Four days after the attacks on 9/11 anniversary attacks in Benghazi, Libya, the U.S. intelligence community knew very little about who did it, how it happened, and whether it was planned or not, according to 100 pages of internal emails released Wednesday afternoon by the White House.
Those emails provide the clearest record to date of the genesis of government-wide talking points for senior Obama administration officials that asserted that the Benghazi attacks stemmed from a demonstration that never occurred.
House Republicans have been calling for weeks for the White House to release the emails, claiming in a report issued last month from Republican leadership that the emails show the edits to the talking points were not done to protect classified information as the White House initially claimed.
The talking points were first generated by the CIA for a briefing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Nonetheless, the emails themselves raise more questions than they answer. For example, there is extensive discussion on the evening of September 14 about whether the talking points should mention Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist militia the original CIA draft stated was a likely participant in the attacks. Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman at the time, asked whether or not mentioning the group would prejudice the investigation, and the FBI in later emails did not object. Still, the final version excised the reference to the Ansar al-Sharia as well as a reference to Facebook posts the group had created suggesting a link to the attacks.
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