Shawn Turner, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), is the latest figure to come forward and try to explain the conflicting information regarding the Obama administration’s initial statement on the Benghazi attack. In a statement reported by CNN, Turner sought to defuse the story that the White House was responsible for changing the talking points that UN Ambassador Rice used to give the administration's version of the Benghazi attack.
Quoting Turner, CNN reported “the intelligence community made substantive, analytical changes before the talking points were sent to government agency partners for their feedback,” referring to the White House, Justice Department, State Department, Pentagon and FBI. “There were no substantive changes made to the talking points after they left the intelligence community.”
Another day and more confusion around the Benghazi attack. At some point, someone has to come forward and make a simple statement acknowledging that they made a mistake, then move on to lessons learned and the implementation of improved security and communication processes. For the American public, I think a large protion of the population would accept a heartfelt "We screwed up.”
As violence escalates in Libya, Turner’s statement comes at a time when the investigation and pursuit of the terrorists who committed the crime is becoming more problematic, as evidenced by the assassination of Benghazi Security Director Faraj Mohammed al-Drissi.
Is Turner's statement enough to to force critics of UN Ambassador Susan Rice, like Senators John McCain (Ariz.), Kelly Ayote (N.H.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) to back off and possibly turn their attention to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper? If they are truly looking for the party responsible for misleading the American public, it would appear that the intelligence office is willing to take the heat for the administration, at least on the surface. Any hope that Republicans may have to force Obama to jettison one of his closest advisers seems to be fading away each and every day.
Or is their goal to keep the Benghazi attack in the forefront of the news cycle, so that they won’t have to capitulate to Obama’s demands to raise taxes on the top 1% of the population in lieu of allowing all taxes (including the payroll tax) to rise at the end of the year?
The latest news cycle on Benghazi began when it was reported that CIA Director General David Petraeus testified on Nov 15 that “the CIA’s original assessment on the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack was that it was carried out by al Qaeda affiliated groups” and that information was included in the original classified talking points. However the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not officially confirm that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists” until several days later. The unclassified talking points that Rice used in her television interviews on September 16 did not include any reference to al-Qaeda and referred to the “assault as a ‘spontaneous’ demonstration by extremists” as a result of the anti-Muslim video Innocence of Muslims.
Rice may still be on the hot seat. In a report released by CBSNews, Turner said “The intelligence community assessed from the very beginning that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.” CBS explained “that information was shared at a classified level, which Rice, as a member of President Obama's cabinet, would have been privy to.”
Another point of contention has to do with why the reference to Al-Qaeda in the classified version of the talking points changed to extremists in the unclassified version. Citing an unnamed “senior U.S. official” CNN reported "First, the information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources. Second, when links were so tenuous, as they still are, it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don't set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages.”
The explanation given by the DNI is not likely to satisfy the politically motivated or genuinely concerned people. House Intelligence Committee spokeswoman Susan Phalen told CBS News, “Chairman Mike Rogers looks forward to discussing this new explanation with Director Clapper as soon as possible.” Rogers appeared on Meet the Press and said “There was some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That's my concern.”