What Patraeus Thought in the First Week after the Benghazi Attack

Originally here:
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Petraeus Testifies He Always Believed Terrorists Behind Libya Attack: Rep. King

From POST WIRE SERVICES

Last Updated: 11:33 AM, November 16, 2012

Posted: 12:49 AM, November 16, 2012

WASHINGTON — Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers during private hearings Friday that he believed all along that the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Libya was a terrorist strike, even though that wasn’t how the Obama administration initially described it publicly.

The retired general addressed the House Intelligence Committee in his first Capitol Hill testimony since resigning last week over an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, but he did not discuss that scandal except to express regret about the circumstances of his departure.

Petraeus said that his agency determined immediately after the Sept. 11 Libya attack that “Al Qaeda involvement” was suspected — but the line was taken out in the final version of the CIA’s talking points circulated to administration officials, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed.

Rep. Peter King, R-NY, said Petraeus said he did not know who removed the reference to terrorism.  King said to this day it’s still not clear how the final talking points emerged that were used by UN Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack when the White House sent her to appear in a series of television interviews.  Rice said it appeared the attack was sparked by a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video.

King, who spoke to reporters after Petraeus testified before the House Intelligence Committee, indicated he and other lawmakers still have plenty of questions about the aftermath of the attack.

“No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points,” he said.

Petraeus was heading next to the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify.  At the same time, lawmakers unexpectedly convened a briefing with top members of various committees to examine a Sept. 25 letter to President Obama that asked a series of classified questions on Benghazi.

Petraeus’ testimony both challenges the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the attack was a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Islam video, and according to King conflicts with his own briefing to lawmakers on Sept. 14.  Sources have said Petraeus, in that briefing, also described the attack as a protest that spun out of control.

“His testimony today was that from the start, he had told us that this was a terrorist attack,” King said, adding that he told Petraeus he had a “different recollection.”

“The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement.     And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” King said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agency process.”

Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the Al Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”

The suggestion that the intelligence was altered raised questions about who altered it, with King asking if “the White House changed the talking points.”

One source told Fox News that Petraeus “has no idea what was provided” to Rice or who was the author of the talking points she used.

“He had no idea she was going on talk shows” until the White House announced it one or two days before, the source said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Petraeus disputed Republican suggestions that the White House misled the public on what led to the violence in the midst of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said after the hearing.  “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods.  So changes were made to protect classified information.

“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” Schiff said.  “He completely debunked that idea.”

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

Lawmakers said the affair with Broadwell that ended Petraeus’ widely respected career came up only briefly at the top of Petraeus’ 90-minute appearance before the House committee.

“The only thing he did in the beginning of his testimony is he did express deep regret to the committee for the circumstances for his depature” and reassure the committee that the Libya attacks had nothing to do with his resignation, said Rep. Jim Langevin, R-R.I.

Earlier, Petraeus, the retired four-star Army general and formerly one of the most respected US military leaders, was whisked into a House Intelligence Committee hearing in a manner more suited to covert operative — through a network of underground hallways leading to a secure room.

His entrance was hidden from the dozens of cameras by Capitol Hill police barring doorways and back staircases.  During previous appearances before Congress, CIA directors typically have walked through the building’s front door.

The secretive arrival attested to the circus-like atmosphere of the scandal that has preoccupied Washington, even as the possibility of war looms in Israel and the US government faces a market-rattling “fiscal cliff” that could imperil a still-fragile economy.

Congressional Republicans blasted the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi terror attack after grilling State Department, CIA and FBI officials for hours yesterday — and today, they’re putting the disgraced ex-CIA Director on the hot seat.

Top diplomats, spies and lawmen gave closed-door briefings to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are probing the administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the assault.

“Disgraceful is the sad parade of conflicting accounts” from the administration, said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), as she opened her own public hearing on the attack.

She said reports have indicated the administration “failed to adequately protect the American consulate — and denied consulate requests for additional security.”

At yesterday’s briefings, officials labored to explain how the administration took more than a week to call the incident a terrorist attack, after insisting it was a spontaneous demonstration against a US-made anti-Muslim film.

“There are still a lot of questions,” Rep. King said yesterday, wondering “why the [administration’s] talking points didn’t say more about al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder denied that his decision to keep the Petraeus scandal from President Obama until after the election was politically motivated.

Holder said his office quickly found that there were no security threats posed by the affair, and that it was unnecessary to alert Obama until the investigation was completed.
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Originally here:

Republicans Say Closed-Door Petraeus Sessions Raise New Questions

By Tim Starks | Roll Call Staff | Nov. 16, 2012, 1:49 p.m.

Republicans said Friday after closed-door House and Senate Intelligence Committee meetings with David H. Petraeus that CIA talking points on the Benghazi, Libya, consul­ate attack mentioning terrorist connections were altered to delete those references, rais­ing questions of politicization.

But Democrats countered that there is a big difference between classified information and unclassified talking points, and that Petraeus, the former CIA director who recently resigned over an extramarital affair, backed the accounts given by other Obama admini­stration officials about the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attack.

Peter T. King, R-N.Y., a member of the House Intelligence panel and chairman of the Homeland Security panel, said Petraeus’ account Friday differed from King’s own recol­lection of Petraeus’ earlier accounts to lawmakers.

Republicans said there was particular confusion over a set of talking points on Ben­ghazi that the administration provided to lawmakers Sept. 14.

“It’s still not clear how the talking points emerged,” King said.  “It went through a long process that includes many agencies, the Department of Justice, the State Department, and no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points. The original talking points from the CIA are different from the ones that were finally put out.”

King added, “His testimony today was that from the start he told us this was a terrorist attack.  I told him I had a very different recollection of that.”

Petraeus told lawmakers he was convinced from the start that al-Qaida affiliates were involved, but King said that the early information the administration gave to lawmakers was more circumspect on that point.  He said he wanted to find out whether the White House had any hand in altering the earlier draft of CIA talking points mentioning a ter­rorist connection; the final unclassified talking points only mentioned “extremist” elements, and U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice’s use of those talking points has become the most prominent line of attack for Republicans.

George Republican Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Com­mittee, also said the talking points were altered.  But panel Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said they were not altered to remove references to terrorists “to my knowledge.”

Some of the discrepancies in talking points might be related to carefully nuanced language, said Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a House Intelligence panel member.

“It’s possible that there were some subtleties that were used, some words that may have been understood by some to mean one thing where others may have had a different under­standing of words,” Langevin said.  “For example, ‘extremists’ versus ‘terrorists.’  Some look at those as interchangeable, some look at them as one and the same.”

Langevin added that his concerns have been addressed by Petraeus and other intelli­gence officials, who briefed the panel Thursday.

Adam B. Schiff, {Dem., CA, 29th District, added to origial story — St. Onge} a member of the House Intelligence panel, also said he was satisfied with what he heard.

“The general provided additional insight on his views as well as the intelligence com­munity views,” said Schiff, D-Calif.  “We already had a pretty good understanding based on our briefing yesterday.”

When it came to the controversy over descriptions of the attack offered by Rice during a September television interview, Senate Intelligence panel member Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said “what is very clear” is that the entire intelligence community signed off on the unclassified talking points that she used.

“So much of this confusion arises because of the difference between what is classified and what is unclassified,” he said.  “So you hear different people saying different things at different times, because what is classified cannot be discussed publicly.”

Feinstein said the House panel requested the talking points that Rice eventually relied upon.  “I don’t think she should be pilloried for this,” she said.  “The way it keeps going, it’s almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character.”

Lawmakers said that House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., declared that questions about the affair that prompted Petraeus’ resignation were off limits, but Petra­eus made clear that his resignation was not related to the fatal Benghazi attack.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., said that he had a chance to talk to Petraeus in an unclas­sified setting about his departure from the spy agency.

“He told me he did something dishonorable, and resigning was something honorable,” said the chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, who attended the closed hearing.

Senators also said that they did not ask him about the affair.  “We didn’t want to make it any more difficult for” Petraeus to testify on the Benghazi attack, Feinstein said.  “We wanted to spare him that.”

Republicans said they wanted to know much more about the Benghazi attack, and more hearings are scheduled for next week.  “I believe that there are still questions to be an­swered,” said Senate Intelligence panel member Dan Coats, R-Ind.  “I think that anybody who is drawing conclusions based on these two hearings we’ve had, it’s a premature conclusion.”

Young said that “there are still a lot of questions,” adding, “A lot of that is classified information that should not be classified.”

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