Emails reveal how accuracy was scrubbed out of Benghazi ‘talking points’

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“Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this,” he replied, but added that a decision would be up to the White House.

The talking points were sent to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, who was chosen to be the face of the administration for the first post-attack Sunday talk shows. That Sunday, Sept. 16, she repeatedly blamed the attack on the anti-Muslim YouTube video — an assertion not in any version of the talking points. Mr. Obama would repeat the video argument in a speech to the United Nations later that month.

At the White House on Sept. 18, press secretary Jay Carney said: “I’m saying that based on information that we — our initial information, and that includes all information — we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a pre-planned or premeditated attack, that we saw evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video.”

On Oct. 9, on the evening of the first investigative congressional hearing on Benghazi, the State Department convened a conference call with reporters to express its new position, saying there was no protest that day linked to any video. Asked why that had been the administration story line, an unidentified official said, “That was not our conclusion.”

Aftermath

Mr. Vietor did not respond to a message from The Washington Times seeking comment on his role.

The White House has maintained publicly that the talking points were based on the best intelligence at the time, and officials point to the erroneous claim in the initial draft that the assault was inspired by the Egyptian protests as evidence for how fluid the information was.

But Mr. Carney has acknowledged that the talking points Ms. Rice ended up using were inaccurate.

“It is absolutely true that that assessment turned out to be wrong. What is also true is what we have maintained from the beginning, that that assessment was made by and drafted by the CIA, the intelligence community. And when it proved not to be the case, we acknowledged that,” he said.

Congressional Republicans say the White House is withholding other emails that would provide a clear picture of how the talking points were edited. Mr. Carney would not commit to releasing more, citing a right of the executive branch not to disclose confidential discussions to Congress.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has called Mr. Carney a “paid liar.” He has issued subpoenas to the State Department for “all documents and communications” on how it influenced the CIA’s first draft talking points.

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