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Transparency update: Jay Carney briefs select reporters at ‘private’ press conference regarding Benghazi

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By Doug Powers  •  May 11, 2013 11:16 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

Out: “Off-the-record meeting.”

In: “Deep background“:

Politico now reports that the meeting has been characterized as “deep background.” The existence of the meeting itself is considered “off-the-record.” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “Deep background means that the info presented by the briefers can be used in reporting but the briefers can’t be quoted.” So expect a fair number of “White House sources” to appear in reportage for the next few days.

UPDATE IV: Jay Carney began his on-the-record press briefing by announcing that 14 news organizations were invited to the closed door briefing, but that it was not a substitute for the on-the-record briefing. He then announced that it was “erroneous” to describe the briefing as “off-the-record,” and instead suggested it was “deep background.”

I’m guessing the donuts were being handed out at a record pace.

Why the need for some private “let’s get on the same page here” seminars? For starters, in the near future, some pre-arranged containment might come in handy (h/t Allahpundit):

The “deep background” meetings with select White House reporters were hastily called to try and herd any straying lapdogs back onto the lap because of ongoing Benghazi revelations like this one:

Last November, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told this to reporters in regards to the Benghazi talking points: “The only edit that was made by the White House and also by the State Department was to change the word ‘consulate’ to the word ‘diplomatic facility,’ since the facility in Benghazi was not formally a consulate.” Jay Carney said the same thing at the time.

With that in mind, ABC News reported that the Benghazi talking points went through at least a dozen edits, including this big edit at the behest of Hillary Clinton’s State Department:

Summaries of White House and State Department emails — some of which were first published by Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard — show that the State Department had extensive input into the editing of the talking points.

State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland raised specific objections to this paragraph drafted by the CIA in its earlier versions of the talking points:

“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, 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 the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”

In an email to officials at the White House and the intelligence agencies, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland took issue with including that information because it “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 was entirely deleted.

Flashback to President Obama during one of the debates against Romney (video here): “And the suggestion that anybody on my team — whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team — would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive.”

Get this — according to Carney, the reason a fact (coordinated terrorist attack) was removed from the talking points and fiction (“the YouTube vide made them do it”) was allowed to remain is because of… Mitt Romney:

“This ongoing effort [to compile the talking points] began hours after the attack, when Mitt Romney put out a press release to try to take political advantage out of these deaths, out of the attack in Benghazi, in a move that was maligned even by members of his own party,” Carney said. “And from that day forward there has been this effort to politicize it.”

See? Mitt Romney made them lie. Good thing America didn’t make the mistake of electing him!

Phineas writing at Sister Toldjah’s blog adds: “Remember, the administration knew what happened that night from their people on the ground. The jihadis themselves knew what happened; it was their operation. The only people being deceived here were us.”

And when the going gets tough, as always, the tough get Bush:

Carney added that the Obama administration’s transparency on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath has been “extraordinary,” and “especially unusual with regard to our predecessor.”

Carney’s pat on the back of the Obama administration’s transparency came during the public press conference and not the “deep background” briefing earlier, or we’d not have heard him say it.

Among the White House’s many concerns that no doubt led to the “deep background” meeting is that this story is gaining more mainstream traction. Better late than never:

Passing thought: If I was trying to deflect a possible political scandal, I’d be hesitant to insert the term “deep” anything into the lexicon.

Also, from Twitchy: CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reviews the trail of Benghazi talking points.

Update: The White House press room was briefly evacuated due to smoke. Early reports that the smoke started after the president was unable to find his Nicorette gum proved false. The problem was caused by an overheated transformer in a mechanical room.

Update II:

Update III: Hands down the photo of the week.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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