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Petraeus testifies to House intel panel

Nov. 16, 2012 at 2:01 PM  |  Updated Nov. 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Former CIA chief David Petraeus told a House panel it wasn't clear why White House and CIA talking points on the consulate attack didn't align, one member said.

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told reporters Petraeus said during the closed-door hearing Friday that after the CIA prepared its talking points, they were reviewed by other departments, but "no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final talking points," CBS News reported.

Petraeus was clear with Congress from the start that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a terrorist attack, King said.

Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other diplomatic employees were killed in the Sept. 11 attack.

"The original talking points prepared by the CIA were different than the final ones put out," King said, noting they were "much more specific on al-Qaida involvement."

The talking points are a source of controversy because U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice used them to describe the nature of the attack on Sunday talk shows Sept. 16. Republicans have attacked Rice for suggesting the attack was the result of spontaneous protests.

CBS News said it obtained the vetted CIA talking points given to Rice and members of the House Intelligence Committee Sept. 15, and they have no reference to terrorism as a factor in the assault.

When Petraeus briefed lawmakers Sept. 14 about the attack, King said, the director attributed it to a spontaneous uprising spurred by backlash against an anti-Muslim video produced in California.

King said Petraeus and the intelligence community had said that scenario was "based on reports they were getting at the time."

"They also at the time -- prior to Sept. 14 -- also had information there was involvement of al-Qaida affiliates, and that was not made clear in their presentation," King said.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. -- the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee -- said his recollection of the Sept. 14 briefing is that Petraeus said the attack was "the result of the protest ... but he also said in the group there were some extremists and some were al-Qaida affiliates."

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., suggested some of the confusion might have come from having two versions of CIA talking points, classified and unclassified. On television, Rice was using the latter.

King said Friday's hearing was "cordial" and that Petraeus' resignation last week, prompted by his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, was briefly addressed at the beginning of the hearing.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters after a 4-hour closed-door hearing Thursday that they saw a video of the attack on the consulate.

"A lot of light was shone on this situation," Feinstein said, "but we don't have all the facts yet."

Feinstein said she expected to ask Petraeus, when he appears before her committee Friday, about his visit to the CIA station in Tripoli, Libya's capital, two weeks ago to investigate the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi.

The video shown Thursday included footage from surveillance cameras and an unmanned Predator drone, Feinstein said.

A source familiar with the closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing, which was also shown the video, told CNN the video included shots of Stevens being dragged out of the building.

The film is a composite from a number of sources," she said. "It is real time. It does begin from ... before the incident started, and it goes through the incident and the exodus."

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