Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified behind closed doors Friday
before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the deadly
September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Crowds of
reporters and cameras were stationed on both sides of the U.S. Capitol,
but Petraeus was completely shielded from view, just one week after he
resigned as CIA director because of an extra-marital affair.
The September 11th assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi left U.S.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. The
government's precautions against such an attack, and its response when
the American compound was overrun and burned, is now at the center of an
increasingly bitter fight on Capitol Hill between President Barack Obama
and his Democratic allies, on the one hand, and congressional
Republican Congressman Peter King says the Obama administration's
account of the terrorist attack in Benghazi was changed to delete any
reference to al-Qaida involvement.
"As far as General Petraeus' testimony today was, that from the start,
he had told us that this was a terrorist attack or that there were
terrorists involved from the start. I told him in my questioning that I
have a very different recollection of that. The clear impression that we
were given was that the overwhelming evidence was that it arose out of
spontaneous demonstrations," said King.
Shortly after the September attack the Central Intelligence Agency
circulated "talking points" about the attack to senior U.S. officials.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, relied on those
background notes to discuss the Benghazi attack on television a few days
later (September 16). She said the attack most likely grew out of
spontaneous Libyan protests against a notorious anti-Muslim video.
Rice has been mentioned unofficially as a possible successor to
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who intends to leave her post in the
coming months. The dispute over what happened in Benghazi has been cited
repeatedly by Rice's critics - by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of
South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, in particular - who say they
do not trust her.
Here is Senator McCain:
"Let's see what... Let's see what happens here. But we will do whatever
is necessary to block the nomination that's within our power as far as
Susan Rice is concerned," said McCain.
At a news conference this week, the president reacted angrily:
"If Senator McCain and others want to go after somebody, they should go
after me. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing
to do with Benghazi and ... to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous,"
said President Obama.
Capitol Hill Friday, Democratic women lawmakers gathered to defend Rice
against what they described as McCain and Graham's unfair and sexist
attacks. Congresswoman Gwen Moore said she realizes some members of the
opposition party are disappointed that they lost the presidential
"But to batter this woman because they do not feel that they have had
the ability to batter President Obama, is something that we, the women,
are not going to stand by and watch. Their feckless and reckless
speculation is unworthy of their offices as senators," said Moore.
Lawmakers say there will be more hearings on the Benghazi attack, which
means there will likely be more partisan fights over what senior
administration officials knew about the attacks and when they knew it.