CNN has obtained an email sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama, in which the aide discusses the Obama administration reaction to the attack on the U.S. posts in Benghazi, Libya. The actual email differs from how sources inaccurately quoted and paraphrased it in previous accounts to different media organizations.
The significance of the email seems to be that whomever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and warnings about these groups so as to not bring criticism to the State Department than Rhodes’ email actually stated.
ABC News reported that Rhodes wrote: “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.” The Weekly Standard reported that Rhodes “responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning.”
Whoever provided those quotes and paraphrases did so inaccurately, seemingly inventing the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed. Nuland, particularly, had expressed a desire to remove mentions of specific terrorist groups and CIA warnings about the increasingly dangerous assignment. Rhodes put no emphasis at all in his email on the State Department’s concerns.
Previous reporting also misquoted Rhodes as saying the group would work through the talking points at the deputies meeting on Saturday, September 15, when the talking points to Congress were finalized. While the previously written subject line of the email mentions talking points, Rhodes only addresses misinformation in a general sense.
So whoever leaked the inaccurate information earlier this month did so in a way that made it appear that the White House – specifically Rhodes – was more interested in the State Department’s concerns, and more focused on the talking points, that the email actually stated.