State Department officials repeatedly objected to -- and tried to water down -- references to Islamic extremist groups and prior security warnings in the administration's initial internal story-line on the Benghazi attack, according to dozens of emails and notes released by the White House late Wednesday.
The documents also showed the White House, along with several other departments, played a role in editing the so-called "talking points," despite claims from the White House that it was barely involved. And they showed then-CIA Director David Petraeus objected to the watered-down version that would ultimately be used as the basis for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's flawed comments on several TV shows the Sunday after the attack.
"Frankly, I'd just as soon not use this,"
Petraeus told his deputy in a Sept. 15 email.
The 100-page file showed that State Department officials were even more heavily involved in editing the "talking points" than was previously known.
One email sent the Friday night after the attack from an unknown official said: "The State Department had major reservations with much or most of the document."
Individual emails leading up to that assessment show State officials repeatedly objecting to the intelligence community's early version of events.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland complained that she had "serious concerns
" about "arming members of Congress"
to make assertions the administration was not making. "In same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren't doing that ourselves until we have investigation results ... and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned ..."
She also wrote that the line saying the administration knows there were extremists among the demonstrators "will come back to us at podium,"
voicing concern that some would question how the administration knows that.
In response to her concerns, Assistant Secretary of State David S. Adams voiced agreement. He said the line about prior incidents "will read to members like we had been repeatedly warned."
The emails show Petraeus' deputy Mike Morell involved in circulating revised points. In one email, he too noted the State Department had "deep concerns"
about referencing prior "warnings."
Shortly afterward, Vietor thanked colleagues for revisions and said they would be vetted "here,"
as in the White House. He then forwarded "edits" from John Brennan,
the current CIA chief who then was a White House counterterrorism adviser.