House Intel Chair: 'Appointees from Administration' Changed Rice's Talking Points

Susan Jones | November 19, 2012 | 6:42am EST
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Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) chairs the House Select Committee on Intelligence. (AP Photo)

( - Who changed the CIA talking points to minimize the fact that terrorists were behind the attack on the U.S. outposts in Benghazi?

When Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., went on five Sunday talk shows five days later, she was still blaming the attack on a spontaneous protest over an obscure anti-Islam video.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, says the unclassified talking points put together by the CIA changed when they got to administration appointees:

"[T]here was not an intelligence failure," Rogers told "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"The intelligence community had it right, and they had it right early. What happened was it worked its way up through the system of the so-called talking points, which everyone refers to, and then it went up to what’s called a deputy’s committee...It went to the so-called deputy’s committee, that’s populated by appointees from the administration.  That’s where the narrative changed.  And so how that thing got back to (Susan) Rice, I think, is probably another question."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate intelligence committee, appeared with Rogers on "Meet the Press." She was asked why the CIA called the attack terrorism from the beginning -- but Rice did not:

"Because she could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points," Feinstein said. There was concern about naming a terrorist group "until we had some certainty," Feinstein explained.

"Now, with the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false," Feinstein said. "There is only one thing that was changed, and I’ve checked into this.  I believe it to be absolute fact.  And that was the word 'consulate' was changed to 'mission'.  That’s the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out."

Asked why the reference to terrorism was removed from the unclassified talking points, Feinstein said, "That is something we're going to find out."

"Well, where -- where this went awry is anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view.  I mean, that’s pretty -- pretty clear.  Also the other point was, once the video was put together, it was clear there was no demonstration.  This should have been known much earlier.  It also raises the concern of talking points by committee. And I have some concern about that."

"We are going to find out who made changes in the original statement," Feinstein said. "Until we do, I really think it’s unwarranted to make accusations."

'References to al Qaeda were removed by somebody'

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that he tried to find out who changed the talking points:

"At the hearing we had on Thursday and Friday, we had every leader of the intelligence community there, including folks from the State Department, the FBI -- everybody there was asked, 'Do you know who made these changes?' And nobody knew. The only entity that reviewed the talking points that was not there was the White House.

"So, you know, I don't know whether -- what they said yesterday is exactly right or not. But, what I do know is that every member of the intelligence community says that references to al Qaeda were removed by somebody, and they don't know who. And references to attacks versus demonstrations were removed by somebody."

Asked if the Senate Intelligence Committee will call Rice to testify, Chambliss said, "I don't know the answer to that question right now." He said he'll discuss it with committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He also said Rice is "going to have to come in and testify at some point, whether it's in a closed hearing or an open hearing."

At some point, Chambliss added, "She needs to come in and say what the president or the White House directed her to say."

Sen. Feinstein said she's read transcripts of every one of the five Sunday talk show interviews Susan Rice gave on Sept. 16 -- when Rice insisted the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration against a video.

Feinstein said Rice was "within the context" of the talking points put together by the intelligence community, Feinstein said. "And for this, she has been pilloried for two months."

On ABC's "This Week," House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the talking points changed after they left the CIA: "[S]omewhere after it left the intelligence community, somewhere in the administration, there was very vital language taken out."

King said when the unclassified talking points were sent to the administration -- "we don't know whether it was the White House, the National Security Council, the Justice Department or the Defense Department -- that language was changed. That was not the language that was sent over by the intelligence community."

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