A series of emails related to the Benghazi attacks on September 11, 2012 were turned over to Congress on Friday. A long-simmering dispute over the White House’s account has turned again into an all-out war between the Obama administration and those who claim the administration covered up what really happened.
The emails show the White House coordinating with the State Department, the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies to obtain the final version of the talking points on Benghazi, which were then turned over to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who used them in television appearances in the days after the attack.
In particular, the Benghazi emails show that the State Department wanted to remove all references to al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia — the Libyan militant group suspected of carrying out the deadly attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The department also asked to remove warnings about other potential terrorist threats from the talking points, which were drafted initially by the CIA.
The Benghazi talking points, which went through at least 12 versions before being given to Ambassador Rice, also showed how the State Department expressed concern that the CIA-drafted version could be used by some in Congress to criticize the preparedness of the Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. A US intelligence official familiar with how the talking points were drafted stated:
“The changes don’t reflect a turf battle. They were attempts to find the appropriate level of detail for unclassified, preliminary talking points that could be used by members of Congress to address a fluid situation.”
Along with Ansa al-Sharia and al Qaeda, the fact that unknown gunmen carried out at least five attacks around Benghazi against “foreign interests” in the days before the attack on the US Consulate.
Understandably, the Benghazi emails first disclosed in a report by House Republicans last month, then detailed on Friday by ABC News, left the White House in a difficult situation.
[Image via Pete Souza]