Once again, it appears that President Barack Obama is positioning key Benghazi players in such a manner as to keep them from testifying before Congress by exerting “executive privilege.”
CIA Deputy Director Steps Down ‘To Spend More Time With His Family’
CIA deputy director Michael Morell, who played a key role in editing the administration’s controversial talking points on last September’s terror attack in Benghazi, announced his retirement on Wednesday after 33 years of service.
The White House immediately announced that President Obama had appointed Morell to serve on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, an independent advisory body.
Obama also nominated as the next CIA deputy director Avril Haines, currently deputy assistant to the president and legal advisor to the National Security Council. She will be the first woman to hold the CIA post.
“As much as I would selfishly like to keep Michael right where he is for as long as possible, he has decided to retire to spend more time with his family and to pursue other professional opportunities,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement.
“Michael’s devotion to the men and women of the Agency, our intelligence mission, and to a job well done has been exemplary.” During his time at the CIA, Morell held positions included those of presidential briefer, director for intelligence, deputy director and acting director.
Morell made unwelcome headlines last month when documents released by the White House – after some had been leaked to media – showed he had proposed extensive edits to notes being prepared by the administration about the Benghazi attack, for public release.
In a document dated Sept. 14 – two days before ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice would go onto Sunday television talk shows to talk about the incident – Morell advised the removal from the draft talking points of all references to al-Qaeda and previous terror activity in Libya.
His proposed edits included the striking of an entire portion reading: “The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qaeda 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 that individuals had previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”
On the other hand, he did not suggest in that instance any amendments to a part of the draft that linked the Benghazi attack to a demonstration at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo hours earlier (by Muslims purportedly angry about an online video clip denigrating Mohammed.)
The bottom line in Rice’s various talk show appearances that Sunday was that the violence in Benghazi was, according to the best information available at the time, not a premeditated terror attack but linked to protests over the video.
She told ABC’s This Week, for instance, that “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo.