After intelligence community officials told lawmakers last week they weren’t sure who deleted references to al Qaeda from the talking points for Congress written by the CIA about the Benghazi, Libya, attack, the finger is now pointed back at them.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of Intelligence, explained to the media on Monday that someone in the intelligence community itself made the changes.
The House Intelligence Committee now wants clear answers from the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
“The statement released Monday evening by the DNI's spokesman regarding how the Intelligence Community's talking points were changed gives a new explanation that differs significantly from information provided in testimony to the Committee last week,” Susan Phalen, spokeswoman for the House Intelligence Committee, wrote in an email. “Chairman [Mike] Rogers looks forward to discussing this new explanation with Director Clapper as soon as possible to understand how the DNI reached this conclusion and why leaders of the Intelligence Community testified late last week that they were unaware of who changed the talking points.”
Turner hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment. However, he told CNN that those outside the intelligence community did not substantively change the Benghazi talking points.
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U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans perished when the consulate came under heavy attack on Sept. 11. There was confusion in the immediate aftermath about whether the incident was a terror attack. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice initially called the attack a spontaneous response to an American-made video on YouTube judged blasphemous by many Muslims. U.S. authorities later said that it was instead a terrorist attack.
Additionally, lawmakers found that there were a series of security incidents months before the September assault, with repeated requests made for additional security, which was denied.
Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus on Friday testified in closed-door hearings that he believed all along al Qaeda and its affiliates were behind the attack. He further said the names of militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were replaced with the word “extremists” in the final draft, but Petraeus is unaware who made that change.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has already cleared both the White House and the State Department, saying the only edit to the talking points made by the two “was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate.”