ABC News has obtained every version of the government talking points that were distributed after the attack on the Benghazi consulate in Libya, along with evidence that the White House and State Department were more involved in the editing they want to admit. Reporter Jonathan Karl writes that the notes underwent 12 different revisions in the span of about 24 hours, with CIA and State Department officials going back and forth about the details, ultimately choosing to omit several direct references to terrorism.
We have put together a tool for comparing the different changes that were made in each draft. The Weekly Standard has also published an investigation of the email discussions that led to the various edits.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used those talking points to prepare for appearances on Sunday morning talk shows five days after the attack on the consultate that killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya. Her assertion that Sunday that the attacks were "spontaneous" demonstrations led to heavy criticism from Congressional Republicans that eventually scuttled her chance to become the next Secretary of State.
The very first version of the memo says that "currently available information" points to "spontaneously inspired" protests that "evolved" into an assault, but also mentions reports that Islamic extremists "with ties to al-Qa'ida" participated in the attack. It even refers to one prominent group, Ansar al-Sharia, by name and mentions pervious attacks and threats against the consulate.
Those references were eventually scrubbed, apparently at the request of State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, who worried about the political implications. In an email about the talking points, Nuland said those details "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?”
Despite claims that these edits are proof of meddling by Obama administration officials, White Press Secretary Jay Carney says that evidence doesn't contradict earlier statements that the talking points were created by the intelligence community. He says all the White House edits were "stylistic and nonsubstantive" and the CIA ultimately approved and signed-off on every version.
UPDATE: An ABC News source has stepped up defend Nuland, saying that her concerns were based on the fact that talking points revealed more than she was being allowed to say in her State Dept. briefings, and that she was concerned some of the language made it appear that the CIA was deflecting blame over the missed warning to State. Nuland, who is a 30-year veteran of the foreign service, was not at the meeting that determined the final round of edits and did not brief Ambassador Rice for her TV appearances.
You can read all 12 version in the PDF below, via ABC News.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.