Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda
November 16th, 2012
12:36 PM ET

Benghazi talking points omitted link to al Qaeda

By Jennifer Rizzo, with reporting from Pam Benson

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.

That's according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.

Then, the attack was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.

Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in September, according to King.

"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account)," he said. "The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."

The "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday, King said.

The cause of that discrepancy is unclear, King said.

Earlier an official said that Petraeus' aim in testifying was to clear up "a lot of misrepresentations of what he told Congress initially."

The former CIA director was expected to tell the congressional committees that he did develop unclassified talking points in the days after the attack but had had no direct involvement in developing the ones used by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice has been under fire for suggesting the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous event spurred by a protest against the anti-Muslim film.

King said the original talking points were much more specific about the involvment of Al Qaeda.

"Final ones just said indications of extremists," King said. "It said indicate even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was Al Qaeda involvement."

Questions still remain over the development of the talking points.

“Basically it is still not clear how the final talking points emerged. (Petraeus) said it went through a long process involving many agencies including the Department of Justice, including the State Department and no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points other than to say the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out,” said King.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee disagreed with King, saying that the talking points did not change.

"The talking points were not changed," Smith said. "The talking points were very basic and straight forward."

Several democrats who were briefed said Petraeus explained the unclassified talking points did not make mention of extremist elements because it was still classified – and could have compromised intelligence sources, CNN's Dana Bash reported.

Smith took part in a separate briefing with the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Clapper read to the group the original three talking points used by Ambassador Rice. There was no mention of al Qaeda or Ansar Al Sharia in those points, according to Smith.

"This has become so partisan and so political," he said.

A senior U.S. official told CNN that the talking points were drafted by the CIA and "reflected what it believed at that point in time." The memo was reviewed "CIA leadership and coordinated in the interagency at a senior level," the official said.

The first draft of the CIA unclassified talking points stated there were indications the attack was linked to al Qaeda, but during the interagency process when the talking points were reviewed, al Qaeda was changed to extremists. The official said the change “was not a political decision.”

"The points 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. There were legitimate intelligence and legal issues to consider, as is almost always the case when explaining classified assessments publicly." the official explained. "First, the information about individuals linked to al-Qaeda was derived from classified sources. Second, when links were so tenuous—as they still are—it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don’t set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages.”

The official said the controversy over the word "terrorist" caught the intelligence community by "surprise."

“Most people understand that saying “extremists” were involved in a direct assault on the mission isn’t shying away from the idea of terrorist involvement," the official said. "People assumed that it was apparent in this context that extremists who attack US facilities and kill Americans are, by definition, terrorists. Because of the various elements involved in the attack, the term extremist was meant to capture the range of participants."

The talking points, the senior U.S. official explained, "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."

On who authorized the final version of the talking points, a US intelligence official said, "We're reviewing the coordination trail."

soundoff (1,273 Responses)
  1. verizon wireless near me<a+href=

    June 14, 2021 at 1:00 am | Reply
  2. landfill near me

    June 13, 2021 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  3. walmart near me now

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and the rest of the website is also very good.

    June 13, 2021 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  4. self storage near me

    June 13, 2021 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  5. haunted houses near me

    June 13, 2021 at 9:11 am | Reply
  6. places to eat near me

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for supplying this info.

    June 13, 2021 at 8:30 am | Reply
  7. rheumatologist near me

    After I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!

    June 13, 2021 at 8:21 am | Reply
  8. psychologist near me

    June 13, 2021 at 4:30 am | Reply
  9. thrift stores near me

    This is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate informationÖ Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!

    June 13, 2021 at 2:11 am | Reply
  10. rv for sale near me

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Thank you! Where are your contact details though?

    June 12, 2021 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  11. red lobster near me

    I used to be able to find good advice from your blog articles.

