Despite his abrupt resignation from the CIA last week, Gen. David Petraeus testified Friday before House and Senate intelligence committees about the deaths of four Americans in Libya two months ago.
Though he cited an affair as his reason for stepping down, many openly questioned the timing, wondering if Petraeus' departure was related to the investigation into Benghazi. Petraeus has maintained that his resignation had nothing to do with the Benghazi hearings, and testified Friday voluntarily.
Friday's hearings were closed to the public and media, but those in attendance spoke to the press afterwards.
Petraeus told lawmakers that he always believed the events on September 11 in Libya were a terrorist attack, and did not know why that was omitted from the CIA talking points UN Ambassador Susan Rice was given before her "Meet the Press" appearance a few days later. Rice was met with intense criticism, particularly from Republicans, after stating that the consulate attack appeared to stem from a protest over the film.
Petraeus also made it clear that President Obama did not interfere with the talking points the CIA crafted, Democrats said.
""The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda," Rep. Adam Schiff, told reporters. "He completely debunked that idea."
Republicans, however, came out of Friday's hearings pressing forward with the charge that the Obama administration completely mismanaged the handling of the attack.
"Clearly the security measures were inadequate despite an overwhelming and growing amount of information that showed the area in Benghazi was dangerous, particularly on the night of September 11," Sen. Marco Rubio, said.
According to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter King, Petraeus said he had always been clear that the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.
"He thought all along that he made it clear there was terrorist involvement," King said. "That was not my recollection.
"The clear impression we [lawmakers] were given was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger told reporters he recalled Petraeus stating that the attack was a result of the protest "but he also said in the group there were some extremists and some were al Qaeda affiliates."
According to a source close to Petraeus prior to Friday's hearings, the former CIA director was certain the militia group Ansar al Sharia was behind the attack on the consulate that led to the deaths of four Americans, but due to 20 intelligence reports suggesting it was anger over an anti-Muslim film that incited the violence, he discussed both possibilities in a briefing before Congress on September 14.
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said certain identifying terminology was edited in the unclassified version of the talking points, such as omitting references to Ansar al Sharia and al Qaeda and replacing those references with the word "extremist."
"The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved," Udall said.
Udall said that Petraeus testified that the talking points were sent to several other agencies for review before he signed off on it.
According to CBS News, who obtained the version of the talking points that Rice used, the talking points stated that "based on currently available information" the demonstration in Benghazi was "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex." No direct reference to terrorism being a factor was made, though there was still a line regarding "indications...extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."
King said he still wants to get to the bottom of how that version wound up being the one used publicly by the administration.
"The fact is, the reference to al-Qaida was taken out somewhere along the line by someone outside the intelligence community," King said. "We need to find out who did it and why."
Democratic lawmakers said Rice did the "appropriate thing" by using the CIA talking points on "Meet the Press" since they had been signed off by the intelligence community and she had no reason to question their credibility.
Though the hearings Friday were strictly over Benghazi and not Petraeus' affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, King said Petraeus did reference his infidelity indirectly, saying in his opening statement that he "regretted" the situation.
King acknowledged that he considers Petraeus a friend, and was uncomfortable interviewing him.
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