Hill intel leaders confirm CIA guidance on Benghazi attack deleted terror references
Senior Republican members of Congress confirmed Sunday that the Obama administration changed CIA guidance to senior officials that had identified the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi as an al Qaeda attack.
“The intelligence community had it right, and they had it right early,” said chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.).
The CIA “talking points” on Benghazi initially identified the attackers as al Qaeda or al Qaeda-linked terrorists but senior administration officials removed the reference, Rogers said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Meanwhile, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president on Saturday that the White House made only minor changes in the first comments by a White House official on the Benghazi security scandal.
“We were provided with points by the intelligence community that represented their assessment,” Rhodes said on Air Force One en route to Asia. “The only edit made by the White House was the factual edit about how to refer to the facility.”
Rhodes insisted that the word “consulate” was changed to “diplomatic facility” to reflect the fact that the compound was not involved in traditional consular activities.
“Other than that, we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community,” he said. “So I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made.”
Rogers said the talking points were reviewed by a “deputies committee” of senior officials that is “populated by appointees from the administration. That’s where the narrative changed.”
Rogers was commenting on closed-door testimony Friday by former CIA Director David Petraeus who revealed the talking points were changed, apparently to play down the terrorist connection. Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), an intelligence committee member, first disclosed this information shortly after the Petraeus hearing.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in five Sunday talk show interviews used the altered talking points that emphasized falsely that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video.
The attack resulted in the death of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.) also said on Fox News Sunday that Petraeus said the initial talking points were altered and that senior intelligence and security officials did not know who was behind the changes.
“At the hearing we had on Thursday and Friday, we had every leader of the intelligence community there, including folks from the State Department, the FBI, everybody there was asked, do you know who made these changes? And nobody knew,” Chambliss said.
“The only entity that reviewed the talking points that was not there was the White House. I don’t know whether what they said yesterday is exactly right or not. But, what I do know is that every member of the intelligence community says that references to al Qaeda were removed by somebody and they don’t know who. And references to attacks versus demonstrations were removed by somebody.”