White House spokesman Jay Carney doubled down on denial Friday, insisting that the extensive closed-door revisions of the CIA’s Benghazi intelligence assessment were conducted by an intelligence official, not by administration officials.
“The CIA, in this case [a] deputy director of the CIA, took that process and issued a set of talking points on that Saturday morning, and those were disseminated,” he said in a late-afternoon press briefing at the White House.
As a White House spokesman, Carney works to smother unwelcome drama under a mass of non-confrontational responses, and to redirect the media’s attention away from the White House.
The criticism from Republicans, he declared, is “an effort to politicize a tragedy.”
“The only edit made by the White House or the State Department to those talking points generated by the CIA was a change from referring to the facility from ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic post,’” he claimed.
“The White House made one minor change to the talking points drafted by the CIA,” he repeated.
In fact, the CIA’s initial memo, which said that an al-Qaida affiliate in Libya was involved in the attack, were edited extensively by the State Department. The CIA memo also acknowledged previous jihadis attacks against the site and against Westerners in the city.
But the assessment went through 12 revisions, was reduced by two-thirds and was edited to hide the jihadis’ involvement, ABC News reported Friday morning.
The White House discussions were conducted prior to the editing of the talking points, Carney insisted. The process was routine and reflected a variety of concerns from various agencies, he said.
“The CIA produced talking points that [were] a result of an interagency process,” he said.
For the two weeks after the Sept. 11 attack, top administration officials, including Carney, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and President Barack Obama, pushed the claim that the attack was caused by unpredictable and spontaneous anger at a YouTube video that criticized Islam’s founder, Muhammed.
The claim muted the media’s pre-election coverage of the failure by the White House and the State Department to prepare for the jihadi attack against the ill-protected diplomatic site.
For example, on Sept., 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 because the officials did not believe they could reach the consulate in time.
On May 10, reporters pressed Carney to explain his claim that administration officials were not responsible for the major rewrite of the talking points.
“I appreciate the question,” he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “The things you’re talking about don’t go to the fundamental issues.”
The GOP is trying to politicize the “tragedy,” he said, adding that “this is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something that we could not hide.”
The changes to the CIA’s talking points “were extremely minimal and non-substantive,” he insisted.