Benghazi ‘talking points’ altered, White House and State Dept. officials say

House ready for testimony

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The CIA countered that charge Tuesday, saying it had no evidence of anyone being silenced.

“The CIA does not tolerate reprisal against agency personnel who wish to speak with Congress,” agency spokesman Todd D. Ebitz said. “CIA employees are of course free to speak to Congress if they want to, and indeed there is an established process to facilitate such communication on a confidential basis.

“We are not aware of any employee who has experienced [reprisals] or who has otherwise been prevented from communicating a concern to Congress,” Mr. Ebitz said.

Ms. Toensing declined to comment on the record Tuesday about the CIA’s denial.

Controversy resurfaces

Questions over Benghazi appeared to have faded in recent months after Mr. Obama won confirmation of new defense and state secretaries and a new CIA chief.

But House Republicans have continued to press what they say are unanswered questions about the attack.

The House investigators’ interim report published last month absolved the Defense Department and intelligence community of blame in the run-up to the assault and in the aftermath. Instead, the report blamed the White House for failing to ensure that the military was prepared to respond, and said former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bears personal responsibility for ignoring security warnings.

Democrats slammed the report as partisan, countering that the accusations against Mrs. Clinton were flimsy. They said a State Department-chartered investigation had pinpointed where security decisions were made, which was below Mrs. Clinton’s level.

But with the revelations about the involvement of White House officials in the drafting process, attention is turning once again to the talking points, and to the story the administration told about the attack in the midst of a hard-fought election campaign — in which one of its key narratives was the defeat of al Qaeda.

Anonymous U.S. intelligence officials last year told news media outlets that details of the affiliations of those taking part in the attacks had been removed from the talking points in part because the indications of the role they played came from highly classified signals intelligence — cutting-edge electronic surveillance tools being deployed in Benghazi.

But according to the House report, “there were no concerns about protecting classified information in the email traffic” about revising the talking points, which was all sent on unclassified networks.

Embarrassing the U.S.

Removing all references to al Qaeda from the talking points and sending Mrs. Rice on TV to blame the attack on the video embarrassed the United States, Mr. Hicks said.

Mrs. Rice was directly confronted on CBS’ “Face the Nation” five days after the attacks with videotape of the president of the Libyan National Congress, Mohamad Yusef al-Magariaf.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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