By Jeremy Herb
The White House did not make changes to the unclassified talking points on the Benghazi attack that were used by Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on her controversial Sunday show appearances, an intelligence official confirmed to The Hill.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said the only substantive changes made to the talking points were made by the intelligence community and not other “interagency partners” in the Obama administration.
The content of the talking points has come under scrutiny since former CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers in a closed hearing Friday the CIA believed almost immediately that the Sept. 11 attack was an act of terrorism.
House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.) said that the original talking points drafted by the CIA had been changed, with references to al Qeada removed and “extremists” used instead.
Rice’s comments on Benghazi, in which she attributed the attack to a spontaneous protest and not a coordinated effort, have become a major issue for her potential nomination as secretary of State.
Some Republicans point to her statements as evidence she is unqualified for the job, while Democrats — including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — defended Rice after Petraeus testified Friday. They said the CIA signed off on the talking points she used.
Turner’s comments, first reported by CNN, would bolster the argument that the intelligence community backed what Rice said publicly about the Benghazi attack.
Democrats suggested Friday there was a difference between what could be said in classified and unclassified settings in the days following the attack.
The White House has said it didn’t make any changes to the talking points beyond changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility.”
But Republicans remain skeptical about why the CIA’s assessment differed from what was said publicly.
A spokeswoman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Turner’s comments clashed with closed-door testimony.
"The statement released Monday evening by the DNI's spokesman regarding how the Intelligence Community's talking points were changed gives a new explanation that differs significantly from information provided in testimony to the Committee last week,” Rogers spokeswoman Susan Phalen said in a statement.
“Chairman Rogers looks forward to discussing this new explanation with Director Clapper as soon as possible to understand how the DNI reached this conclusion and why leaders of the Intelligence Community testified late last week that they were unaware of who changed the talking points."