Initial Benghazi Talking Points Changed 12 Times, Mentions Of Terror Removed

The talking points prepared in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack were heavily edited at the request of the State Department.

Benghazi Consulate

One of the stranger aspects of the entire story surrounding the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post  in Benghazi has been the whole issue of the so-called “talking points” and the reason why Susan Rice went on television on September 16th blaming the attack on protests that had erupted over an anti-Muslim video. After all, we know that by that time the CIA and other sources inside the government had contributed information that determined that the party responsible for the attack was an al Qaeda linked group in eastern Libya. Earlier this week, we learned from the Deputy Chief of Mission for Libya, who was in Tripoli at the time, that all the information they had at the time of the attack that the attack was terror attack not linked to any protests and that, indeed, the video itself was not even news in Libya prior to the time of the attack. Now, ABC News’s Jonathan Karl is reporting that the talking points that Rice had based her comments on was edited twelve times and that all references to the attack being a terrorist act were removed from the memo:

When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.

ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before sheappeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.

White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department.  The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.

That would appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about the talking points in November.

“Those talking points originated from the intelligence community.  They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened,” Carney told reporters at the White House press briefing on November 28, 2012.  “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

Summaries of White House and State Department emails — some of which were first published by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard — show that the State Department had extensive input into the editing of the talking points.

According to the Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard the changes all seemed to come at the request of the State Department:

[O]ne previously opaque aspect of the Obama administration’s efforts is becoming somewhat clearer. An email sent to Susan Rice following a key White House meeting where officials coordinated their public story lays out what happened in that meeting and offers more clues about who might have rewritten the talking points.

The CIA’s talking points, the ones that went out that Friday evening, were distributed via email to a group of 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.” CIA officials responded with a new draft, stripped of all references to Ansar al Sharia.

In an email a short time later, Nuland wrote that the changes did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” She did not specify whom she meant by State Department “building leadership.” Ben Rhodes, a top Obama foreign policy and national security adviser, responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising 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 Deputies Committee convened the next morning, Saturday the 15th. Some participants met in person, while others joined via a Secure Video Teleconference System (abbreviated SVTS and pronounced “siv-its”).

The proceedings were summarized in an email to U.N. ambassador Rice shortly after the meeting ended. The subject line read: “SVTS on Movie/Protests/violence.” The name of the sender is redacted, but whoever it was had an email address suggesting a job working for the United States at the United Nations.

According to the email, several officials in the meeting shared the concern of Nuland, who was not part of the deliberations, that the CIA’s talking points might lead to criticism that the State Department had ignored the CIA’s warning about an attack. Mike Morell, deputy director of the CIA, agreed to work with Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to edit the talking points. At the time, Sullivan was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s director of policy planning; he is now the top national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Denis McDonough, then a top national security adviser to Obama and now his chief of staff, deferred on Rhodes’s behalf to Sullivan.

You can read through the revisions as they were made chronologically here. [PDF]

It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around what’s really going on here, but I must say that it’s concerning that there appears to be some effort on behalf of Victoria Nuland, the State Department representative that was involved in the drafting of the talking points, to remove from the talking points any references to al Qaeda or other groups and any reference to terrorism due at least in part to concerns that Congress would accuse the State Department of missing warnings of the attack that they may have picked up in  advance. The White House line in this whole process seems to be the revisions were all about removing from the talking points information that we weren’t sure of, and that at least is a legitimate concern. However, if that’s the case, then how they they get whittled down so much that any reference to terrorism was deleted and near sole responsibility for the attack was placed on that now infamous YouTube video? If the Administration truly didn’t know what was behind the attacks as of that Sunday, then why did Rice seem so sure in her statements that the video was the motivation for the attack? And, most importantly, why was Victoria Nuland seemingly more concerned with making the talking points to the point where Congress wouldn’t be able to use them against her department than about getting some understanding of what was believed to be the truth to the American public.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler comes up with a benign theory of what was happening here:

[H]ere’s where we are. The talking points were edited more extensively than the White House initially said, and with more direct involvement by the State Department. Indeed, spokesman Jay Carney, in his statement to ABC News, carefully elided this point by claiming that “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and non-substantive.” Emphasis mine; that was not Carney’s original claim.

