ABC News Reveals Drafts of Benghazi Talking Points

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Do I have to write about the latest on Benghazi? I guess so. In for a penny, in for a pound.

ABC News now has a complete set of drafts of the infamous “talking points” that were prepared a few days following the Benghazi attacks. The drafts don’t tell us much that we didn’t already know, but here’s a nickel summary:

  • From the very start, the talking points say that the attacks were “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” and then “evolved” into the assaults on the two compounds in Benghazi.
  • The first draft included references to “Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida.” This was eventually sanded down to “extremists” after the State Department pointed out that they had been deliberately withholding this information because “we don’t want to prejudice the investigation.” This is the same thing that David Petraeus told Congress last November.
  • The third draft included an ass-covering paragraph from the CIA making sure everyone knew they had produced “numerous pieces” on possible threats to Benghazi in the previous few months, with the obvious implication that the State Department had ignored them. Unsurprisingly, the State Department’s spokesman, Victoria Nuland, objected to this gratuitous display of bureaucratic point scoring. It was removed in the final draft.

So….nothing much, really. The third bullet point is the only one that’s even tenuously problematic, and it’s not much more than a disclosure of internal backbiting. In any case, it was ultimately removed at a Deputies Committee meeting on Saturday morning that Nuland didn’t attend.

I’m really, really trying to find anything scandalous here. I know I’m biased. But on a scale of 1 to 10, this is about a 1.5. It’s a little bit of unseemly bureaucratic squabbling combined with the usual mushiness that you get when an interagency process produces a series of drafts of sensitive information for public consumption. But I’m sure it calls for impeachment hearings to begin anyway.

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If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

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