Nightly News   |  May 10, 2013

Benghazi blame game between CIA, State Dept.

Emails show the State Department and the White House were much more involved in watering down Benghazi talking points than previously acknowledged. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> good evening. it is now clear that a lot of things influence what the obama administration said about the attack on september 11 of this past year on the u.s. consulate in benghazi , libya. the attack raged for hours. in the end there were four dead. quotes gathered from government e-mails after the event now show some people seem to be as concerned over how to describe it as they were over what had happened. our ambassador and three others have been murdered and yet much of the talk between the white house , the state department and the cia was about talking points -- how to talk about the tragedy on tv, what to say, what not to say. to quote former secretary of state hillary clinton , what difference at this point does it make? well, to those involved in this investigation, trying to track down how the attack happened in the first place and how the story was then wrongly told at first, it makes a lot of difference. it's where we begin tonight with our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell . good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. the e-mails we have been shown prove what the white house first said about not being involved in the benghazi talking points is just not true. in fact, the state department and the white house were far more involved in watering down the benghazi talking points than they have been saying for months. the benghazi tragedy quickly turned into what insiders call a knife fight between the state department in charge of the mission where ambassador chris stevens and information specialist sean smith died, and the cia which ran a separate outpost where woods and doherty were killed later. the cia circulated the first draft of talking points requested by the house intelligence committee . it blamed the attack in protests in cairo over an anti-islamic video saying based on currently available information that the attacks in benghazi were spontaneously inspire bid the protests at the u.s. embassy in cairo . it went on to say we know islamic extremists with ties to al qaeda participated in the attacks. at least five other attacks against foreign interests in benghazi by unidentified assailants. that set off alarms at the state department . at 7:30 that night victoria newland, a 30-year-old career diplomat objected e-mailing, why are we encouraging members of congress to start making assertions to the media that we are not making because we don't want to prejudice the investigation? they say she was trying not to shift the blame. at white house meetings saturday, other officials further watered down the talking points . in all there were 12 separate drafts in the end eliminating all references to terrorism, but keeping the point about the cairo demonstration being the spark that set off the attack. on sunday susan rice followed the guidelines on five talk shows .

>> on benghazi was a spontaneous.

>> reporter: in january hillary clinton denied a role.

>> i wasn't involved in the talking points process.

>> reporter: congress wanted to see the e-mails before confirming john brennan as cia director . the white house was claiming it did not weigh in.

>> the cia made changes to the edits, i mean the talking points .

>> reporter: the administration insists it was not campaign politics but a turf battle which clearly evolved into a major black eye for everyone involved. brian?

>> andrea mitchell starting us off