Libya 'talking points' were heavily edited by the CIA, Wall Street Journal reports


An armed man waves his rifle after buildings and cars were set on fire inside the US Consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11.



The Libya attack "talking points" were "heavily watered down" by the CIA before being passed along to the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The 94-word intelligence brief about the September 11 embassy attack in Benghazi was used by UN ambassador Susan Rice in the days following the incident. It was reportedly the result of "a daylong email debate between more than two dozen intelligence officials, in which they contested and whittled the available evidence into a bland summary with no reference to al Qaeda," the Journal reported. 

On Sunday talk shows September 16, Rice said that "extremist elements" may have been involved in the attack, but did not make mention of Al Qaeda, NPR reported. The move has caused several prominent Republican senators to oppose her potential appointment as the country's new secretary of state. 

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According to interviews with "officials from a cross-section of agencies who had direct knowledge of the deliberations," the Journal found that the US intelligence was "watered down," writing:  

A detailed examination of how US assessments were turned into the talking points reveals a highly cautious, bureaucratic process that had the effect of watering down the US's own intelligence. The same process was slow to change conclusions when evidence shifted, in particular about links to al Qaeda and whether the attack grew out of a protest.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, acting CIA Director Michael Morell, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen all reportedly denied altering the talking points during a closed-door session about the Libya intelligence, two anonymous congressional sources told Reuters

The CIA then admitted to cutting the Al Qaeda reference days later. 

"There was never any effort or intent to mislead or deceive. This was a complicated and imperfect coordination process, and no single person had all the information on the edits," a senior US intelligence official told Reuters. "At the end of that process, however, the final version was signed off on by all the appropriate people at CIA and throughout the interagency."

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