Benghazi Oops

05.14.13

Was the "Incriminating" Email Doctored?

You should be aware of this scoop from Jake Tapper of CNN today. The big scoops last week from Jonathan Karl of ABC and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard about the White House emails that allegedly showed that the White House was trying to cover for the State Department and hang the intel people out to dry? They may have been doctored by someone before they were released.

From CNN's account:

CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.

The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department's desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.

Wowzers. According to Karl, Rhodes's email read: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”

But according to Tapper, it read: “Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation. There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed."

Nothing about the State Department, nothing about talking points. Significance? Well, you can see for yourself that Tapper's version, presumably the real version (CNN provides the actual email, which you can read here), is far less rich in palace intrigue. It's just a guy trying to do his job. Whereas the leaked version shows a guy who is trying to say between the lines, let's help State, and Hillary, out here. But evidently he said no such thing.

Does this mean the whole genie belongs back in the bottle? Does it also mean Jay Carney did not lie/misspeak the other day? Tapper's story certainly supports the argument that the administration was scrambling to get facts and wasn't dealing in secretive agendas.

I remind you all that by September 20, Carney called it a terrorist attack. So the administration acknowledged the central fact in plenty of time for Republicans to make electoral hay with it. And remember also, Romney didn't call it a terrorist attack until September 25. So the charge--the central charge these days, as far as I can see--that the administration tiptoed around the attack's true character for electoral reason just isn't true. It was true for nine days. If you think that's a high crime or misdemeanor, well, I hope you at least know what country Benghazi is in.