As A.C. Spollen reported yesterday, the White House played a key role in orchestrating talking points about the attack in Benghazi on Sept 11, 2012 that killed Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and at least three other American personnel. As interesting as that news is, when the instructions were issued is just as important.
First, here is Jay Carney getting abused by Jon Karl:
Carney claims that administration officials and members of Congress relied on talking points prepared by the CIA, but that dishonestly glosses the fact that they were directed by White House official Ben Rhodes (Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting)(No, I didn’t make that title up).
According to reports from May, 2013, State Department and White House officials were emailing back and forth on September 14, 2012 with one email at 7:39 PM to, among others Ben Rhodes:
Sept. 14, 7:39 p.m.
Nuland e-mails again, this time raising concerns about giving the media and Congress information that the State Department isn’t making public because they don’t want to prejudice the investigation, including a reference to the extremist group Ansar al-Sharia.
Additionally, Nuland objects to the second-to-last bullet point because it would “feed” congressional criticism of the department by potentially creating the impression that it did not heed CIA warnings.
Now we know that the Rhodes email goes here:
Then, almost an hour later:
Sept. 14, 8:58 p.m.
The CIA circulates a revised draft of the talking points that addresses FBI and State Department concerns. The major change is a removal of references to Ansar al-Sharia so as not to prejudice the investigation. It also softens language about the involvement of Islamic extremists in the demonstrations.
Jay Carney denies that the Rhodes email is relevant.
Carney says new Rhodes email wasn’t released earlier because it was “explicitly not about Benghazi”
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) April 30, 2014
While the Rhodes letter does claim to be put the Benghazi attack in the context of other events around the region, the administration already knew the Benghazi attack was different, and without that attack, there would have been no reason for the frantic explanations.