TODAY | May 11, 2013
>>> there are new questions this morning about the deadly attack in benghazi , libya and whether the obama administration tried to play down the possibility of terrorist involvement. peter alexander is at the white house with more on all this. peter, good morning.
>> reporter: lester, good morning to you. the white house long insisted the intelligence community drafted almost all of the talking points about benghazi but newly leaked e-mails tell a different story. what insiders tell nbc news is what amounted to a knife fight between officials at the state department and the cia . exactly eight months after the deadly attack in benghazi , which killed ambassador chris stevens and three others, leaked e-mails reveal the obama administration was more involved than initially stated in watering down the now widely discredited talking points .
>> it makes it look like they are trying to hide something whether or not they are.
>> reporter: the e-mails show 12 separate drafts of the talking point. the cia 's first version blames the incident on protests in cairo over an antiislamic video and noting we do know that islamic extremists with ties to al qaeda participated in the attack. the initial text also made reference to five other attacks against foreign interests in benghazi . that language raised red flags at the state department where then spokesperson victoria nuland mentioned the information could be abused by members of congress to beat the state department for not paying attention to agency warnings so why would we want to feed that either? concerned. at white house meetings the following day other officials further diluted the language eliminating the references to terrorism and previous attacks. that sunday u.n. ambassador susan rice followed the talking points on all five talk shows.
>> what happened in benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in cairo.
>> reporter: once that assessment was discounted the white house insisted it had only changed one word and on friday stood by its story.
>> the cia was the agency that made changes to theed i the edits and the talking points and produced the talking points .
>> a thorny issue for the obama administration and perhaps a larger problem for former secretary of state hillary clinton said to be eying a possible presidential bid in 2016 .
>> it strikes me that she had a political problem with benghazi before these e-mails, which is it happened on her watch.
>> reporter: the white house argues that republicans are trying to politicize this issue. they insist it was only national security staff that was involved in being a part of the input on the talking points not political advisers to the president.