It’s clear also that worry over appearances was at least partly the reason for at least one of the State-driven edits.

At the same time, the talking points also show that the intelligence community had notconcluded at that point that the attacks were pre-meditated terror, believed that they had “evolved” from “spontaneous” protests, and that al Qa’ida extremists had merely “participated” in them. In assessing the situation, the administration (with the exception of Rice’s false implication of the video) was, in fact, largely repeating what the intelligence community believed at the time. It may well be true that the administration was too slow in subsequent days to acknowledge that the attacks were terrorism, but there’s still no clear evidence of any nefarious motive in doing so or that it wasn’t largely taking its cues from the intelligence community’s own evolving assessment.

I think it’s careful to note what the White House is saying in response to this latest report. They are emphasizing that the only change that the White House requested was a stylistic change that didn’t really impact its substance. Karl’s report over at ABC concurs with this assertion, but it also demonstrates that the State Department was far more heavily involved in the editing process than we’d previously known. The White House’s statements, though, aren’t speaking to what the State Department did and seem primarily concerned with demonstrating that there wasn’t any political (i.e., 2012 campaign related) pressure put on those drafting the talking points. Is this part of a White House decision to essentially throw the State Department, or at least the people who surrounded Hillary Clinton at the time these talking points were drafted? It’s hard to say, but it certainly looks like it could be. At the very least, the number of the extent of these edits is certain to raise some eyeballs on Capitol Hill and will likely lead to yet another round of hearings.

The conservative line on this is that all of these revisions to the talking points and what the end result was is evidence that there was some effort to cover up the truth here. I’m not sure if it’s that, or if we’re just witnessing an example of a government agency trying to shield itself from public criticism. Whichever it is, it really doesn’t look good and it’s pretty much going to guarantee that this story is going to stick around for the foreseeable future.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Intelligence, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. nitpicker says:

    Oh for Christ’s sake! The only mention of Ansar al-Sharia in the original memo was to point out that “initial press reporting” had implicated them, but they had denied involvement. And you’re shocked that someone took uh, the press said this but they said something else and we don’t know what the truth is out of talking points?! You’re embarrassing yourself.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Having had first hand knowlege of and direct participation in multi-agency drafting and coordination of national level assessments, I can attest that representatives of all agencies bring to the table all their pet hot buttons and will endeavor to spin the final language of any product to make sure they have their asses covered and to make the assessments so vague as to be useless. It’s the nature of bureaucracies to protect their interests. Nothing that comes out of any government agency at the top level is especially useful, and it’s mostly an exercise in CYA.

  3. wr says:

    Oh my God!!!!!!!!

    A set of talking points that had to be approved by several high level agencies were edited repeatedly before they were released!!!!

    This has never happened before in the history of the Republic!!!!!!!

    Or: Doug has somehow managed to get through his entire life without ever serving on a committee of any kind or having to issue any kind of document that anyone else has to sign off on.

    Twelve edits sounds like a big deal to you? Especially when nothing of real significance changed?

    Time to get a little real world experience, Doug.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Yes, we have uncovered bureaucratic ass-covering. Which we all knew. So. . . Um. Are we done now?

  5. mantis says:

    Like the final version used by Ambassador Rice on the Sunday shows, the CIA’s first drafts said the attack appeared to have been “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” but the CIA version went on to say, “That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.” The draft went on to specifically name the al Qaeda-affiliated group named Ansar al-Sharia.

    Once again, Nuland objected to naming the terrorist groups because “we don’t want to prejudice the investigation.”

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    The conservative line on this is that all of these revisions to the talking points and what the end result was is evidence that there was some effort to cover up the truth here.

