How Petraeus Turned the CIA into the Good Guys in Benghazi
The intelligence agency has been quite effective in limiting the public discussion of its role.
How did the CIA become the hero in the Benghazi talking point controversy? The Republican theory of the case is that the CIA provided mostly correct talking points (with one big flaw — it blamed spontaneous protests), which the State Department and the White House then edited into misleading mush to protect President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But, of course, the CIA is part of the Obama administration, too, and run by Obama appointees — why hasn't it enjoyed as much scrutiny as everyone else involved?
One reason is the political skills of David Petraeus, then-director of the CIA. The Benghazi talking points came into existence because Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger asked for guidelines for the newer members of the House intelligence committee, so they wouldn't accidentally reveal classified information in interviews with the press, The Washington Post's Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung report. "A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus's early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee's request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency." As has been widely noted, Petraeus was unenthusiastic about the final talking points, writing:
"No mention of the cable to Cairo, either? Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this, then... [National Security Council] call, to be sure; however, this is certainly not what Vice Chairman Ruppersberger was hoping to get for unclas use."
But Ruppersberger tells the Post, "I'm not sure what he meant. I had no expectations."