Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing FridayÂ morning that his agency determined immediately after the Sept. 11 Libya attackÂ that “Al Qaeda involvement” was suspected — but the line was taken out in theÂ final version circulated to administration officials, according to a topÂ lawmaker who was briefed.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who spoke to reporters after Petraeus testifiedÂ before the House Intelligence Committee, indicated he and other lawmakers stillÂ have plenty of questions about the aftermath of the attack.
“No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talkingÂ points,” he said.
Petraeus was heading next to the Senate Intelligence Committee toÂ testify.
Petraeus’ testimony both challenges the Obama administration’s repeatedÂ claims that the attack was a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Islam video, andÂ according to King conflicts with his own briefing to lawmakers on Sept. 14.Â Sources have said Petraeus, in that briefing, also described the attack as aÂ protest that spun out of control.
“His testimony today was that from the start, he had told us that this was aÂ terrorist attack,” King said, adding that he told Petraeus he had a “differentÂ recollection.”
Still, the claim that the CIA’s original talking points were changed is sureÂ to stoke controversy on the Hill.
“The original talking points were much more specific about Al QaedaÂ involvement. And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” KingÂ said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agencyÂ process.”
Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the AlÂ Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”
Lawmakers are focusing on the talking points issue because of concern overÂ the account U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice gave on five Sunday shows onÂ Sept. 16, when she repeatedly claimed the attack was spontaneous — Rice’sÂ defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on theÂ intelligence at the time.
The suggestion that the intelligence was altered raised questions about whoÂ altered it, with King asking if “the White House changed the talkingÂ points.”
One source told Fox News that Petraeus “has no idea what was provided” toÂ Rice or who was the author of the talking points she used.
“He had no idea she was going on talk shows” until the White House announcedÂ it one or two days before, the source said.
While Petraeus resigned last Friday over an extra-marital affair, hisÂ testimony Friday was expected to focus on Libya as opposed to personal matters.Â King said it barely came up, and only when Petraeus was asked if the affair andÂ investigation had any impact on his testimony on Libya. “He said no,” KingÂ said.
The pressure was on Petraeus to set the record straight, after other topÂ intelligence officials struggled a day earlier to explain why their initialÂ talking points after the Libya attack minimized the role of militantÂ groups.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees heard testimonyÂ Thursday in private meetings with Director of National Intelligence JamesÂ Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell. But Fox News was told there wereÂ heated exchanges on the House side, particularly over the talking points thatÂ administration officials relied on in the days after the Sept. 11Â strike.
Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalizedÂ that information. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of aÂ regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despiteÂ evidence of their involvement.
Further, Fox News was told Morell was pushed to explain why, during a Sept.Â 14 briefing, Petraeus seemed wedded to the explanation that the attack was inÂ response to an anti-Islam video. Morell apparently said he wasn’t at thatÂ briefing and had nothing further to add.
Lawmakers continue to express concerns on several fronts — on whetherÂ warnings in the months preceding Sept. 11 were ignored, and on why theÂ administration first insisted the attack was a “spontaneous” act.
Rice has been the focal point of that criticism. Obama, though, in his firstÂ post-election press conference Wednesday, called the criticism “outrageous” andÂ told those lawmakers to “go after me” instead.
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff also came to Rice’s defense Thursday,Â saying after the House intelligence committee hearing that Rice was given theÂ intelligence community’s “best assessment” at the time.
“Those who have suggested that Ambassador Rice was politicizing theÂ intelligence or misrepresenting what the intelligence community was puttingÂ forward as its best assessment are either unfamiliar with the facts, orÂ willfully disregarding them,” he said.
Source: Fox News