It now looks as though the White House's excuse for the pre-election Libya cover-up is itself a cover up. Last week we were told by the Administration (and the compliant media) that during her now-infamous round robin of five Sunday news shows, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was only telling us what she was told by the intelligence community. We were also told that references to al-Qaeda were edited out of the talking points in order to avoid tipping off the attackers that we were on to them. According to a number of CBS News' sources, this simply isn't true.
As recently as yesterday, though, Rice doubled down on this defense: "I relied soley and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers."
At first glance, Rice's comments might not appear to move the ball, but they do tell us that the Administration has found its defense and intends to stick to it -- that defense being that Rice was only parroting the false information she was given. But now, thanks to some good reporting from CBS News, we know things weren't that simple.
Let's back up just a little bit…
Last week, former CIA Chief Davis Petraeus testified that within a day he knew the assault on our consulate in Benghazi was a premeditated terrorist attack committed by a Libyan militia with ties to al-Qaeda. As a result, Petraeus authorized the release of this information to the public in talking points to be given to the White House and to lawmakers. CBS News reports that references to al-Qaeda were later removed by Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) -- an agency run by James Clapper, an Obama appointee. The FBI also made substantial edits.
But here's where the plot thickens.
DNI spokesman Shawn Turner told CBS News, "The intelligence community assessed from the very beginning that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack." He added that this classified information was shared with the White House. CBS News then quite correctly concludes that, as a member of Obama's cabinet, Susan Rice would would've known this. All cabinet members are given classified briefings.
The bottom line, then, is that during her Sunday show appearances, Rice knew the information she was spreading was false.
In reference to the edited talking points, another source told CBS News that… [emphasis added]
"The points were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack," the official tells CBS News, adding that there were "legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly."
"Most people understand that saying 'extremists' were involved in a direct assault on the mission isn't shying away from the idea of terrorist involvement," added the official. "Because of the various elements involved in the attack, the term extremist was meant to capture the range of participants."
This is important because if the talking points were not edited "to minimize the role of extremists," that, then, was a decision Susan Rice made all on her own (with likely prompting from the White House ). The same goes for White House spokesman Jay Carney and the President himself, both of whom would spend nearly two weeks spinning this same false narrative.
This false White House narrative, which only sharpened over time, was all about a spontaneous protest over a YouTube video that turned into a deadly riot. But if the edited talking points were not meant to "diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack," that was a decision the White House made, and one that conflicts entirely with the excuse that they were simply telling us what they were told by the intelligence community.
And it wasn't just the fact that the White House chose to focus on the YouTube video. Time and again, for nearly two weeks, Rice and Carney would go the extra mile in this deception by telling the media that there was absolutely no evidence the assault on our consulate was premeditated.
Finally, the primary defense for the editing of al-Qaeda out of the talking points is this ridiculous notion that we didn't want the group responsible for the attack to know we were after them. That never came close to passing the smell test, and now the intelligence community is pushing back against that nonsense:
[A]n intelligence source tells CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan the links to al Qaeda were deemed too "tenuous" to make public, because there was not strong confidence in the person providing the intelligence.
In other words, the removing of the al-Qaeda references wasn't about tipping anyone off; it was about making sure it was this particular al-Qaeda affiliated militia. There was never any doubt the attack was a premeditated terror attack, but amongst all the extremists in Libya, we just weren't sure which one was responsible.
So, if what CBS is reporting is true, this is what we know now:
1. At the time, Susan Rice knew the information she repeated five times on five Sunday shows wasn't true.
2. The edited talking points were never meant to deceive and conceal the fact that what happened in Libya was a terror attack. And yet, that's exactly what Rice and the White House did for nearly two weeks.
3. Contrary to what the White House and media told us, the talking points were not edited to keep the group responsible for the attack from knowing we were on to them. Therefore…
4. We were lied to for reasons that had nothing to do with national security.
5. The media's going to allow the Obama Administration to get away with this. (Why else would CBS play down its own story the way they did this one?)
Everything goes back to the motive for this cover up, which, apparently, was to run out the clock to Election Day with a Narrative meant to hide the fact that on Obama's watch there was a successful terror attack that resulted in the murder of an American ambassador and three other Americans. And let's also not forget that, just a few days before the attack, at his nominating convention, Obama bragged before the whole world that "al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat."
The American people understand that deception is sometimes necessary in the name of national security. But no one believes that's the case here.
This cover up, which the media has happily become a co-conspirator to, was only about winning Obama a second term.
And now the cover up of the cover up is in full swing.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC