By Ernest Istook
A deeply politicized CIA acted more to protect the secretary of state than the president when it falsified its Benghazi talking points, according to Halle Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow for public diplomacy.
At this week’s extraordinary public hearing by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell acknowledged being the ultimate editor of the CIA’s infamous talking points memo about the murders of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
The memo’s false claims became the Obama administration’s official version, broadcast by former U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice on national television as she spread the false message that the deaths resulted from a protest gone bad rather than a terrorist attack.
As a guest on my talk radio show Thursday on The Washington Times Radio Network, Ms. Dale said: “What we learned … is that the CIA is a deeply politicized agency.”
And protecting Hillary Clinton seemed a higher priority than protecting Barack Obama.
Morell “took it upon himself to make the changes” in the talking points assembled by CIA professionals, “so that they all pointed toward a kind of crazy demonstration taking place kind of spontaneously,” she said.
“What he did in shaping those talking points and pointing us away from the truth was really serving the [Obama] administration. He helped to create the narrative that was presented and which was wrong and which has misled people and made a travesty out of justice and fairness and truth in this particular absolutely awful case.”
Why, I asked, would Morell seek to protect President Obama — who in 2012 was campaigning for re-election with a claim that he had successfully suppressed terrorism — since Morell’s career had begun as a high-ranking intelligence officer in the CIA under President George W. Bush?
That was when the Heritage Foundation scholar shared that Morell’s motive seemed more based on protecting then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton than Obama himself: “Now it seems that he has, in recent years, thrown in his lot with Hillary Clinton. He, I think, is involved with the prospective Hillary Clinton Democratic campaign, if it materializes. He is involved in that circle. He, after retiring from the CIA, joined a firm peopled by Democrat State Department people from Hillary Clinton’s circle [Beacon Global Strategies]. So he seems to have concluded that this is where his future lies and been in sympathy with the Obama administration.”
“He said in yesterday’s testimony that he removed any references to Islamic terrorism, he removed any references to al Qaeda, he removed any references to an orchestrated attack, because he didn’t want to inflame passions in the Muslim world. Well, they were pretty inflamed as it was. They were killing people, and they were burning American flags, and they were jumping up and down outside U.S. embassies all over the Middle East.”
Obviously, that wasn’t a valid reason to strip the terrorism references from the CIA’s Benghazi talking points, so I asked: You are saying that you believe that, more than protecting President Obama, his goal was to protect Hillary Clinton because the State Department on multiple occasions had been told of the dangers there in Benghazi, had been asked to provide extra security and had failed to do so. You believe the effort of Morell was to protect Hillary Clinton rather than to protect President Obama?
“I think you could conclude that. Yes.”
Ms. Dale reflected on a key portion of Morell’s testimony that revealed his motive to protect Hillary Clinton’s image and reputation: “The first [CIA talking points] draft was pretty comprehensive and was quite good. There was a paragraph in there which said: The CIA has on numerous occasions warned the State Department against the level of terrorist activity in Benghazi, and it was quite detailed about what they had warned them about … That paragraph raised a red flag for Morell; he said, ‘The moment I saw that paragraph, I knew that had to go and I removed it.’”
Then Morell also received an email from Hillary Clinton’s spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, as Ms. Dale described, “saying we don’t like this paragraph, the leadership in my building is really concerned about this, please take it out. So they were definitely thinking in sync. They knew what the implication was, which was clearly that Hillary Clinton was not looking after the people who were sent out to represent the United States. For whatever political reason, the people in Benghazi were not sent out with adequate protection for the dangerous mission they were in.”
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