Benghazi Report: State Department employees reacted in shock to Susan Rice's first TV appearances

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House Democrats release Benghazi report

State Department employees were surprised to see then-UN ambassador Susan Rice appear on Sunday talk shows blaming the 2012 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on an internet video, a report released Tuesday revealed.

Rice's comments were "met with shock and disbelief by State Department employees" who worried about White House involvement in the way the attack was being characterized to the American public, according to the report released by the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi.

The report was released one day after House Democrats released a preemptive report designed to blunt the blow of the Republican document.

RELATED: Benghazi Attacks during and after

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Benghazi Attacks during and after
A car vehicle burns after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows a vehicle and the surrounding area engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi. A long-awaited inquiry into a deadly militant attack on the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi late on December 18, 2012 slammed State Department security arrangements there as 'grossly inadequate.' But the months-long probe also found there had been 'no immediate, specific' intelligence of a threat against the mission, which was overrun on September 11 by dozens of heavily armed militants who killed four Americans. AFP PHOTO / FILES (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. is doggedly pursuing the question of whether military personnel were told to âstand downâ during the 2012 deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, despite the insistence of military leaders and other Republicans that it never happened. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Pentagon says a Libyan militant accused in a deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, is in U.S. custody. The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala marks the first time the U.S has apprehended one of the accused perpetrators in the 2012 attack. Khattala is a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The State Department promised Wednesday to cooperate with the House special committee looking into the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, expressing hope the new investigation is conducted in a fairer and more bipartisan manner than previous Republican-led probes. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows Libyans walking on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. An independent panel appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is opening its inquiry into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, amid demands from Congress for speedy answers to questions about the security of the mission and concerns that the FBI investigation into the incident has been delayed. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
A burnt car is seen after an attack on the U.S. Consulate by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
FILE - This Sept. 13, 2012 file photo shows a cameraman filming one of U.S. consulate burnt out offices after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. has identified five men they believe might be behind the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and have enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists _ but not enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian criminal court, the process the Obama administration prefers, U.S. officials said. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
FILE - This Sept. 13, 2012, file photo, shows a Libyan man walking in the rubble of the U.S. consulate after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The testimony of nine military officers severely undermines claims by Republican lawmakers that a âstand-down orderâ held back military assets who could have saved those killed in the attack. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
An empty bullet is seen on the ground near one of the burnt out cars of the U.S. Consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Arabic writing reads " Villa of Jamal al Beshary". which was written by the original owner to protect the property from another attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
A picture shows the damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
FILE - This Sept, 14, 2012 file photo shows a Libyan military guard standing in front of one of the U.S. Consulate's burnt out buildings during the visit of President Mohammed el-Megarif, to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate. The Pentagon says Congressâ multiple investigations of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, have cost the department millions of dollars and thousands of hours of personnel time. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
A Libyan man explains that the bloodstains on the column are from one the American staff members who grabbed the edge of the column while he was evacuated, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Arabic writing reads, " Villa of Jamal al Beshary". which was written by the owner to protect the property from another attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
An armchair and parasol float in the swimming pool of the US consulate in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
President Mohammed el-Megarif, center visits one of the wounded Libyan guards of the U.S. Consulate, who was injured in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday Sept.11, at Benghazi Medical Center, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.(AP Photo / Mohammad Hannon)
FILE - This Sept. 14, 2012, file photo shows carry teams at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. moving flag draped transfer cases during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony of the four Americans killed in an attack on a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex Benghazi, Libya. The testimony of nine military officers severely undermines claims by Republican lawmakers that a âstand-down orderâ held back military assets who could have those killed in the attack. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Libyans and Americans stand with wreaths, a poster and a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on it as they gather in front of the U.S. consulate gate to pay their respect to the victims of the Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. Arabic reads, "no room for extremism among us." (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
A Libyan girl places flowers at the gate of the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. The U.S. Ambassador, Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the consulate Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. Arabic reads, "private property." (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
Libyan and American children carry a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on it as the gather to pay their respect to the victims of the Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
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The committee, convened to investigate the events surrounding the deaths of ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, contended that White House aides had an unusual level of involvement in the messaging after the attack. Hillary Clinton, who was then Secretary of State and is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has been heavily criticized for blaming the attack on protests of an internet video that Libyans found offensive.

In the days after the attack, Rice echoed this message on Sunday shows such as "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press." State Department employees worried about how her comments might be perceived abroad.

Gregory Hicks, who was the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli, Libya, told the committee that Rice's comments contradicted those of Libyan officials who pointed to terrorist links to the attack.

"My jaw hit the floor as I watched this," Hicks said, referring to Rice's television appearances. "I've never been - I have been a professional diplomat for 22 years. I have never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career as on that day. There have been other times when I've been embarrassed, but that's the most embarrassing moment of my career."

Hicks wasn't alone in his criticism of Rice.

The senior Libya desk officer for the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern affairs wrote in an email to colleagues: "I think Rice was off the reservation on this one," according to the report. The deputy director for the bureau's Office of Press and Public Diplomacy responded: "Off the reservation on five networks!"

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The bureau's senior adviser for strategic communications assigned blame to the White House.

"Luckily there's enough in her language to fudge exactly what she said/meant," he wrote, referring to Rice. "WH [White House] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing."

The deputy director for the State Department's Office of Maghreb Affairs was also surprised that Rice drew a connection to the video.

"The description of what was said - and, again, I didn't watch the program myself - it just sounded more definitive of what potentially had happened," she testified.

She continued: "I was surprised in the way that they were described in the press clips, that there was an indication that there was some connection to the anti-Muslim video of concern that had been circulating online, that there was some connection to that. In the press clips that I read, I remember seeing, like - okay."

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On a Saturday-evening conference call to prep Rice for her appearances on Sunday talk shows, Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, and David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president, helped brief Rice on what to say.

The report describes Rice's testimony on the call:

Plouffe had previously served as the campaign manager for the President's 2008 presidential campaign. While Rhodes testified Plouffe would 'normally' appear on the Sunday show prep calls, Rice testified she did not recall him being on prior calls and did not understand why he was on the call in this instance.

The report contended that no State Department, Defense Department, CIA, or FBI employees were on the call aside from members of Rice's staff.

As more information about the Benghazi attack emerged, it became clear that it likely wasn't the result of spontaneous protests gone too far. Al Qaeda-linked terrorist agents have been blamed for the attack, but it remains unclear whether the attack was ordered or planned by Al Qaeda central leadership.

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