Former United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s claims on five Sunday morning talk shows that the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks were sparked by a YouTube video were “off the reservation,” a State Department official wrote to colleagues in an email that was released on Monday.
Democrats from the House Select Committee on Benghazi released transcripts of interviews conducted with numerous government officials familiar with the Obama administration’s response to the terrorist attacks, which killed four Americans.
Emails cited in those interviews, which were conducted with officials from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), shed light on the thinking of career State Department employees to Rice’s heavily-criticized claims about the Benghazi attacks.
Rice, who now serves as National Security Advisor, claimed on the talk shows that a YouTube video that was critical of the Prophet Muhammad served as the catalyst for the attacks. The claim was immediately met with harsh criticism from those who believed the Obama administration lied in order to downplay terroristic threats.
NEA officials appear to have agreed that Rice went too far in tying the attack to the video. They also appear to have realized that Rice’s comments would cause irreparable damage.
“The horse has left the barn on this, don’t you think? Rice was on FIVE Sunday Morning shows yesterday saying this. Tough to walk back,” wrote a spokesperson for NEA in a Sept. 17, 2012 email.
The officials’ names are redacted in the reports released by Benghazi Democrats.
In one email, NEA’s senior Libyan desk officer reacted a series of talking points issuing by the CIA citing the video, saying “I really hope this was revised. I don’t think we should go on the record on this.”
“I think Rice was off the reservation on this one,” the officer wrote later in the email chain.
NEA’s senior advisor for strategic communications agreed with the comment, adding that “luckily there’s enough in her language to fudge exactly what she said/meant.”
NEA’s spokesperson chimed in about Rice: “Off the reservation on five networks!”
The senior advisor for strategic communications then faulted the White House for being behind Rice’s erroneous talking points.
“[The White House is] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing,” they wrote.
The Select Committee’s report is expected to be released soon.