    Just because the truth was removed and a false point was substituted, that’s no reason to think that there was a coverup at play…

  7. Jeremy R says:

    If the Administration truly didn’t know what was behind the attacks as of that Sunday, then why did Rice seem so sure in her statements that the video was the motivation for the attack?

    ?

    Face the Nation:

    SUSAN RICE (Ambassador to the United Nations): Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the President, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and–

    BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But they are not there.

    SUSAN RICE: They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of– of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy

    Meet the Press:

    MS. RICE: Well, let us– let me tell you the– the best information we have at present. First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now. We’ll await the results of the investigation. And the president has been very clear–we’ll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

    Note the extensive use of qualifiers.

  8. stonetools says:

    So if you don’t perfectly nail your talking points on the first draft, and don’t seek input from multiple agencies ( because then you might have to revise), then you are engaged in a conspiracy and a cover up?
    Is the best lawyer the one who never redrafts and revises his pleadings? Seriously?

  9. David M says:

    Reading through the talking points and then hearing the GOP description of them leads me to the charitable conclusion they are illiterate wankers. The non charitable conclusion is not printable.

    Seriously, how is this remotely a scandal?

  10. Tyrell says:

    I would like to hear opinions from other leaders from the past about this: Powell, Weinberger, Albright, Vance, Bryzinski, Kissinger, Taylor.

  11. mantis says:

    @David M:

    Reading through the talking points and then hearing the GOP description of them leads me to the charitable conclusion they are illiterate wankers.

    They aren’t illiterate. They are liars.

  12. anjin-San says:

    I guess the question now is how long Doug will continue to flog this dead horse.

  13. Caj says:

    All hell was breaking loose at the time and these idiots in Congress expected precise wording on what and who these perpetrators were straight off the bat? Perhaps the embassy staff should have used a foghorn and asked them if they were terrorists? The whole Benghazi thing has become a spectacle created by Republicans who are obsessed with trying to pin this on President Obama and also Hillary Clinton seeing as Republicans are terrified she will run in 2016! It’s shocking that the deaths of those four people are bottom of their list, far more important that they can play a gotcha on President Obama!

  14. rudderpedals says:

    Seems Victoria Nuland was prescient having foreseen both the ongoing congressional storm and that CIA would manage to palm it off on State.

  15. rudderpedals says:

    @Tyrell: If you raise Weinberger from the grave I’m going to lobby James to make you a front pager or hook you up with a blog myself

  16. Andy says:

    Nice to see a decades-long truth come out in the open again, we need frequent reminding about the game of sausage policymaking inside the US government. We see here again that the intelligence community, as a function subordinate to policy, will be bent to the needs of policy and, if necessary, take the fall for bad policy. Remember, there are no policy failures, only intelligence failures! (that’s an old intel community joke)

    Those of you waving this off as no big deal (strangely enough, it just happens to be those leaning left here – probably a coincidence) should at least recognize that this is politicization of intelligence. This example is more egregious than is typical but is nowhere near what the Bush administration did. Even though in this case it doesn’t rise to the high bar set by the Bush administration, I think people who are genuinely interested in good government should at least feign concern. After all, this is clearly a case where a policymaking agency asked an intelligence agency to change its assessment for no reason other than CYA. Are the people brushing this off really comfortable with policymaker spinning intelligence to protect their own asses? Can’t have it both ways IMO – either you’re against politicization of intelligence or you’re just another partisan who cares more about ends than means. As a guy who actually worked for many years in the intel community I have little tolerance for the ways in which intel is politicized while recognizing that some politicization is inevitable.

    Also, to me the more damning change isn’t about terrorism, but this statement: “The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contributed to the lethality of the attacks.” I’m surprised that wasn’t excised until near the end. The “wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters” was a direct result of policy choices and this factor was known long before this attack.

    At the end of the day I think the State Department was too lax in its security in Libya and did not have necessary contingency plans in place. Some of the “whistleblowers” point blame at the military for not responding quickly enough. Well, that’s what contingency operations are for. The lack of response just proves there wasn’t a contingency plan in place. That’s a State Department failure pure and simple – one that has since been corrected.

