Carney: No ‘hidden mystery’ on Benghazi

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
White House spokesman Jay Carney (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The Benghazi e-mails published by ABC News on Friday are months old and were leaked by Republicans for political reasons, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday.

In response to repeated questions from reporters about the changes a State Department spokeswoman asked to make, Carney repeatedly gave the same answer: that agencies had input on the talking points but that the CIA drafted them and was asked by the White House to make only one minor change. That "non-substantive" change was a reference to a "consulate" be changed to refer to a "diplomatic post."

Internal deliberations should be protected from public scrutiny, Carney said when asked about a State Department spokeswoman's requests to remove mentions of warnings and of previous attacks from the talking points. But he defended those changes as an effort to make sure the talking points were limited "to what we knew as opposed to speculation." That's also why references to al-Qaeda were removed, he said.

Of course, it was in speaking off those talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice incorrectly described the attack as apparently unplanned and linked to protests over an anti-Muslim video.

The e-mails were provided to Republican members of Congress after Republicans threatened to block the nomination of John Brennan to lead the CIA.

"Republicans have chosen ... to politicize this, to leak this information to reporters, information that we provided months ago," Carney said, later adding, "which is their prerogative, I suppose."

As evidence of the political nature of the Benghazi inquiry, Carney referred back to Mitt Romney's comments after the attack. "Mitt Romney put out a press release trying to take advantage of these deaths," he said.

Carney argued that because the White House had described the attack as an "act of terror" perpetrated by "extremists," there is no purpose to the controversy over the talking points.

"This is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something that we did not hide," he said. "The whole effort here by Republicans to find some hidden mystery amounts to nothing."

In addition to the many questions about the emails, Carney took heat for holding a background briefing for 14 reporters before the public briefing. 

The House oversight committee held a hearing Wednesday at which three former State Department officials criticized their leadership’s actions before and after the Benghazi attack. Republicans on the committee repeatedly tried to tie former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to what they see as both a failure to secure the compound and a cover-up to obscure the fact that an act of terrorism took place.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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