Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell faced the House Intelligence Committee today to answer questions on the Benghazi talking points. Lawmakers are seeking answers on who directed former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to claim that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack was the result of a protest over an anti-Islamic video.
Morell is facing accusations that he downplayed, or even dismissed, the reporting of U.S. personnel on the ground in Libya, including the CIA chief of station.
According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report, the station chief wrote to Morell and other CIA leadership on Sept. 15, 2012, emphasizing in an email that the attacks were "not an escalation of protests." A day later Rice went on national television and said the opposite.
Morell maintained in his opening statement (video above) that the White House did not "make any substantive changes to the talking points," nor did they ask him to do so. He explained that the claims about the protests outside the U.S. consulate came from the intelligence community as a whole, conceding that the process within the CIA "could have been better."
"The judgment that the attacks evolved from a protest was fully consistent with the intelligence community's classified analysis at the time," said Morell, adding that the talking points underwent many changes within the CIA.
In the video below, Morell went on to discuss the email from the CIA station chief, saying that he received it on the same day that he edited the talking points. Morell said he immediately recognized discrepancies between the station chief's report and what other CIA analysts were saying.
He recalled that he notified "policymakers" about the differing reports and asked the analysts to quickly "revisit their judgment" that the attack did result from a protest.
"They did that and based on the totality of the information available to them, they stuck to their initial conclusions. Mr. Chairman, I did not hide, nor did I downplay the station chief's comments as some have suggested. In fact, I did just the opposite," said Morell.