Published December 23, 2015
The White House denied allegations Saturday that it scrubbed terrorist involvement from original CIA talking points on the fatal Libya attacks – part of a weekend back and forth in which both parties continued to defend their positions.
White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said only one minor change was made by the Oval Office.
"The only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word 'consulate' to the word 'diplomatic facility,' since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate," Rhodes told reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One.
"We were provided with points by the intelligence community that represented their assessment. The only edit made by the White House was the factual edit about how to refer to the facility," Rhodes also said.
His remarks came a day after former CIA Director David Petraeus told House and Senate intelligence committees that the agency's original talking points suggested the Sept. 11 attacks involved Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers – including the Libyan group Ansar al-Shariah.
However, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice made no mention of terrorists when appearing Sept. 16 on several TV shows to say the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, were "spontaneous" and appeared to be sparked by angry protests over an anti-Islamic film.
Rice purportedly was working off non-classified CIA talking points that had first been reviewed by the White House and other agencies including the Defense and State departments.
The attacks killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Steven and three other Americans.
Earlier on Saturday, Republican Rep. Pete King said the next step is learn who changed the talking points and why.
He also suggested the House Intelligence Committee could call Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to testify.
The New York congressman told Fox News that the CIA intelligence reports went through so many administration offices that finding out who removed the information that connected the attacks with terror groups will be difficult.
"The CIA had it right, and those talking points were changed," King said. "It's not going to be easy."
King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the other Capitol Hill committees could call Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to testify but others on Capitol Hill also must take up the effort.
"It's up to the other committees," he said. "We have to find out … . Clearly, the intelligence committee had it right. Somewhere along the line the policy makers changed it."
He said the key questions for Rice should be: Who did she speak with in the intelligence committee before making her comments and who briefed her?
King suggested he'd be surprised if Rice went on national TV with just a few talking points.
"Maybe the president's right," he said. "We should be looking at him."
King stuck to his argument that the Obama administration believed the war against Al Qaeda was over "and this is what they wanted to present."
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff told Fox the existing Hill committees can handle the investigation and a special Watergate-style or select Hill committee is not needed in part because it would be too politicized.
The attack occurred roughly seven weeks before Election Day.
King told Fox on Friday that intelligence officials who testified in a closed-door hearing a day earlier, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and acting CIA Director Mike Morell, said they did not know who changed the talking points.