State Dept Removed Terror, al-Qaida References in Benghazi Talking Points
Friday, 10 May 2013 08:25 AM
The Benghazi talking points at the center of the controversy surrounding the attacks on the U.S. compound in Libya were not mostly written by the intelligence community as the White House asserted for months, but were extensively rewritten by State Department staff to remove references to al-Qaida and terrorism, reports show.
The Benghazi talking points underwent 12 revisions and references to terror and terror groups deleted, according to ABC News.
The report indicates drafts first written entirely by the CIA were extensively edited and rewritten to become "boilerplate" points that were sent to Congress and to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
The State Department made the majority of the edits.
"The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the al-Qaida-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack," ABC News reports.
This contradicts what White House Spokesman Jay Carney has said:
“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.”
According to ABC News, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland questioned specifically the following paragraph from the early CIA drafts:
“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qaida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”
Citing email exchanges between the White House, State Department, and intelligence officials, ABC reported that Nuland took issue with including that paragraph because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned . . .”
The paragraph was entirely deleted, ABC reported.
The first drafts from the CIA said the attack was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo,” which was what Rice said during her appearances on the five Sunday talks shows a few days after the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
But what the CIA early drafts went on to say is, “That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaida participated in the attack.” They also included a specific reference to the al-Qaida-affiliated group in Libya named Ansar al-Sharia.
Nuland, ABC reported, also objected to naming the terrorist group because “we don’t want to prejudice the [congressional] investigation.”
A White House National Security Council aide coordinating the review of the talking point drafts responded via email by saying, “The FBI did not have major concerns with the points and offered only a couple minor suggestions.”
After the talking points were edited again to Nuland's concerns, ABC reported that she still said the changes weren't satisfactory.
"These changes don’t resolve all of my issues or those of my buildings leadership,” she wrote back to NSC aide, according to ABC.
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