Feinstein Insists Rice Read ‘Unclassified’ Talking Points But Doesn’t Say Who Finalized Them

By Elizabeth Harrington | November 16, 2012 | 2:07 PM EST

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice used “unclassified’ talking points “signed off by the intelligence community” when she said the Sept. 11 attack in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi arose from a spontaneous demonstration against a video posted on YouTube video.

However, Feinstien did not say who specifically in the “intelligence community” gave the final okay for those talking points.

Following closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill with former CIA Director David Petraeus, new and apparently conflicting details have emerged regarding the talking points Rice used on Sunday, Sept. 16 – five days after the Banghazi attack in which four Americans were killed -- when she said a “spontaneous protest” resulted from the obscure video, “Innocence of Muslims.”

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Feinstein and other Democratic members insisted Rice was using “unclassified” talking points at a “very early stage,” and therefore was restricted in what she could say.  “She did what I would have done,” Feinstein said at the Capitol on Friday.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, however, said today that the original “unclassified” talking points did state that al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists groups were involved in the consulate attack. But in a final editing process – by whom it is still unknown – those al-Qaeda/terrorist references were removed from the final talking points.

Immediately following the closed Senate briefing with Petraeus, CNSNews.com asked Feinstein: “Who specifically would have put out the final talking points that Ambassador Susan Rice used on the Sunday morning shows?”

Feinstein said, “All right, since you asked that question and the rules of our committee are that you cannot use something that you learned in a classified session, I can give you my assessment based on questions, based on my investigation, based on my listening that what Susan Rice—Ambassador Rice—did was use talking points put out originally by the CIA, signed off by the intelligence community.”

Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, went on several national news programs on Sept. 16 and claimed that the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 was caused by a spontaneous uprising sparked by an obscure anti-Muslim YouTube video. (AP)

“And those talking points, as I understand it, were requested by the House committee and the intelligence community signed off on them,” she said.  “The key is that they were unclassified talking points at a very early stage.”

Feinsteind did not say specifically who or which elements of the “intelligence community” gave the final sign-off on the talking points. Rep. Heck said, "Now, we still don't know who briefed Ambassador Rice and exactly what talking points she used and who edited them from the time they left the intelligence community  'til the time she made her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, and neither Director Petraeus nor any of the witnesses we had yesterday [Thursday] were able to answer that question.”

Feinstein further said, “And I don’t think she [Rice] should be pilloried for this. “She did what I would have done or anyone else would have done that was going on a weekend show, you would have said, what talking points can I use?  And you would get an unclassified version.”

She continued:  “I just read to the committee, the members that were remaining,  what I was going to tell you if the question was asked, to be sure they didn’t violate our rules.”

“So this is—particularly for people in public office because you’re used to answering questions candidly, to have to be restricted to what is unclassified -- is sometimes very, very difficult,” Feinstein said.

According to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), former CIA Director David Petraeus told members of the House Intelligence Committee this morning that original CIA talking points indicated the attack on the Benghazi compound was a terrorist attack.

Petraeus testified that he knew "almost immediately" that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda linked group, was responsible for the attack, according to Rep. King.

Rep. Heck said, "The initial talking points, which were put together in an unclassified format at the request of the House intelligence committee, initially did state that al-Qaeda affiliated groups were involved. However, by the time, we understand, that went through its editing process after it left Langley, that reference was taken out."

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Feinstein echoed the statements of fellow Intelligence Committee member Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who said today that Rice did the “entirely responsible thing in answering questions based on what was unclassified and agreed to by the entire intelligence community.”