashkar Gah. I do specifically remember that we were supported by Brits at this location. I seem to remember that the guys that supported us were contractors and former UK SF types. I do not have a specific recollection of this particular individual.
Nobody at Threshold Editions—or 60 Minutes—contacted Conway to determine whether Davies’ claims checked out.
“You are the first person to contact me about any of this,” Conway told Gawker.
This is doubly notable because his book’s marketing apparatus—including, most of all, 60 Minutes—depended on Davies’ image as a dedicated, experienced, well-regarded security professional. “He’s been helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade,” is how Logan introduced him. His proximity to Conway earned a special mention in Davies’ jacket biography.
And the only independent records of Davies’ activities or whereabouts between Iraq and Benghazi show that Davies’ career was somewhat less valorous than he lets on.
291 Albany Road Cardiff Limited
After he got out of the Army in 2003, Davies says early in the book, he went to work for Blue Mountain Group, a military contractor, for an unspecified period of time. Later, on page 46, he writes that “back in 2007 and 2008 I’d run a twenty-man security team in Iraq” for the security contractor Erinys and that “in Afghanistan later I'd been security team leader for G4S Secure Solutions.” Throughout the book Davies describes these years as an unbroken decade of working for private militaries. (Both Erinys and G4S declined to comment.)
How much later is “later,” though? The periods between his Army retirement and 2007, and between 2007 and 2012, when Davies first began work in Benghazi, are both unaccounted for. And it doesn’t seem like Davies’ editor at Threshold Editions cared one way or the either.
On October 6, 2008, Davies—or a man sharing his exact name and birthday—filed a certificate of incorporation for a private property management company called 291 Albany Road Cardiff Limited, of which he named himself the director and sole shareholder. The company, domiciled in South Wales, would, among other things, “clean any paths, ways, sewers, drains, [and] service systems” of its clients, and “remove and replace any trees planted ... in the event of the same dying or being removed.”
The endeavor was not a success. A credit report indicates that it conducted no recordable bank transactions, and on May 18 of 2010 Davies dissolved the company, according to a notice filed with Britain’s Companies House.
Davies’ tour of duty as a gutter-cleaner seems to puncture the carefully-tended image he and his handlers at Simon & Schuster put forth: That of a diligent, upright citizen-soldier committed to defending Western interests. Omitted is the reality that he appears to have tried to leave the private military circuit in favor of a quiet business close to home. Only after it fell through did he hit up Blue Mountain Group for some contract work, which is how he ended up in Benghazi, and how he secured a lucrative contract with Simon & Schuster. Given this context, prior reports that he asked Fox News for money make a bit more sense.
So does Davies’ explanation, in the book’s second chapter, of why he gravitates to Americans:
Having soldiered alongside most nationalities in the security business, I preferred the Americans even over my fellow Brits. I tend to get on with Americans fantastically. Generally, they are openhearted, genuine, warm, and trusting—especially where the British are concerned—and loyal to a fault.
Lara Logan, Max McClellan, and Kevin Tedesco—60 Minutes’ executive director of communications—declined to comment. Sonya McNair, the executive director of communications at CBS News, declined to comment. Jennifer Robinson, the director of publicity at Threshold Editions at Simon & Schuster, declined to comment. Mitchell Ivers, Louise Burke, and Damian Lewis, respectively the editor, publisher, and co-author of The Embassy House, also declined to comment. Davies, who has gone into hiding, was not able to be reached.