    June 12, 2021 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  12. Ram High Top Van Repair Shop Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    June 12, 2021 at 6:39 am | Reply
  13. RV Batteries California

    June 12, 2021 at 6:38 am | Reply
  14. box truck repair near me

    June 12, 2021 at 6:17 am | Reply
  15. rv repair riverside ca

    June 11, 2021 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  16. Frame Repair Shop Near Me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am encountering problems with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    June 11, 2021 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  17. Authorized Dodge Sprinter Repair

    June 11, 2021 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  18. Luxury Van

    June 11, 2021 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  19. RV Shades California

    I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

    June 11, 2021 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  20. vinyl wrap motorhome

    I couldnít resist commenting. Perfectly written!

    June 11, 2021 at 3:22 pm | Reply
  21. near me

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    June 11, 2021 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  22. Nathanial Orizetti

    Excellent article. I'm facing many of these issues as well..

    June 11, 2021 at 8:48 am | Reply
  23. Mitch Copes

    June 11, 2021 at 8:48 am | Reply
  24. Will Veshedsky

    June 11, 2021 at 8:44 am | Reply
  25. Tracy Plotts

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing!

    June 11, 2021 at 7:46 am | Reply
  26. rv repair

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Many thanks! Where are your contact details though?

    June 11, 2021 at 5:33 am | Reply
  27. Aurora Salman

    I like it whenever people get together and share thoughts. Great site, keep it up!

    June 11, 2021 at 1:24 am | Reply
  28. Avelina Gaiser

    June 10, 2021 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  29. Magaly Campisi

    Great information. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!

    June 10, 2021 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  30. rv repair near me now

    After going over a few of the blog posts on your website, I really like your technique of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my web site as well and tell me how you feel.

    June 10, 2021 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  31. Hayden Stoneburner

    Excellent blog post. I definitely appreciate this site. Continue the good work!

    June 10, 2021 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  32. Amado Kupper

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am going through issues with your RSS. I donít understand the reason why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having the same RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    June 10, 2021 at 11:07 am | Reply
  33. Adolph Holtry

    Good day! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for your great info you have got here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more soon.

    June 10, 2021 at 11:07 am | Reply
  34. rv repair near me now

    June 10, 2021 at 10:52 am | Reply
  35. Yen Lorman

    June 10, 2021 at 10:38 am | Reply
  36. Lee Mcpartlin

    June 10, 2021 at 3:14 am | Reply
  37. rv repair

    Excellent blog post. I absolutely love this website. Keep it up!

    June 10, 2021 at 1:30 am | Reply
  38. Maryam Andrae

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly feel this site needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!

    June 10, 2021 at 12:12 am | Reply
  39. Marilynn Gioia

    June 10, 2021 at 12:12 am | Reply
  40. Hisako Shawgo

    Good day! I just would like to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent information you have got right here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.

    June 9, 2021 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  41. Local Marketing Services

    I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

    June 9, 2021 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  42. Felton Patricia

    June 9, 2021 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  43. Neda Gertner

    June 9, 2021 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  44. Lasandra Dani

    Greetings, I do believe your website could be having internet browser compatibility issues. When I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!

    June 9, 2021 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  45. Social Media Marketing Consultant

    Everyone loves it when individuals get together and share thoughts. Great blog, continue the good work!

    June 9, 2021 at 6:35 am | Reply
  46. horse trailers california

    June 8, 2021 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  47. RV TV California

    June 8, 2021 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  48. rv body repair

    June 8, 2021 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  49. Sprinter Van Repair Near Me

    June 8, 2021 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  50. cheap eliquid reviews

    When some one searches for his necessary thing, thus he/she desires to be
    available that in detail, so that thing is maintained over here.

    June 8, 2021 at 5:36 am | Reply
  51. RV Wraps Orange County

    June 8, 2021 at 12:04 am | Reply
  52. rv repair near here

    June 8, 2021 at 12:03 am | Reply
  53. window blinds repair san diego

    June 7, 2021 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  54. oc collision center

    I used to be able to find good info from your content.

    June 7, 2021 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  55. High Roof Sprinter Repair Panels

    Good article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the good writing.

    June 7, 2021 at 9:29 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Leave a Reply to Mr.Jackson


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.