Obama admin could have just said “No” to using a misleading narrative
The spin from Obama supporters remains trying to pin the blame for the scrubbing of the White House talking points on Benghazi onto the CIA.
But that analysis does not hold for at least two reasons.
First, these were the talking points used by the Obama administration to present a story line to the public which was misleading. If the administration knew that the CIA (allegedly) had scrubbed all meaningful context, then the White House should not have sent Susan Rice out with those talking points, and repeated the story line itself. It should have, as David Petraeus said, just not used those dumbed down misleading talking points.
So if the defenders of Obama are right, then the Obama administration used talking points it knew to be misleading regardless of who was to blame.
Second, the defenders of Obama are not right. The 100 emails released are not complete, missing key time periods. But what has been revealed reveals the election-eve lie.
Stephen Hayes, who helped break the story, writes, Benghazi Emails Directly Contradict White House Claims:
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.
Hayes then goes on to demonstrate numerous emails which contradict the White House explanation. Here’s one example Hayes points out:
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.
Carney, in particular, is likely to face tough questioning about the contents of the emails because he made claims to reporters that were untrue. “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 – of these two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility,’ because the word ‘consulate’ was inaccurate,” he told reporters on November 28, 2012.
That’s not true. An email sent at 9:15 PM on September 14, from an official in the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs to others at the agency, described the process this way. “The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document. We revised the document with their concerns in mind.”
That directly contradicts what Carney said. It’s also difficult to reconcile with claims made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during testimony she gave January 23 on Capitol Hill.
John Hinderaker at Power Line also has an analysis, The Benghazi Emails: What Do They Show?
The CIA said that “[t]he currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US consulate and subsequently its annex.” On the other hand, it also says, “we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations,” and refers to “numerous” prior warnings by the CIA and prior attacks carried out by “extremists linked to al Qaeda” in Benghazi and eastern Libya. Further, it notes reports that Ansar al-Sharia was involved. What happened over the ensuing 24 hours or so is that this initial summary was watered down to the point where it was virtually devoid of content.
Several significant points emerge from the emails. First, as has been widely reported, it was the State Department that drove the dumbing down of the talking points. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland–”Toria” to her friends, evidently–represented the department in the negotiations over Benghazi. She was particularly concerned that the public not get the impression that the Obama administration had been warned about the potential for violence in Benghazi…
Ed Morrissey refers to The amazing, shrinking Benghazi talking points:
On Friday evening at 9:43 pm, the CIA acknowledged that ”FBI says AQ (not AQIM) was involved and they are pursuing that theory. So we are not ahead of law enforcement now[,]” referring to an earlier concern that identifying this as a terrorist attack would interfere with the FBI’s investigation of the attack. However, almost immediately thereafter, even the more generic mentions of purposeful attacks involving Islamic extremists disappear from the talking points, which left Susan Rice with little more to offer than a demonstration involving a YouTube video — a video which, it should be pointed out, never gets mentioned in the e-mail string….
The result? We have an unequivocal statement almost in the exact middle of the evolution of these data points that the FBI had already determined that the attack involved al-Qaeda, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, considering that the attack took place on the anniversary of the original 9/11 attacks. Yet the final product, pushed in large part by State, eliminated all but the most ambiguous of suggestions that extremists had conducted an attack. The talking points as communicated on September 16th added in the YouTube video nonsense to which the administration clung through the funerals and Obama’s speech to the UN late in September before finally giving it up.
What the emails and the history unequivocally show is that various government entities under the control of the White House performed a factual and contextual cleansing of the truth which then was used by the Obama campaign to make sure it stayed in the White House. But we are supposed to believe this was not political?
Update: h/t Twitchy:
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) May 15, 2013