After two days of haranguing by a rejuvenated press pool the White House finally released approximately 100 pages of emails covering the discussion of the Benghazi talking points leading up to Ambassador Susan Rice’s post 9/11 appearance on five talk shows. At those appearances Rice blamed the entire attack on an anti-Muslim video.
On the positive side for the administration there was a passing reference to the possibility of a spontaneous protest based on the video, and the final document was signed off on by the number two guy in the CIA, everything else in these memos show that the “official account” of merely one word changed in the talking points by the administration is a complete lie. They also show the State Department and White House actively participated in editing the talking points to remove any mention of terrorist/al-Qaeda involvement in the attack. In fact they show the White House was more actively involved than previously thought.
The documents also showed the White House, along with several other departments, played a role in editing the so-called “talking points,” despite claims from the White House that it was barely involved. And they showed then-CIA Director David Petraeus objected to the watered-down version that would ultimately be used as the basis for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s flawed comments on several TV shows the Sunday after the attack.
One email sent the Friday night after the attack from an unknown official said: “The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document.”
Individual emails leading up to that assessment show State officials repeatedly objecting to the intelligence community’s early version of events.
The early versions stated that “Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda” participated in the assault and discussed links to militant group Ansar al Sharia — and referenced prior attacks against western targets in Benghazi, as well as intelligence warnings.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland complained that she had “serious concerns” about “arming members of Congress” to make assertions the administration was not making. “In same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren’t doing that ourselves until we have investigation results … and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned …”
She also wrote that the line saying the administration knows there were extremists among the demonstrators “will come back to us at podium.”
In response to her concerns, Assistant Secretary of State David S. Adams voiced agreement. He said the line about prior incidents “will read to members like we had been repeatedly warned.”
The emails show Petraeus’ deputy Mike Morell involved in circulating revised points. In one email, he too noted the State Department had “deep concerns” about referencing prior “warnings.”
A page of hand-written notes showed Morell scratching out mentions of Al Qaeda, the experience of fighters in Libya, Islamic extremists and a warning to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the eve of the attacks of calls for a demonstration. Ultimately, all of that was scrubbed from the talking points. The final version said “extremists” participated, without mentioning prior attacks and warnings in the region.
Petraeus specifically complained about the removal of the line about the warning to Cairo. That is when he said he’d rather not use the talking points, but acknowledged it wasn’t his call.
Senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday that Morell made the changes to the talking points because of his own concerns that they could prejudge an FBI investigation into who was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
But based on the emails, it looks as if Morell made the changes because of State Department pressure. John Boehner agrees, his spokesmen said the emails confirmed his earlier charges that
senior State Department officials watered down the talking points. He also said they “contradict” White House claims that it and State only changed one word.
“The seemingly political nature of the State Department’s concerns raises questions about the motivations behind these changes and who at the State Department was seeking them,” he said, while calling the document dump “long overdue.”
Something also long overdue is a special congressional committee to investigate all the questions about this scandal.
The Emails have been embedded below: