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Report: Benghazi 'Talking Points' Watered Down By CIA, Not White House

"A highly cautious, bureaucratic process that had the effect of watering down the U.S.'s own intelligence" led to the controversial "talking points" that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used when she spoke about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, The Wall Street Journal reports this morning.

In a story based on interviews of "officials from a cross-section of agencies who had direct knowledge of the deliberations," the Journal adds more reporting to the picture of why Rice on Sept. 16 said on Sunday talk shows that "extremist elements" may have been involved in the attack — but did not refer to them as terrorists or say they were connected to al-Qaida.

Rice's words have led several prominent Republican senators to say they would oppose her nomination to be secretary of state if President Obama puts her name forward for that post. They question whether the Obama administration deliberately tried to downplay the role of terrorists in the attack because of the rapidly approaching presidential election.

According to the Journal:

"The officials said the first draft of the talking points had a reference to al Qaeda but it was removed by the Central Intelligence Agency, to protect sources and protect investigations, before the talking points were shared with the White House. No evidence has so far emerged that the White House interfered to tone down the public intelligence assessment, despite the attention the charge has received."

That account would seem to parallel what former CIA Director David Petraeus reportedly told members of Congress last month.

(Note: NPR follows Associated Press style on the spelling of al-Qaida. The Journal and other organizations do not.)
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