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Petraeus: I Said Al Qaeda Behind Benghazi — But Line Was Removed

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday  morning 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 circulated to administration officials, according to a top  lawmaker who was briefed.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., 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.

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.”

Still, the claim that the CIA’s original talking points were changed is sure  to stoke controversy on the Hill.

“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.”

Lawmakers are focusing on the talking points issue because of concern over  the account U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice gave on five Sunday shows on  Sept. 16, when she repeatedly claimed the attack was spontaneous — Rice’s  defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on the  intelligence at the time.

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.

While Petraeus resigned last Friday over an extra-marital affair, his  testimony Friday was expected to focus on Libya as opposed to personal matters.  King said it barely came up, and only when Petraeus was asked if the affair and  investigation had any impact on his testimony on Libya. “He said no,” King  said.

The pressure was on Petraeus to set the record straight, after other top  intelligence officials struggled a day earlier to explain why their initial  talking points after the Libya attack minimized the role of militant  groups.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees heard testimony  Thursday in private meetings with Director of National Intelligence James  Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell. But Fox News was told there were  heated exchanges on the House side, particularly over the talking points that  administration officials relied on in the days after the Sept. 11  strike.

Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalized  that information. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of a  regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despite  evidence of their involvement.

Further, Fox News was told Morell was pushed to explain why, during a Sept.  14 briefing, Petraeus seemed wedded to the explanation that the attack was in  response to an anti-Islam video. Morell apparently said he wasn’t at that  briefing and had nothing further to add.

Lawmakers continue to express concerns on several fronts — on whether  warnings in the months preceding Sept. 11 were ignored, and on why the  administration first insisted the attack was a “spontaneous” act.

Rice has been the focal point of that criticism. Obama, though, in his first  post-election press conference Wednesday, called the criticism “outrageous” and  told those lawmakers to “go after me” instead.

California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff also came to Rice’s defense Thursday,  saying after the House intelligence committee hearing that Rice was given the  intelligence community’s “best assessment” at the time.

“Those who have suggested that Ambassador Rice was politicizing the  intelligence or misrepresenting what the intelligence community was putting  forward as its best assessment are either unfamiliar with the facts, or  willfully disregarding them,” he said.

Source: Fox News

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Posted by on November 16, 2012. Filed under NY News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.