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The talking points timeline

Posted by on May. 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM
  • 5 Replies
1 mom liked this

Can be read here

http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/Benghazi%20Talking%20Points%20Timeline.pdf


May 10, 2013

Spinning Benghazi





carney-libya-580.jpg

It’s a cliché, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.

On Friday, ABC News’s Jonathan Karl revealed the details of the editing process for the C.I.A.’s talking points about the attack, including the edits themselves and some of the reasons a State Department spokeswoman gave for requesting those edits. It’s striking to see the twelve different iterations that the talking points went through before they were released to Congress and to United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who used them in Sunday show appearances that became a central focus of Republicans’ criticism of the Administration’s public response to the attacks. Over the course of about twenty-four hours, the remarks evolved from something specific and fairly detailed into a bland, vague mush.

From the very beginning of the editing process, the talking points contained the erroneous assertion that the attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved.” That’s an important fact, because the right has always criticized the Administration based on the suggestion that the C.I.A. and the State Department, contrary to what they said, knew that the attack was not spontaneous and not an outgrowth of a demonstration. But everything else about the changes that were made is problematic. The initial draft revealed by Karl mentions “at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi” before the one in which four Americans were killed. That’s not in the final version. Nor is this: “[W]e do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.” That was replaced by the more tepid “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” (Even if we accept the argument that State wanted to be sure that extremists were involved, and that they could be linked to Al Qaeda, before saying so with any level of certainty—which is reasonable and supported by evidence from Karl’s reporting—that doesn’t fully explain these changes away.)

Democrats will argue that the editing process wasn’t motivated by a desire to protect Obama’s record on fighting Al Qaeda in the run-up to the 2012 election. They have a point; based on what we’ve seen from Karl’s report, the process that went into creating and then changing the talking points seems to have been driven in large measure by two parts of the government—C.I.A. and State—trying to make sure the blame for the attacks and the failure to protect American personnel in Benghazi fell on the other guy.

But the mere existence of the edits—whatever the motivation for them—seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue. This past November (after Election Day), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

Remarkably, Carney is sticking with that line even now. In his regular press briefing on Friday afternoon (a briefing that was delayed several times, presumably in part so the White House could get its spin in order, but also so that it could hold a secretive pre-briefing briefing with select members of the White House press corps), he said:

The only edit made by the White House or the State Department to those talking points generated by the C.I.A. was a change from referring to the facility that was attacked in Benghazi from “consulate,” because it was not a consulate, to “diplomatic post”… it was a matter of non-substantive factual correction. But there was a process leading up to that that involved inputs from a lot of agencies, as is always the case in a situation like this and is always appropriate.

This is an incredible thing for Carney to be saying. He’s playing semantic games, telling a roomful of journalists that the definition of editing we’ve all been using is wrong, that the only thing that matters is who’s actually working the keyboard. It’s not quite re-defining the word “is,” or the phrase “sexual relations,” but it’s not all that far off, either.

Photograph of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answering questions during a press briefing on May 10th, by Win McNamee/Getty.

by on May. 12, 2013 at 5:31 PM
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yourspecialkid
by Platinum Member on May. 12, 2013 at 9:12 PM
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 There were 2 waves to the attack with a 2 hr lull between them..from 2-4 am.  The Ambassador and 1 of the others were killed in the first wave.  The other 2 were killed in the second wave.  The Deputy Ambassador in Tripoli was told there was not time to bring in military assets....how did the State Department know there wasn't enough time?  Why would they assume this?  There were special forces troops at the embassy in Tripoli.  They could have easily reached Benghazi...as could the forces out of Aviano..before the second wave started at 4.  The State Department left people to die....WHY?

 

DSamuels
by Gold Member on May. 12, 2013 at 9:52 PM

Why indeed. And that's a great point about them saying there wasn't enough time. The thing is there's no way they could know there would be a second attack. It would have been smart to send some people in to prevent another attack. 

