Friday’s reports of David Petraeus’ closed-door testimony concerning the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi suggested that the intelligence community just about immediately determined the distinct possibility of terrorist involvement, but that for some as-yet unknown reason, that likelihood was expunged from the final talking points circulated through the Obama administration — the first-glance implication of which is that somebody high up the line somewhere intentionally omitted that pesky little detail.
But on Saturday, the White House threw some cold water on that hypothesis, claiming that they made only minor adjustments to the talking points with which they prepped Susan Rice prior to her now-infamous round of Sunday talk show appearances, in which she stuck to the narrative of spontaneous protests sparked by outrage over a video. Via the Weekly Standard:
Now, in terms of — I think the focus of this has often been on the public statements that were made by Susan Rice and other administration officials in that first week after the attack. Those were informed by unclassified talking points that we — that were provided to the Congress and to the interagency — the rest of the administration by the intelligence community. …
What we also said yesterday, though — because this question came up as to whether the White House had edited Susan Rice’s points and the points that were provided to Congress and the administration — the only edit that was made to those points by the White House, and was also made by the State Department, was to change the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility” since the facility in Benghazi had not — was not formally a consulate. Other than that, we worked off of the points that were provided by the intelligence community. So I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made within the intelligence community.
Hmm — ’cause why on earth would the White House have done such a thing in the first place, anyways? …John McCain said what we’re all thinking on Sunday, via NJ:
Sen. John McCain continued his criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of a deadly attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, suggesting the president mislead the American public on the attack to support his story that al-Qaida’s influence is diminishing in the middle east.
“The narrative of the president is ‘I got Bin Laden, and al-Qaida is in the run,’ but al-Qaida is not on the run, and is making a strong comeback all over the Middle East,” McCain said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “This may interfere with that narrative.”
Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the high-ups in the White House in fact weren’t behind pushing a wedge between the intelligence and the talking points. She did say that Congress still plans to investigate the matter to figure out where the disconnect did go down — because it’s pretty evident that somebody somewhere messed up bigtime. Via the NYT:
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that she planned to investigate why the C.I.A.’s quick determination of a terrorist role in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was not reflected in the “talking points” used days later on television by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations. …
She said a transcript of testimony given a day after the attack by David H. Petraeus, who was then director of the C.I.A., showed that “Petraeus very clearly said that it was a terrorist attack.”
But asked whether President Obama or anyone working for him had deliberately misled the public by characterizing the attack as resulting from a spontaneous protest – to avoid invoking a terrorist threat at a key point in the presidential campaign – she was adamant, saying, “No, no.”