Many in the media bit on this bait from the Obama Administration today. The Administration released one (1) email, which differed from quotations of it in small respects. They are now claiming “doctored emails:”
So the GOP – after all these months – couldn’t find a smoking gun on Benghazi so they have resorted to doctoring emails.
— Brad Woodhouse (@woodhouseb) May 14, 2013
Want to know the real story?
I warned people off this spin today, reminding them of the fact that investigators were not permitted to make copies of the emails. They were only permitted to view them.
So of course there are going to be differences — the White House is refusing to allow people to have the actual verbatim copies! All of these quotes come from a limited reading period and note-taking.
White House conclusion? They’re doctoring emails!
Note the game they’re playing — they release one email, refusing to release the rest, just to quibble over phrasing in a quote of the email. And yet they themselves have it within their power to guarantee accurate quotes, by simply releasing the emails publicly. But they refuse to, citing, I imagine, “national security.”
Which suddenly isn’t such a very big concern when they have the opportunity to make a “doctored email” claim.
But don’t listen to me. Listen to ABCNews reporter Jonathan Karl, who reported on the quotes from these emails:
The source was not permitted to make copies of the original e-mails. The White House has refused multiple requests – from journalists, including myself, and from Republican leaders in Congress – to release the full e-mail exchanges.
The differences in the two versions are being taken by some as evidence that my source sought to intentionally mislead about the extent of State Department involvement in changing the talking points. The version I obtained makes specific reference to the State Department, while the version reported by CNN references only “all of the relevant equities” and does not single out State.
That last part is in reference to the supposedly huge “doctoring” in the emails, about whether State was explicitly mentioned or not.
Incidentally, the White House didn’t even release the full email exchange. Why not? Well, I think because part of it would be rather embarrassing for them:
The official who provided this e-mail to CNN removed the other e-mail exchanges from other principals. That includes anything written by Nuland, who – as I reported – objected to a paragraph in the draft talking points that referenced prior threats against US and other foreign interests in Libya.
In that e-mail, according to source, Nuland wrote that such information “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 …”
The paragraph Nuland was “concerned” about was removed in its entirety. That e-mail has not been disputed by the administration.
So this is the childish game we’re going to be playing.
Is the media going to continue joining the White House in this game?
How about the White House just releases the emails, as it apparently doesn’t mind leaking them when it can score political spin points off them?
Correction: I thought I had it confirmed that note-taking was forbidden during the viewing, and that all notes about the emails must then come afterwards, after leaving the viewing room. I thought Karl’s “were not allowed to make copies of the emails” meant that no contemporaneous note-taking was permitted, as a transcript of an email, made with a pen, is a “copy” of it. But now I’m not sure he meant that.
Either way, the process guarantees that quotes will not be accurate; that’s the point of it. The way to make sure quotes are accurate is to simply release the emails– a step the White House refuses, except when it can make hay on a point.