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Entries in Benghazi (27)

Wednesday
Nov212012

John McCain Surprised by DNI Benghazi Talking Points Admission

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, one of the loudest critics of the White House reaction to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, admitted on Tuesday that he was surprised that the Director of National Intelligence admitted to removing references to al Qaeda in the talking points memo that followed the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has been on the hot seat since she read from the talking points, which initially blamed a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Islam movie -- a claim that was later recanted by the Obama administration.

McCain said this new revelation from the DNI does not match up with what he and other lawmakers heard from intelligence officials during Senate hearings investigating the consulate attack.

The Arizona Republican said on Tuesday that during those hearings, when witnesses were asked who removed the references to al Qaeda, "all of them -- including the Director of National Intelligence himself -- told us that they did not know who made the changes.  Now we have to read the answers to our questions in the media."

McCain went on to say that "this latest episode is another reason why many of us are so frustrated with, and suspicious of, the actions of this administration when it comes to the Benghazi attack."

Rice could be the first casualty from the fallout since McCain and other Republicans have vowed to block her confirmation if President Obama nominates her to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov192012

McCain Wants Susan Rice to Admit to Being Wrong About Benghazi

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON0 -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would like for Susan Rice to admit that she gave out “wrong information” days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, that killed four Americans.

“Maybe she could start out by publicly coming back on this show and saying, I was wrong, I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago,” said McCain on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is seen by many as the favorite to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State but faces stiff opposition from several Republican senators, and McCain has been perhaps the most vocal of them.

Critics of the White House response say that the administration was too quick to dismiss the attacks as a reaction to a video insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, when in fact the attacks were later confirmed to be the result of a terror plot.

Democratic senators defending Rice point out that she received talking points that were signed off by all members of the Intelligence Committee that did not make any reference to terrorism at all.

“But it wasn’t her fault,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who defended Rice Sunday on Face the Nation.  “And to say that she has to be held accountable because an intelligence agency didn’t tell the whole story initially for reasons of national security is totally unfair.”

Attacks on Rice’s performance earlier last week prompted President Obama to lash out and tell her critics to attack him instead.

McCain on Sunday said he did not want the president mad at him, but just wanted to find out what happened in the attack.

“I wish the president wouldn’t get mad at me,” he said.  “I wish he would spend our time together in finding out what happened, what caused it, and what we need -- four brave Americans died.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

Content of CIA Talking Points About Benghazi Confirmed

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- The  CIA’s unclassified Benghazi talking points were a major focus of former CIA Director David Petraeus’ closed testimony on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Those talking points have become a bone of contention because U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice used them to prepare for her network television interviews five days after the attack.  Rice has been criticized by Republicans for having said at the time that the attack in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest in response to an anti-Muslim video filmed in the United States.

The political sparring over those comments have centered on what was in the talking points provided to the House Intelligence Committee (which Rice had as well) in the days after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The Washington Post quoted the talking points in a column published on Oct. 19, but it was not until Friday that a U.S. government official went on the record to confirm their accuracy.

On Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, read the talking points to reporters staking out Petraeus’ appearance before her committee.

Here are the talking points:

The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the United States Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against United States diplomatic posts in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations. This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated. The investigation is ongoing, and the United States government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice to those responsible for the death of United States citizens.

A senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the talking points provided some insights Friday into how they came about.  According to the official, the talking points drafted by the CIA  were “a reflection of the understanding at the time that could be provided at an unclassified level.  They were preliminary and were never meant to be the final word on the issue.”

The official said that they were coordinated at a senior level within the intelligence community and “were not, as has been insinuated by some, edited to minimize the role of extremists, diminish terrorist affiliations, or play down that this was an attack.”

Because the talking points were to be unclassified, the official said intelligence and legal issues had to be considered.   For one, the official said the information about the attack involving individuals linked to al Qaeda came from classified sources. Secondly, the official said those links were “so tenuous, as they still are, it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers to avoid setting off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions.”

The talking points used the term “extremists” to describe those behind the Benghazi attack.  The subsequent political fight over whether the attack should have been described as a terrorist attack seems to have caught intelligence officials off-guard. "People assumed that it was apparent in this context that extremists who attack U.S. facilities and kill Americans are, by definition, terrorists,” said the official.

