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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Featured, Politics | 30 comments

“Bombshell” Benghazi Emails Reportedly Appear Edited and Distorted (UPDATED)

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A new twist in the “bombshell” Benghzai emails ABC News reported on last week, emails leaked that seemed to be at varience with the White House account of what occurred. This story now gets notably smellier: According to CNN, it now seems as if these emails were edited — and the White House is pointing the finger at Republicans in Congress for not just leaking emails, but doing a bit of (ahem) creative packaging on them to maximize the damage to the White House. CNN’s Jake Tapper:

White House emails obtained by ABC News and other organizations last week that purportedly detailed extensive editing of talking points Obama officials used in the aftermath of the Bengahzi, Libya attacks appear to have been misquoted or mischaracterized to emphasize the administration’s focus on those talking points, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Tapper documents how these emails were manipulated then adds:

CNN speculates that whoever leaked the White House emails “seemingly invented the notion” that Rhodes, a White House official, wanted State’s concerns specifically addressed. Asked about the ABC report on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the only edit the administration made to the talking points was to a “non-substantive correction,” changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic post.”

Carney on Tuesday accused Republicans of editing the emails in order to to serve a political agenda.

“I think the entire e-mail, the report I read showed the entire e-mail, and what it showed is Republicans who were leaking these press, these e-mails that had been shared with Congress didn’t just do that, they decided to fabricate portions of an e-mail and make up portions of an e-mail in order to fit a political narrative,” he said at a White House press conference.

If so, you will soon see a political boomerang at work.

Crooks and Liars:

If we assume that ABC and the Weekly Standard were given paraphrases of the emails rather than the actual text, it would appear as though the leaker took great pains to alter the meaning and words Rhodes actually wrote in order to invent scandal where none existed.

Gosh, who would do a thing like that?


Was ABC News used by someone with an ax to grind against the State Department? It looks possible. A key email in its “scoop” that the administration’s “talking points” on Benghazi had been changed a dozen times came from White House national security communications adviser Ben Rhodes. It seemed to confirm that the White House wanted the talking points changed to protect all agencies’ interests, “including those of the State Department,” in the words of the email allegedly sent by Rhodes.

But CNN’s Jake Tapper reveals that Rhodes’ email didn’t mention the State Department, and doesn’t even seem to implicitly reference it. The email as published by Karl differs significantly from the original obtained by Tapper….

….Significantly, the Rhodes email doesn’t even mention the controversial Benghazi talking points. Reporting by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard paraphrased Rhodes’ email the same way – to depict him jumping in behind Nuland and protecting the interests of the State Department. Some on the right have suggested Karl and Tapper might be talking about two different emails, but in the ABC and CNN stories, the emails are dated identically, 9/14/12 at 9:34 p.m. Tapper provides the original; Karl did not.

Presumably, someone changed Rhodes’ email before leaking it to Karl, but ABC News hasn’t replied to the scoop by Tapper (who used to work there). ABC’s story added fuel to the Benghazi fire; we’ll see if CNN’s helps put it out.

-Steve Benen:

So, let me get this straight. Someone — we don’t know who — leaked misleading information to ABC and the Weekly Standard, they ran it, other news organizations embraced it, we’ve had several days of “scandal” based on it, and the information wasn’t true?

Tapper put it this way: “Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”

In other words, we’re not dealing with a mistake, so much as we’re dealing with a political actor deliberately misrepresenting key details to journalists, who in turn misled other journalists, who in turn created a controversy where none existed.

….Republicans have spent quite a bit of time recently insisting there are important, unanswered questions surrounding the Benghazi story. I’ve got one: who misled ABC and the Weekly Standard as part of this effort to smear the White House?

And, given these developments which smell so bad I think I’m going to run down to CostCo and get a triplepack of Glade, Andrew Sullivan nails it:

Just an early, failing attempt to smear Hillary for 2016. Because the GOP has no relevant policies for our times, just politics.

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Copyright 2013 The Moderate Voice
  • The_Ohioan

    Yes, yes; but what do Drudge, Breitbart, and American Thinker say? False interpretations? Surely not! Popcorn party at my house; 7P.M.

  • dduck

    If they altered anything (the Reps) then it is as “outrageous” and reprehensible and those caught should be prosecuted if possible.

  • ShannonLeee

    I would not call this a new low, but it is indeed…very low.

    and to think…in all of this, the death of an American diplomat is a side story. How very sad and low.

  • zusa1

    I thought the Rep’s were only shown copies of the emails and had to give them back.

  • dduck

    SL, many want to perpetuate the myth that Reps only care about the political damage they can inflict on the Dems and don’t care about the tragic deaths and events that led up to the attack and the the remedial security that has to take place to prevent/minimize future tragedies. This is willful propaganda. The political aspect is always upfront in the partisan wars, that’s a given, but to say that it is the only, or far more important aspect is a distortion.

