After former acting CIA Director Mike Morell testified to the House Intelligence Committee that he is the one who changed the Benghazi talking points, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) renewed her call for a select committee to investigate the attack. She suggested that Morell either lied to senators shortly after the attack, or lied during his testimony today.
Islamic terrorists assaulted the American facility at Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, killing for Americans just weeks before the presidential election. Despite copious evidence that was available during the attack and immediately afterward that it was a premeditated terrorist attack, the Obama administration from the president on down initially blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest sparked by an obscure YouTube movie. That take fit well with the Obama campaign narrative that al Qaeda was “on the run,” while al Qaeda killing four Americans in a coordinated assault on a US facility did not.
Morell testified today that a group of intelligence officers from the Office of Congressional Affairs, and CIA public affairs, removed a reference to al Qaeda from the talking points given to Congress. Morell testified that he changed the talking points himself as well, and removed “Islamic” from a description of the “Islamic militants” who assaulted the facility, because “What other kind of extremists are there in Libya?” He also admitted to making the change so as not to “further aflame” passions in the Muslim world.
Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Morell also admitted that he was aware that the CIA’s Libya station chief never believed that there was a protest prior to the attack, but Morell sided with Washington-based analysts who blamed a protest. Left unanswered, is who decided to blame the YouTube movie in the first place? And who briefed Ambassador Susan Rice, who went on five political shows on the Sunday following the attack and blamed the movie while downplaying the al Qaeda and terrorist connections.
Ayotte wants to get to the bottom of that question, and more.
Ayotte said: “I think there’s still many questions that need to be answered. First of all, as i under it, Mike Morell thought there was a protest based on what he has been presented. But also equally leaved there was a terrorist attack, so why is it that the demonstration he has in the talking point but the fact it’s a terrorist attack did not. Really went to the heart of the matter. We knew the secretary of defense knew it was a terrorist attack and Gregory Hicks testified it was a terrorist attack. That would have given a much better picture to the American people about what was going on. I don’t accept the explanation why he removed the references to al Qaeda. I think that’s an unacceptable explanation that somehow this was a classified source. Does that mean when we get attacked by al Qaeda we’ll not say what this is an and it’s a terrorist attack, I think it’s misleading. He also said, he didn’t brief Susan Rice or, to his knowledge, anyone at the CIA. So who did brief Susan Rice and go beyond the talking points and claim al Qaeda had been decimated even though it has been removed from the talking point? Who is shaping her testimony which was inaccurate?”
Ayotte also noted that Morell originally told senators that it was the FBI, not himself at the CIA, who changed the talking points, raising the possibility that Morrell either lied at that time or may have lied under oath today.
“I was in the meeting with Senator McCain, and Susan Rice when he originally told us it was the FBI who changed the talking points,” Ayotte told Fox News. “So it’s been obviously a number of changes even though he was the one that actually removed the reference to al Qaeda from the talking points. I don’t know why he wouldn’t have made that clear to us when we had a meeting in the fall.”