“The controversy this word choice caused came as a surprise,” said the official.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

Ex-CIA Chief Testifies About Benghazi Investigation Behind Closed Doors

DoD photo by Petty Officer William Selby, U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- Disgraced former CIA director Petraeus spent almost four hours in closed-door hearings before the House and Senate intelligence committees Friday morning to testify about what he learned first-hand about the Sept. 11 attack in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Democratic senators who emerged from the hearing said Petraeus' testimony supported U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Rice, who could be nominated for Secretary of State by President Obama, has been accused by Republicans of trying to mislead the country by saying the attack was a spontaneous eruption rather than a failure to defend against a terrorist attack.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Rice was speaking from talking points prepared by the CIA and approved by the intelligence committee.

"The key is that they were unclassified talking points at a very early stage. And I don't think she should be pilloried for this. She did what I would have done or anyone else would have done that was going on a weekend show," Feinstein said. "To say that she is unqualified to be Secretary of State I think is a mistake. And the way it keeps going it's almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Petraeus' testimony "clarified some of the issues that were still a little cloudy" over the attacks.

Chambliss said Rice "went beyond" the talking points. "She even mentioned that under the leadership of Barack Obama we had decimated al Qaeda. Well, she knew at that time that al Qaeda was very likely responsible in part or in whole for the death of Ambassador Stevens," he said.

Petraeus was before the House committee for about 90 minutes, and then spent more than two hours before the Senate panel, but Congressional officials made sure that no one else got speak to or even see the former four-star general.

He was brought into the House before reporters were aware of his presence and Capitol Hill police cleared out a passage way from the House to the Senate, even requiring congressional staff to stay out of the hallways and elevators.

Feinstein attributed the heightened security to a concern for Petraeus' well-being.

"The general was both eager and willing to give us his views on this and his experience on it and that is very much appreciated particularly because of the situation. We didn't want to make it any more difficult for him. And you know, you people aren't always the easiest," Feinstein said, speaking to members of the press.

The committees had been pushing to hear from Petraeus about the Benghazi attack, particularly since he traveled to Libya and carried out his own investigation into what happened.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the sex scandal that forced Petraeus to abruptly resign was not a factor in the hearing, which was confined to the terror attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"Ten seconds into it, that was off to the side," King said, referring to the scandal.

The congressman said that what Petraeus told the panel "will all be classified other than it was clear it did not arise from a demonstration and it was a terror attack."

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 Friday.

The congressman suggested that pressing Petraeus was awkward at times.

"It's a lot easier when you dislike the guy," King said.

Petraeus resigned last week after disclosing an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.

He expressed regret for his affair during his opening statements before the Senate, but the committee was more interested in finding out what Petraeus learned from his trip to Libya in the days after the killings.

The Senate Intelligence Committee met for just under four hours on Thursday, hearing testimony from acting CIA Director Mike Morell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others.

During Thursday's closed-door briefing, the committee members saw a film put together by the National Counterterrorism Center of the events in Benghazi. Also testifying Thursday were FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen.

The week after next, the committee will resume with two full hearings. Feinstein predicted that the committee will then have an open, public hearing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

Petraeus Testifies for 90 Minutes Before House Panel

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former CIA director David Petraeus slipped into a closed door hearing before the House Intelligence Committee Friday morning to testify about what he learned first-hand about the Sept. 11 attack in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Petraeus, who traveled to Libya and carried out his own investigation after the Benghazi attack, spoke and was questioned by the committee for about 90 minutes, committee chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said after the hearing.

King said the sex scandal that forced Petraeus to abruptly resign was not a factor in the hearing, which was confined to the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

"Ten seconds into it, that was off to the side," King said, referring to the scandal.

The congressman said that what Petraeus told the panel "will all be classified other than it was clear it did not arise from a demonstration and it was a terror attack."

King said that Petraeus maintained that he said early on that the ambush was a result of terrorism.  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 on Friday.

The congressman suggested that pressing Petraeus was awkward at times.  "It's a lot easier when you dislike the guy," King said.

Petraeus resigned last week after disclosing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov162012

Intelligence Committees Hold Hearings into Benghazi Attack

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- The House and Senate Intelligence Committees began closed-door hearings Thursday on the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, with lawmakers hearing testimony from CIA acting director Mike Morell, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others.

