political notebook

Benghazi e-mails show CIA discord

WASHINGTON — One hundred pages of e-mails released by the White House on Wednesday reveal intensive jostling among top intelligence and diplomatic officials over the government’s ‘‘talking points’’ in the aftermath of September’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

The documents suggest that the top two CIA officials disagreed about how many details the administration should disclose about the agency’s view of who carried out the attacks and its earlier warnings about terrorist threats in the region.


In a copy of a draft memo released by the White House, Michael J. Morrell, the agency’s deputy director, crossed out five sentences from the talking points that described the agency’s warnings about threats from Islamist extremists. State Department officials also urged that the warnings be left out, according to the e-mails.

The CIA director at the time, David H. Petraeus, evidently disagreed with his deputy and believed that the warnings should be made public.

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‘‘Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this, then,’’ Petraeus wrote in an e-mail to colleagues, referring to a version of the talking points that excluded the warnings.

The version the administration used in the days after the attacks, primarily by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, did not include suspicions about the involvement of a Libyan militant group with ties to Al Qaeda. State Department officials objected to the inclusion of that information.

The administration has since acknowledged the involvement of Ansar al-Shariah, an extremist group with Al Qaeda ties.


The White House released the e-mails to reporters after Republicans seized on snippets of the correspondence that became public last Friday to suggest that President Obama’s White House staff had taken an active role in altering the talking points. In releasing them, White House officials were hoping to show that intelligence officials, not political advisers, drove the debate over the talking points.

It remained unclear why Morrell objected to the inclusion of the warnings and whether his objections or the State Department’s played the dominant role in having them removed.


Tierney pushes bill requiring personalization of guns

WASHINGTON — With recent legislation to ban assault weapons and strengthen background checks blocked in Congress, Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, said he is introducing a bill to require handgun manufacturers to personalize their weapons to make them impossible to fire if they fall into the wrong hands.

The bill, the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013, mandates that, within two years, newly manufactured handguns be equipped with technology that allows the guns to work only in the hands of their owners or other authorized users. Manufacturers that do not meet the standards could be held liable. And individuals or businesses selling older handguns must have them retrofitted with personalization technology within three years after the bill is enacted, at the expense of the federal government.

Acknowledging the difficult political climate for new gun legislation, Tierney remained optimistic, calling his bill a “common sense” reform to save lives by tapping into technology that already exists.

“This technology was developed and exists, but in the past was shelved because of efforts of the powerful gun lobby,” Tierney said Wednesday.


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