ABC journalist Jon Karl actually followed up on Wednesday's Benghazi hearings, exposing that CIA talking points on the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack were "dramatically edited" a total of 12 times by the administration. In a report airing on Friday's Good Morning America, Karl explained to viewers that, between the first version and the last, "all references to al Qaeda and all references to CIA warnings before the attack about the terror threat in Benghazi" were removed. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
An ABC graphic went so far as to wonder, "Benghazi Statements Not True? White House Statements contradicted." Karl quoted from Hillary Clinton's State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland. Playing politics, Nuland said of the information in the warnings, "[It] could be abused by members of Congress to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that?" An online version of Karl's story showcased a full paragraph that was removed.
This section, highlighting previous CIA warnings about Al Qaeda threats, was entirely deleted:
"The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks."
One revision, dated September 14, 2012, changed this sentence, "That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack" to "That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
To see the 12 different versions, go here.
At the end of the segment, news reader Josh Elliott concluded, "New questions requiring answers this morning." Indeed. Karl's report is exactly the type of follow-up journalists should be doing on Benghazi.
Considering that ABC only allowed 53 seconds of coverage to the hearings on Thursday, the network should be commended for actually following up. Now, will CBS and NBC?
A transcript of the May 10 GMA segments follow:
ABC GRAPHIC: Benghazi Statements Not True? White House Statements Contradicted
JOSH ELLIOTT: We're going to turn now to an ABC exclusive, new questions for the White House this morning about whether it knew the truth about the Benghazi terror attack. ABC's senior White House correspondent Jonathan Karl has been working the story overnight, joins us now from the White House. Good morning, to you, Jon.
JON KARL: Good morning to you, Josh. As you know, when this attack happened, the White House initially said it arose out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video. That turned out not to be true and the White House said they relied entirely on CIA talking points. But I have obtained 12 different versions of those talking points that shows that they were dramatically edited by the administration. Take a look at two of them. On the left, a draft initially written by the CIA. On the right, one that was used by the White House, the final version. What was taken out? All references to al Qaeda and all references to CIA warnings before the attack about the terror threat in Benghazi.
ELLIOTT: So then, Jon, again, if this gains traction as they seem to be direct contradictions, how bad could this be for the State Department and its former head Hillary Clinton?
KARL: Well, that remains to be seen, but, Josh, I have had e-mails read to me that show that many of these changes were directed by Hillary Clinton's spokesperson at the State Department, Victoria Nuland. In one e-mail, she said that information about CIA warnings, quote, "could be abused by members of Congress to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that?" After that e-mail, all of those references were deleted. Now, the White House is saying that there is nothing inappropriate about the State Department giving input into this and that ultimately the CIA drafted these talking points and approved them but I'll tell you, Josh, they initially said only one word had been changed.
ELLIOTT: New questions requiring answers this morning. Jonathan Karl at the White House. Thank you. Robin.
PAULA FARIS: And an ABC News exclusive this morning about the White House spin after the terror attack in Benghazi, Libya. Documents show the State Department requested changes to a CIA memo, deleting all references to previous warnings about al Qaeda and the terrorism threat there. The changes appear to been made to avoid criticism for ignoring those warnings.