Ex-CIA Chief Petraeus Testifies On Benghazi Attacks
Washington (CNN) -- 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
That's according to U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York, 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.
King said that the "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday.
"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 cause of that discrepancy is unclear, King said.
Petraeus did not address the reason why he resigned from the CIA a week ago -- the exposure of an extramarital with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
However, he did tell lawmakers during a 20-minute opening statement that he "regretted" the situation, King said.
King told reporters that he likes Petraeus and that it was uncomfortable, at times, to interview a man he considers a friend.
"He was a strong soldier. Very professional, very knowledgeable, very strong," King said. "He's a solid guy. I consider him a friend, which made the questioning tough. You realize the human tragedy here."
The consulate attack, which occurred this past September 11, left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Petraeus was not under oath, King said.
The event became a political hot button during a presidential election year and raised questions about everything from security at the compound to the Obama administration's initial description of the
Petraeus' surprise resignation last week added fuel to that fire. The United States' top spy publicly admitted to an extramarital affair, and critics of the administration suggested that his resignation
might be linked to fallout over the attack.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, has insisted that regardless of his resignation, Petraeus would still testify about the attack. She has said what
he knows is imperative for committee members to understand events before, during and after the attack.
Petraeus was expected to tell lawmakers that the CIA knew soon after the attack that Ansar al Sharia was responsible, according to an official with knowledge of the case. The official spoke on condition
of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.
When reporters asked King who was behind the attack, he said terrorists linked to al Qaeda.
Ansar al Sharia is more of a label than an organization, one that's been adopted by conservative Salafist groups across the Arab world.
Petraeus said he believes, according to the official, that there's been confusion concerning two separate intelligence questions: Who was responsible? And what was the motivation of the attack?
According to the official, Petraeus says the stream of intelligence from multiple sources, including video at the scene, indicated the group was behind the attack.
But separate intelligence emerged at the same time indicating the violence at the consulate was inspired by protests in Egypt over an ostensibly anti-Islam film that was privately produced in the United
States. The movie, "Innocence of Muslims," portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing buffoon.
There were 20 intelligence reports that indicated that anger about the film may be to blame, the official said.
The CIA eventually disproved those reports, but not before Petraeus' initial briefing to Congress the day after the attack, where he discussed who might be behind the attack and what prompted it. During
that briefing, he raised Ansar al Sharia's possible connection as well as outrage about the film, the official 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.
House and Senate committee members said they got their clearest picture yet of the attack Thursday, thanks to testimony and a video compilation of footage captured by surveillance cameras and a drone. The
video showed the attack as it began and contained images "through the incident and exodus," Feinstein said.
The video included shots of Stevens, the ambassador, being dragged out of the building, said a source familiar with the House committee hearing.
Another official familiar with the hearing said one Republican House member "got into it" Thursday with acting CIA Director Michael Morrell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about Rice's
comments, challenging why they weren't as strong as they should have been on whether an extremist element was involved in the attack.
The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Petraeus, meanwhile, can also expect to be asked whether his resignation from the CIA's top post had anything to do with the attack in Libya.
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters Thursday that he plans to ask Petraeus: "Did your resignation have anything to do with the
fact that you were supposed to testify before Congress?"
Petraeus told Kyra Phillips of HLN, CNN's sister network, that his resignation was not linked to the Benghazi attack and that he never passed classified information to the woman he was having an affair
with at the time.