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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ex-CIA leader Morell denies role in Benghazi ‘cover-up’ during heated Hill hearing -- By Guy Taylor, The Washington Times

A high-level former CIA leader flatly denied allegations on Wednesday that he had "inappropriately altered and influenced" the the now infamous Benghazi talking points to downplay the role of terrorism in the incident by inaccurately playing up the idea that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks had been born out of a spontaneous protest — and then later "covered up" his actions.

"These allegations accuse me of taking these actions for the political benefit of President Obama and then [former] Secretary of State [Hillary Rodham] Clinton," former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell told lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

"These allegations are false," he said in prepared remarks given to committee members and the press as the highly-anticipated hearing on the Benghazi talking points got underway — disputes over which have long sat at the center of political fireworks hanging over an exhaustive series of congressional investigations into the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans more than 18 months ago.

Mr. Morell moved quickly in his testimony to address the heart of the matter: Why did senior CIA and White House officials in Washington ignore pointed assertions by the CIA's chief of station in Libya that there had been no protest prior to the attacks and why were those assertions not included in talking points that former U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice used on Sept. 16 when she appeared — five days after the attacks — on several news talks shows to claim that there had been a protest.

Mr. Morell said the CIA station chief's assertions were not used in the talking points because they were outmatched by other streams of information being weighed at the same time by CIA analysts crafting the points.

"Let me make clear that we know that the analysts had an evidentiary basis to make the judgment that there was a protest ongoing at the time of the attack," he said. "All together, there were roughly a dozen or so reports indicating that this was the case.

"These included press accounts — including public statements by the Libyan Government and by extremists," he said. "And they included intelligence reports from CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense."

Mr. Morell specifically pressed back against the "allegation" that he had known that there had actually been no protest when the talking points were being edited.

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