Quoting yourspecialkid:

 There were 2 waves to the attack with a 2 hr lull between them..from 2-4 am.  The Ambassador and 1 of the others were killed in the first wave.  The other 2 were killed in the second wave.  The Deputy Ambassador in Tripoli was told there was not time to bring in military assets....how did the State Department know there wasn't enough time?  Why would they assume this?  There were special forces troops at the embassy in Tripoli.  They could have easily reached Benghazi...as could the forces out of Aviano..before the second wave started at 4.  The State Department left people to die....WHY?

 


Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on May. 12, 2013 at 10:20 PM

I want to preface this reply by stating that I'm still teetering on what is really going on.

Benghazi: Incompetence, But No Cover-up

The hearings deepen the tragedy, but not the scandal.

There was tragic incompetence, plainly, in the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks, and even possibly some political calculation. It is a record that may well come to haunt Hillary Clinton, the first Secretary of State to lose an ambassador in the field in more than three decades, if she runs for president in 2016.

But the obvious Republican effort to turn this inquiry into the Democratic (Obama) version of the Iraq intelligence scandal that has tarred the GOP since the George W. Bush years -- led by that least-credible of champions, the almost-always-wrong Darrell Issa -- is just not going to amount to much.

The testimony Wednesday by three highly credible witnesses before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee added to the serious questions that have been raised for months about Benghazi. Last December, Clinton’s own “Accountability Review Board” --- chaired by two major national-security figures, retired Amb. Thomas R. Pickering and Adm. Michael Mullen—detailed a broad failure of U.S. intelligence and policy-making over the deaths of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Statements and testimony in recent days from the three State Department officials, led by Stevens’ former deputy in Libya, Gregory Hicks, only appeared to underline the administration’s failure to take action, futile though it might have been, to save the lives of its emissaries. Hicks, in prepared testimony, said the U.S. military turned down his request for help during the attack, both special operations troops and F-16 fighters. Another witness, Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations at the State Department, was expected to say that Hillary Clinton sought to cut her department’s counterterrorism bureau out of the chain of decision-making, suggesting that she was downplaying the rise of terrorism in keeping with the administration’s political line during the 2012 presidential campaign (which Clinton has already denied). The last witness, Eric Nordstrom, the diplomatic outpost’s former chief security officer, has said that the Benghazi compound failed to meet security standards despite serious security threats.

The most moving -- if still-not-quite scandalous -- testimony came from Hicks, who described how he virtually begged for help as Stevens and his colleagues were being killed that night of Sept. 11, 2012. The help never came. The administration’s response has been that Hicks, a diplomat, is no expert in military capabilities, and his allegations have already been directly rebutted by both Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, and former Defense Sec. Leon Panetta. Dempsey testified in February that it would have taken “up to 20 hours or so” to get F-16s to the site, and he called them “the wrong tool for the job.” Panetta testified that “the bottom line” is that “we were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response, very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region. Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.”

The military may yet have more to answer for as it conducts its own internal followup. And, without question, all of these statements Wednesday tend to bolster the critique of last year’s State Department report, which concluded that the administration had failed to appreciate the growing Islamist threat in Libya. As the report put it, “there was little understanding of militias in Benghazi and the threat they posed to U.S. interests.”

What there is still no evidence of, however, all these months later, is a deliberate cover-up by Obama, Clinton or other senior officials concerning what they knew about the attack and when. As occurred last fall, in the heat of the presidential campaign, much of the questioning on Wednesday focused on why four days after the attacks, on Sept. 15, intel briefers sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice off to tape the Sunday talk shows with talking points that suggested Stevens’ death was the result of “spontaneous” protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against a short film made in California lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.  According to Hicks, in a phone call after Rice’s appearance he specifically asked Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary of State for the region, “why the ambassador had said there was a demonstration when the embassy had reported only an attack.” Hicks had said previously he thought what happened was “a terrorist attack from the get-go.”

Hicks' testimony appeared to lend credence to longstanding GOP charges that the administration was deliberately hiding evidence that new al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups were at work killing Americans, since one of the president’s big talking points in the election was that he had decimated al Qaida.

