White House spokesman Jay Carney today blamed the intelligence agencies for the administration’s effort to hide Al Qaeda’s role in the lethal jihadi attack last September on the U.S. diplomatic site in Benghazi, Libya.
“The intelligence community drafted and redrafted these [public affairs] points… the fact that there are inputs from others doesn’t change the fact that the CIA, the intelligence community, drafted these points,” he told reporters at the daily briefing.
Asked if White House officials made any changes, Carney claimed that “the only edits were stylistic and non-substantive.”
However, two drafts of the talking points were substantially changed by a group of senior administration officials, including Mike Morrell, the CIA’s deputy director, according to an investigation by five House committees.
For example, the first draft said that “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaida participated in the attack.”
The final draft, however, only said “there are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
The emails were published by The Weekly Standard in an article about the House investigation.
For the two weeks after the attack, top administration officials, including Carney, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and President Barack Obama, pushed the claim that the attack was caused by spontaneous anger at a YouTube video that criticized Islam’s founder, Mohammed.
On September, 25, Obama declared during a speech at the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
The attack killed four Americans, including the ambassador. During the attack, U.S. officials in Libya were barred from providing rapid military aid — such as jet aircraft or reinforcements — for several hours.
The administration’s effort to downplay Al Qaeda’s role, and to showcase the video, continued through the 2012 election campaign.
But Carney today insisted the administration didn’t change the CIA’s talking points.
“These were talking points written by and drafted by the intelligence community,“ he insisted.
“Those talking points that Ambassador Susan Rice went out and used…we made clear, a) that we believed extremists were involved in the attack, and b) that we knew more information would come to light,” he said.
Nothing in the Weekly Standard report, he said, “contradicts anything we said about the development of the talking points, who drafted them… what we knew and what was put out.”
Carney also tried to portray criticisms as politically motivated. “We are in a place where there are attempts to politicize this when that should not be the case,” he claimed.