In an effort to alleviate persistent claims of a “cover up” following last year’s Benghazi attack, White House officials disclosed a number of emails that appear to discredit such accusations by top Republican lawmakers.
On Wednesday, the White House released over 100 pages of emails between officials of the White House, Justice Department, and FBI, which were originally composed to dictate talking points for lawmakers to use during media appearances.
Those same emails later formed the key talking points for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who used the emails as a guide during her discussions with news outlets following the attack.
Notably, the emails show that officials in the Obama administration removed sections of a preliminary draft composed by the CIA that referenced terrorism and the name of an al Qaeda-linked group. Initial CIA talking points also stated radicals in Cairo had called for a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy, “encouraging Jihadists to break into the Embassy.”
The reference eventually drew harsh criticism from GOP lawmakers.
Nonetheless, the declassified emails appear to discredit arguments that White House officials staged a cover up following the September 11, 2012 attack.
For one, the GOP assertion that the Obama administration included references about al Qaeda appears untrue based on the documents. Rather, early emails paint a picture of confusion in the aftermath of the attack – with CIA, White House, and FBI officials unsure whether to include references about al Qaeda, terrorists, or any such group that may be involved.
According to a September 14 email, CIA officials were also told to avoid naming such groups in an effort to avoid compromising the FBI’s investigation. As a result, the argument by GOP officials that Obama included the al Qaeda references for political reasons appears highly invalid.
Additionally, the emails show security officials attempted to change Rice’s reference to a demonstration in lieu of new information gathered. However, that information was obtained just hours before Rice was set to speak on the subject.
As a result, Rice gave a much shortened version of the attack – one which later created a firestorm amongst Republican leaders.