On Wednesday, just days after Congress held hearings claiming that the Obama administration misled the public in the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2012 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the White House released 100 pages of emails that seem to undermine GOP claims that the White House orchestrated a “cover-up.”
The e-mails between the White House, CIA, State Department, Justice Department, and the FBI were part of an effort to draft unclassified talking points for lawmakers to use during media appearances and formed the basis of U.N. Ambassador’s Susan Rice’s prep for the Sunday morning talk shows. The CIA wrote the first draft of the talking points, before sending it out to the rest of the government. Click the pictures to view larger versions of the emails that debunk the basis many of the Republican’s claims of a conspiracy.
GOP Claim: The Obama administration struck references about Al Qaeda for political reasons.
In the very first of the declassified emails in the set, the CIA is revealed to have willingly struck references to Al Qaeda’s involvement in the attack, a deletion that conservatives have previously slammed as political in nature. A CIA official, responding to an inquiry about whether or not the Agency was sure that Al Qaeda took part in the attack, noted that the initial draft “could be interpreted that way,” suggesting that the document be revised to say that terrorist group took part in the protests instead. The CIA was also under “express instructions” to avoid naming perpetrators so to not to undermine the FBI’s investigation, according to an email from Sept. 14.
GOP Claim: Obama lied about there being a protest in Benghazi to hide that it was a terrorist attack.
The addition of references to “demonstrations,” another email shows, was completed before the document was sent out to the rest of the government, as was that the attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” The fact that no protest actually occurred in Benghazi prior to the attack was used as another data point that the Obama administration was hiding something about its response to the attack. Rather than being political, however, it appears the CIA made the changes to make the talking points more accurate based on what information was currently available, a situation that is often the casewhen dealing with intelligence.
GOP Claim: The White House directed the intelligence agency to lie about whether Islamic terrorists were involved.
John Brennan, then the White House Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and now the CIA Director, reviewed the talking points as well, but didn’t perform the scrubbing many conservatives have suggested the White House enacted. Instead, Brennan left in place a reference to “Islamic extremists” in his suggested edit, undercutting the notion that the administration wanted to hide the nature of the attack. In fact, the White House, according to an email to then-CIA Director “cleared [the document] quickly.” Over the course of the next day, after State and Justice were looped in, the turf war that has been previously reported played out.
GOP Claim: Susan Rice had access to the classified information and lied about it on television.
On Sept. 15, the talking points were finally sent to Congress after multiple edits and provided to Rice to prepare for her Sunday show appearances the next morning. We now know that Saturday evening the intelligence community received new information related to whether or not a demonstration took place, not in time to change the points. Instead, Rice gave the much shortened talking points as provided, setting off the firestorm that eventually ensued.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) still isn’t convinced no cover-up occurred. After telling CNN host Wolf Blitzer, “We’re not accusing anyone of anything sinister,” just one minute later, he implied that the CIA was forced to provide false information. “How did they go from the correct information to the incorrect information, and isn’t 100 pages or more a pushback on the CIA effectively telling the CIA, ‘You’ve got to change your story?’” Issa asked.