On Wednesday, former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. He was grilled over the infamous administration "talking points," which were revised to exclude references to terrorism, Al Qaeda, and security warnings that were ignored leading up to the deadly raid. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes discussed what happened on Special Report, noting that Morell was forced to change and clarify previous statements he'd made on these subjects:
Among other things, Morell had previously claimed that the FBI, rather than the CIA, had been responsible for some of the edits, and had failed to acknowledge that he himself had made a number of the changes. His current story is that although CIA operatives on the ground in Libya reported that the multi-wave assault was a coordinated terrorist attack "from the get-go," that assessment was overruled by CIA analysts at Langley. Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson provides additional insights and context:
The formulation of the talking points has been a key point of confusion and a story that has greatly evolved over time. On Fri. Nov. 16, 2012, Petraeus told members of Congress that it wasn't the CIA that revised the talking points to remove controversial references to “terrorism” and “al Qaeda.” The White House and the State Department said it wasn't them. The CIA then told reporters that the edits were made at a "senior level in the interagency process” so as not to tip off al Qaeda as to what the U.S. knew, and to protect sources and methods. Soon thereafter, another reason was given. A source from the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) told CBS News' Margaret Brennan that ODNI made the edits as part of the interagency process because the links to al Qaeda were deemed too "tenuous" to make public. Then, in November of 2012, Morell provided yet another account. In a meeting with Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Morell stated that he believed it was the FBI that removed the references "to prevent compromising an ongoing criminal investigation." But it was just a matter of hours before there was yet another revision. A C.I.A. official contacted Graham and stated that Morell "misspoke" in the earlier meeting and that it was, in fact, the C.I.A., not the F.B.I., that deleted the al Qaeda references. "They were unable to give a reason as to why," stated Graham at the time. After retiring from the C.IA. last year, Morell was hired as counsel to Beacon Global Strategies, a communications firm operated primarily by former Obama administration and Hillary Clinton officials.
That last nugget is interesting, isn't it? Though Morell's statements painted the least damaging picture Team Hillary could have hoped for, he did confirm that the State Department was "very upset" over initial language in the talking points acknowledging that warning signs had been missed or disregarded:
Those references were scrubbed because the State Department didn't want to be "thrown under the bus." But hadn't they earned that criticism? They denied repeated requests for more security in Libya, they pulled existing resources out of the country, and they recklessly kept their people both in Benghazi and under-protected, even after a series of attacks on Western targets (including our own mission) in the months leading up to the deadly terrorist blitz. They even renewed their lease on the Benghazi mission, including a waiver that allowed the acting consulate to operate below minimum security standards. In other words, they had missed signals, and they did make terrible decisions that led to four dead Americans. But they didn't want the political blowback from their failures, so the "official" story was sanitized -- replete with misleading references to "spontaneous protests" and an obscure, largely irrelevant video. Morell's testimony also refuted a New York Times story that purported to prove that Al Qaeda had no involvement in the Benghazi attacks. That misinformation has been completely debunked by other media outlets, numerous witnesses and a bipartisan Senate report. The same report concluded that the lethal raid could have been prevented, and that red flags were ignored -- precisely the verdict the administration was desperate to obfuscate shortly before a presidential election. Another question: Even if there was initial confusion and disagreement over whether Benghazi was an act of terrorism, how were those discrepancies not cleared up and accurately resolved before Susan Rice made her inaccurate statements on national television days later? More than 18 months after Amb. Chris Stevens and three fellow Americans were assassinated in an Al Qaeda-affiliated attack on the anniversary of 9/11, zero people have been held accountable for what happened -- neither in DC, nor in northern Africa.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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