Magnifying Glass

By Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung
Published: May 15 E-mail the writers

The Obama administration released 100 pages of e-mails Wednesday that reveal differences between intelligence analysts and State Department officials over how to initially describe the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The internal debate did not include political interference from the White House, according to the e-mails, which were provided to congressional intelligence committees several months ago.

Since the assault that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Republicans have accused President Obama and his senior advisers of mischaracterizing the attack, largely to prevent political repercussions during what was then a close reelection campaign.

Much of the Republican concern has focused on whether administration officials acknowledged early enough that an Islamist terrorist organization was behind the attack, rather than groups of protesters participating in anti-American demonstrations that were taking place outside many U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East and North Africa.

According to the e-mails and initial CIA-drafted talking points, the agency believed the attack included a mix of Islamist extremists from Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, and angry demonstrators.

White House officials did not challenge that analysis, the e-mails show, nor did they object to its inclusion in the public talking points.

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