Steve Hayes takes a detailed look at the scenario that led to the scrubbing of the CIA’s Benghazi talking points to delete terrorism references and focus on the “non-event” video. Hayes’ rendition is consistent with what we’ve been saying for some time now — the State Department pushed for the talking points to be changed to cover up its pre-Benghazi malfeasance and the White House concurred, presumably to help re-elect Obama.
The CIA sent out the original, valid talking points on Friday evening to top Obama administration officials. Forty-five minutes after receiving them, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concerns about their contents, particularly the likelihood that members of Congress would criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
The quick response by a Clinton functionary shows that Clinton and her top advisers had planned ahead and were prepared to push for a revisionist story.
CIA officials responded with a new draft, stripped of all references to Ansar al Sharia. But this wasn’t enough for Hillary Clinton’s team. Thus, Nuland responded with an email stating that the changes do not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” (emphasis added)
Team Obama’s high-level national security adviser Ben Rhodes must have recognized that the State Department’s goal of avoiding congressional criticism was consistent with Obama’s political goals. Thus, he told those in the email group that Nuland had raised valid concerns. He added that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning. The Deputies Committee consists of high-ranking officials at the agencies with responsibility for national security—including State, Defense, and the CIA—as well as senior White House national security staffers.
The State Department representative at the meeting was Jake Sullivan, deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton. As we have said, it is virtually inconceivable that Clinton was out of this loop.
The outcome of the meeting was that Sullivan, Rhodes, and Mike Morrell, deputy director of the CIA, edited the talking points. The bogus talking points used by Susan Rice were the product of that scrubbing.
Morrell’s involvement apparently is the basis for claims by Jay Carney that the CIA “redrafted” the talking points. But, as Hayes points out, the CIA would not have edited its finalized talking points of its own volition. Moreover, Hayes reports that CIA director David Petraeus promptly expressed unhappiness about the scrubbed talking points in an email to his legislative director. He complained (internally only) that the talking points had been stripped of much of the content his agency had provided.
The talking points were changed from accurate to inaccurate because (1) the State Department’s “building leadership” pushed for the changes in order to avoid criticism for its failure to respond to warnings about the situation in Libya and (2) it suited Team Obama’s political purposes to accede to the changes. Unless Clinton has compromising photos of President Obama, it’s that simple.