November 28th, 2012
06:34 AM ET

Rice fails to subdue Republicans' criticism over Libya attack

By Suzanne Kelly

A conciliatory meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Republican critics backfired following revelations that the CIA removed terrorism references in unclassified talking points about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya.

Rice, who serves as the top U.S. envoy to the United Nations, met with Republican senators Tuesday over the September 11 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi.

She asked for the meeting with Republican Sens. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham after their sharp criticism of her response to the Benghazi attack. The Republican senators have maintained that they are concerned about her explanation on what caused the attack.

At the time of the attack that left four Americans dead this year, Rice said an anti-U.S. demonstration led to the violence, an assertion later disproved by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.

During the morning meeting Tuesday, acting CIA Director Michael Morell said the FBI removed references to al Qaeda being behind the attack to prevent compromising an ongoing investigation.

A few hours later, the CIA told the lawmakers that it altered the talking points.

"CIA officials contacted us and indicated that Acting Director Morell misspoke in our earlier meeting. The CIA now says that it deleted the al Qaeda references, not the FBI. They were unable to give a reason as to why."

Opinion: Why attacks on Rice are misguided

When asked whether Morell misspoke, the CIA had no comment.

A U.S. intelligence official confirmed that the CIA made the changes.

"There were several valid intelligence and investigatory reasons why they were changed," the official said. "The information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources, and could not be corroborated at the unclassified level; the links were tenuous and therefore it made sense to be cautious before naming perpetrators."

In addition, the official said, the investigation was still in the preliminary stage.

A U.S. intelligence official defended the administration, saying the talking points were never meant to be permanent.

"The talking points were written, upon request, so members of Congress and senior officials could say something preliminary and unclassified about the attacks, if needed," the official said.

"They were never meant to be definitive and, in fact, noted that the assessment may change. The points clearly reflect the early indications of extremist involvement in a direct assault. It wasn't until after they were used in public that analysts reconciled contradictory information about how the assault began. ... There was absolutely no intent to misinform."

Speaking to reporters after the morning meeting, McCain and his fellow Republican lawmakers said they were "disturbed by the administration's continued inability to answer even the most basic questions" about the attack and how the White House responded.

Republican lawmakers said their Tuesday meeting with Rice and the acting CIA director left them with more unanswered questions about her remarks following attack.

"It was clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video," McCain said. "There was compelling evidence at the time that was certainly not the case, including statements by Libyans as well as other Americans who are fully aware that people don't bring mortars and rocket propelled grenades to a spontaneous demonstration."

Graham said he was "more disturbed now than I was before that 16 September explanation" given by Rice during a series of appearances on Sunday political talk shows

"I think it does not do justice to the reality at the time and in hindsight was clearly completely wrong. But here's the key. In real time, it was a statement disconnected from reality," the South Carolina Republican said.

McCain, Graham and Ayotte have led the criticism of Rice over her television appearances days after the September attack, which killed the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three others.

Opinion: Republican obsession with Benghazi makes no sense

Some Republicans have said they would block the nomination of Rice if President Barack Obama chooses her to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she will leave her post when a replacement is ready.

She has not been offered Clinton's position, but is suspected to top the list of possible successors. At a news conference after his re-election, Obama called Republicans' criticism of Rice "outrageous" and said the critics should go after him instead.

Rice said neither she nor the administration intended to mislead and they updated Americans as the information evolved.

Morell took the reins of the spy agency two weeks ago after the sudden resignation of director David Petraeus amid an extramarital affair.

Later this week, Rice will meet with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the homeland security committee, which is investigating the Benghazi attack. Collins has not been as critical of Rice as the three senators, but has said Rice needs to explain what happened.

A spokesman for the director of National Intelligence has said that those talking points were prepared by the intelligence community, and not modified by other governmental agencies.

Ayotte: Rice 'certainly' misled on Benghazi, but unsure of motive

- CNN's Ted Barrett, Dan Lothian, Eric Fiegel, Gregory Wallace and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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  6. Stoner

    She is not qualified, her education and character are weak. She is not a US state department secretary of state material, nor was condi rice by the way. She is more incompetent and was responsible for the lack of action on 9/11 and the stupid Iraq invasion etc etc.. What shame..we need a real secretary of state , where is James baker...?

