The Cable

Benghazi emails reveal CIA-State Department turf war: Administration officials

The newly-revealed Benghazi emails obtained by ABC News reflect a bureaucratic turf war between the CIA and the State Department, according to administration officials with access to the emails.

The controversy over the editing of the CIA's Benghazi talking points centers on emails in which State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made requests to remove references of the al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia and delete references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi ahead of the Sept. 11 attack. In the extensive back-and-forth -- the talking points were edited 12 times -- Nuland noted that the information "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."

Elaborating Friday on the exchange, an official speaking to The Cable says that the CIA's inclusion of "selectively noted Agency warnings" of terrorist threats in Benghazi ran the risk of igniting a media blame game that could serve to exonerate the CIA at the expense of the State Department.

"[Nuland] wanted to ensure interagency consistency of messaging," said the official. "[The CIA] selectively noted Agency warnings in a manner which might have led Congress to believe the State Department had ignored them. This appeared to encourage a blame game before the investigation was complete. She did not make changes to the points. Rather, she asked for higher level interagency review, which the White House agreed was necessary. She played no further role in the handling of these points."

Perhaps most controversial in the email trail posted by ABC is one in which Nuland says "my buildings leadership" is not satisfied with the talking points, though there is no evidence that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or her top aides were part of the email exchanges. Ben Rhodes, the top White House communications advisor on the National Security Council, was on the chain - and he effectively ended the long back and forth over the talking points by saying there needed to be a White House meeting on them the next day, which there was (and about which not much is yet known.)

Meantime, a blame game between the CIA and the State Department is in fact what did later emerge following revelations that the two agencies had a shared security arrangement in Benghazi. As a November Wall Street Journal report explained, the two agencies had a "symbiotic" relationship in which the State Department consulate served as cover for CIA staff, meanwhile, "The State Department believed it had a formal agreement with the CIA to provide backup security."

Update:  A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the drafting of the talking points tells The Cable the CIA had no intention of making the State Department look bad, and was not engaged in a "turf battle."

"The changes don't reflect a turf battle," said the official. "They were attempts to find the appropriate level of detail for unclassified, preliminary talking points that could be used by members of Congress to address a fluid situation." 

Interestingly, the official went on to defend Nuland's request that references to al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia be erased from the CIA's original talking points. 

"Overall, the changes were made to address intelligence and legal issues," said the official. "First, the information about individuals linked to al-Qaeda was derived from classified sources.  Second, when early links are tenuous, it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers to avoid setting off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions and reporting.  Finally, it is important to take care not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages."
 

You can read the full email trail here:

Benghazi Talking Points Timeline

Getty Images

The Cable

Square swipes U.S. trade negotiator Demetrios Marantis

Silicon Valley renewed its interest in top Washington talent with the hire of Demetrios Marantis, the acting United States trade representative, who this week is leaving the government and cashing out with disruptive payment services company Square, maker of the increasingly ubiquitous iPhone and iPad credit card swipers, to oversee its international and regulatory policy.

"Square is already having a meaningful impact on local economies in the US and Canada," said Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey in a press release. "Demetrios' invaluable experience will help Square provide powerful business tools to local entrepreneurs around the world."

A darling of the Senate who was rumored to replace Ron Kirk as the next U.S. trade representative, Marantis holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He first landed in the White House as deputy U.S. trade representative overseeing Asia and Africa before assuming duties as acting U.S. trade representative in March 2013.

That same month, Marantis attracted a flurry of verbal valentines from a bipartisan cohort of senators during a hearing on the administration's trade policies. "You'd make a good U.S. trade representative yourself because you're one of these people who has an open mind who is really trying to do the best job that he can," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the March 19 hearing. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) added that Marantis was "very, very talented" and had "made a lot of things happen."

But the position ultimately went to Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, who was nominated to U.S. trade representative last week. So it's off to the Valley for Marantis.

According to TechCrunch's Leena Rao, it appears he will assist in Square's efforts to expand its mobile credit card payment service internationally. "The company recently expanded to Canada, its first market outside the U.S. Square says that gross payment volume over the first six months is 90 percent higher per capita than it was in the U.S. at the equivalent point in time," wrote Rao. "Square has yet to launch in the UK, but competitor PayPal here entered the market a few months ago."

Last September, Square closed its fourth round of funding, which valued it at a whopping $3.25 billion.