That role is actually written into the law that created the NSC:
The function of the Council shall be to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the mili- tary services and the other departments and agencies of the Gov- ernment to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the na- tional security.
The fact that Benghazi would be discussed at an NSC meeting at the White House isn't scandalous or even surprising -- really its just standard operating procedure.
So what happened is that throughout that week, various agencies edited the "white paper" to make sure their concerns were addressed. As has been reported, on Friday the State Department raised some concerns about this graph:
"The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador's convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks."
I obviously can't speak for State, but if you step back, I think its reasonable that State would find this language unfair. State employees in Libya didn't need a CIA threat report to learn about some of these very public incidents.
So again, as has been reported, the issue was tabled for discussion at a Saturday morning interagency meeting. At that meeting, a senior CIA official -- an individual whom I will not name but will note is a career official and is one of the most professional people I've ever worked with -- agreed with State's concern and said that he would take the talking points back to his building to edit them. Later that day, the CIA official sent a revised version of the talking points, which the White House edited to change "consulate" to "diplomatic post". I think it's fair to say that we could've been clearer that we were referring to this final CIA version of the talking points when we said we made one edit, but the fact that the government edited these points isn't surprising or at all nefarious -- it's routine.
Different agencies wanted to edit this language for a variety of reasons. Information was flowing in and being analyzed in real time. Some things we learned came from human intelligence sources or intercepted communications, and the intelligence community needed to make sure that what we said publicly didn't tip off the bad guys or disclose sources and methods. There was also an ongoing investigation and concern about public statements complicating that effort to bring whoever did this to justice.
Some people have understandably asked how we were so wrong about there being a protest. I don't know. When I was in government, I asked some intelligence officials how it happened. They told me that there were many different strands of information indicating there was a protest, both open source and intelligence based. In fact, a number of news outlets reported there were protests: http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/05/14/four-media-reports-from-libya-that-linked-the-b/194073
Regardless, we got it wrong and we later corrected that error in a statement from the DNI spokesman. But one of the most frustrating parts of this discussion is the degree to which people now dismiss the impact of the Innocence of Muslims video. Our embassies in Cairo, Yemen and Sudan were attacked and seriously damaged. A western restaurant was torched in Lebanon. Dozens of countries experienced protests where scores of people died. Our troops in Afghanistan had to reduce their operational tempo and exposure as a preventative measure. Today, people act like the administration invented the issue. A 30-second scan of headlines from that week shows otherwise:
New York Times -- "Anti-American Protests Flare Beyond the Mideast" --
Reuters/Associated Press via Haaretz -- "Thousands demonstrate across the Muslim world as anti-U.S. protests spread" --
Associated Press -- "Protesters storm U.S. Embassy in Yemen" --
USA Today -- "Deadly embassy attacks were days in the making" -- LINK
CNN -- "Another protest turns violent outside U.S. Embassy in Cairo"
CBS News -- "Protest in Gaza over anti-Muslim movie"
The Atlantic -- "Muslim Protests Spread Around the Globe"
Washington Post -- "Anti-U.S. protests spread through Muslim world"
Fox News -- "Anti-American protests continue throughout the Middle East, Indonesia, while Muslim leader reportedly sought in Tunisia"
Associated Press -- "Protests against anti-Islam film erupt across Muslim world"
Some allege that edits were made in an effort to downplay the role of al Qaeda or to try and sell a political narrative of rapidly normalizing ties with Libya. That's just not true. The administration talked about how al Qaeda core in Afghanistan and Pakistan had been decimated, but we were also clear that there was a growing threat from AQAP and other affiliates. Also, while it's true that some of the Benghazi attackers had links to al Qaeda, no one has ever claimed that this was a long-planned AQ operation by Zawahiri or AQ's leadership like 9/11.
The charge that there was an administration effort to "sell" a normalization narrative in Libya is nonsensical. There just isn't a political angle here. No voter went to the polls thinking, I don't like Obama, but boy we have a much better relationship with Tripoli now than we did a few years ago so he's getting my vote. It's just silly.
As the week of September 11, 2012 went on, what consumed the administration was concern about the safety and security of US personnel serving overseas. The protests were expanding geographically and growing in size. Military units were being positioned across the globe to deal with potential evacuations. It was a very, very scary time, especially as we approached Friday prayers on September 14th.
Looking back, maybe there was a time when tragedies like Benghazi brought our country together, but here we've seen the opposite. Susan Rice went on TV and offered the consensus US government view of what we thought happened at that time. For that, she was viciously attacked in deeply personal ways. Members of the Senate called her "incompetent" and suggested she was a liar. That's outrageous.
Imagine if Susan had gone on TV and offered some personal view of what happened or contradicted the intelligence community? She would've been charged with manipulating intelligence. The attacks on her have been gratuitous and unfair, and its time we start saying as much.