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Published On: Fri, Nov 16th, 2012

Petraeus testimony raises questions of ‘talking points’ over Benghazi attack

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.

That’s according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

Fire burns in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi after the attack there on September 11, 2012. VOA employee public domain

The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.

Then, the attack was described as “spontaneous,” the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.

Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in December, according to King.

“He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start,” King said. “I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account),” he said. “The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack.”

The “spontaneous” adjective was “minimized” during Petraeus’ testimony Friday, King said.

The cause of that discrepancy is unclear, King said.

Earlier an official said that Petraeus’ aim in testifying was to clear up “a lot of misrepresentations of what he told Congress initially.”

The former CIA director was expected to tell the congressional committees that he did develop unclassified talking points in the days after the attack but had had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice has been under fire for suggesting the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous event spurred by a protest against the anti-Muslim film.

King said the original talking points were much more specific about the involvment of Al Qaeda.

“Final ones just said indications of extremists,” King said. “It said indicate even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was Al Qaeda involvement.”

Questions still remain over the development of the talking points.

“Basically it is still not clear how the final talking points emerged. (Petraeus) said it went through a long process involving many agencies including the Department of Justice, including the State Department and no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points other than to say the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out,” said King.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee disagreed with King, saying that the talking points did not change.

“The talking points were not changed,” Smith said. “The talking points were very basic and straight forward.”

Smith took part in a separate briefing with the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Clapper read to the group the original three talking points used by Ambassador Rice. There was no mention of al Qaeda or Ansar Al Sharia in those points, according to Smith.

“This has become so partisan and so political,” he said.

On who authorized the final version of the talking points, a US intelligence official said, “We’re reviewing the coordination trail.”

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the discrepancy can be attributed to the classified talking points that some saw versus the unclassified version that others, like U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, used. 

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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