Petraeus: The CIA’s initial talking points about Benghazi mentioned Al Qaeda — but the reference was removed

posted at 4:28 pm on November 16, 2012 by Allahpundit

The (former) director of the CIA doesn’t know why the CIA’s finalized talking points omitted a key detail?

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified in a closed-door hearing Friday morning that his agency determined immediately after the Sept. 11 Libya attack that “Al Qaeda involvement” was suspected — but the line was taken out in the final version circulated to administration officials, according to a top lawmaker who was briefed…

“The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement. And yet the final ones just said indications of extremists,” [Rep. Peter] King said, adding that the final version was the product of a vague “inter-agency process.”

Further, King said a CIA analyst specifically told lawmakers that the Al Qaeda affiliates line “was taken out.”

The obvious suspicion is that the White House or some other political actor up the food chain expunged the Al Qaeda reference because it was inconvenient to the Foreign Policy President’s “I destroyed Al Qaeda” reelection narrative. But Petraeus is no longer beholden to the administration. If that’s what happened, or if it’s what he suspected might have happened, why didn’t he say so today? His reputation had already taken a hit because of the bad early intel from the CIA on Benghazi before anyone knew who Paula Broadwell was. If that intel was actually the product of interference from political forces, he has every reason to clear his name by saying so. Instead, it sounds like he acknowleged today that the CIA did indeed ultimately approve the talking points Rice used that omitted the reference to Al Qaeda. Er, why’d they do that? If someone in a political office was pressuring the CIA to change the document, Petraeus would surely know about it, no?

Meanwhile, in a separate House Intel Committee briefing with DNI James Clapper and acting CIA Director Mike Morell:

Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalized [the talking points the White House initially relief on]. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of a regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despite evidence of their involvement.

The three biggest names in American intelligence still haven’t been able to figure out who removed a key part of an intel finding that’s been hotly disputed in public for two months? That’s like Obama needing an investigation to find out what he did or didn’t order the military to do to rescue Americans pinned down at the CIA annex on the night of the attack. How hard would it be to find this out? Presumably the CIA uses the same basic word processing programs as every other organization; go back through the saved drafts and figure out where the reference to Al Qaeda mysteriously disappeared.

What’s doubly curious about all this is that any of these guys could have simply said, “Well, there were early signs of Al Qaeda involvement but nothing firm enough at the time to warrant inclusion in a statement to the public.” That’s arguably true: Eli Lake reported back on October 1 that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications during and after the attack between people in Ansar al-Sharia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. That’s strong evidence of coordination but maybe not a smoking gun. Since then, U.S. officials have gotten firmer about AQIM’s involvement; there was even a report a few weeks ago about jihadis from Al Qaeda in Iraq possibly being involved. My point, though, is that neither Petraeus, Clapper, nor Morell appears to be defending the agency on grounds that the early intel wasn’t ripe enough yet. It sounds from King and Fox’s report like they’re kinda sorta conceding that, yeah, maybe the Al Qaeda reference shouldn’t have been removed. Petraeus, in fact, seems to have taken the attitude this morning that the attack was obviously terrorism from the get-go. Or maybe all of this is just King’s/Fox’s interpretation of more complex answers they gave? This is why public hearings would be useful.

Update:Daniel Halper at the Standard. Intelligence sources were whispering about the Al Qaeda omission to Stephen Hayes weeks ago. That’s how suspicious they were of it:

One thing that has troubled both intelligence officials and those on Capitol Hill as they have evaluated the administration’s early response to the attacks is what appears to be an effort to write al Qaeda out of the story. For example, the talking points first reported by Lake, include this sentence: “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” But according to several officials familiar with the original assessment from which the talking points were derived, the U.S. intelligence community had reported the fact that these were extremists with ties to al Qaeda. That key part was omitted.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Anyway on a more serious note, who cares about this non story? The only ones who care are they same people who voted for the loser last week Tuesday. Irrelevant people.

HotAirLib on November 16, 2012 at 6:03 PM

hey, cretinoid, you are the irrelevant one, as it is obvious from your desperate coming and trolling here, despite the fact that everybody thinks you have the intellect of a monkey…maybe you should get a life, or a job, or something…

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 6:34 PM

EP is not as broad as many believe. Nixon tried to invoke EP to shield members of his administration from testifying and from disclosing documents. Read United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974).

Resist We Much on November 16, 2012 at 6:11 PM

Fair point, RWM.

The cavalierly dismissive attitude in my statement was meant to reflect a lack of confidence that Republicans would entertain — let alone pursue — any serious actions to counter the claim of EP once it was made, à la Fast & Furious.

ShainS on November 16, 2012 at 6:36 PM

Resist We Much on November 16, 2012 at 6:07 PM
i wanted so badly to slap this lil imp clear back to
last tuesday…but some people ‘believe in santa clause’
rember…resist we must….RWM…laffs..
cute cartoons on your site thanks for sharing

going2mars on November 16, 2012 at 6:41 PM

This is all fine and dandy…

… but the questions still remains.

Stevens repeatadly asked for more securitye, Hillary said she past those on to Obowma and he said no…

… Why?

The siege went on for 7 hours, there was a live video feed sent to all the inteligence, defense, and White House situation rooms, the annex called for and was denied help 3 times…

… Why?

