How CIA's 94 Words on Benghazi Got It So Wrong

'WSJ' looks at how the CIA's consulate-attack talking points came to be

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 4, 2012 8:29 AM CST

(Newser) – The Wall Street Journal today takes a look at the life and death of 94 little words: the heavily edited and ultimately faulty Benghazi talking points compiled by the CIA in the wake of the consulate attack.

  • Just a day after the attack, the CIA's reports were already referencing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb.
  • The following day, David Petraeus appeared before House and Senate groups; he, too, mentioned the terrorists, and was asked to compile unclassified talking points that Congress could use.
  • By noon on Sept. 14, a draft was circulating—and it referenced al-Qaeda.

  • But an exhausting process of editing followed, with more than two dozen CIA officials weighing in on the copy over email—and battling about the inclusion of al-Qaeda.
  • Those opposed argued it should be removed because the intel was shaky (sourced from intercepted phone calls) and over fears it could alert al-Qaeda members to the fact that they were being watched. The opponents won out, though the term "extremists" remained; the FBI agreed with the call. It also contained this line: "The demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo."
  • On Sept. 15, the CIA station chief in Tripoli began to voice his concern with the assertions that the attack was both spontaneous and that demonstrations were occurring. He sent the CIA an email summarizing his thoughts the next day—but Susan Rice had already been hand-delivered the 94 fateful words the night before, so that she could prep for her news show appearances.
Click for the Journal's full take, which charts the ultimate change in the CIA's assessment.

Soot and debris spills out of the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.
Soot and debris spills out of the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.   (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
A burnt car is seen after an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.
A burnt car is seen after an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.   (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
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