Petraeus testifies on Capitol Hill on Libya attack
11:55AM EST November 16. 2012 -
WASHINGTON — The CIA told the White House that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was a terror attack by an al-Qaeda linked group, but the assessment was altered by Obama administration officials, Gen. David Petraeus told the House Intelligence Committee.
Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director a week ago over an extra-marital affair, said he knew that the attack was not sparked by a protest over an anti-Islam video, as White House officials and President Obama had said for days after the Sept. 11 attack, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
"The original talking points put out by the CIA were different from what was later put out," King said. "Petraeus says his initial assessment was from the start it was a terrorist attack."
However, King said Petraeus didn't know why al-Qaeda involvement was taken out of the talking points.
"It's still not clear how the talking points emerged," King said. "No one knows yet who came up with the final talking points."
But the CIA eventually approved the modified assessment, King said Petraeus told the committee. Why the CIA approved the talking points, which were made public by US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and others, and who was involved in making the changes, King did not say.
King said Petraeus didn't know why al-Qaeda involvement was taken out of the talking points. King said information about the possible impact of the anti-Islam film "was part of the information intelligence analysts were getting at the time."
The White House assessment was derived through an interagency process that included the State Department, FBI and the National Security Council, King said. It was those talking points that were given to Rice.
Petraeus' testimony appears to be at odds with what he told the committee Sept. 14, three days after the attack, King said. Petraeus reportedly said then that the video may have sparked a protest outside the consulate that turned violent.
But there was no protest, the White House admitted more than a week after the attack. A video shown Thursday to lawmakers investigating the attack made it clear that it was always an organized terror attack, said some lawmakers.
The claim that al-Qaeda was not involved in the attack came days after the Democratic National Convention that nominated Obama for another term and during which Vice President Biden and others gave televised speeches lauding the president for crushing al-Qaeda throughout the world.
"It was very clear from day one that this was a terrorist attack," Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Fox News. "This would be obvious to anyone. That is very clear."
Five days after the attack, Rice was dispatched by Obama to say it was a spontaneous spate of violence that emerged from a protest outside the consulate, and she said repeatedly it was not a terrorist attack. Rice said protesters were demonstrating against an anti-Islam video produced in the United States, and both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama echoed that claim.
The State Department has since said that there was no protest and the White House has admitted the attack was a well-organized assault by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists timed to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Obama said at a news conference this week that Rice was repeating the scenarios provided to her by administration intelligence experts. Chambliss said he was skeptical of that claim and hopes Petraeus can shed light on it.
"She was saying exactly what the political shop at the White House told her to say," Chambliss said.
The last sentence says it all.