“FBI says AQ (not AQIM) was involved and they are pursuing that theory.” AQIM is “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” a.k.a. the group’s north African offshoot. The FBI evidently had reason to believe — and still does — that members of Al Qaeda from outside the region were involved in the attack. That didn’t make it into the final version of the talking points on September 14.
“Major reservations.” The very next e-mail (page 46), addressed to State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, says that the FBI had no major concerns with the talking points. It was State who objected — specifically to the paragraph in the original talking points noting that the CIA had warned of jihadi activity before, a fact already reported by Hayes in the Weekly Standard:
Here, a bit later in the evening (page 63), is the CIA’s big scrub in response to Nuland’s concerns. The references to Al Qaeda and previous warnings by the CIA in paragraph four are gone:
Another State Department deputy, David Adams, complained earlier in the evening (page 40) that that fourth paragraph “will read to members like we had been repeatedly warned.” But they had been repeatedly warned: That was the whole point of the initial Benghazi testimony last year from Eric Nordstrom, culminating in his claim that the “Taliban is on the inside of the building” at State because they wouldn’t listen to repeated requests for more security. On the day he died, Stevens sent a cable to State emphasizing his concerns about “growing problems with security” in Benghazi. O’s critics have chased a thousand different strands of this story, but that remains the most egregious element of it. State’s diplomatic team in Libya begged them for more security and were refused. And after it was over, Nuland and Adams fretted that the public might conclude they hadn’t done enough to protect their troops if the talking points were left as is. Heaven forbid.
When push comes to shove, I think Dave Weigel’s right about tonight’s document dump. It doesn’t tell us much that Steve Hayes hadn’t already told us. The biggest point in the administration’s favor remains the fact that, from the beginning, the CIA itself erroneously thought the attack was the product of a spontaneous protest — which, of course, doesn’t justify the scrubbing of the rest of the document at State’s behest. Just one note in parting, though: Why do the e-mails start on September 14? There’d been three days of government verbiage, some of it blaming the Mohammed video, before this. When do we get those e-mails?
Update: Ace is needling me on Twitter for assuming that the “spontaneous protest” talking point was part of the CIA’s assessment from the very beginning when we’re still missing three days of interagency communications to confirm that. Fair enough.