  17. @mantis: Does calling Republicans names make you feel better about one agency or another messing up and then having the the Obama administration cover it up? Does it feel bad to call people names who are trying to find out why games were played over national security and the murder of Americans? Does it help you feel morally superior when you run cover for people who should be fired (at least) or jailed (at most) for their actions?

  18. jukeboxgrad says:

    Doug:

    Initial Benghazi Talking Points Changed 12 Times, Mentions Of Terror Removed

    The “Initial Benghazi Talking Points” (link, pdf) mention the word “terror,” in any form, this many times: zero.

    Explain how it’s possible for “Mentions Of Terror” to be “Removed” when there were this many: zero.

  19. markm says:

    Here is a dumb question….but who is ‘the intelligence community’?. I ask because we now know from Hick’s testimony that he sent multiple messages out stating they were under attack and he also said it wasn’t a spontaneous protest and further went on to say ‘his jaw dropped’ when he heard the repeated talk of the Youtube vid. Hicks even said he was on the phone with Hillary and said they were under attack.

    David Patraeus said he was also shocked to hear about a Youtube video.

    As I recall, didn’t the CIA come out and say they knew it was a terrorist attack from day one??.

  20. jukeboxgrad says:

    As I recall, didn’t the CIA come out and say they knew it was a terrorist attack from day one??.

    Nice job completely ignoring the comment immediately prior to yours.

  21. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I didn’t ignore it, I didn’t see it. Either way, that isn’t the answer to the question I asked.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_21808401/cia-found-militant-links-day-after-libya-attack

    Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

    That matches up with the Hicks testimony from last week.

  22. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_21808401/cia-found-militant-links-day-after-libya-attack

    Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

  23. markm says:

    From 10/19/2012

    Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

  24. jukeboxgrad says:

    eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press

    This is from the original version of the famous “talking points” (link, pdf):

    We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo

    And the word “terror” was not used. I think this is more relevant than a report from unnamed “officials” that doesn’t even use a quote.

  25. Dazedandconfused says:

    @markm:

    As Dick Cheney likes to say (just barely tongue in cheek) “The first reports are always wrong.” Watch CNN while they cover the next clusterfuktastrophe for a splendid example.

  26. Stonetools says:

    I’m beginning to think that what the Administration should have done is simply put out a terse statement that “The matter is under investigation, so we are not making any further comment at this time.”
    Of course, that would not have satisfied the right, who would have wanted a full throated condemnation of TERRORISM, with that word mentioned a dozen times, and maybe a declaration of war against Iran, thrown in for good measure. The press would not have liked it either, and we would hear talk of “stonewalling”.
    But it would have been the safest thing to do. Who knows, going forward, maybe this is what they will do if such an attack happens again.

  27. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    The word “terror” not being used is more relevant than that same PDF saying Al Qaeda was involved?.

    “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/02/usa-libya-intelligence-idUSL1E8L1PZR20121002

    WASHINGTON Oct 2 (Reuters) – Within hours of last month’s attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama’s administration received about a dozen intelligence reports suggesting militants connected to al Qaeda were involved, three government sources said.

    I don’t see the word ‘terror’ there either but I do see a terror related group (it appears to be a common denominator).

    How is it that the Prime Minister of Libya, David Patraeus and Greg Hicks knew from day one that Al Qaeda/jihadists pulled off the attack (already reported) but there is still debate if this evolved from a Youtube video?.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/benghazi-scandal-grows_722032.html

    All told, the draft of the CIA talking points that was sent to top Obama administration officials that Friday evening included more than a half-dozen references to the enemy​—​al Qaeda, Ansar al Sharia, jihadists, Islamic extremists, and so on.

    The version Petraeus received in his inbox Saturday, however, had none. The only remaining allusion to the bad guys noted that “extremists” might have participated in “violent demonstrations.”

