By Barbara Starr
Former CIA Director David Petraeus knew “almost immediately” after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi it was the work of Ansar Al-Sharia, a loosely-formed group that has some members sympathetic to Al Qaeda, according to a source who has spoken to him and is directly familiar with his analysis of the situation.
According to this source, Petraeus says the stream of intelligence from multiple sources, including video at the scene, indicated the group was behind the attack. But a separate stream of intelligence also emerged indicating ongoing riots in Cairo over an anti-Islamic film might have motivated the attacks.
The source says there were some 20 different intelligence reports indicating the Cairo film might be responsible. The CIA eventually disapproved all those reports, but not until after Petraeus’ initial briefings to Congress in which he discussed all possibilities, the source said. “All those other reports got disproved over time,” the source says Petraeus told him.
Petraeus also believes confusion has emerged over two separate intelligence questions. First, who was responsible, and second what was the motivation of the attackers.
Petraeus’ aim in testifying, the source said, is in part to clear up “a lot of misrepresentations of what he told Congress initially. He wants to clear it up.” Petraeus is expected to tell Congress he had no direct involvement in the talking points UN ambassador Susan Rice used in the days after the attack. Petraeus developed unclassified talking points that were approved by the intelligence community the source says. Rice’s talking points may have used some of that information but were separate from what Petraeus provided.