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Opinion

Fox News report raises new questions about Benghazi attack talking points

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,CIA,Fox News,Benghazi,Libya,Charles Hoskinson

One of the key questions about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans was why Obama administration officials insisted for so long on calling them the result of spontaneous demonstrations rather than a planned terrorist strike, as they turned out to have been.

A new Fox News report suggests former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell removed any mention of terrorism from administration talking points about the attacks for political reasons.

The report quotes findings from a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation released Jan. 15 that say Morell edited the administration talking points to cut about half the text, including references to any prior warnings to the State Department. "The word 'Islamic' was cut, but 'demonstrations' stayed in," the Fox report noted.

This occurred on Sept. 15, 2012, four days after the attacks and the same day the CIA received an email from its station chief in Libya insisting they were not an escalation of protests as administration officials had been saying.

Republicans on the Senate intelligence panel slammed Morell in the report for being dishonest with the committee and raised the possibility that politics had played a role in the editing process.

But Morell, in a statement to Fox, said the Senate report "...strongly supports the CIA's long-standing position — that neither the unclassified talking points nor the classified analysis on which they were based were in any way politicized. While not perfect, neither the talking points, nor the analysis, were produced with any political agenda in mind. None. Both the analysis and the talking points represented the view of analysts at the time — a view that evolved in the days that followed as more information became available."

But the key question remains unanswered: Where did the idea of blaming the attacks on a spontaneous protest come from?

Who drafted the first version citing the demonstrations of the White House talking points on which then U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice based her controversial statements on Sunday television news shows in the aftermath of the attacks?

There's never been any clear evidence that a protest led to the attacks which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, while proof that the attacks were a planned terrorist strike has been mounting.

Even a recent New York Times investigation that concluded the attack were "fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam" contained reporting indicating the protests were organized and guided by people who had planned all along to attack the two U.S. compounds in Benghazi.

It's time for the administration to come clean on this important issue.

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