On “Morning Joe” at the moment, the roundtable seems convinced that yesterday’s release of 100 pages of internal e-mails relating to the Benghazi talking points exonerates the White House and all of the senior-level officials. This suggests that most in the press have not looked at these e-mails all that closely.
There were at least four lines in the Benghazi e-mails that jumped out at me.
Page 4: NE (Near East Desk/Bureau/Division) will add material about warning we gave to Cairo prior to the demonstrations, as well as warnings we issued prior to 9/11 anniversary
We don’t know whether this reference to warnings was a particularly specific one, i.e., beware of anti-American groups trying to stir up trouble outside our embassy in Cairo, or whether it was generic, i.e., beware of groups trying to stir up trouble on September 11 in the Middle East. But I believe this is the first time we’ve heard that the CIA gave warnings to Cairo — either to the Egyptian government or to our diplomatic security in that city — about a potential threat or danger to our diplomatic staff there. This information does not help the “no one could have seen this coming” excuse, particularly when coupled with the requests for additional security from staff in Libya.
Page 61: Fyi FBI says AQ (not AQIM) was involved and they are pursuing that theory.
“AQ” is a reference to al-Qaeda; “AQIM” refers to “al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” the Algerian/North African franchise. This means that by Friday evening, the FBI’s focus was on al-Qaeda, the main international portion, not the groups aiming to overthrow the Algerian government.
If the FBI investigation was focusing al-Qaeda as early as Friday, that doesn’t help explain Ambassador Susan Rice’s emphasis of the protests of the YouTube video on Sunday.
Also on Page 61: “The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document. We revised with their concerns in mind.”
The first version of the talking points mentioned, “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 that individuals had previously surveilled the US facilities, also contributing to the effacy of the attacks” — which would undoubtedly raise questions about what precautions the State Department was making in the weeks and months preceding the attack. The references to the earlier attacks against foreign interests were one of the details edited out.
The evidence that the talking points turned into uninformative, inaccurate mush because of the State Department’s involvement does not help Hillary Clinton.
CIA Office of Congressional Affairs, 9/15: “No mention of the cable to Cairo, either? Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this, then.”
My understanding is that this comment refers to or echoes the assessment of then–CIA director David Petraeus. This comment indicates that at least one party in this complicated process understood that they were losing sight of what they were supposed to be doing — informing Congress and the public of what happened — and generating meaningless, detail-free pabulum.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey notices that almost everyone who is reporting on this has failed to mention to the reference to the FBI.