The hearings included the screening of video from a number of sources that captured the attack as it unfolded.  The footage also included video shot from an unmanned aerial drone.

After more than four hours behind closed doors, Senate Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein emerged and said a lot of light was shown on the situation by the testimony from military and diplomatic officials, but she declined to offer an opinion, saying the fact-finding continues.  Feinstein stated that there would be several more closed-door sessions.

On Friday morning, former CIA Director David Petraeus will testify behind closed doors about the attack on Benghazi.  The retired Army general, who once commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, reportedly is eager to set out a timeline of events leading up to and during the deadly attack.

In late October, Petraeus traveled to Libya to conduct his own review of the Benghazi attack.  While in Tripoli, he personally questioned the CIA station chief and other CIA personnel who were in Benghazi when the attack occurred.

Petraeus is not expected to discuss his resignation or his affair with Paula Broadwell.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov152012

Gen. David Petraeus to Testify on Libya Attacks

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former CIA director David Petraeus is set to head to Capitol Hill on Friday to testify before the House Intelligence Committee about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that led to multiple deaths.

Petraeus, who resigned last week after disclosing an extramarital affair, is expected to defend the CIA's actions during the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The retired Army general, who once commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is reportedly eager to set out a timeline of events leading up to and during the deadly attack.

Spokesmen for the committee have said that the hearing will be closed to the public. Petraeus is not expected to discuss his resignation or the affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

Also on Friday, Petraeus will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate announced Thursday morning.  That hearing will be a closed session as well.

Adm. William H. McRaven, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command and the planner of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2010, on Wednesday night called Petraeus "an American hero."  The praise came at The Hero Summit, an event sponsored by Newsweek-Daily Beast honoring the military.

"[Petraeus ] was the finest general I ever worked for, period." McRaven said, adding, "I don't condone what he did, because Holly Petraeus is also a great American hero."

During the interview with Charlie Rose, McRaven also touched on Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the second top military official, who has become embroiled on the Petraeus scandal for his relationship with Florida socialite Jill Kelley, who received threatening emails from Broadwell.  McRaven said he believes Allen's veracity will shine through.

Allen, a four-star Marine general, is being investigated by the Pentagon's inspector general for "potentially inappropriate" emails with Kelley, a Tampa, Fla.-area military supporter.

"[Allen is] the finest officer in the U.S. military right now, and he is a man of incredible integrity, and I think the facts will bear that out," McRaven said.

President Obama said earlier this week that he continues to have "faith" in Allen, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

GOP Senators Stand Strong on Libya, Petraeus Scandals

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Three Republican Senators are at the helm of a movement to stand strong in their intent to combat President Obama on the two issues that currently stand at the forefront of the political media scene.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. have  called for the establishment of a Watergate-style select congressional committee to investigate the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“We believe the complexity and the gravity of this matter warrant the establishment of a temporary select committee that can conduct an integrated review of the many national security issues involved,” McCain said today.

The  three lawmakers called for former CIA director Gen. Petraeus as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before the committee, if the Senate approves its formation.  They intend to probe “all the way up to the President of the United States.”

Now intrinsic in this investigation, the Senators admitted, is the Gen. Petraeus affair that is muddled in with the details of what went wrong in Libya. Sen. Graham said while the scandal grows “weirder by the day,” he hopes that an investigation can separate the two growing issues: what went wrong in Libya and Petraeus’ affair.

“There’s the weird and the strange and the human failings in one camp and there is the legitimate question about national security being breached in the other camp,” Graham said, “so we can separate out the weird from the national security.” But almost correcting himself immediately after, he noted that “there is beginning to be a national security component of the human failings that I want to know about.”

They introduced a resolution on Wednesday afternoon on the Senate floor that would establish this committee. It would need to be acted upon by the Senate to be enacted.  Asked today if he’d be in support of such a committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said no.

The Republican Senators said the committee is necessary to streamline information coming in between Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Armed Services committees who are all looking for answers on what happened in the attack.

“Conspiracy theories are running rampant,” Graham noted, “a segmented stovepipe investigation where you have three different committees going off in three different direction, not comparing notes, not being able to do this in an organized fashion is going to lead to failure….I think finding the truth about Benghazi is only possible if you combine the resources of these three committees.”

