The White House on Wednesday released 94 pages of emails between top administration and intelligence officials who helped shape the talking points about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that the CIA would provide to policymakers in both the legislative and executive branches.
The documents, first reported by The Weekly Standard in articles here and here, directly contradict claims by White House press secretary Jay Carney and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the revisions of those talking points were driven by the intelligence community and show heavy input from top Obama administration officials, particularly those at the State Department.
The emails provide further detail about the rewriting of the talking points during a 24-hour period from midday September 14 to midday September 15. As The Weekly Standard previously reported, a briefing from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence shows that the big changes came in three waves – internally at the CIA, after email feedback from top administration officials, and during or after a meeting of high-ranking intelligence and national security officials the following morning.
The initial CIA changes softened some of the language about the participants in the Benghazi assault – from “Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda” to “Islamic extremists.” But CIA officials also added bullet points about the possible participation of Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group, and previous warnings about the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi. Those additions came out after the talking points were sent to “the interagency,” where the CIA’s final draft was further stripped down to little more than boilerplate. The half dozen references to terrorists – both in Benghazi and more generally – all but disappeared. Gone were references to al Qaeda, Ansar al Sharia, jihadists, Islamic extremists, etc. The only remaining mention was a note that “extremists” had participated in the attack.
As striking as what appears in the email traffic is what does not. There is no mention of the YouTube video that would become a central part of the administration’s explanation of the attacks to the American people until a brief mention in the subject line of emails coming out of an important meeting where further revisions were made.
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