What We Now Know About the CIA’s Benghazi Turf War


The more we find out about the editing of the Benghazi talking points, the more the evidence points in one direction: this was a CIA fiasco from the start. As we all know by now, the Benghazi mission was primarily a CIA operation, and they were the ones responsible for security there. But when it came time to write up talking points for public consumption after the September 11 attacks, they immediately started trying to shift blame. Here is David Brooks writing about the role of State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland:

On Friday evening of Sept. 14, the updated talking points were e-mailed to the relevant officials in various departments, including Nuland….[She] noted that the talking points left the impression that the C.I.A. had issued all sorts of warnings before the attack.

Remember, this was at a moment when the State Department was taking heat for what was mostly a C.I.A. operation, while doing verbal gymnastics to hide the C.I.A.’s role. Intentionally or not, the C.I.A. seemed to be repaying the favor by trying to shift blame to the State Department for ignoring intelligence.

Marcy Wheeler had a more pungent assessment a few days ago:

In other words, the story CIA — which had fucked up in big ways — wanted to tell was that it had warned State and State had done nothing in response….The truthful story would have been (in part) that CIA had botched the militia scene in Benghazi, and that had gotten the Ambassador killed.

Today Jake Tapper tells us that previous reports about the role of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes have also been mistaken. Rhodes didn’t say anything to suggest that the White House was concerned with protecting the State Department’s reputation. All he said was this: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.” The next day, when everyone got together to vet the talking points, they were stripped down to their final mushy state.

Greg Sargent has more here. This was, pretty clearly, a turf war, and the evidence increasingly suggests it was a war started by the CIA. The State Department has already largely owned up to its own failures in the ARB report released last year. So far, though, the CIA hasn’t.

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