McCain and Graham also pledged to block any appointment of Susan Rice, a potential Secretary of State nominee, over her role in explaining the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Obama has not yet nominated Rice, but she is considered a frontrunner for the post. This statement drew a sharp rebuke from the President at his Wednesday press conference.

“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” said Obama. “And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

Some Congress Members Still Want Petraeus to Testify on Benghazi

Department of Defense photo by Cherie Cullen/Released(WASHINGTON) -- While the FBI was investigating the director of the CIA, a top U.S. general and a Florida socialite, Congress was -- for a while -- left in the dark.  The affair only came to light when a whistleblower called his congressman.

The scandal that led to the resignation of David Petraeus and put a hold on the Senate confirmation of a top U.S. general has raised questions about the separation of powers, and has caused some lawmakers to bristle that they were not told of the FBI's investigation sooner.

Brian Darling, senior government fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said some members of Congress were relying on the media for information that they should have been briefed on.

The sex scandal has also robbed intelligence committees of Petraeus' testimony about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  That attack claimed the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.  Petraeus had personally flown to Libya on a fact-finding mission in late October.

Top voices on the Hill are divided over what Gen. David Petraeus' next steps should be.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters it remained to be seen whether Congress should have been informed about the FBI investigation into Petraeus' extramarital affair earlier, but said she expected it was not of high enough importance to require they be briefed.

"I think there's some answers that we have to have about notification to Congress.  I don't have any reason to think that there are any national security issues at stake in what has transpired," Pelosi said at a ceremony welcoming new Democrats to Congress.  "I think some dishonorable things were done, and the honorable thing has to be to resign or not to go forward."

But Darling said Pelosi was wrong in saying Petraeus' personal indiscretion did not affect national security.

"Clearly, Congress should have been informed, and there's evidence that some members of Congress were informed before the elections," Darling said.  "A scandal like that, which could impact the way that a CIA director operates, should be shared with Congress."

Pelosi did not mention the one aspect of Petraeus' affair that plagues many of her colleagues: his exclusion from testimony on the attack in Benghazi.

Republican senators and representatives -- and at least one top Democrat -- have urged the former Afghanistan general to testify, despite his resignation from his post as CIA director.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it was "absolutely imperative" for the Senate to hear from Petraeus.

"There are so many unanswered questions at this point," Collins said outside her office Tuesday morning.  "I will say that it is absolutely imperative that Gen. Petraeus come and testify.  He was CIA director at the time of the attack.  He visited Libya after the attack.  He has a great deal of information that we need in order to understand what went wrong."

Petraeus was scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence hearing on Benghazi, set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, but because of his resignation in light of the disclosure of his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Petraeus will no longer speak.  Acting CIA Director Mike Morell will appear in his place at the closed-door hearing.

Senate Intelligence Committee members are likely to meet casually on Wednesday to discuss what to do next regarding Petraeus, according to an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.  But so far, no additional meetings or hearings have been scheduled in regards to Petraeus' extramarital affair, nor Benghazi.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov132012

Senator Says It’s ‘Imperative’ Petraeus Still Testifies

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Susan Collins on Tuesday said it is “absolutely imperative” that David Petraeus should still testify on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, despite his resignation as CIA director due to his affair.

“There are so many unanswered questions at this point,” Collins, R-Maine, said outside her office Tuesday morning.  “I will say that it is absolutely imperative that Gen. Petraeus come and testify.  He was CIA director at the time of the attack.  He visited Libya after the attack.  He has a great deal of information that we need in order to understand what went wrong.”

Petraeus was to testify Thursday on Benghazi in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell will now be testifying in his place, but that has not stopped the calls on the Hill for Petraeus himself to testify on Benghazi.

“I think we should go ahead with Mike Morell and the way it is now set up,” Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC Monday.  “But I also think that the community should know that this is not sufficient.  And I have no doubt now that we will need to talk with David Petraeus and we will likely do that in closed session but it will be done one way or the other.”

Collins, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, said on Tuesday she is “puzzled” by much of what has occurred in the FBI investigation into Petraeus’ affair and specifically mentioned that it is concerning that his mistress, Paula Broadwell, may have had access to classified information.

When asked if the FBI informed the White House soon enough of the investigation, Collins said there “does seem like there was an inordinate amount of time that passed,” but added that without all the facts yet she doesn’t want to reach any kind of conclusion.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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