Republican Senators have had their sights set on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice lately, threatening to block her nomination as Secretary of State because she went on a few Sunday morning shows and said incorrect stuff about the terror attacks in Benghazi September 11. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the CIA talking points Rice was given. Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein read this list out to reporters (via Politico's Scott Wong) after the hearing today:
- The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the United States embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against United States diplomatic posts in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.
- There are indications extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
- This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
- The investigation is ongoing and the United States government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice to those responsible for the deaths of United States citizens.
So the first takeaway the Senate saying that Rice was working with CIA information. The second point, is, and what's making Republicans like John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham so mad, is that they insist she said the killings were a spontaneous response to the Innocence of Muslims film, that she should have known sooner that the information she had was incorrect, and that she should have known better than to make those comments. Well, that isn't quite what she said. We took a look at her statements to ABC's This Week, CBS's Face The Nation, and Fox News Sunday and compared them to the two major CIA talking points Republicans are railing against (we italicized the similarities):
CIA Talking Point: The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the United States embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against United States diplomatic posts in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.
What Rice Told ABC: But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated
What Rice told CBS: So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy----sparked by this hateful video.
What Rice Told Fox: The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.
CIA Talking Point: There are indications extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
What Rice Told ABC: And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible.
What Rice Told CBS: But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that-- in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
What Rice Told Fox: People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control. But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then
The common thread in Rice's statements (aside from the fact that they're all very similar) is that she never named the video which McCain and Co. said she had did. She said what the CIA had told her—that the protest was a reaction to the protest in Cairo, not to the video which sparked the protest in Cairo. And of course the baseline fact here is that Rice was only going by what the CIA had given her.