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An early CIA draft did not mention a protest at the mission in Benghazi. But by Friday afternoon, the word “demonstrations” was added twice, leaving the public to believe that random protesters were to blame for the attack.

That initial draft also had errors. It said the attacks were inspired spontaneously by the protests in Cairo — an assertion that turned out most likely to be untrue.

Sept. 14

The CIA began drafting talking points the morning of Sept. 14.

CIA Director David H. Petraeus had met over coffee with members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who wanted an unclassified report, or talking points, to give the press and public. Mr. Petraeus returned to CIA headquarters at Langley and started a drafting process that would occupy senior officials into the night.

At the CIA, hours after the attack, there was near unanimous opinion that Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked Islamic group, was responsible, an informed source told The Washington Times. CIA officers had been in Libya for months, had good contacts with various militias and were tracking Ansar al-Sharia.

What was murky was whether there was some type of protest at the same time. It was unclear at best. Neither the Benghazi mission nor the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reported a demonstration. (The U.S. deputy chief of mission in Tripoli would tell Congress later that there was no protest and that no one in Libya talked about the video. He said no one at State consulted with him about the talking points.)

At 3 p.m. on Sept. 14, the CIA circulated one of the early drafts that reflected Mr. Petraeus’ desire to say as much as possible and put the attack in historical context.

The draft document said the attack was “spontaneous,” spurred by protests in Cairo, but did not say there was a demonstration at the mission. It continued: “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.”

The draft mentioned that Ansar al-Sharia was attempting to spread jihad in eastern Libya and had posted a Facebook note not denying involvement.

It further noted previous plans for attacks in Benghazi against Western targets, including the British ambassador’s convoy. It also suggested that the mission had been surveilled, meaning the attack was planned.

Some in the CIA directorate objected to blaming extremists linked to al Qaeda without more evidence.

Nonetheless, the first version of the talking points would prove to be highly accurate.

Yet few of its words would survive, especially once State Department political appointees and the White House joined the discussion. What is not known is what was said in conversations outside the email exchanges among State, CIA and the White House as edits were made and the final product took shape.

At 3:04 p.m., CIA public affairs sent the draft to the White House’s Mr. Vietor, who had been an aide to Mr. Obama in the Senate and worked in the White House press office before moving to become NSC spokesman. Also on the list was Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication.

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