    In an email at 2:44 p.m. to Chip Walter, head of the CIA’s legislative affairs office, Petraeus expressed frustration at the new, scrubbed talking points, noting that they had been stripped of much of the content his agency had provided. Petraeus noted with evident disappointment that the policymakers had even taken out the line about the CIA’s warning on Cairo.

  28. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    The word ‘terror’ was not used….but:

    “[W]e do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.”

    Replaced by:

    “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

    What do ‘extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida’ usually do?.

  29. jukeboxgrad says:

    Replaced by

    I see no material difference between the original text and the new text. “With ties to al-Qa’ida” are not magic words, even if they give you a hardon. What’s a lot more important is this:

    We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo

    And the fact that “terror” was not mentioned.

  30. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    “With ties to al-Qa’ida” are not magic words

    This is true but the reaction to a situation garners more attention when al-Qa’ida is a known participant. AQinc. are not known for their charitable doings.

    Likewise, testimony from Hicks and Petraeus don’t finger a ‘Youtube video’ as a source for the attack.

  31. jukeboxgrad says:

    testimony from Hicks and Petraeus don’t finger a ‘Youtube video’ as a source for the attack.

    Then explain why the CIA said this:

    We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo

    Everyone understands that “the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” were inspired by the video, which means the CIA statement is a reference to the video.

  32. jukeboxgrad says:

    I just noticed your comments citing this:

    Within 24 hours of the deadly attack, the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington that there were eyewitness reports that the attack was carried out by militants, officials told The Associated Press. But for days, the Obama administration blamed it on an out-of-control demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

    This is a nice example of the fallacy of bifurcation. Consider these two statements:

    A) The attackers were “militants” with “ties to al-Qa’ida.”
    B) The attackers were upset about the video and decided spontaneously to conduct an attack.

    There is no contradiction between those statements. On the contrary; they co-exist quite smoothly.

  33. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Then explain why the CIA said this:

    We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo

    CIA director David Petraeus was surprised when he read the freshly rewritten talking points an aide had emailed him in the early afternoon of Saturday, September 15. One day earlier, analysts with the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis had drafted a set of unclassified talking points policymakers could use to discuss the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But this new version​—​produced with input from senior Obama administration policymakers​—​was a shadow of the original.

    The original CIA talking points had been blunt: The assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi was a terrorist attack conducted by a large group of Islamic extremists, including some with ties to al Qaeda.

    “We do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.”

    Within 24 hours of the attack, the U.S. government had intercepted communications between two al Qaeda-linked terrorists discussing the attacks in Benghazi. One of the jihadists, a member of Ansar al Sharia, reported to the other that he had participated in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic post. Solid evidence. And there was more. Later that same day, the CIA station chief in Libya had sent a memo back to Washington, reporting that eyewitnesses to the attack said the participants were known jihadists, with ties to al Qaeda.

  34. markm says:

    Sorry for the jumbled posts. The OTB spam filter picked on me with repeated attempts to post. Dr. James has resolved this but it’s apparently posting from the spam folder.

  35. markm says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    This is a nice example of the fallacy of bifurcation. Consider these two statements:

    A) The attackers were “militants” with “ties to al-Qa’ida.”
    B) The attackers were upset about the video and decided spontaneously to conduct an attack.

    There is no contradiction between those statements. On the contrary; they co-exist quite smoothly.

    From the Hicks testimony:

    ”The YouTube video was a non event in Libya,”. “The video was not an instigator of anything that was going on in Libya,” Hicks reiterated to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) later in the hearing. “We saw no demonstrations related to the video anyhwere in Libya. The only event that transpired was the attack on our consulate on the night of Sept. 11.”

  36. jukeboxgrad says:

    The original CIA talking points had been blunt: The assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi was a terrorist attack

    It would be nice if you provided a link (or at least named your source). You are citing Steven Hayes at Weekly Standard telling a brazen lie (link). “The original CIA talking points” didn’t use the word “terror” in any form, not even once. They said this:

    We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo

    I think I have already mentioned that. Citing a liar doesn’t help your credibility.

