Finally, a Real Benghazi Scandal: Republicans Selectively Edited Talking-Points Emails to Impugn the White House, State Dept.

It hasn’t yet seeped into the political media’s central narrative about the Benghazi attacks yet — and if the past is a guide, it probably never will — but there has finally been a bona fide revelation of doctoring information about the attacks for political purposes, just as Republicans have claimed from the outset of the attack on September 11, 2012, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed at what is now being described as a CIA outpost.

The culprits who have been caught red-handed are not the administration officials Republicans have accused of spinning intel in order to make Pres. Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look good, but rather the Republican accusers themselves.

Last Friday, Republicans, probably from the House, leaked a document to right-wing ABC reporter Jonathan Karl that was said to contain paraphrased selections from emails circulated among CIA, State Department and other officials who were charged with developing talking points in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

On Tuesday, former ABC reporter Jake Tapper, who now works for CNN, acquired one of the actual emails Republicans had included in the leaked document. When he compared it to the Republican version, he found that Republicans had substantively altered the text:

In the e-mail sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 9:34 p.m., obtained by CNN from a U.S. government source, [then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben] Rhodes wrote:

“All –

“Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.

“There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.

“We can take this up tomorrow morning at deputies.”

ABC News reported that Rhodes wrote: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”

ABC News notes in its report that it was provided summaries of White House and State Department emails, not the emails themselves.

After the White House released the full set of emails to reporters Wednesday night, CBS News compared the actual text of an email sent by State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland with the version of it in the Republican leak document and found that it, too, had been altered:

The Republican version quotes Nuland discussing, “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.”

The actual email from Nuland says: “The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”

The CIA agreed with the concerns raised by the State Department and revised the talking points to make them less specific than the CIA’s original version, eliminating references to al Qaeda and affiliates and earlier security warnings. There is no evidence that the White House orchestrated the changes.

Analysts who have read the full set of emails say they prove that, contrary to Republican accusations, no one in the government tried to spin the incident for political purposes — the CIA removed certain references in order to protect its investigation into the group behind the attack.

The emails also prove that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice did nothing wrong when she relied upon the talking points during her appearance on the Sunday morning political shows immediately after the attack.After her appearance, Republicans used their Fox News propaganda outlet to manufacture outrage by accusing Rice of downplaying the role of terrorism in the attack in order to bolster the president’s campaign.

Rice later withdrew her nomination for secretary of state because of the criticism — which we now know was based on nothing but Republican spin.

One comment

  • Paula
    May 17, 2013 - 7:27 pm | Permalink

    There needs to be a thorough investigation into who these republicans are…I suspect Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz and/ or their staffs…this is disgusting.

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