This is a great report by Eli Lake on the cover-up detailed in the new Benghazi report released by the House today. In short, it shows how the administration willfully had the talking points changed to keep the State Department and Hillary Clinton from looking like they failed to heed security warnings and a growing terrorist threat in Benghazi, even though they really did.
After you are done reading the article below, trot over to Front Page Magazine to read their excellent write-up on the report.
DAILY BEAST – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill January 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)Citing administration emails provided to the House committees, the 46-page report claims that “to protect the State Department, the Administration deliberately removed references to al-Qaeda-linked groups and previous attacks in Benghazi in the talking points used by Ambassador Rice.”
While the report does not disclose in full the still-classified emails or the officials who wrote them, it does give the clearest account to date of how the official public statements in the days after September 11, 2012 from the Obama administration departed from the classified assessments of the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The story begins on Friday, September 14, when then-CIA director David Petraeus briefed the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about the Benghazi attack three days earlier. The CIA’s notes for that briefing included information about five previous attacks on foreign interests in Benghazi since April 2012; potential links to the al Qaeda connected Libyan militia, Ansar al-Sharia; previous CIA assessments of groups linked to al Qaeda in eastern Libya; and information suggesting Islamic extremists participated in the attack, according to the report.
But then the editing process began later that day on September 14, “[w]hen draft talking points were sent to officials throughout the Executive Branch, [and] senior State Department officials requested the talking points be changed to avoid criticism for ignoring the threat environment in Benghazi,” the report charges. The report quotes one email saying there was concern that members of Congress would attack the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings” regarding the mounting threat in Benghazi.
A meeting convened by the White House on Saturday suggested further edits to the talking points, according to the report. While a senior CIA official eventually changed the talking points, the report says those changes were made at the behest of the White House and the State Department. “Those edits struck any and all suggestions that the State Department had been previously warned of threats in the region, that there had been previous attacks in Benghazi by al-Qaeda-linked groups in Benghazi and eastern Libya, and that extremists linked to al-Qaeda may have participated in the attack on the Benghazi Mission,” according to the report.
On Sunday the new talking points were provided to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who based her comments about the attack on major Sunday news shows on September 16 on the newly edited talking points. Rice ended up suggesting that the lethal assault on the Benghazi compound was spurred by a demonstration against an anti-Muslim internet video. The State Department’s own accountability review board eventually acknowledged last year that there was no demonstration the night the Benghazi compound was raided and set ablaze.