THIS IS A LONG ONE–BUT IT TELLS HOW THE TALKING POINTS WERE FORMALIZED AND WHO DID WHAT
Michael Morell then acting director of the CIA gave an account of his role on Benghazi that was often misleading and sometimes deliberately false. He played in producing the obama adm flawed talking points about the fatal attacks on US facilities. And the misleading answers he gave lawmakers who investigated them.
Six republican members accuse Morell of lying in sworn testimony to congress, that Morell misled them in one on one or small-group meetings about the talking points. Morell now a consultant with Beacon Global Strategies, which is close to Hillary—did not respond to a request for comment.
Three aspects of the controversy are drawing particular interest—
1. Morell’s obfuscation of his central role in rewriting the talking points.
2. Morell’s contention that the FBI in rewrote the talking points
3. Morell’s false claim that the talking points were provided to the white house merely as a heads up and not for coordination.
Within weeks investigators on the senate intel comm. Learned that the unclassified “talking points” provided by the CIA to members of congress and top adm official told a different story than the classified intel. “We were seeing the classified stuff and then we see the unclassified talking points,” recalls one lawmaker with access to the intel. “It just didn’t match up.” Early drafts referred to AQ and attacks while later drafts did not.
11/15/12 four top intel officials appeared before the senate committee to answer questions—Clapper, Olsen, Kennedy, and Morell, Chambliss grilled the officials about changes made to the talking points. “I went down the line. I said: Okay guys did you change the talking points? Every one of them said no.” much of the hearing was devoted to uncovering how the talking points had been put together and who had made the changes. Morell volunteered nothing.
Senator Burr asked each witness if he knew who had been responsible for changing the word “attacks” to “demonstrations”—again denials down the line.
Clapper as the top US intel official was asked if he knew who had revised the talking points. I don’t, the other intel officials also indicated that they didn’t know who had made the changes, but their answer wee nonverbal and thus do not appear in the transcript.
“When US intel officials testified behind closed doors tow weeks ago, they were asked point blank whether they had altered the talking points on which UN ambassador Rice based her comments. A Reuters story on 11/28, “Clapper, Morell and Olsen each said no, according to two congressional sources who spoke on condition of anonymity”. For weeks the official public position was no one knew who had made the changes. In private meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and at CIA headquarters Morell denied that he had played any significant role in writing or revising the talking points.
Members of the congressional oversight committees pressed the white house to turn over emails and other document6s pertaining to the talking points but the adm refused.
Holding up Brennan’s nomination the adm cooperated more fully on Benghazi. Eventually, the white house made available on a “read only” basis nearly 100 pages of emails between top intel and obama adm officials.
Emails given to reporters on May 2013, showed Morell had been a key player in rewriting the talking points. In fact a Sept. 15th email to Rice described a secure video teleconference in which Morell told others on the call that he had rewritten the talking points and would be happy to revise them further in consultation with top advisers to Obama and Clinton. “Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy editing hand to them. He noted that he would be happy to work with Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.”
The messages contradicted claims from Carney and other top adm officials that neither the white house nor the state had played any role in revising the substance of the talking points.
5/10/13, after The Weekly Standard and ABC reported on the emails, a reporter asked Carney “we have had emails showing that he state dept punished back against talking-point language form the CIA and expressed concern about how some of the information would be used politically in congress. You have said the white house only made a stylistic changes her, but these were not stylistic changes. These were content changes. So again what role did the white house play in making but in directing changes that took place to these?” Carney—“the CIA in this case, deputy director—took the process and issued a set of talking points on that Saturday morning and those talking points were disseminated.”
Five days later the white house released the emails, the adm enlisted Morell to participate in two background press briefings. While the emails themselves showed robust and sometimes contentious exchanges between top officials, Morell told reporters that he had been responsible for most of the substantive changes.
Quite a reversal in Nov 2012 Morell had dodged responsibility during congressional hearing s and misled lawmakers in private meetings. Then in May the white house spokesman told the world that Morell had been in charge of the process that produced the talking points and Morell privately told reporters the same things.
In June Morell resigned. Soon he joined the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies (SEE ABOVE—HILLARY CONNECTION) he joined with Jeremy Bash, Michael Allen, Andrew Shapiro and Philippe Reines all connected to white house departments and Hillary.
On 11/27/12 Morell accompanied Rice to Capitol Hill to meet with senators including republican critics of her role in selling the misleading narrative. Morell had been named acting CIA director after the resignation of David Patraeus. Graham, McCain and Ayotte asked Rice why Morell was there “she said: “he will help you understand what was going on with the talking points.’ The first question was “who changed the talking points? Morell responded telling the senators that he FBI had made the revisions. “He told us that the FBI made the changes because they were the ones on the ground talking to people and they didn’t want to jeopardize their investigation”. Graham says Morell implied that the CIA didn’t have enough information to have made the changes, telling the group that the FBI wouldn’t share with the CIA information from their interviews with the survivors.
Graham was surprised, “it was the first itme I’d heard anyone say the FBI.” We were back to pre 9/11 style stove piping. So Graham, called the FB
I leadership to ask why the bureau would have withheld such important information form the CIA. “They went apeshit and offered and unequivocal denial”.
Morell said the FBI removed the references and did so to prevent compromising an ongoing investigation. The CIA officials contacted indicating that acting Director Morell misspoke in our earlier meeting. The CIA now says that it deleted the AQ references not the FBI. They were unable to give a reason as to why.
Graham doesn’t think Morell misspoke. “He knew when he met with us that it wasn’t the FBI who had changed the talking points. “Morell tried to dump this on the FBI and got caught.”
Perhaps the most serious charge against Morell comes in the “additional Views” section of the senate intel committee report on Benghazi. The authors, six republicans senators who sit on the panel report for the first time in his testimony on 11/15/12 Morell “emphatically stated” that the talking points were provided by to the white house “for their awareness, not for their coordination.” 100 pages of emails between adm and intel officials released last May, a CIA spokesman tells a white house spokesman that the talking points are being provided to the white house “for coordination.” That email sent on 9/14 from the chief of media relations at the CIA to the white house National security council spokesman Tommy Vietor reads: “you should be seeing some ‘white paper’ taking points from us this afternoon for coordination’. Ben Rhodes foreign policy and national security adviser was copied on the email. So from the very beginning, top white house officials were involved in coordinating eh discussion of what would go into the talking points, with heavy input from senior officials at the state dept and the intel community.
9/14 the CIA public affairs office sent white house officials another draft of the talking points with instructions to “review the below and respond with your comments ASAP”.’
Everyone has submitted a coordination comments from an earlier email that day.
In an email the following morning, Morell writes to officials working for the director of national intel seeking there approval of the talking points. “Everyone else has coordinated,” he notes about the review of “tweaks”. Finally according to a 9/15 email from then CIA director Petraeus, the final decisions on the talking points were “National Security Staff’s call to be sure”.
Given all of this, why would Morell emphatically claim two months later that the talking points, already the subject of public scrutiny, had been provided to the white house only for awareness and not “coordination.”
Sources—weekly standard, Stephen hayes, reuters, ny mag, abc