White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes put the blame back on the Central Intelligence Agency when asked about former CIA director David Petraeus’ claim that UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points were edited to downplay al Qaida’s role in the Benghazi terrorist attack.
“[T]he 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,” Rhodes told reporters today during a press gaggle. “Other than that we were guided by the points that were provided by the intelligence community.”
Rhodes did not specifically acknowledge that al Qaida’s name was ever purged from the talking points. “I can’t speak to any other edits that may have been made,” he said.
Petraeus told Congress yesterday that he knew almost immediately of al Qaida’s involvement in the September 11 assault, which claimed the lives of four Americans, and that the original talking points produced by the CIA made that clear.
“The original talking points were much more specific about al Qaida involvement and yet the final one said ‘indications of extremists,’” House Homeland Security Committee chairman Pete King, R-N.Y., said yesterday after a closed door hearing with Petraeus. “It said ‘indicate’ even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was al Qaida involvement.”
Asked why Rice’s talking points differed from Petraeus’ reported understanding of the assault, Rhodes put the blame back on the CIA.
“I can’t speak to what the process is within the CIA,” he said. “What I can say, though, is those points, and what Susan said is that we indicated we believed extremists were involved. The president himself called it an ‘act of terror,’ right?”
Rhodes is referring to Obama’s Rose Garden speech on September 12th. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” Obama said at the opening of his remarks, in an apparent reference to the anti-Islam Youtube video that had supposedly sparked the assault. “But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence”
Towards the end of the speech, after referring to the first September 11 attacks, Obama said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”