This afternoon’s White House press briefing was extraordinary. Spokesman Jay Carney stood by his now thoroughly discredited claim that the White House made just one “stylistic” edit to the Benghazi talking points. He invoked the name of Mitt Romney twice, and the “previous administration” once, the latter in connection with the IRS’ apology to conservative groups for targeting them during an election year. For the most part, Carney danced around the press corps despite the fact that many in the room were unhappy to have been left out of the afternoon’s off-the-record or “deep background” meeting with select but as yet unnamed members of the media. Carney was more prepared for the sparring match than his opposites were.
Who was in that press meeting? What was its purpose? That’s for Jay Carney and friends to know, and for you not to find out.
The subject of the Cairo warning did come up. Carney brought it up himself.
Carney should have been asked why, after the CIA inserted that warning into the talking points at 4:42 PM on Friday, September 14, it survived several iterations before being removed. He should have been asked who removed it, and why.
Here is the warning’s first appearance. It comes in the third version of the talking points.
It appeared again in the 5:09 PM version.
And again in the 6:21 PM version, with a minor change to clarify that the most specific part of the warning concerned Cairo.
Carney brought the 9-10 warning up, but only to dismiss it and claim that it backed up the White House’s view that the attack was sparked by the YouTube movie. The actual warning, as we’ve posted here numerous times, does no such thing. It never even mentions the movie. Cairo was not spontaneous. It was orchestrated to achieve an end.
Someone within the Sept. 14 discussion must have had a problem with the CIA warning’s presence in the talking points. They removed it entirely. It appeared three more times, in the 6:41 PM, 6:52 PM and 8:59 PM versions.
But after the White House meeting on the morning of September 15, it was marked out.
Now you see it, now you don’t.
Now let’s look at the wording of the Cairo warning itself, which appeared on September 10.
According to El Fagr, they are calling for the immediate release of the Islamic jihadis who are imprisonment and in detention centers in the U.S. including Guantanamo Bay: “The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the "Blind Sheikh"], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.”
The Cairo attack was pre-planned and trumpeted the day prior. The movie did play a role, but it was mostly a cameo: The Cairo jihadists used it to stir up anger and bring out the crowd. Removing even the CIA’s vague rendering of the the warning fundamentally, not stylistically, altered that talking point by strengthening the appearance that the attack began with a spontaneous protest, and minimizing the evidence that the CIA had in hand that it may have been part of a broader jihadist attack on the United States aimed at freeing jihadists in US custody.
In this post, I’ve just dealt with the talking points and the Cairo warning. Those involved in the non-response to the attack and its aftermath had in hand even stronger evidence that the movie played no role, and there was no protest. They had video from the field, and they had messages from US personnel in the field. Greg Hicks directly told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that there had been no protest and that the attack was just that, an attack. He also testified that the movie was a “non-event” in Libya.