White House releases Benghazi emails

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The United States White House released roughly a hundred pages of emails on Wednesday related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the United States diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. The assault killed four US personnel, including US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. The documents show conversations the administration had in preparing to discuss the attacks publicly.

File photo of the White House in Washington, DC, February 2008.
Image: Юкатан.

The emails show conversations between the White House, the US State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) over what the government should say about the attack. They show the CIA director at the time, David Petraeus, disagreed with the choice of information delivered by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on September 16, 2012 during appearances on Sunday talk shows because he wanted to see more detail on the attack released, "No mention of the cable to Cairo, either?... Frankly, I'd just as soon not use it then." he said in an email.

Along with the emails was a handwritten document made by Petraeus's deputy, Mike Morell, after a meeting at the White House. It appears that Morell eliminated references to al-Qaeda, Libya-based Islamic extremists, and a warning to the Cairo embassy about a potential demonstration by jihadists lead by the brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri. While some talking points of the demonstration remained intact on the document, any mentioning of Islamic extremists were deleted at a deputies meeting at the White House the next day.

An email by then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also expressed reservations about the disclosure of information about the attacks because of the opportunity it would give congressional Republicans means to undermine the White House. The email, sent by Nuland on September 14 at 7.39pm to the White House, State Department and CIA, stated "The line of 'knowing' there were extremists among the demonstrators will come back to us at podium".

Republicans had asserted the White House was engaged in a cover-up, ignoring the role of an al-Qaeda inspired group in the attack and suggesting instead the assault was the result of a demonstration by a group against an American-produced anti-Islam film.