References to al-Qaeda and to CIA warnings of terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months before the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility there were deleted from the now famous "talking points" delivered to Congress and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, ABC News reported Friday.
The report cites 12 different versions of the talking points obtained by ABC, from the original CIA draft to the final version. Summaries of State Department e-mails, some of which were first published by Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard, show the documents "extensively edited," the report said. White House e-mails show "extensive input" from the State Department, including requests that all references to Ansar al-Sharia be deleted, as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the September 11 attack. According to the report, deleted portions included this paragraph:
The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador's convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has (sic) previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland objected to that information being included, saying in an e-mail to the White House and intelligence officials that it "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?"
The talking points have been a source of controversy ever since Rice appeared on several Sunday morning talk shows five days after the heavily armed assault in Benghazi killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Rice described the events as growing out of a "spontaneous — not premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo," where hours earlier an angry mob had stormed the U.S. embassy grounds and torn down the U.S. flag in a demonstration reportedly inspired by an American-made anti-Muslim video that had appeared on YouTube.
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