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CBS Report: Press Officers Changed Benghazi Talking Points

According to a source interviewed by CBSofficials in the “press shops” of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the White House, and the FBI were responsible, at least in part, for altering the Benghazi talking points given to U.N. ambassador Susan Rice:

Prior to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote on CIA director nominee John Brennan to move to a full Senate vote, the Obama administration provided much of the information the Senate Intelligence Committee had been requesting for five months regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S consulate in Benghazi, Libya, CBS News has learned. The documents are voluminous and both Republicans and Democrats on the committee had the opportunity to review them.

Documents provided include emails regarding “who changed the Benghazi talking points” and many communications between officials in Libya and Washington, D.C., leading up to and during the attack.

Regarding the talking points: one source who reviewed the documents said removal of the word “al Qaeda” from the talking points was initiated, at least in part, by one of the “press shops.” The source said press officers from the Defense Intelligence agency, the White House and the FBI were “looped in” from the start and that some of them expressed concerns in writing that the media would ask follow up questions if certain words or phrases were used. The source added that the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell were included in these emails.

CBS had previously reported that references to “al-Qaeda” and “terrorism” were cut by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which Clapper heads, and that these changes were signed off on by the CIA and FBI. But that report was called into question by the closed-door testimony of Clapper and acting CIA director Mike Morrell in November, who reportedly insisted that they were not sure who had finalized the talking points.

They may have been less than forthcoming on that point, according to CBS’s latest report:

When asked whether Clapper and Morell misled Congress when they didn’t disclose who changed the talking points (because they knew), one source said “the exact right question wasn’t asked.”

There’s also this detail from CBS’s source,

The documents indicated numerous other changes were made to the talking points, including removal of certain references to an “attack.”

which seems to be at odds with the line taken by a “senior U.S. official” in their earlier report:

“The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” the official tells CBS.

Just as a reminder, Susan Rice told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday immediately after the attack that:

The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.


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