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January 1, 2013

Report details the changes in Benghazi attack explanations

WASHINGTON — The FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies — but not the White House — made major changes in talking points that led to the Obama administration’s confusing explanations of the attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, a Senate report concluded Monday.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report said the White House was only responsible for a minor change. Some Republicans had questioned whether the presidential staff rewrote the talking points for political reasons.

The committee, headed by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, also said the director of national intelligence has been stonewalling the panel in holding back a promised timeline of the talking point changes.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11 attack. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said she used the talking points to say in television interviews on Sept. 16 that it may have been a protest that got out of hand.

Rice’s incorrect explanation may have cost her a chance to be nominated as the next secretary of state, as Senate Republicans publicly said they would not vote to confirm her. President Barack Obama instead nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is expected to win easy confirmation.

The State Department this month acknowledged major weaknesses in security and errors in judgment exposed in a scathing independent report on the assault. Two top State officials appealed to Congress to fully fund requests to ensure diplomats and embassies are safe.

Testifying before two congressional committees, senior State Department officials acknowledged that serious management and leadership failures left the diplomatic mission in Benghazi woefully unprepared for the terrorist attack. The State Department review board’s report led four department officials to resign.

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