If this week made anything clear about Benghazi, it's that the issue isn't going away anytime soon. The latest development is that ABC News got its hands on 12 different versions of talking points and emails that show how the CIA's initial draft on what happened got edited before being made public by ambassador Susan Rice. One bit getting heavy attention is that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland successfully argued to have the draft scrubbed of a reference to "extremists" linked to al-Qaeda because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?" The White House insists that none of the changes were made for political reasons, with only national security staffers involved, and that such revisions are standard practice before any talking points go public.
A sample of how the development is getting played:
- New York Times: The emails "show the White House was more deeply involved in revising talking points about the attack than officials have previously acknowledged." Later, it adds: "Indeed, the e-mails do not reveal major new details about the attack or other discrepancies in the administration’s evolving account of it."
- Associated Press: "The new details suggest a greater degree of political sensitivity and involvement by the White House and State Department."
- Washington Post: Its headline and lead paragraph take a narrower focus. The emails "demonstrate that an intense bureaucratic clash took place between the State Department and the CIA over which agency would get to tell the story of how the tragedy unfolded."
- Weekly Standard: "As intelligence officials pieced together the puzzle of events unfolding in Libya, they concluded even before the assaults had ended that al Qaeda-linked terrorists were involved. Senior administration officials, however, sought to obscure the emerging picture and downplay the significance of attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans," writes Stephen Hayes, who first published some of the State Department emails for the conservative site. (Click the link for a look at some of the actual revisions.)
- Politico: Summing up the rebuttal, it writes that "Democrats have suggested both the ABC report and the congressional hearing reveal little new about the attack and its aftermath and are mere excuses for Republicans to continue attacking President Barack Obama and try to damage Hillary Clinton should she considering running for president."