Dozens of e-mails released by the White House reveal that Obama administration officials were behind the crafting of a false narrative
about the attack in Benghazi, Libya. The communications raise questions about who called the shots and why, say an analyst and a lawmaker involved in the investigation.
According to the documents, officials at the State Department, CIA and White House national security staff heavily revised a CIA memo
to remove all references to Islamist extremists known to have participated in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Among the unknowns:
Why were the revisions made?
Why did Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testify before Congress that the edits were a product of the intelligence community when State officials had made many of the requests for alterations?
Why did the White House say it made no substantive edits when the e-mails show officials there helped lead the process for changes?
Where did the story come from that the attack grew from a protest against an anti-Islam video? The video was mentioned once in 100 pages of e-mails, but it was a central theme of Obama's and Clinton's description of the event.
The e-mails from Sept. 14-15 show that the State Department was "the key driving force for the revisions,"
says Thomas Joscelyn, an analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy in Washington.
The White House has since acknowledged what the CIA stated from the beginning
: The Benghazi attack was a planned terrorist attack.
Chaffetz says many more documents need to be released
to explain why the truth didn't come out right away.
Major revisions to the CIA memo were requested by Victoria Nuland, then-spokeswoman for the State Department, who said changes were needed to "resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership." The e-mails do not state what leaders she referred to.
Though White House spokesman Jay Carney has insisted the White House made almost no changes to the original memo, the e-mails show that Tommy Vietor, then-spokesman for the White House's national security adviser, wanted State Department concerns about the memo to be addressed.
Members of Congress "all think it was premeditated based on inaccurate assumptions or briefings. ... We need to brief members/press and correct the record,"Vietor wrote in an e-mail Sept. 14.
Nuland said in e-mails that the CIA memo's references to previous terrorist activity near the consulate and in the region could be construed by Congress as evidence that the State Department ignored the safety of its staff in Benghazi.
The CIA retorted in the e-mails that the FBI "did not have major concerns"
with the memo's findings. Evidence for its conclusions that the attack was preplanned by an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group came from the claims of terror group Ansar al-Sharia and witness accounts forwarded by the CIA station chief in Tripoli.
Chaffetz said one e-mail, which was sent the day after the attack by Beth Jones
, State's acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, to several high ranking State Department officials, described how she corrected the Libyan ambassador to the United States for suggesting the Benghazi attack may have been perpetrated by loyalists to ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Jones wrote to her supervisors, Chaffetz says, that the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan group Ansar al-Sharia was behind the attack.