Report: Intelligence chief’s office removed mention of al-Qaida from talking points

Republican legislators are openly incredulous about the latest twist in the Obama administration’s evolving explanation of its response to the Sept. 11 Benghazi terror attack.
CBS News reported Nov. 20 that the office of James Clapper, the politically appointed Director of National Intelligence, edited the talking points before they were passed to political appointees.

The talking points, prepared by David Petraeus, then the CIA director, identified al-Qaida and its affiliates as the jihadi group that likely killed four Americans and sacked the Benghazi facilities on Sept. 11.

But Petraeus’ report was quickly edited to remove any mention of al-Qaida before its contents were announced by administration officials, including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

The edits allowed President Barack Obama and his deputies to blame a little-known YouTube video for the assault, and nudged the established media to downplay GOP criticisms of Obama’s Islamic-outreach policy during the last few weeks before the 2012 election.

Late last week, GOP leaders said the edit was likely made by a White House panel, dubbed the “deputies’ committee.”

But CBS wrote that “the White House or State Department did not make those changes.”

The report from CBS contradicts evidence from hearings last week, in which several senior intelligence officials — including Clapper — declared they did not know who made the edits.

“I participated in hours of hearings in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week regarding the events in Benghazi, where senior intelligence officials were asked this very question, and all of them — including the Director of National Intelligence himself — told us that they did not know who made the changes,” said an afternoon statement from Sen. John McCain.

“The statement released Monday … differs significantly from information provided in testimony to the Committee last week,” Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee told CBS News.

“Chairman [Mike] Rogers looks forward to discussing this new explanation with Director Clapper as soon as possible to understand how the DNI reached this conclusion and why leaders of the Intelligence Community testified late last week that they were unaware of who changed the talking points,” said Phalen.