In Benghazi testimony, Petraeus says al Qaeda role known early

Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:07pm EST
 

By Susan Cornwell and Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress on Friday that he and the spy agency had sought to make clear from the outset that September's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, involved an al Qaeda affiliate, lawmakers said.

Petraeus told lawmakers "there were extremists in the group" that launched the attack on the diplomatic mission, describing them as affiliates of al Qaeda and other groups, said Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee.

"The fact is that he clarified it," Ruppersberger said.

Petraeus appeared behind closed doors before the House and Senate intelligence panels the week after quitting his CIA post because of an extramarital affair. He made no public remarks.

Another lawmaker, Republican Representative Peter King, said Petraeus' account in the closed-door session differed from the assessment the CIA chief gave to Congress two months ago, just days after the September 11 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

"He also stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there were significant terrorist involvement, and that is not my recollection of what he told us on September 14," King said.

Petraeus last week admitted to an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Lawmakers said a somber Petraeus told them his resignation had nothing to do with issues related to Benghazi or any reluctance to testify before Congress.

"The general did not address any specifics of the affair, of that issue," Democratic Representative Jim Langevin said. "What he did say in his opening statement was that he regrets the circumstances that led to his resignation."   Continued...

 
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus talks next to U.S. President Barack Obama at an event in the East Room of the White House in this April 28, 2011 file photo during Obama's announcement that then CIA Director Leon Panetta would be nominated as Secretary of Defense. Former CIA Director Petraeus will testify November 16, 2012 on Capitol Hill about the recent attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, but is also expected to be asked about his resignation last week over an extramarital affair. REUTERS/Larry Downing