    The Hayes article which is getting cited everywhere never ever mentions this statement, even though it’s quite important and is the very first statement in the memo. And of course he also never ever mentions the fact that Nordstrom’s testimony said essentially the same thing. Link.

    A truly awesome thing about the Hayes article is that he manages to not provide a link to “the original CIA talking points” (link, pdf). I guess he doesn’t want it to be too easy for his readers to figure out that he’s lying.

  37. jukeboxgrad says:

    From the Hicks testimony

    I know what Hicks said. He’s entitled to his opinion, but he was contradicted by Nordstrom (link), and by the CIA memo (link), and by the first reporting from the scene (link):

    Fighters involved in the assault, which was spearheaded by an Islamist brigade formed during last year’s uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, said in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video

  38. markm says:

    “I was stunned,” Hicks told the committee after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked about Rice’s comments on Sunday morning talk shows shortly after the attack. “My jaw dropped and I was embarrased.”

    He later added that Rice had not consulted with him before appearing on the five talk shows.

    “So Ambassador Rice directly contradicts the evidence on the ground in Libya, she directly contradicts the President of Libya, she directly contradicts the last statement uttered by Ambassador Stevens,” Gowdy remarked in response to Hicks’ testimony.

    From September 12, 2012:

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/libya-president-benghazi-attack-terrorism-133154516.html

    Libyan President Mohammed Magarief said the controversial film that mocked Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and ignited protests throughout the Muslim world had “nothing to do” with the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, and that he has “no doubt” it was an act of terrorism.

    It’s a preplanned act of terrorism directed at American citizens,” Magarief told NBC’s Ann Curry in an interview that aired Wednesday. “Reaction should have been, if it was genuine, should have been six months earlier. So it was postponed until the 11th of September. They chose this date, 11th of September, to carry a certain message.”

    So, seemingly, in real time, you have the Libyan President, Patraeus, Hicks and Stevens knowing there was a coordinated attack not related to a video. In the Hicks testimony, he even stated he was on the phone with Hillary and stated they were under attack.

  39. jukeboxgrad says:

    you have the Libyan President, Patraeus, Hicks and Stevens

    Except that you haven’t cited any quotes from Petraeus or Stevens. You have a vivid imagination.

  40. Raoul says:

    Everybody, pleaser read the Daily Howler on Kessler’s column.

  41. jukeboxgrad says:

    Good idea, I hadn’t noticed it. Link. He makes many excellent points.

  42. David M says:

    @markm:

    Why do you keep saying the incident was a terrorist attack? (Given that it was a CIA operation, it doesn’t seem to be a civilian target.)

    Secondly, given that it was a CIA operation, shouldn’t we expect the public statements on the incident to be a little fuzzy?

    The concern over the statements after the fact is childish.

  43. Andy says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    “The original CIA talking points” didn’t use the word “terror” in any form, not even once.

    That’s true, however they did write this:

    The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.

    Al Qaeda affiliated extremists attacking a US diplomatic outpost would be considered by a lot of people to be “terrorism.” Calling that “terrorism” may be debatable, but it certainly isn’t lying.

  44. jukeboxgrad says:

    Al Qaeda affiliated extremists attacking a US diplomatic outpost would be considered by a lot of people to be “terrorism.”

    It would be stupid to assume that it was planned terrorism rather than spontaneous terrorism, because “Al Qaeda affiliated extremists” are quite capable of both. It would also be stupid to assume that they were not motivated by the Nakoula video, because it makes perfect sense that such a thing would motivate them.

    Calling that “terrorism” may be debatable, but it certainly isn’t lying.

    Good thing I never said anything even close to that, and I haven’t seen anyone say anything close to that. Nice job beating up that straw man.

    You have it backwards. Rice et al are being accused of “lying” for making the connection to the video, even though there’s plenty of evidence connecting the video and the attack. Link.

    (By the way, in a world where words meant something, no one would be calling it a terrorist attack, even now, because this location was not really a “consulate.” It was a CIA office, and therefore not a civilian target. Link.)