In fact, however, even today it is not clear exactly what happened to precipitate the Benghazi attack, and Libya remains somewhat in a “fog of war” situation just as it was during the Benghazi attacks. It was only a week ago that the FBI posted images of three suspects captured by surveillance cameras the night of the attack, asking the public's help in identifying them. Just two weeks ago the French embassy in Tripoli was hit by a mysterious car bomb, injuring two guards.

Intelligence officials say it took a week or so after Rice’s TV appearances to clarify, for certain, that there had been no protest before the assault on the compound —and that, as the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement on Sept. 28, two weeks after Rice spoke, that “it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.”

The intelligence community continues to maintain the same defense: that at the time of Rice’s appearance it simply did not have a good grasp of what had happened, and in some cases could not divulge classified information that was coming in about the attack. “The [talking] points were not edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack,” a U.S. official told National Journal on Wednesday. “ It is important not to overlook that there are legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly.   First, the information about individuals linked to al-Qaeda was derived from classified sources.   Second, when early links are tenuous it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers to avoid setting off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions and reporting.  Finally, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages.” And Rice, to her credit, did say that Sunday  that her statement was “based on the best information we have to date.” She also referred to “extremist elements, individuals, [who] joined in …”

All this will no doubt come back to haunt Hillary Clinton should she decide to run for president; in some cases, she appeared to have been too removed from the  events in Benghazi. Hicks at one point testified that that he personally spoke to Clinton at 2 a.m. on the night of the attacks, which makes the administration’s vague description in subsequent days even more suspicious.

But that hardly adds up to a cover-up. In the end, Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, may find himself digging yet another dry well, as he has done so many times. Even before he took over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with zero evidence in hand, Issa called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” In his relentless search for evidence (and headlines) since, he has found nothing to back up that statement, including his highly publicized and largely fruitless hearings last June into the  the Justice Department’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking program.

Benghazi was a tragedy. It will, almost certainly, remain a political issue. What it is not – by a long shot -- is a scandal yet.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on May. 12, 2013 at 10:29 PM

What Did Who Know?

The slow unfolding of the Benghazi story is not all that different from the course taken by what might be the most serious scandal the Obama administration has suffered to date, the bungled gun-swapping operation known as Fast and Furious, suggests Scott Basinger, a University of Houston political scientist.

"Interest focused initially on who approved of allowing guns to be taken across the border into Mexico, but then it became a question of what did [Attorney General] Eric Holder know, and when did he know it," Basinger says.

That, of course, is a reference to the famous question posed by Howard Baker during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, as a special committee sought to ascertain whether President Richard M. Nixon had personal involvement in a cover-up.

In so many scandals since — the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, the Whitewater investigation and the subsequent news that President Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern — press coverage and legal interest veered far from the initial transgression to the question of who knew what when.

"In every scandal, first there has to be a transgression," Basinger says. "Second, there has to be some denial of that transgression."

jaxTheMomm
by Platinum Member on May. 12, 2013 at 11:31 PM
1 mom liked this
I don't think they send people in until they have some kind of real idea of what's going on. And then they ensure that the folks they are sending in have the right training and equipment.


Quoting DSamuels:

Why indeed. And that's a great point about them saying there wasn't enough time. The thing is there's no way they could know there would be a second attack. It would have been smart to send some people in to prevent another attack. 

Quoting yourspecialkid:

 There were 2 waves to the attack with a 2 hr lull between them..from 2-4 am.  The Ambassador and 1 of the others were killed in the first wave.  The other 2 were killed in the second wave.  The Deputy Ambassador in Tripoli was told there was not time to bring in military assets....how did the State Department know there wasn't enough time?  Why would they assume this?  There were special forces troops at the embassy in Tripoli.  They could have easily reached Benghazi...as could the forces out of Aviano..before the second wave started at 4.  The State Department left people to die....WHY?


 



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