The Seeds of the Benghazi Talking Points
11:04 AM, May 14, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Again, when given the opportunity to connect the Cairo protests with Benghazi and the anti-Muhammad video, the State Department official referred to the lack of "any connection between this internet activity and this extremist attack in Benghazi," not "the protests in Benghazi." This complete absence of "protests" or "demonstrations" in the State Department's discussion of Benghazi makes the revision in the talking points changing "attacks" in the first version to "demonstrations" in the third version even more curious.
A second point of contention regarding the talking point revisions relates to the spontaneous versus planned nature of the attacks and the participation of al Qaeda or al Qaeda affiliates. Andrea Mitchell raised this question early in the briefing:
As the administration has stressed in defense of the early statements, the official declined to confirm or deny the suspected participation of al-Qaeda groups. In fact, Mitchell's question contains the only reference to al Qaeda or "terror" in the entire briefing, and yet the first version of the talking points prepared by the CIA included multiple references to al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is perhaps an early indication of the differences between the State Department and the CIA that would eventually lead to the twelve revisions in the following days.
Regardless, the State Department official did note that "[i]t was clearly a complex attack." In fact, "attack" or "attackers" is used twelve times throughout the briefing. By contrast, in reference to Benghazi, "protest," "demonstration," and "spontaneous" are not used at all.
A third and final point raised over the talking point revisions was the removal of references to prior attacks in Libya in the months leading up to September 11. A questioner raised the issue of prior security incidents at the briefing:
Although the official stated that "we did, as we did in missions around the world, review the security there in the context of preparing for the anniversary of September 11th," an overview of State Department warnings and alerts shows a clear drop off between 2011 and 2012 in 9/11 anniversary warnings.
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