In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the White House quickly jumped from questions about the cause of the attack to blaming the incendiary YouTube video promoted by Florida pastor Terry Jones.
Last May, a set of emails was leaked by opponents of President Obama outlining the development of the talking points then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice used in a series of television appearances following the September 11, 2012 attack. The White House then released a more complete set of messages, effectively neutralizing critique of how the talking points were created.
New documents, obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch by a Freedom of Information Act request, include a different set of talking points created by Obama advisor Ben Rhodes and sent to administration officials including spokesman Jay Carney. At the top, it outlines four goals:
We've highlighted the most important point: Rhodes' assertion that the protests "are rooted in an Internet video."
At the time this email was sent — about 8 p.m. on Friday, September 14 — a separate set of emails was bounding back-and-forth between the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, and the White House. Those emails, the ones that were the subject of the discussion last May, offer a much different and much more reserved description of what prompted the attack. An email sent from the CIA to the White House at about 5 p.m. included this language:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex. … On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.
Over the next night, much of those specifics were stripped out by CIA director Michael Morell. But when Rhodes sent his proposed talking points, the nuance of "currently available information" was lost.