Petraeus said to have ordered Benghazi talking points

May 22, 2013 at 3:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- David Petraeus ordered the talking points about the Benghazi, Libya, attacks, evidently to make sure he and the CIA looked good, The Washington Post reported.

His decision to order the dubious talking points, which suggested the attack was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video, followed an informal Capitol Hill meeting with House Intelligence Committee member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., three days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, the Post said.

Ruppersberger, the panel's second-most senior member, asked Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time, to create a document so committee members wouldn't inadvertently disclose classified information when talking to the news media about the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the Post said.

"We had some new members on the committee, and we knew the press would be very aggressive on this, so we didn't want any of them to make mistakes," Ruppersberger told the newspaper in an account supported by Republican participants.

"We didn't want to jeopardize sources and methods, and we didn't want to tip off the bad guys. That's all," he said.

But what followed his request was an order by Petraeus to create talking points that went far beyond simply avoiding classified information, the Post said.

His order led to 48 hours of intensive editing of how the attacks would be described that congressional Republicans point to as evidence of a White House coverup, the Post said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice used those talking points Sept. 16 when she appeared on five major Sunday interview shows. She said they came from a CIA memo.

A U.S. State Department investigation concluded in December the attack was premeditated by Islamist militants. Current and former State Department officials testified before Congress last week they knew almost immediately the Benghazi attack was terrorism.

The talking points editing put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency, the Post said.

The White House was the only government entity that didn't object to the account produced with Petraeus' input, the Post said.

The White House was the mediator in the bureaucratic fight that at various points included the CIA's top lawyer and CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell saying they disagreed with what Petraeus wanted, the newspaper said.

Petraeus didn't respond to emailed requests from the Post to explain his role in drafting and reviewing the talking points.

He resigned as CIA director Nov. 9 after details of an extramarital affair became public.

Republicans have contended the CIA wanted to tell the truth about Benghazi but the State Department, with White House support, wanted to sanitize the account, removing initial suggestions of terrorism for political reasons during the presidential campaign.

The emails dispute that contention and suggest the initial talking points created tension and confusion within the CIA as officials tried to figure out how Petraeus' requests made sense, based on Ruppersberger's request.

A six-point draft of the talking points began, "We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired" by anti-American demonstrations elsewhere "and evolved" into assaults against "the U.S. consulate and subsequently its annex."

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said several times, including as recently as May 10, White House involvement in the talking points "was very limited and non-substantive," changing only a word or two to make clear the diplomatic post in Benghazi was not referred to as a consulate.

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