David Petraeus has told US Congress that the CIA believed almost immediately that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were behind the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, according to a leading Republican congressman.
Representative Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence Committee that David Petraeus briefed, said that the former general left a “different impression” today than he had when he testified on Capitol Hill three days after the attack.
Now, Peter King said, David Petraeus insisted that the “original talking points prepared by the CIA were different than the final ones put out” and used by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday talk shows to say – incorrectly – that the attack was sparked by anger over an anti-Islam video made in California.
“The original talking points were much more specific about al-Qaeda involvement and yet the final ones just said <<indications of extremists>> even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was al-Qaeda involvement,” Peter King said.
The former CIA director was giving classified testimony and was accompanied by a CIA analyst. Peter King said David Petraeus did not speak under oath.
David Petraeus arrived early Friday for closed hearings on Capitol Hill as lawmakers seek details from the retired general about the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Peter King said that there was only brief mention by David Petraeus of his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, which triggered his shock resignation last Friday.
“He was asked at the start did that have any impact on his testimony, he said no…10 seconds into it, that was off to the side.”
The New York congressman said that David Petraeus had explained that the talking points ultimately used by Susan Rice had been altered by inputs by a number of other government agencies after the CIA had made its assessment.
“He said that it goes though a long process, an interagency process and when they came back it was taken out.”
The House Intelligence Committee, which was hearing from David Petraeus before he briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee, met in a secure room several floors below the main area of the Capitol Visitors Centre, where tourists gather when they are visiting Congress.
Republicans and some Democrats have demanded an explanation of why the Obama administration initially described the attack at Benghazi as a protest gone awry, leading to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
Five days after attack, the administration sent Susan Rice onto the Sunday news shows to describe what precipitated the assault. She relied on initial intelligence talking points that subsequently proved incorrect.
Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell told the House committee on Thursday that Susan Rice was provided with an unclassified version of events at the American mission, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, a committee member.
The assessment concluded that a spontaneous protest over anti-Islam video, The Innocence of Muslims, had evolved into an attack on the American consulate, a description that Rice presented in the television interviews.
David Petraeus hoped that by testifying he would put an end to some of the wilder rumors following his resignation over reveal of his affair with Paula Broadwell.
“He did not like the conspiracies going around that somehow he had something to hide on Benghazi,” said retired Colonel Peter Mansoor, who served as David Petraeus’ executive officer in Iraq.
“I think his offer to testify crossed with the Congress’ request to him to testify. But anyway he looks forward to that.”