As the result of a Freedom of Information Act battle waged by the conservative group Judicial Watch, new documents have emerged tying the messaging of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, to the White House. Judicial Watch reports:

Jay Carney- (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
White House Spokesman Jay Carney (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

[The documents] include a newly declassified e-mail showing then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations officials attempting to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” President Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” Other documents show that State Department officials initially described the incident as an “attack” and possible kidnap attempt.

The documents were released Friday as result of a June 21, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the Department of State (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:13-cv-00951)) to gain access to documents about the controversial talking points used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for a series of appearances on television Sunday news programs on September 16, 2012.  Judicial Watch had been seeking these documents since October 18, 2012. . . . Among the top administration PR personnel who received the Rhodes memo were White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest, then-White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, then-White House Deputy Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, then-National Security Council Director of Communications Erin Pelton, Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Howli Ledbetter, and then-White House Senior Advisor and political strategist David Plouffe.

In addition a document showed Susan Rice was informed before her TV appearance: “Responding to a question about whether it was an organized terror attack, Toria said that she couldn’t speak to the identity of the perpetrators but that it was clearly a complex attack.” Toria refers to Victoria Nuland, then State Department spokeswoman and now assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia. She had been unfairly maligned in some quarters and falsely accused of participating in the illicit editing of the talking points. These documents exonerate her entirely, pointing the finger directly at the White House and the CIA. (It is noteworthy that in the days between the attack and Rice’s TV outing, Nuland never tied the video to the attack; Carney did, most clearly on Sept. 14.) With regard to the CIA:

The Judicial Watch documents confirm that CIA talking points, that were prepared for Congress and may have been used by Rice on “Face the Nation” and four additional Sunday talk shows on September 16, had been heavily edited by then-CIA deputy director Mike Morell. According to one email:

The first draft apparently seemed unsuitable….because they seemed to encourage the reader to infer incorrectly that the CIA had warned about a specific attack on our embassy.  On the SVTS, Morell noted that these points were not good and he had taken a heavy hand to editing them. He noted that he would be happy to work with [then deputy chief of staff to Hillary Clinton]] Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to develop appropriate talking points.

The e-mails were exchanged at a time when the State Department and CIA already knew that the video was not at issue and that this was a staged attack of some type. Former United Nations spokesman Richard Grenell who was briefly part of the Mitt Romney presidential team told Right Turn, “The e-mail from Ben Rhodes to a bunch of political appointees at the White House proves that there was a scramble inside Obama’s inner circle to protect him from the fallout of a U.S. Ambassador being killed on the anniversary of 9/11 and a few short weeks from his reelection.” He pointedly added: ” It’s time for real journalists to confront the President. It’s clear now that he and his team have not been truthful with the American people.”

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s spokesman Catherine Frazier was quick to jump on the news. She told Right Turn, ” Here we are more than 19 months after the attack – seven months after Sen. Cruz called for a joint select committee to investigate – and more revelations continue to surface, confirming how little we really know about what happened in Benghazi on Sept 11, 2012.” She stressed, “This administration must be held accountable to telling the truth so that we can find closure, bring our attackers to justice, and prevent future attacks — and Hillary Clinton’s regrets are not enough. All witnesses with knowledge of the attack including administration officials should be called to testify before a joint select committee so we can once and for all know the truth about what happened.”

Since mainstream media reporters have been loath to press the issue (and Congress may well convene new hearings), let me offer a few questions to start the inquiry:

Will Rhodes be allowed to testify under oath?

Who instructed Rhodes to send the memo and who reviewed it before it went out?

Will the president instruct all the people mentioned in the emails to cooperate with congressional or other investigators?

Since the issue now involves senior White House officials, is a special prosecutor appropriate?

If any individuals conspired to falsify a reason for the attack knowing of evidence to the contrary, will the president fire them?

At the time of the e-mails, did the president understand the video was not at issue?

Is the White House planning on conducting its own internal investigation?

When White House Spokesman Jay Carney received the talking points and in subsequent press conferences stressed the role of the video, did he know that assertion to be untrue?

That should get them started. We certainly know the White House has been holding back potentially incriminating documents. For now, I’d suggest those mentioned in the e-mails “lawyer up.”

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.