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Lawmakers Have More Questions On Benghazi Talking Points

Lawmakers want to know who made changes to the intelligence assessment of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Congress had asked the White House to explain the Obama administration's talking points in the aftermath of the attack.

"We gave the direction yesterday that this whole process is going to be checked out," said Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee. "We're going to find out who made changes in the original statement. Until we do, I really think it's unwarranted to make accusations."

For days after the attack, top administration officials blamed the violence on protests against an anti-Muslim film. The attack killed the U.S. ambassador to the country and three other Americans.

But Gen. David Petraeus, the CIA director at the time, told lawmakers last Friday it was clear right from the start the Benghazi attack was carried out by terrorists.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"Administration officials have defended the portrayal of the attack as relying on the best information available at the time that didn't compromise classified intelligence. Democrats say CIA and other intelligence officials signed off on the final talking points.

"Republicans have alleged a Watergate-like cover up, accusing White House aides of hiding the terrorism link in the run-up to the Nov. 6 presidential election so voters wouldn't question Obama's claim that al-Qaida's power had diminished."

Petraeus' closed-door testimony last week caused much consternation among lawmakers. As Eyder reported Friday on this blog, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News that someone in the administration changed the talking points approved by the intelligence community in order to minimize the role terrorists played in the attack. Those talking points are the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., who has come under attack for her comments in the wake of the Benghazi attack.

But a senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the talking points told NPR's Tom Gjelten last week the unclassified talking points were drafted by the CIA, and reflected "what it believed at that point in time."

As the AP reports, lawmakers who attended the Petraeus hearing said the former CIA chief said the reference to al-Qaida was removed from the final version of the talking points, though he wasn't sure which federal agency deleted it.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she expects the panel to hold at least three more hearings on the matter.

"It took 17 days for the director of national intelligence even to issue a statement to say that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack," she said on CBS' Face the Nation. "That's unacceptable in today's environment."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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