  • sheknows

    LOL….the thot plickens!

  • sheknows

    Oooo, can’t wait to see what they uncover about the AP and the tax exempt stories.

  • The_Ohioan

    D, B, & AT – Nothing.

  • SteveK

    As I said the other day:

    Those who always ‘knew‘ that Obama was an Acorn loving, Bill Ayers buddying, Libyan born Muslim, socialist community organizer don’t require (or want) any proof or documentation before making up their minds… Jumping to a conclusion (right or wrong) is easy.

    Others are happy to (or at least would rather) wait until the facts come out and the dust settles before deciding what happened.

    The amount of conclusion jumping going on here at TMV is but a small sampling of the problem.

  • petew

    Next thing we know, the Republicans will be claiming that Democrats deliberately created the false impression that they had altered the emails,and…ad infinitum…ad absurdum!

    I can’t say that I would put it past the dishonesty of the Republican spin machine—which probably makes its moves so far ahead of play, that they are currently creating a scandal about the Democratic candidates in 2024. Surely Fox News is spinning so fast that Rush is careening around the room while trying to keep his underdeveloped sense of political balance!

    I’m not saying that Democrats are above political subterfuge, but Republicans seen to have created the concept itself, and won every gold medal possible for using it effectively! Nonetheless, occasionally, people like McCain affirm basic ethical values by not being afraid to give an honest opinion about legislation which actually expands background checks, or about the fact that torture is torture—by any other name! Washington hasn’t completely lost its mind, but probably should begin a regular program of medication that promotes basic honesty. What next!

  • It’s “The Downing Street Memo” business all over again. Rabid partisans will do literally anything to wring the most negative interpretation humanly possible out of anything that even looks like it can be spun as a negative.

    In American politics, the party in power in the White House is smug and arrogant and the party out of power is insane.

  • Jim Satterfield

    The big question is whether or not anyone will be surprised if this is confirmed. I know I won’t be.

  • dduck

    Well said, DE.

  • CStanley

    I don’t get what the big deal is either way. To me if there is anything significant about the emails and talking points it was why everyone (starting with CIA, apparently) included the demonstration line, even though they knew this wasn’t a protest like Cairo. Everyone seemed intent on getting that line in there though, so it seems like all of the players had some motivation to distract from the more obvious 9/11 anniversary, planned terrorist attack.

    I also don’t get how the leaked/ distorted emails are being attributed to Republicans, since as Zusai noted they had been allowed to read but not keep the emails. Seems more likely that someone involved in the chain of emails leaked in order to make someone else look bad, and then the person who looked bad corrected the record. I don’t see why anyone cares about the turrf wars all that much though.

  • The_Ohioan


    The big deal is an official’s career has been adversely affected by insisting she was misleading the public when she was simply reporting what was the CIA assessment at the time. Other officials are being accused of doing the same thing which will affect their careers as well. If congress wants to investigate the CIA and why their assessment was wrong, if it was wrong, that’s another kettle of fish and they should probably do it. One could ask why they are attacking everyone but those who made the assessment.

    This misrepresentation about what Mr. Rhodes had to say is something to be concerned about since so much damage has been done by it already and we don’t really know how much more damage will be done.

  • Jim Satterfield

    OK, it’s just hilarious that anyone would think that they only read the emails and found no way to make a copy. Also, don’t forget that some of the Republicans acting so outraged and trying to make something out of these emails now saw them several months ago, knew what they contained, made no big deal of them back then and would also know now even as they make a pretense of their outrage that in fact these emails had been altered.

  • zephyr

    So many people (including many democrats) ready to fall for yet another round of rightwing trickery, we even had one of our own regulars stating in effect he hoped it was a cover-up. And of course the disingenuous are making the usual dismissive comments and/or pretending this isn’t SOP for republicans – which of course it is.

  • zephyr

    many want to perpetuate the myth that Reps only care about the political damage they can inflict on the Dems

    Myth? 😉 They’ve got you right where they want you pardner.

  • CStanley

    If congress wants to investigate the CIA and why their assessment was wrong, if it was wrong, that’s another kettle of fish and they should probably do it. One could ask why they are attacking everyone but those who made the assessment.

    That was actually the point I was trying to make.

    @Jim- I agree that notes or copies were likely to have been made and I have now seen journalists explicitly saying that House GOP were their source, so I’ll withdraw my speculation that this was someone withon the administration doing the leaking. Still, there’s lingering disagreement as to the substanc eof this article because the GOP who shared the email content says that the substance of what is in dispute is still accurate and the entire chain of emails would show that.

    To repeat, i don’t think that emails of people doing CYA represent a real scandal anyway. It doesn’t put them in a good light but I don’t think any material harm comes of it, unlike the part about mischaracterizing the attack as a protest which may have harmed the progress of the investigation.

