POSTED: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 1:00pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 1:04pm
CNN — House Speaker John Boehner called on President Obama to release emails that he says show how the White House wanted to change the Benghazi attack "talking points."
Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, vowed Thursday to "leave no stone unturned" in looking into the matter and answering questions about the attack.
At a press conference Thursday, Boehner said he wants the White House to unveil emails to the public that House committees saw privately in their Benghazi investigation.
"The White House continues to claim it only made stylistic changes to talking points used by (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Susan Rice, ignoring the fact that seniors White House officials directed the changes being made to those talking reports," Boehner said.
House Republican leaders last month released a report on the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, which left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead. The report claimed White House and State Department personnel deliberately altered talking points put together by the intelligence community about what transpired in Libya to remove any references to extremist groups linked to al Qaeda.
This was done, the report concludes, to avoid embarrassing the State Department for missing any early warnings.
Days after the attack, Rice used the talking points on several Sunday morning news shows and said the attack originated from a protest outside of the compound. The intelligence community later said the violence was actually a terrorist attack.
Obama administration officials previously acknowledged that they did alter the talking points in an effort to preserve classified information and avoid any impact on the FBI investigation of the attack.
But the House GOP report indicated that House committees reviewed email traffic about those draft talking points and found no evidence that anyone within the administration raised any red flags about securing classified information.
Boehner also called Thursday for the disclosure of an email from a top State Department official from the day after the attack. The email, Boehner said, refers to "Islamic terrorists" as carrying out the attack.
"A senior State Department official emailed her superiors that the Libyan ambassador, she had told the Libyan ambassador, the attack was conducted by Islamic terrorists. The State Department would not allow our committees to keep copies of this email when it was reviewed," Boehner said.
At Wednesday's House hearing on Benghazi, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina read an excerpt from the email, sent from Beth Jones, the acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.
"'I spoke to the Libyan ambassador and emphasized the importance of Libyan leaders continuing to make strong statements'," he read aloud, adding that the email was sent the day after Benghazi and several days before Rice's television appearance. "'When he said his government suspected that former Gadhafi regime elements carried out the attacks I told him that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.' Let me say that again...she told him, the State Department on September 12th, days before our ambassador went on national television, is telling the ambassador to Libya the group that conducted the attacks Ansar al-Sharia is affiliated with Islamic terrorists."
The State Department has maintained that they've been defining the violence as a terrorist attack since September 12. State Department officials were surprised to hear Rice describing it as a spontaneous attack that came from a demonstration.
Speaking from Rome, Secretary Kerry, who assumed his position after the Benghazi attack, said he is determined to get answers to questions and put the issue "to bed."
"And if there is any culpability in any area that is appropriate to be handled in some way with some discipline it will be appropriately handled," he said at a press conference. "I am confident that any recent, uh, recent evidence will be a component of that consideration. So let's wait until we get back to the United States and I get a chance to catch up to the full measure of what took place."