Petraeus: The CIA’s initial talking points about Benghazi mentioned Al Qaeda — but the reference was removed

Reporters gather outside the room where former CIA Director David Petraeus gave closed door testimony to Congress on the Benghazi scandal.

Gen. David Petraeus, one of the most highly decorated men in the military and one of the most highly respected figures in Washington among both political parties, testified to Congress today that both President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice lied to the public when they quickly mobilized an effort just after the Benghazi attacks to deceive the public into thinking that the attacks were motivated by an obscure anti-Islamic film.


The (former) director of the CIA doesn’t know why the CIA’s finalized talking points omitted a key detail?

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday morning that his agency determined immediately after the Sept. 11 Libya attack that “Al Qaeda involvement” was suspected — but the line was taken out in the final version circulated to administration officials, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed…

“The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement. And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” [Rep. Peter] King said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agency process.”

Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the Al Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”

The obvious suspicion is that the White House or some other political actor up the food chain expunged the Al Qaeda reference because it was inconvenient to the Foreign Policy President’s “I destroyed Al Qaeda” reelection narrative. But Petraeus is no longer beholden to the administration. If that’s what happened, or if it’s what he suspected might have happened, why didn’t he say so today? His reputation had already taken a hit because of the bad early intel from the CIA on Benghazi before anyone knew who Paula Broadwell was. If that intel was actually the product of interference from political forces, he has every reason to clear his name by saying so. Instead, it sounds like he acknowleged today that the CIA did indeed ultimately approve the talking points Rice used that omitted the reference to Al Qaeda. Er, why’d they do that? If someone in a political office was pressuring the CIA to change the document, Petraeus would surely know about it, no?

Meanwhile, in a separate House Intel Committee briefing with DNI James Clapper and acting CIA Director Mike Morell:

Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalized [the talking points the White House initially relief on]. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of a regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despite evidence of their involvement.

The three biggest names in American intelligence still haven’t been able to figure out who removed a key part of an intel finding that’s been hotly disputed in public for two months? That’s like Obama needing an investigation to find out what he did or didn’t order the military to do to rescue Americans pinned down at the CIA annex on the night of the attack. How hard would it be to find this out? Presumably the CIA uses the same basic word processing programs as every other organization; go back through the saved drafts and figure out where the reference to Al Qaeda mysteriously disappeared.

What’s doubly curious about all this is that any of these guys could have simply said, “Well, there were early signs of Al Qaeda involvement but nothing firm enough at the time to warrant inclusion in a statement to the public.” That’s arguably true: Eli Lake reported back on October 1 that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications during and after the attack between people in Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. That’s strong evidence of coordination but maybe not a smoking gun. Since then, U.S. officials have gotten firmer about AQIM’s involvement; there was even a report a few weeks ago about jihadis from Al Qaeda in Iraq possibly being involved. My point, though, is that neither Petraeus, Clapper, nor Morell appears to be defending the agency on grounds that the early intel wasn’t ripe enough yet. It sounds from King and Fox’s report like they’re kinda sorta conceding that, yeah, maybe the Al Qaeda reference shouldn’t have been removed. Petraeus, in fact, seems to have taken the attitude this morning that the attack was obviously terrorism from the get-go. Or maybe all of this is just King’s/Fox’s interpretation of more complex answers they gave? This is why public hearings would be useful.

Update: Daniel Halper at the Standard. Intelligence sources were whispering about the Al Qaeda omission to Stephen Hayes weeks ago. That’s how suspicious they were of it:

One thing that has troubled both intelligence officials and those on Capitol Hill as they have evaluated the administration’s early response to the attacks is what appears to be an effort to write al Qaeda out of the story. For example, the talking points first reported by Lake, include this sentence: “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” But according to several officials familiar with the original assessment from which the talking points were derived, the U.S. intelligence community had reported the fact that these were extremists with ties to al Qaeda. That key part was omitted.

See Video: Rep. Peter King: Gen. David Petraeus Testified the Originial CIA Talking Points Indicated Benghazi was an Al-Qaeda Attack; Version Put Out by Obama White House Different than the Original

Krauthammer on #BenghaziGate testimony today: Deliberate Deception at the highest level, the President   -  Krauthammer’s Take: Broadwell’s ‘Prison’ Disclosure Would Explain Petraeus Testimony Blaming YouTube Video

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place". At age 62 I find myself fighting inoperable uterine Cancer and thanks to the man upstairs and the prayers from so many people including many of my readers from AskMarion and JustOneMorePet... I'm beating it. After losing our business because of the economy and factors related to the re-election of President Obama in 2012 followed by 16-mos of job hunting, my architect-trained husband is working as a trucker and has only been home approximately 5-days a month since I was diagnosed, which has made everything more difficult and often lonely... plus funds are tight. Our family medical deductible is 12K per year for two of us; thank you ObamaCare. But thanks to donations from so many of you, we are making ends meet as I go through treatment while taking care of my father-in-law who is suffering from late stage Alzheimer's and my mother-in-law who suffers from RA and onset dementia as well as hearing loss, for which there are no caretaker funds, as I continue the fight here online to inform and help restore our amazing country. And finally I need to thank a core group of family, friends, and readers... all at a distance, who check in with me regularly. Plus, I must thank my furkids who have not left my side through this fight. You can see them at JustOneMorePet.
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10 Responses to Petraeus: The CIA’s initial talking points about Benghazi mentioned Al Qaeda — but the reference was removed

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