Transcript for Benghazi Documents Scrubbed of Terror Reference: ABC News Digital Report
This is a special report from ABC news. Hello when I'm down Cutler -- new -- this ABC news digital special report the State Department and the White House under scrutiny today over last year's attack. On the US consulate in Libya -- ABC news exclusive investigation revealed documents that show the State Department. Requested changes to a CIA memo deleting all references to previous warnings. About al-Qaeda and the terrorism threat in Libya. Right now I'm gonna bring an ABC's senior White House correspondent Jonathan Karl who reported this ABC news exclusive. John thank you being with us today walk us through if you can this timeline change after change after change to these talking points. And I want to put it up so we can see exactly what it is we're talking about on this first memo. It reads -- crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qaeda participated. In the attack now they were revisions to that correct after nine times. There were revisions are actually I have seen a total of twelve different versions of these talking points and remember this is all leading off. To what's Susan Rice would be saying when she went on those five Sunday shows. And you seated at the beginning that the draft that was not entirely by the CIA. Is quite long and includes not only what you put in -- of the references. To al-Qaeda also includes references to how the CIA had issued warnings. About the terror threat in Benghazi in -- eastern Libya and about how they're didn't separate attacks UC. As this went on. The BP document got smaller and smaller and smaller and those. References were left out you really just left with -- sexually. What Susan Rice sat on the Sunday shows which is that this was a spontaneous attack. Responding. To you what would -- in Cairo with those protests and what initially did the US ambassador to the UN say that -- that information being compiled based on the CIA intelligence at the time correct that was. That was -- the sourcing. Yes -- that this is important because -- rice said what she sedated and very quickly it became apparent. That was inaccurate that this was. A very big attack that was clearly well orchestrated well planned. That was kept conducted by hardened terrorists there were no protests and been Ghazi at all. Before the attack so -- -- when that came out what the White House said over and over again was look. You can't blame ambassador rice she was working solely. On talking points that were prepared by the CIA this was the intelligence community that was their assessment at the time as they learns new things the assessment changed. And -- now now we know what. You know what actually happened but now what you see is. Stated facts although the CIA was the principal agency drafting these talking points there was extensive input from the administration. Specifically from the State Department and from the spokesperson. For the State Department. -- wanted to see those al-Qaeda reference is taken out and those warnings from the CIA about earlier terror threats taken out. And check you're talking about Victoria -- and I wanted to bring every email that she had release she sent a couple of emails after those first few edits were made. Apparently still upset that his talking points included the al-Qaeda language even after those first few rounds of edits were made and this is what her email it said. Quote these changes don't resolve all of -- issues or those of my buildings leadership now presumably. She was angling to deflect blame away from the state department for those statements. Well it certainly looks that way and in of course some people have seized on -- that phrase might buildings leadership. At the time filled that the ultimate leader that building was secretary of state Hillary Clinton. But you -- newly and it was it will what we when you look at the email exchanges she was clearly concerned. That the CIA was trying to deflect blame and say look we we warned that there were terrorist threats you know and essentially that was the state department's fault. And she wanted to to see that stuff taken out and ultimately. You know obviously it was taken out is there an argument be made either by the State Department -- the White House the fact that those kinds of emails. We're being created for the fact that they were handling sensitive language. -- -- there's no question I mean I -- actually very clear I'm not saying there was a cover up here what what I what we have here is a very unusual opportunity we have a window. Into how what the administration was prepared to say. About this terrorist attack how it evolved over the course of of of of time twelve versions -- input from the from the CIA from the State Department from the White House from the FBI from all the agencies but would Victorian -- -- was saying. Was in part. Did she. -- didn't think it did did it would be good to name al-Qaeda or the related group aunts are all -- -- Because it would prejudice the investigation the investigation. Was still under -- fact that you know -- the FBI didn't get people on the ground and been Ghazi for three weeks after the attack. The investigation really in some ways wasn't even under way yet. And you know she was saying that. If we come out we save these guys are responsible for what were prejudicing an investigation hasn't really got under -- at the White -- -- where the spokesman Jay Carney had. Had gone out and and emphatically emphasize the points that that those statements that were being made. The White House is now having to walk this back will they be able to justify those earlier statements that -- Terry Carney made. I think there -- some -- some tough questions about this because. Jay Carney did say. Did these talking points. We're drafted almost entirely by the CIA fact at one point back in November of last year. What he told us is that. The White House and the State Department. Only changed a single word in the talking points at one point. -- -- instead of referring to the Ben Ghazi consulate referring to the Ben Ghazi diplomatic facility. And he said that was the only change -- either the White House or the State Department had made. Now narrowly that may be true because ultimately -- -- it was the CIA that was actually holding the -- -- in making the corrections but it's very clear. It substance substantive changes deleting all the stuff we just talked about happened after the State Department -- those references be deleted. And we of course you know we're talking about so much of the attention being put on the investigation. And lead -- hearings on Capitol Hill about that attack on the consulate and -- -- then secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Had presented before the committee she was incredibly strong and very defensive. On the statements that were made -- I don't want to play a sound -- from that hearing on Capitol Hill in January. The fact is we have four dead Americans what I'd had a right protest it was a because of guys out for a walk when not decide they go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make. It is our job to figure out what happen and do everything we -- to prevent it from ever happening again senator now. Honestly. I would do my best answer questions about this but the the fact is that. People were trying in real time to get to the best information the IC has a process I understand going with the other committees. To explain how these talking points came out but. You note to be clear it is. From my perspective less important today looking backwards as to why these militants. Decided they did it then to find them and bring them to justice. John that was an incredibly strong statement made that day during that hearing and I think it's certainly begs the question is there a possibility. That she may be called again to testify given these revelations. I've heard nothing on that I don't know if that happened but it but I I thank you for playing the entire statement there from from Hillary Clinton and and I have to say. You know she she makes -- a very good point which is this whole debate over the talking points in the development of the talking points. Doesn't get to what is it. You're the most important issue which is why did this attack happened and how was it before Americans were killed one. Can be done to protect. You know diplomatic facilities from something like this happening in the future. That is ultimately the most important question and nothing in in this debate over over how the talking points -- put together really get -- that this gets that. To whether or not the administration. Has been entirely forthcoming. In what we knew at the time and that's an important question to. But it but he doesn't mean none of this really I guess the question of of how four Americans. Ultimately ended up getting killed in an attack on a diplomatic facility which is which is the crew which is the crux of -- of the focus on all of this what has on the White House in the state department's response -- days. Well the other White House says now -- and we'll hear more from Jay Carney today. What they have said is -- it's. A -- -- pointed out that did look the CIA. Signed off on these talking points. I dates. That the CIA alternately road each and every one of those. Though those vision to those versions. And it you know of course there was input from other agencies including the State Department but it was ultimately a CIA product that's a little differently in. They've been saying they'd side that neither the White House to a State Department made any changes in and it didn't -- -- the question of who was holding the pen at the time. Which is not necessarily of the most important question clearly. The State Department raised serious concerns wanted changes -- those talking points wanted this stuff taken out and it was taken out. -- editor of us who wish to see what the White House the State Department we'll continue one. Was a response from that ABC's chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl Jon thank you so much. Excellent reporting of course you can read -- exclusive story and all the updates right here on abcnews.com. For now on -- Cutler in New York. With this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from ABC news.
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