On Friday, General David Petraeus testified in front of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session. The former CIA agency chief, which recently resigned over an extra-marital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, was expected to answer questions about the events surrounding the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, that claimed the lives of four Americans — including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a Fox News contributor, wrote that “Petraeus told the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Sept. 14, 2012 that the mob attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, three days earlier, was a spontaneous reaction of Libyans angered over a YouTube clip some believed insulted the prophet Mohammed.”
Since then, evidence has come out that the consulate attack was a planned and orchestrated terrorist attack. Obama’s initial characterization of the event as an “act of terror” prompted by the aforementioned video led to one of the most memorable moments of this year’s election season. The administration promoted the video explanation for several days after the attack, including having U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appear on numerous talk shows to promote the explanation. Questions as to what the administration knew and when, as well as their response, has led to growing concern that the administration is involved in a massive cover up of events. That sentiment was furthered when Petraeus announced his intention to resign prior to his scheduled appearance before the committee. Pundits theorized that Petraeus’ resignation was an attempt to silence his testimony. Napolitano noted that Petraeus went through a “two-month FBI-conducted background check that likely would have revealed the existence of his relationship with Broadwell.” Questioning the timing of the resignation, Napolitano said “Isn’t it odd that FBI agents would be reading the emails of the CIA director to his mistress and that the director of the FBI, who briefs the president weekly, did not make the president aware of this?”
Friday’s testimony raised more questions than it answered. Petraeus testified that from the beginning the CIA assessment included the fact that the Benghazi consulate attack was carried out by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, possibly Ansar al Sharia. Reuters said Petraeus testified to lawmakers that “there were extremists in the group.” According to sources, Fox News reported that Petraeus testified that “references to ‘Al Qaeda involvement’ were stripped from his agency's original talking points.” The New York Times said Petraeus explained that “the administration withheld the suspected role of specific Al-Qaeda affiliates to avoid tipping off the terrorist groups.” Questions now are being raised as to whether Rice had access to both the classified and unclassified versions of the CIA intelligence report, who removed the reference and who authored the talking points that were given to Rice.
The House and Senate committees were anxious to question Petraeus because in his capacity as CIA chief he had “gone to Libya to interview people about what happened in Benghazi on Sept 11” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Today’s testimony left the biggest questions unanswered including:
• When did the administration know about the attack? How long did it take for support to reach the consulate? Did the president and/or key officials watch the events unfold?
• Did the administration deliberately mislead the public when they said it was an event prompted by the video? Who withheld the information about the terrorist organization connection? Why did the administration originally back the video theory of it had information about the terrorist plot?
• Why didn’t Petraeus come forward with the assessment of terrorist involvement in the attack?
• Were the president and senior officials informed of the emails that were sent by onsite personnel and others in Benghazi? What was the distribution list for those emails? Did those emails inform the subsequent talking points released by the CIA?
• Did the administration refuse to provide adequate security for the consulate and its employees? Did the president or senior officials give a “stand down” order to the arriving support troops?
• Should Susan Rice be asked to step down because of her role? Will Obama nominate Rice to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Is this an impeachable offense?
Fox News reported that “Petraeus left Capitol Hill around noon” after testifying for an “hour and 20 minutes” according to CNN. Rep. Peter King of New York told CNN that “Petraeus was not asked to testify under oath.”