  • dduck

    Ohio, a Hick’s career has been effected because he did not play along with what turned out to be false and he had the temerity to say so. Right from the get go, I felt sorry for Rice and said so here because I felt she was pushed out to tell the “story” and then has been left twisting in the wind since then.

    BTW: one theory as to why this has blossomed like Audrey Two in Little Shop of horrors, is that Jonathan Karl a MSM opened the door for the rest of the MSM.

  • The_Ohioan

    Well, to work backwards, Jonathan Karl took Jake Tapper’s slot at ABC when Tapper moved to CNN. We shouldn’t ignore possible professional or personal rivalry there. It may or may not affect the difference in reporting.

    Elijah Cummings has been on MSNBC (Morning Joe) saying Mr. Hicks, under oath, said things differently in an April 11 interview with the committee than he was led to say in the committee hearing in May.

    And Mr. Cummings sent a letter requesting that testimony be included for clarification since (I think) Mr. Hicks was under oath at both interviews.

    As far as Mr. Hicks’ career, it certainly has been affected, but I’m not sure how much. He asked to be reassigned from Lybia which he was; he was given a desk job with the same pay and benefits until a reassignment that meets his background can be found. Only time will tell if his career suffered or not.

    Mr. Hicks was not in Benghazi, he missed two phone calls before finally contacting Stevens, who was by then under attack, and his opinion runs counter to both the NYT and Reuters reporters’ accounts as well as the CIA assessment. To assume he knows the truth and they don’t is an assumption I’m not willing to make until we finally have all the facts.

  • dduck

    Ohio, I trust Hick’s word (22 years on the job) and not some local stringer that the NYT foisted on us. Besides, at this point EVERYONE finally admits is WAS NOT a video response protest. So why dispute what is now the fact that it was a AQ affiliate, preplanned attack as the President of Libya said on Sept. 16th and also Dianne Feinstein and countless others have said. If Hick’s gave two different versions under oath, I would like that cleared up. Meantime he was screwed.
    Regardless, Karl has opened the floodgates for the MSM and it is a feeding frenzy.

  • ShannonLeee

    DD. I personally think is strictly a partisan attack to do damage to the White House. This has been the leading motivation for almost everything the GOP has done since Obama’s election. Not a myth.

  • The_Ohioan

    Not everyone. The NYT & Reuters & me are sticking with it. 🙂

    What I really think is that these bozos got riled up by an al Queda admirer in their militia group and between his contacts with al Queda and wanting to do something on 9/11 and his taking advantage of his buddies indignation over the video which was raising such cain in Cairo, they decided to make an all out assault on both outposts. They probably ran into some other locals who were out seeing what they could see since they knew about the Cairo protests, also. The fact that the militia told the locals they were doing it because of the video may have been partially true or not at all true or both depending on which individual said it.

    That’s what I think happened and until the CIA or the FBI says different, that’s my take on it. No one else has to accept it. I don’t trust Hicks’ word 22 years or not since he wasn’t in Benghazi and let two phone calls be missed on that night – 9/11, of all nights. I’ve heard no testimony yet about who or what those two phone calls were about. They could have been from Stevens asking for help, or they could have been from his superiors in Washington. We may never know. No congress person has thought to ask; or they know and don’t want anyone else to know. Useless since almost everything comes out eventually.

  • dduck


  • zusa1

    “I asked my original source today to explain the different wording on the Ben Rhodes e-mail, and the fact that the words “State Department” were not included in the e-mail provided to CNN’s Tapper.
    This was my source’s response, via e-mail: “WH reply was after a long chain of email about State Dept concerns. So when WH emailer says, take into account all equities, he is talking about the State equities, since that is what the email chain was about.”
    The White House could still clear up this confusion by releasing the full e-mail transcripts that were provided for brief review by a select number of members of Congress earlier this year. If there’s “no ‘there’ there,” as President Obama himself claimed yesterday, a full release should help his case.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    The White House could still clear up this confusion by releasing the full e-mail transcripts that were provided for brief review by a select number of members of Congress earlier this year

    The White House just did…

  • Between this and Newt’s “what do we call this new cellphone that’s not really a phone” YouTube video … ya gotta wonder what these folks are drinking. Or smoking. Or swallowing.

    And what about ABC.

    For the love of all that’s holy. ANONYMOUS SOURCING HAS GOT TO STOP.

    There is no honor in not revealing who hoodwinked ABC.

    Reveal the manipulator(s) and put them on notice that sources will be protected WHEN THEY ARE TRUTHFUL.

  • SteveK

    Reveal the manipulator(s) and put them on notice that sources will be protected WHEN THEY ARE TRUTHFUL.

    Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors (and my favorite Humanist) took this idea one step further when he wrote:

    “… No names have been changed to protect the innocent, since God Almighty protects the innocent as a matter of Heavenly routine.”

    Another time he said:

    There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

  • KP

    SteveK, love the Vonnegut quotes!

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