ABC: Benghazi talking points went through 12 revisions, scrubbed of terror reference; Update: Video added
posted at 8:01 am on May 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Following on the heels of blockbuster testimony from three whistleblowers regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack, ABC’s Jonathan Karl did some digging into the evolution of the talking points used afterward to paint the attack as a spontaneous demonstration gone wild. The White House claims that the talking points reflected the CIA’s assessment of the situation, but Karl reports that ABC has found twelve revisions made by the Obama administration from the CIA original, culminating in the whitewashed version Susan Rice parroted on September 16th:
When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
That would appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about the talking points in November.
“Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened,” Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012. “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”
Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard first came up with the e-mails, which Karl links in his piece. Hayes explained the provenance of the e-mails, and what they mean for the White House explanation:
The White House provided the emails to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees for a limited time and with the stipulation that the documents were available for review only and would not be turned over to the committees. The White House and committee leadership agreed to that arrangement as part of a deal that would keep Republican senators from blocking the confirmation of John Brennan, the president’s choice to run the CIA. If the House report provides an accurate and complete depiction of the emails, it is clear that senior administration officials engaged in a wholesale rewriting of intelligence assessments about Benghazi in order to mislead the public. The Weekly Standard sought comment from officials at the White House, the State Department, and the CIA, but received none by press time. Within hours of the initial attack on the U.S. facility, the State Department Operations Center sent out two alerts. The first, at 4:05 p.m. (all times are Eastern Daylight Time), indicated that the compound was under attack; the second, at 6:08 p.m., indicated that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group operating in Libya, had claimed credit for the attack. According to the House report, these alerts were circulated widely inside the government, including at the highest levels. The fighting in Benghazi continued for another several hours, so top Obama administration officials were told even as the fighting was taking place that U.S. diplomats and intelligence operatives were likely being attacked by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. A cable sent the following day, September 12, by the CIA station chief in Libya, reported that eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack. It was this fact, along with several others, that top Obama officials would work so hard to obscure.
The Wall Street Journal argues that these revelations should prompt John Boehner to form a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack and the White House cover-up:
Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia has written House Speaker John Boehner, requesting the creation of a bipartisan Select Committee to investigate the Benghazi terror debacle. It is an excellent idea. A Select Committee is the only means available now for the U.S. political system to extricate itself from the labyrinth called Benghazi. …
There are strong reasons for doing so, starting with the murdered U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens. Across this country’s history, the murder of an American ambassador, the nation’s representative, has been taken as not merely a tragedy but an attack on U.S. interests that demands an official accounting to the American people.
Nothing about Benghazi, including the Accountability Review Board report, has reflected that U.S. tradition. It has instead represented the more recent impulse in our politics to sweep uncomfortable events out of the news, move forward in the Twitter news cycle, or grind it down into no more than partisan pettiness.
Has partisanship been in play here? Yes, as always in Washington. But the terrorist assault on a U.S. mission abroad deserves not to be quashed by partisanship.
It may be that a bipartisan Select Committee would validate the Obama Administration’s version of events. So be it. And if so, the Administration officials on duty then should not fear it. But after the Hicks testimony, the idea that the American political system should move on from the murder of a U.S. ambassador in a distant land doesn’t sit right.
Perhaps the media would be more inclined to cover that probe than they’ve been to cover the scandal up to now. Let’s end on a lighter note, as Andrew Klavan makes a guest appearance in Steven Crowder’s weekly video to explain to those whom the media have poorly served just what’s going on here:
Addendum: Per Jim Geraghty, another big takeaway here will be that Jay Carney either knowingly lied or was deceived into making that statement. If it’s the latter, Carney’s resignation should follow relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, then we can at least suspect that it’s the former.
Update: Karl presented the story on GMA this morning:
That’s going to leave a mark.