  45. Andy says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    It would be stupid to assume that it was planned terrorism rather than spontaneous terrorism, because “Al Qaeda affiliated extremists” are quite capable of both. It would also be stupid to assume that they were not motivated by the Nakoula video, because it makes perfect sense that such a thing would motivate them.

    Ok, not sure how that’s relevant to anything I wrote.

    Good thing I never said anything even close to that, and I haven’t seen anyone say anything close to that. Nice job beating up that straw man.

    You said Hayes at the Weekly Standard was a liar for calling it terrorism. He has a difference of opinion which is different from lying.

    You have it backwards. Rice et al are being accused of “lying” for making the connection to the video, even though there’s plenty of evidence connecting the video and the attack. Link.

    Again, that doesn’t really address anything I wrote and the “backwards” is an assumption on your part. I don’t think Susan Rice or the administration was lying but, as I noted in my first comment, I think this was clearly a case of politicizing or spinning intelligence by omitting relevant information they thought would be politically problematic.

    (By the way, in a world where words meant something, no one would be calling it a terrorist attack, even now, because this location was not really a “consulate.” It was a CIA office, and therefore not a civilian target. Link.)

    Well, two compounds were attacked – one was was a diplomatic mission (not a consulate) and the other was the CIA annex. Not sure why that matters regarding the question of whether it’s terrorism or not particularly since it was State Department personnel that were killed and not CIA personnel. Also, the CIA is a civilian agency, so it is a “civilian” target.

  46. jukeboxgrad says:

    You said Hayes at the Weekly Standard was a liar for calling it terrorism.

    Your reading comprehension is atrocious. I didn’t say he’s a liar for calling it terrorism. I said he’s a liar for claiming that the CIA called it terrorism.

    Well, two compounds were attacked – one was was a diplomatic mission (not a consulate) and the other was the CIA annex.

    Both facilities were CIA. Link.

    Not sure why that matters regarding the question of whether it’s terrorism or not particularly since it was State Department personnel that were killed

    When civilians are killed during an attack on a military target, that’s not called terrorism. That’s called collateral damage.

    the CIA is a civilian agency, so it is a “civilian” target.

    A truly “civilian agency” does not conduct programs such as drone strikes. You can play whatever semantical games you would like to play, but they are effectively part of the military.

  47. Andy says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Both facilities were CIA. Link.

    Your link doesn’t say they were both CIA facilities and anyway, one was a State facility. The link talks about a CIA “operation” but the reality is that it was a joint operation conducted by both State and CIA, though the CIA’s involvement was not publicly acknowledged until this incident. You can read more about the operation here and note the date it was published. The whole thing is worth reading as it is background to the main purpose of the State diplomatic mission and associated CIA annex in Benghazi which were only part of the non-proliferation mission.

    When civilians are killed during an attack on a military target, that’s not called terrorism. That’s called collateral damage.

    I have a friend who was in the Navy and a victim of this attack Note the first word in the article. You’re obviously entitled to your opinion, but the mainstream has been calling terrorist attacks against military targets “terrorism” for a really long time.

    A truly “civilian agency” does not conduct programs such as drone strikes. You can play whatever semantical games you would like to play, but they are effectively part of the military.

    It’s not semantic games. Perhaps you should educate yourself on the difference between title 10 and title 50 authorizations. Not that it matters for this discussion since terrorism has long been defined by the actions of the perpetrators, not who signs their victim’s paychecks.

  48. jukeboxgrad says:

    Your link doesn’t say they were both CIA facilities

    It says “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation.” That means “they were both CIA facilities.”

    the reality is that it was a joint operation conducted by both State and CIA

    Consider these two statements:

    A) the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation
    B) the U.S. effort in Benghazi was a joint operation conducted by both State and CIA

    A and B are not the same. A is what WSJ reported. B is a vivid example of how you are inclined to invent your own reality because the reality that has been reported is a reality you don’t like.

    the mainstream has been calling terrorist attacks against military targets “terrorism” for a really long time.

