WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The intelligence community made substantive revisions to talking points about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a government official said.
Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of National Intelligence, said Monday the unclassified talking points used by government officials who spoke about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the diplomatic mission were not substantively changed by any agency outside of the intelligence community, CNN reported.
The attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic employees.
Republicans' already-withering criticism of the talking points intensified Friday after a closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing with former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Some Republican congressional members suggested change came from the White House, the Justice Department or another agency.
The initial version included information linking individuals involved in the attack to al-Qaida, a senior U.S. official familiar with the draft told CNN. When the document was sent to the intelligence community for review, a decision was made to change "al-Qaida" to "extremists" for intelligence and legal reasons, the official said.
"First, the information about individuals linked to al-Qaida was derived from classified sources," the official said. "Second, when links were so tenuous -- as they still are -- it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don't set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages."
Turner said the intelligence community "made substantive, analytical changes before the talking points were sent to government agency partners for their feedback. There were no substantive changes made to the talking points after they left the intelligence community."
The House intelligence panel indicated it wasn't satisfied with Turner's explanation.
"The statement released [Monday] by the DNI's spokesman regarding how the intelligence community's talking points were changed gives a new explanation that differs significantly from information provided in testimony to the committee last week," said committee spokeswoman Susan Phalen, adding that the panel looked forward to discussion the matter "as soon as possible to understand how the DNI reached this conclusion and why leaders of the intelligence community testified late last week that they were unaware of who changed the talking points."
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