I guess it’s a function of not following the Benghazi story as diligently as some others. But that’s no excuse. Weigel and Dickerson are must-read correctives to my take on the Ben Rhodes email, and show how this new email – though indeed foolishly withheld (the real story) – isn’t anywhere near as damning as it may sound at first blush. For two reasons: the information Rhodes was working off – via the CIA and State – was indeed that the attack was related to the inflammatory video. Dickerson:
Rhodes sent his email at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14. Nine hours earlier, the CIA had sent its first set of talking points. The very first line of the first CIA talking point read: “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex.” (The original copies are here, released by the White House last May.) What was causing the protests in Cairo that the CIA mentions? The video.
Weigel offers this timeline, via Zeke Miller:
2:23 p.m.: The CIA’s office of general counsel adds a line about the “inspired by the protests” theory being inconclusive.
3:04 p.m.: The talking points are sent to relevant White House aides, including Ben Rhodes.
4:42 p.m.: The CIA circulates new talking points but removes a mention of al Qaida.
6:21 p.m.: The White House (Tommy Vietor, not Ben Rhodes) adds a line about the administration warning, on September 10, of social media reports calling for demonstrations.
7:39 p.m.: State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland objects to some of the language because “the penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
8:09 p.m.: Ben Rhodes sends the “smoking gun” email, nine hours after the first draft of talking points from the CIA said that the attacks grew out of a demonstration.
The White House’s shifty-sounding excuse, that the “demonstration” story line came not from its spin factory but from the CIA, remains surprisingly accurate.
It was spin, not deception. There’s a big difference. And for full disclosure: I’m friends with Ben and should have known he is not the type to lie about anything. But sometimes, a relationship like that makes me be extra skeptical about stories involving friends or acquaintances. I learned that in the Bush administration. But in this case, I was over-correcting and under-informed. Apologies.