The furor over the Benghazi talking points continues. Republicans still see them as the main event in a campaign to embarrass President Obama. The president, for his part, calls them a "sideshow." Finally, on Wednesday, the White House released more than 100 pages of internal emails that showed, in excruciating detail, exactly how the talking points were edited — and the emails, at least to our reading, supported the president's characterization.
Prepared by intelligence officials and revised in interagency discussions, the now-famous talking points were the basis for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's comments five days after the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya that the siege had grown out of a spontaneous reaction to protests in Cairo over an anti-Muslim video.
Republicans and other critics have made much of the fact that an early version of the talking points specifically mentioned participation in the attack by "Islamic extremists with ties to Al Qaeda" and referred to five previous attacks on Western interests in Benghazi. Those passages were cut from the final version — proof, critics say, of a conspiracy by administration officials to disguise, for election-year purposes, that the attacks were a premeditated terrorist operation.
But the documents released Wednesday suggest other explanations for the changes. For example, a State Department official worried that language about past security threats might be cited by members of Congress, who would "beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings." And the specific reference to Al Qaeda appears to have been removed out of fear of compromising a Justice Department criminal investigation.