As more information about White House and intelligence communications are released regarding Benghazi, a few discrepancies have surfaced on talking points that were put together for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearances on five talk shows the Sunday after the attacks.
ABC News received 12 versions of the Rice’s talking points that were edited down, from the first draft composed entirely by the CIA, to the final draft edited with input from the White House and the State Department. The two most prominent discrepancies are that the initial CIA drafts include references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia, as well as references to CIA warnings about attacks on other foreign embassies in the region.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland evidently had problems with the Al Qaeda reference, explaining in an email that “we don’t want to prejudice the investigation” without sufficient proof of Al Qaeda involvement.
She also didn’t agree with mentioning the CIA’s warnings about the volatility of the region because she felt the CIA was attempting to exonerate itself from any wrongdoing by making it seem that the warnings weren’t taken seriously by the State Department.
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Due to the back-and-forth emails between the CIA and the State Department, National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote in an email calling for a meeting before Rice’s talk show appearances.
“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting,” Rhodes wrote.
In that meeting, Nuland was not present and the talking points were finalized by CIA officials to not include the Al Qaeda reference or the security warnings.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the concerns about the discrepancies in the talking points drafts, explaining that the CIA did have the final word throughout the process.
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“The CIA drafted these talking points and redrafted these talking points,” Carney said. “The fact that there are inputs is always the case in a process like this, but the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive. They corrected the description of the building or the facility in Benghazi from consulate to diplomatic facility and the like. And ultimately, this all has been discussed and reviewed and provided in enormous levels of detail by the administration to Congressional investigators, and the attempt to politicize the talking points, again, is part of an effort to, you know, chase after what isn’t the substance here.”