The so-called CIA Talking Points were supposed to prove that Susan Rice wasn’t lying when she repeatedly claimed that the Benghazi attack was actually a video protest spun out of control, complete with heavy weapons and multiple waves of attackers. Rice had just been misled by the CIA.
The problem with that was Petraeus. Even before he was forced to resign, the CIA director had not been willing to take the fall for covering up an Al Qaeda attack. After his resignation, he certainly was not willing to fall on his sword and in his testimony insisted that he had always called it an Al Qaeda terrorist attack. And he refused to accept responsibility for the talking points, which had originally mentioned Al Qaeda before they were tampered with.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes admitted that the State Department and the White House had both edited the talking points, but denied that they had edited out Al Qaeda from the talking points, passing the buck back to the CIA.
But once the talking points were being edited by multiple departments and agencies, they are no longer really CIA talking points, but a collaborative effort between the CIA, the State Department and the White House… and other possible departments.
Who edited out mentions of Al Qaeda and emphasized a Mohammed video? Who knows. But it’s doubtful that lower level personnel in the CIA would take the initiative to do so on their own with no real motive. And who would in the CIA would even edit talking points that had already been approved of at the highest levels by the CIA Director, without putting them through an equally painstaking review process.
Any document is going to be in its final version when it is shown to the highest official in an agency. Any changes to it afterward would normally only be those that he or his staff have already suggested. Or those brought about by new intelligence. Neither one applies in this case.
Removing Al Qaeda and emphasizing the video is a diplomatic move, which wasn’t likely to have originated in the CIA. But in a way the talking points and their authorship are a distraction.
Neither Rice nor the White House needed to depend on a set of talking points. They had the same basic intelligence which pointed to Ansar Al-Sharia and to a sustained assault. The talking points are a paper shield for liars.
Ben Rhodes had to have known more than the talking points. Ditto for Rice. And the White House is trying to play a double game. During the second debate, Obama tried to claim that he knew it was a terrorist attack all along. If so why blame the CIA’s talking points for Rice claiming that it wasn’t? The contradiction is irresolvable. If the White House didn’t know more than the talking points, then it’s guilty of a ridiculous level of incompetence. If it did know more than the talking points, then the talking points become nothing more than plausible deniability.