    Only when the other side does it to us. Never when we do it to someone else. Just a nice example of how dishonest our culture is in its use of that word.

    By the way, notice this from the CIA (link):

    Q: How do you define terrorism?

    A: The Intelligence Community is guided by the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d): The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

    I highlighted a couple of important words. Let’s return to what you said:

    the mainstream has been calling terrorist attacks against military targets “terrorism” for a really long time.

    Which is a contradiction of the CIA definition.

    terrorism has long been defined by the actions of the perpetrators

    Why don’t you tell us what your definition is.

    Perhaps you should educate yourself on the difference between title 10 and title 50 authorizations.

    I’m familiar with the Title 10-Title 50 debate, and you bringing it up doesn’t clarify anything.

  49. Andy says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    It says “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation.” That means “they were both CIA facilities.”

    Saying it was a CIA operation doesn’t mean CIA owned the facilities. The CIA does, after all, run operations out of State Department embassies and consulates all over the world. Those CIA operations don’t magically make embassies “CIA facilities.”

    Secondly, “the U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation” is an opinion, not a fact and it’s an opinion which seems to mainly be based on the apparent fact that there were more CIA than State personnel in Benghazi. Well, that doesn’t prove that the CIA was running the show much less that the facilities were both owned by the CIA. Not that it much matters if the facilities were rented by State from the CIA since, again, it was an ambassador and State employees who were killed at what everyone is calling either a “consulate or a “mission.”

    A and B are not the same. A is what WSJ reported. B is a vivid example of how you are inclined to invent your own reality because the reality that has been reported is a reality you don’t like.

    I posted the link from the State Department’s own website about the State Department’s work running the largest non-proliferation effort in US history. Notice this effort is run by the State Department supported by “interagency partners.” But hey, the WSJ thinks it was a “CIA operation” so it must be true!

    By the way, notice this from the CIA (link):

    Title 22 outlines the legal role of foreign relations and is the set of statutes that primarily govern much of the State Department’s activities. Here’s what the State Department says about that definition:

    For purposes of this report, the terms “international terrorism,” “terrorism,” and “terrorist group” have the definitions assigned to them in 22 USC. 2656f(d) (see above). The term “non-combatant,” which is referred to but not defined in 22 USC. 2656f(d)(2), is interpreted to mean, in addition to civilians, military personnel (whether or not armed or on duty) who are not deployed in a war zone or a war-like setting.

    Now, if you’re wondering about the “For the purposes of this report” part, the reason is that this definition of terrorism is buried in a section of the code that requires the State Department to provide a annual report on terrorism to Congress and that definition of terrorism is limited to the purposes of drafting that report. The State department took the liberty of defining “non combatant” for the purposes of this reporting requirement since it isn’t defined in the law.

    Of course none of that really matters to this discussion since none of those killed in Benghazi were military and, as far as we know, there were no military personnel there.

    Why don’t you tell us what your definition is.

    The criminal code (that’s Title 18 for those keeping score), is here. I won’t bother to quote it. That’s my definition.

    I’m familiar with the Title 10-Title 50 debate, and you bringing it up doesn’t clarify anything.

    If that were so then you would know that the CIA is not a military agency and is not subject to the rules which govern the use of military force and the conduct of military campaigns. But you haven’t exactly been clear what you meant by the CIA not being a “truly civilian” agency, so who knows?

    I think that’s about it from me on this. Your ad hominems are getting old and frankly I have better things to do.

  50. jukeboxgrad says:

    Saying it was a CIA operation doesn’t mean CIA owned the facilities.

    I don’t have a microscope powerful enough to find the hair you’re splitting.

    That’s my definition.

    So you disagree with the State and CIA definitions which both reference ‘non-combatants?’

    you haven’t exactly been clear what you meant by the CIA not being a “truly civilian” agency

    I was quite clear. An agency that executes military force (like drone strikes) is not “civilian.”

    I think that’s about it from me on this.

    Promises, promises.