The attorneys recommended removing the reference to al Qaeda and putting in boilerplate language about the investigation being ongoing.
In a first set of revisions that day, officials made minor changes but left initial references to “at least five other attacks” on foreign interests in Benghazi before the targeting of U.S. facilities that killed Stevens.
Responding to the initial changes — and apparently to the failure to remove the reference to the previous attacks — State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland then sent an email to CIA and other officials asserting that the changes were insufficient and “don’t resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.”
A later, scrubbed version of the talking points given by White House officials to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice for dissemination on several television news talk shows on Sept. 16 — five days after the attacks — made no reference to the previous attacks or to al Qaeda.
Following the State Department pressure, the scrubbed version appears to have been devised by administration officials attending a “deputies meeting” overseen by Ben Rhodes, White House security adviser for strategic communications.
After the changes, a note apparently written by CIA Director David H. Petraeus expresses distaste for the final version.
“Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this then,” states the email attributed to a sender identified as “DAVIDDHP74.” The email, written on Sept. 15, mentions the talking points’ failure to reference a “cable to Cairo.”
The final talking points that Mrs. Rice used read as follows:
• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
• This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
• The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Another hearing set
House Republicans plan to hold a hearing to explore the State Department’s internal review of the Benghazi attack, and want to call the veteran diplomat who headed the State Department-chartered accountability review board.
That man, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said he would testify in public session to Congress — but will not submit to a transcribed interview with committee investigators, as House Republicans have requested.
His decision sets the stage for another showdown over the Obama administration’s response to the assault.