The claim that “no one knows who changed the CIA talking points,” is total horseshit. Listening to some of the Senators and Representatives today befuddled by the inability of David Petraeus, Jim Clapper and Mike Morell to identify who changed the CIA memo during the inter-agency coordination process, and the accompanying cluelessness of most of the media to grasp that this was just a big smokescreen, I am compelled to elaborate on how an unclass intel product is generated.

We know, thanks to CBS, that the so-called “talking points” were drafted by the CIA. What does that mean? An analyst in the Counter Terrorism Center aka CTC (most likely) was asked to put together a brief presenting what happened and who carried out the attack. As the analysts puts together the talking points, he or she will start coordinating with other analysts. In this case, for example, the CTC analyst will ask other analysts who work on the same issue or topic to review the prose and and approve the draft. This is called coordination.

Once the analyst secures the approval of colleagues with a substantive interest within his or her branch, the analyst must reach out to others with a substantive interest, such as the Libyan analyst. Once the Libyan analyst gives the CTC analyst recommended changes, two things happen. First, the analyst gives the Branch Chief a copy to edit. Second, the analyst then reaches out to analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the FBI and the National Counter Terrorism Center. Since this was an Unclass piece, the analyst probably would not coordinate with the National Security Agency aka NSA because there was no information drawn from signal intercepts. If such info had been included, then the brief would have had to classified at a least the SECRET level.

Once the interagency input is received a couple of things can happen.

I recall getting into knockdown, drag out verbal brawls with counterparts at DIA and, on occasion, at INR, over the wording and conclusions of pieces I was writing for the National Intelligence Daily. We would either reach a compromise or I would diplomatically tell them to fuck off. If I did the latter, then the person from the objecting agency had the option of writing a dissent. In other words, putting a separate paragraph into my piece indicating disagreement. Dissents were rare. We faced pressure from our respective bosses to work out our issues and reach consensus.

Once the inter-agency piece was coordinated, it then moved up the CIA hierarchy. The folks in the front office of CTC would go over the draft and then, ultimately, someone on the staff of the Director of Analysis. (Note, the Director of Analysis reports directly to the Director of CIA, i.e. Petraeus at the time). The only people left to coordinate with at this point would be the folks at the Director of National Intelligence–that’s Jim Clapper’s outfit.

The coordinated talking points, once approved by the DNI, would then be delivered to the National Security Council (note, that asshole, John Brennan, decided unilaterally to rename the NSC as the National Security Staff aka NSS). We know that the talking points that came out of the CIA were reviewed and approved by the DNI’s staff. The talking points did not go out to any other Department or Organization for clearance at that point.

That leaves only one possibility for who altered the agreed upon community position that the terrorist attack in Benghazi had been carried out by jihadists with links to Al Qaedaa–the NSS. The name of the principal analyst who drafted those talking points is recorded at CIA and included somewhere in the document delivered to the White House. Clapper, Petraeus and Morell easily know who that is. But they were not put under oath, therefore they could easily claim they did not know who “changed” the talking points.
That is delusional. Anyone who has ever worked at CIA and coordinated a community piece knows how the process works. No other Agency or Department would unilaterally change a coordinated piece.

There is only one entity in Washington who tamper with intel community approved talking points–that is the White House.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.