    December 14, 2012 at 3:39 am | Reply
  7. Barbara

    This whole focus on Rice obscures the more important issue of why were Steven's repeated requests (in light of 2 previous attacks) ignored. Who is the person who actually received these requests and was responsible for answering Stevens? The request didn't just drift into cyberspace. Why in light of previous attacks, his requests for added security and the fact that the British had already left, wasn't he granted added security and for God sake why wasn't there an extraction plan in place. And where the HELL was Obama during the 9 hour seize? He was not in the situation room. Stevens and the 3 others weren't just killed.... they were murdered and it maybe that Stevens was tortured. So while it's important to cut through BS and PR the WH put out AFTER the attack is important, the events leading up to it and the denial of additional security is paramount. Stevens death and other was AVOIDABLE! Shame on our government for leaving his people in lurch, for abandoning them during their most dire of times. I am sickened by our government.

    November 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Tell me who's to blame! Amb. Stevens felt threatened and insecure in Benghazi, he requested additional security (which he knew would not be coming!) Why the h*ll did he stay there and not return to Tripoli? He would be alive today if not for HIS mistake! (His requests were made days, maybe weeks, before the attack).
      Come on, staying in Benghazi with 3 men for security on the anniversary of 9/11???? What a dumb plan!

      November 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  8. SafeJourney

    The Republicans and their dumb sheep keep attacking Susan Rice on Benghazi - though Susan Rice had no operational decision making regarding Benghazi and was told what to say by security officials for National security reasons - While actual Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did.. and btw Hillary Clinton also spoke about a video tape after the Benghazi attacks.. yet McCain and FauX News don't have to balls to go after Hillary Clinton., and say she is not qualified to be Secretary of State.

    McCain and the GOP are a bunch of spineless bullies who are seeking an easy target to be their punching bag.. and they've chosen Susan Rice.

    I hope Hell is rained down on their heads.. and a Pox should fall upon their houses as this is what they deserve.

    November 29, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply

    Let go and let God. All you right wing republicans, if you are true to your faith, turn it over to God, the real issue is the hear and now. What do we do about Benghazi.

    November 29, 2012 at 7:01 am | Reply


    November 29, 2012 at 6:57 am | Reply
  11. James

    She was set up totake the blame. Doesn't matter anyway–Everyone knew it wasn't true–Even she knew that–

    November 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Reply
    • Jose

      Most of the people in government are liars. It should be a big news story when someone actually tells the truth.

      November 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Tell me who's to blame! Amb. Stevens felt threatened and insecure in Benghazi, he requested additional security (which he knew would not be coming!) Why the h*ll did he stay there and not return to Tripoli? He would be alive today if not for HIS mistake!

      November 29, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  12. kevobx

    Mankind, what kind of man is that? Why is mankind taking so much pleasure in the death of the wicked. The rich have many friends, and it's called do me a favor. Remember, a poor man's wisdom is despised. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto him:

    November 28, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  13. real rob

    Oh sure, lets ask a bunch of political me me,s for an "opinion", then listen to them??..NOT!!, can anyone with a brain think that TS/confidential information is going to be bandied about for political gains?[for losers I might add?],..If! blame must be slung at some one?, then lets make sure it goes in the right directions shall we?.. words like "failure" etc are incorrect, some seem to think that its a simple world we live in, there fore the answers are always simple too,.. weeeel,, it aint!, and they aint!, and if you dont know?? then shut the h#ll up before you, mr blabbermouth, get some more! people killed,,,Barry said it,"blame me"[smart guy eh??],, I, for one, am astonished! that such a delicate,important, topic is thrown out there for all these no brain,room temp IQ,d, non informed "experts" to blab about on and on ad-nauseum,.. astonished!!,..openness is one thing,, risking more! lives, is quite another pair of sleeves as we say,, Does anyone think these REP brainiacs could have done a better job??. really??.. LOL,.. NOT!

