The Benghazi Memo Drafts, as They Evolved

Philip Bump
The Benghazi Memo Drafts, as They Evolved

According to ABC News, the government talking points on the situation in Benghazi went through eleven versions prior to their final release. We've created an interactive tool allowing you to walk through each individual change.

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After the attack on the American embassy in that Libyan city on September 11, 2012, the CIA developed an initial outline describing what it knew about the situation, which is the initial draft you see below. That outline was then reviewed by the State Department, and went through a number of iterations before being distributed to members of Congress and used by the Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, in appearances on Sunday morning talk shows on September 16.

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Where possible, we've included context describing why the change was made and who requested it, as reported by ABC. That context appears beneath each draft, in italics.

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Photo: A man looks at documents in the heavily damaged Benghazi embassy. (AP)

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Jump to: Sept. 14 11:15 am 12:23 pm 4:42 pm 5:09 pm 6:21 pm 6:41 pm 6:52 pm 8:59 pm Sept. 15 9:45 am 11:08 am 11:26 am

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Sept. 14, 11:15 am

• We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa'ida participated in the attack.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• We are working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 12:23 pm

• We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa'ida participated in the attack.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar ai-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• We are working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 4:42 pm

The We believe based on currently available information suggests that the demonstrations attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qa'ida participated in the attack violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of etremists 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.

The U.S. Government is We are working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 5:09 pm

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 6:21 pm

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy Cairo and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 6:41 pm

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September we notified Embassy Cairo warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration an encouraging in front of the Embassy Cairo and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy.

• The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 6:52 am

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September we notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.

The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence, although the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals. That being said, wWe do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 14, 8:59 pm

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September the Agency we notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.

• The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence, although the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals. That being said, there are indications We do know that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia's Facebook page aims to spread Sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.

• The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

• The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, sSince 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

ABC reports that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland didn't want to name Ansar al-Sharia in order not to "prejudice the investigation."

Sept. 15, 9:45 am

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated. On 10 September the Agency notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.

• The investigation is ongoing as to who is responsible for the violence, although the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals. That being said, there are indications that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.

The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. 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.

• The U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities and intelligence partners in an effort to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

ABC reports that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland wanted to have the paragraph concerning "numerous pieces" removed because, in her words, 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 either? Concerned ..."

Sept. 15, 11:08 am

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indication that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated.

• The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

Sept. 15, 11:26 am

• The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indication that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

• This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated.

• The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. Government is working w/ Libyan authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.