Former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus testified before House and Senate closed-door sessions today, and at least in the House, he appeared to change his story on what happened at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 9-11-12.
[Rep. Peter] King said that Petraeus maintained that he said early on that the ambush was a result of terrorism, but King added that he remembered Petraeus and the Obama administration downplaying the role of an al Qaeda affiliate in the attack in the days after Stevens was killed. The administration initially said the attack grew out of a spontaneous demonstration against a video that lampooned the Prophet Mohammed.
“That is not my recollection” of what Petraeus initially said, King said today.
The congressman suggested that pressing Petraeus was awkward at times.
“It’s a lot easier when you dislike the guy,” King said.
But rewind to September 14. Just three days after the attack, Gen. Petraeus reportedly told members of Congress that it started with a protest against a movie.
Fox News is told that the Petraeus briefing on Sept. 14 conflicted with that of the FBI and NCTC.
On Capitol Hill, Petraeus characterized the attack as more consistent with a flash mob, where the militants showed up spontaneously with RPGs. Petraeus downplayed to lawmakers the skill needed to fire mortars, which also were used in the attack and to some were seen as evidence of significant pre-planning. As Fox News previously reported, four mortars were fired — two missed the annex, but the mortar team re-calibrated and the next two mortars were direct hits.
Fox News is told that Petraeus was “absolute” in his description with few, if any, caveats. As lawmakers learned more about the attack, including through raw intelligence reports, they were “angry, disappointed and frustrated” that the CIA director had not provided a more complete picture of the available intelligence.
Petraeus also may have testified today that Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points didn’t come from him or the CIA. President Obama’s “come after me” act earlier this week may have been even more ill-advised than it seemed at the time.
But why did Petraeus’ story change in two months? Was he pressured into delivering false reports in September, using the investigation into his affair with Paula Broadwell as leverage, or was there some larger national security reason? Say, the US holding prisoners in the CIA annex, or gun running to al Qaeda militants in Syria. Or both? Bill Kristol speculated on the various possibilities on November 13.
Final point, though, he may have been under pressure as Charles says, to go along with the administration line on September 14th about the video, which he knew was not true. Someone else told me that General Petraeus, on the Hill that day, Director Petraeus I should say, said privately to one of the members of Congress said, ‘This is happened in Benghazi.’ He said, ‘Do you want the official line or do you want the real truth?. So I think he knew that he was not telling the full truth. He is, on the other hand, the CIA director. They were involved in some pretty complicated things, perhaps, in Benghazi. To be fair to him, maybe he thought that national security required him not to fully spill the beans and to kind of go along with a line that was otherwise politically convenient for the administration. So as a total defender of General Allen in this, and I think, frankly, people should be careful before they assume that Petraeus wasn’t doing what he thought was right for country then, too.
Pressure from the FBI investigation that disgraced him and may destroy his family, plus concealing various “complicated” things the CIA has been up to, are not mutually exclusive explanations for the evident change in Petraeus’ testimony on Benghazi.
If the US was holding terrorist prisoners in Benghazi, (and without adequate security? How stupid was that?) that would provide a powerful incentive for the Obama administration to cover up the origin and nature of the attack. Candidate Obama promised his left-wing base that he would shutter the CIA’s “black sites” in which terrorists are held and subjected to techniques stronger than mere waterboarding, to find out what they know. If the Benghazi annex was a “black site,” there may be others out there. It can’t be blamed on Bush — that site was in the Libya whose revolution Obama led from behind. Those sites may be helping Obama develop his terrorist “kill list,” which his administration leaked to the media to make him appear as a tough commander in chief.
The bottom line is that today’s hearings haven’t closed the book on Benghazi, not by a long shot. Nothing less than a select committee investigation, with testimony from the president and all of his men and women, will get to the bottom of why the Obama White House misled the American people and to this day are holding a scapegoat in jail.