    November 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply
  14. kevobx

    Where is the outrage over the thousands who were murdered in New York City the real 911? Why did the 911 commission pay off the gulliable people with money, the day before the Benghazi attacks. The media and the world was silent on Sept 10, 2012 the entire day. There were no be watchful alerts, as done before in years past, why is that? Who changed the protocol for the 911 tribute? All of a sudden the government and the politicians, decided to the let the people speak for once, after ten years of being ignored. The world will exposed by grace and truth, exactly what the world hates the most High.

    November 28, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
  15. Hahahahahahahaha

    I'll bet if "Tax Breaks For The Rich" were included (in anything that's done), the republicans wouldn't give a damn about what happens!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahaahahahahaha

    November 28, 2012 at 8:59 am | Reply
  16. courtobserver

    Dems consistently and without fail defend this administration not on the merits of issues, which they can't do, but by comparing actions to something they perceive as being worse in the Bush administration. It's like a child defending his actions by pointing at his brother and saying to his parents, "But look what Georgie did!" What the Obama administration does, good and bad, is not altered by what Bush, Carter, or Kennedy did as president.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
    • totalcreation

      Stop being mad because of the hypocrisy that is eating the republicants up right now.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
  17. totalcreation

    Welll DUH! They want John Kerry to be nominated so they can run Scott Walker in a special election and fill his senate seat with a republican.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:39 am | Reply
    • totalcreation

      That should say Scott Brown, not Scott Walker.... apologies.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Reply
  18. StanCalif

    Susan Rice followed her instructions. Colin Powell followed his instructions when told to lie before the UN! Where was McCain then? Silent! Party follower, a disgrace to himself and our nation!

    November 28, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
  19. Richard Melloh

    Hypocrisy knows no bounds in the Republican Party. Where was McCain's outrage when WMDs did not manifest themselves under his party's watch? 4000 dead soldiers and a half million dead Iraqis later, where's the proportional indignation? Wasn't a Secretary C. Rice involved in that deception? Where was McCain's eye on national security when he exposed us to the dangers found in a vapid vice presidential candidate that was Sarah Palin? "Integrity", indeed. We see the lack of integrity. Keep blustering and blabbering, John. It helps illustrate the point.

    November 28, 2012 at 8:10 am | Reply
    • michaelfury

      November 28, 2012 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Of course! It's quite okay for "us" (GOP) to lie, but not okay for anyone else! McCain, retire! Go visit George W. on his ranch and take endlessly about telling the truth! Invite Dick into the discussion!!! Another "man of integrity" ha, ha ha!

      November 29, 2012 at 10:26 am | Reply
  20. Jose

    Republicans have been receiving bad information about marijuana for 75 years which they used to destroy millions of lives, why are they getting upset over a couple weeks of bad information that only destroyed a few lives?

    November 28, 2012 at 8:01 am | Reply
  21. Climatewiz1

    Reading the talking points...especially when she knew they were untrue and she was misleading the American people is a huge black mark on her character. There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to decide to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. Another talking head with no ethics is the last person we need as secretary of state. She lied to protect the president's campaign rhetoric and political position. We don't need more of the same in Washington...we need people with enough integrity, ethics and character to tell the truth regardless of political ilk.

    November 28, 2012 at 7:17 am | Reply
    • StanCalif

      John McCain, and others, have very short memories! Where was the uproar when George W. sent Colin Powell to lie to the UN about WMD's in Iraq that did not exist? Powell did the honorable deed and resigned from the Bush adminstration when he learned he was lied to! In the past election, Powell supported Obama. He had first hand knowledge and experienced GOP lies! Our government cannot be trusted any longer!

      November 28, 2012 at 7:59 am | Reply
    • totalcreation

      John McCain goes on the Sunday Talk Shows every other week and lies/misleads almost every time. At least since 2008 when he lost his mind. Time for him to retire.

      November 28, 2012 at 8:41 am | Reply
    • Jose

      Republicans have been mindlessly reading the talking points about marijuana for 75 years. Boehner believes that millions of people die every year from marijuana. This is hypocrisy at its highest level.

      November 28, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply

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