The unclassified talking points reflected what the CIA “believed at that point in time,” said the senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive issue. “The points were reviewed by CIA leadership and coordinated in the interagency at a senior level. The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations or play down that this was an attack. There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly.”
It remained unclear, however, why the CIA and the administration said there was a protest outside the consulate when Libya’s interim president and local witnesses were saying none had taken place, and administration officials said at first that they couldn’t confirm there was one.
Administration officials eventually conceded there was no protest and that the assaults appeared to involve militants from a local Islamist group, Ansar al Shariah , and others linked to al Qaida’s North Africa affiliate, al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Many lawmakers’ post-hearing comments focused on Rice’s treatment.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., lambasted Rice’s critics, saying, “You don’t pillory the person and select Ambassador Rice because she used an unclassified talking point to say she is unqualified to be secretary of state.”
“The way it keeps going, it’s almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character,” Feinstein continued.
Feinstein read the unclassified talking points, the first of which said “currently available information” suggested that spontaneous protests in Benghazi inspired by anti-video demonstrations in Cairo “evolved into a direct assault against the United States diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.”
“There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations,” it continued, with the next point saying the assessment could change as new information was collected.
“Now as I understand the process, the CIA prepares additional talking points, which then go through the various components of the intelligence community, and those components either sign off on them, discuss them, and I believe the intelligence community signed off on these talking points,” Feinstein said.
Republicans said they still had questions about the attacks. They included why the State Department hadn’t strengthened security at the consulate and annex given that Libyan authorities had been unable to curb escalating violence by Islamist groups and militias that refused to disband after overthrowing the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011.
"The State Department did not take adequate measures to protect personnel,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “We need to find out more. Clearly the security measures were not adequate."