The stream of intelligence flowing into Washington within hours of the Benghazi attacks contained data from communications intercepts and U.S. informants, which were then fashioned into polished initial assessments for policymakers.
Officials familiar with them said they contained evidence that members of a militant faction, Ansar al-Sharia, as well as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, were involved in the assaults.
The report did not allege the attacks were a reaction to the anti-Muslim film, but acknowledged it was possible that the attackers sought to use an outbreak of violence in Cairo over the film, which insulted the Prophet Mohammad, as a pretext for attacks.
One official said initial reporting suggested militants had begun planning attacks on U.S. targets in Benghazi before Sept. 11, but may well have decided to use the protests as a pretext for moving forward that day.
Reuters reported on Sept. 12, citing U.S. government officials, that the attacks may have been planned and organized in advance, and that members of Ansar al-Sharia and AQIM may have been involved.
Yet on Sept. 15, administration officials, relying upon what they said was other information from intelligence agencies, circulated to members of Congress a set of talking points prepared by the CIA that purported to summarize what U.S. intelligence knew.
The talking points said: "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex."