White House Denies Editing Benghazi Talking Points To Remove Al Qaeda Reference

Blames intelligence community for failures in initial assessment of attack.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House Saturday denied it edited out references to terrorism in talking points used by UN Ambassador Susan Rice the wake of the attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.

“The only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate,” said Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes. “Other than that we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community. So I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made.”

According to Republican lawmakers in a classified intelligence hearing yesterday featuring former CIA Director David Petraeus, the original talking points on the attack included a mention of al-Qaeda affiliated groups. The final version given to Rice, before she discussed the attack on five Sunday morning shows in which she stated that the attack was a response to an anti-Islamic video, stated: “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” The talking points were first obtained by CBS News.

The initial talking points “specifically mentioned al-Qieda, and that al-Qaida was involved in the attack,” said Rep. Peter King, who was in the briefing, on Fox News. “Somewhere along that line, that was taken out… someone in the administration had to have taken it out.”

Questioned specifically about whether the White House or State Department had edited the talking points further, Rhodes put the blame on the intelligence community.

“I’m saying we were provided with points by the intelligence community that represented their assessment; the only edit made by the White House was the factual edit about how to refer to the facility,” he said.

“The focus of this has often been on public statements that were made by Susan Rice and other administration officials in that first week after the attack, those were informed by unclassified talking points that were provided to the Congress and the other agencies in the rest of the administration by the intelligence community,” Rhodes expanded. “So that’s what informed our public statements. Now if there were adjustments to them made by the intelligence community, that’s common and that’s something they would have done themselves.”

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