Obowma said he gave orders to protect all of his people…

… Who did he tell, and what specifically were those orders, and where are they in writing?

Seven Percent Solution on November 16, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Thanks for your service. Clark did a heckuva job on Waco. I don’t remember him giving classified documents to his girlfriend.

crash72 on November 16, 2012 at 6:29 PM

Petraeus didn’t give classified docs to Broadwell, they established that already. She’s got a security clearance herself, she could have had access to that info in her own right.

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Fair point, RWM.

The cavalierly dismissive attitude in my statement was meant to reflect a lack of confidence that Republicans would entertain — let alone pursue — any serious actions to counter the claim of EP once it was made, à la Fast & Furious.

ShainS on November 16, 2012 at 6:36 PM

The House GOP has taken 0dumba to court over his assertion of EP about Fast & Furious.

Is it your contention that that was not a serious action, or are you contending that it should be considered a serious action only if they win?

Anti-Control on November 16, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Petraeus didn’t give classified docs to Broadwell, they established that already. She’s got a security clearance herself, she could have had access to that info in her own right.

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Access is one thing but possession is another. Few of us have SCIFs or GSA-approved containers in our homes.

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 6:57 PM

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Thank you for taking the time to write that. Due to some nasty personal stuff I haven’t been on the internet for over a month. (around the first debate) I only have limited cable so only alphabet networks for a quick news recap and Benghazi hasn’t exactly been front page news, so to speak with them. In just the past few days I have been trying to get a handle on this FUBAR so I do appreciate your synopsis :-)

DoubleClutchin on November 16, 2012 at 6:58 PM

DoubleClutchin on November 16, 2012 at 6:58 PM

You are welcome and I hope things are looking up for you the remainder of 2012 and in 2013!

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Access is one thing but possession is another. Few of us have SCIFs or GSA-approved containers in our homes.

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 6:57 PM

I know that, my wife has TS and she is prohibited to take out any classified docs or accessing it anywhere other than workstations and/or on DoD encrypted laptops when they travel. But that’s something that Broadwell will have to answer for, if she indeed stored classified info inappropriately on personal computers, etc.It still doesn’t mean that Petraeus gave it to her. Do you know exactly what kind of ‘classified’ info she had on her computer, or that it is even true? FBI let her go, so they didn’t seem to have any issue with her having whatever ‘classified’ docs on her computer, which means they could have been simply docs that she was given access to for her book/PhD thesis, etc…

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 7:09 PM

They all know who set the script but none have the nads to say, “Obama”. Barry does not use the word terrorist unless absolutely necessary and it’s usually when someone says the word, terrorist, first. Who cares who set the script, what’s important is four Americans were murdered that were begging for help while being viewed in real time in the situation room. Arrest everyone who was there when this happened and the truth will come out when they think their skin is at risk.

mixplix on November 16, 2012 at 7:13 PM

…limited ‘hang out’…

VorDaj on November 16, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Thank you! That is the exact name of the propaganda technique I have been trying to remember for ages.

A limited hangout, or partial hangout, is a public relations or propaganda technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details. It takes the form of deception, misdirection, or coverup often associated with intelligence agencies involving a release or “mea culpa” type of confession of only part of a set of previously hidden sensitive information, that establishes credibility for the one releasing the information who by the very act of confession appears to be “coming clean” and acting with integrity; but in actuality, by withholding key facts, is protecting a deeper operation and those who could be exposed if the whole truth came out. In effect, if an array of offenses or misdeeds is suspected, this confession admits to a lesser offense while covering up the greater ones.

INC on November 16, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Anyway on a more serious note, who cares about this non story? The only ones who care are they same people who voted for the loser last week Tuesday. Irrelevant people.

HotAirLib on November 16, 2012 at 6:03 PM

That really is sad. I like to think of my countrymen, regardless of party, as enjoying vigorous debate but still interested in the integrity of our system and its checks and balances, not to mention the dignity of position and justice for the dead.

But that’s not the case. This post is no different than some Penn State fans/coaches being silent as children were being raped:

Who cares? Just losers. Just irrelevant people who lose football games.

A non story indeed.

rogerb on November 16, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Do you know exactly what kind of ‘classified’ info she had on her computer, or that it is even true? FBI let her go, so they didn’t seem to have any issue with her having whatever ‘classified’ docs on her computer, which means they could have been simply docs that she was given access to for her book/PhD thesis, etc…

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 7:09 PM

But I bet the FBI kept the computer.

Look, I don’t pretend to know what kind of material she collected or how she got it. Other than the DoD definitions, I don’t even know what classified means (other agencies and departments have different systems). It is clear that this was a discreet affair with only Petraeus, his mistress, some social climber in Tampa, a shirtless FBI agent, and the FBI itself knowing about it (until the day after the elction).

I do know, and this the point I was trying to make, that there are some very serious issues about national security that are being ignored as the focus is solely on the TMZ-worthy aspects of the story.

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 7:28 PM

But even if it [voter fraud] is proven to have happened, what next?

Del Dolemonte on November 16, 2012 at 4:59 PM

For your (and I recommend everyone’s) consideration: Why the GOP won’t challenge vote fraud.

ShainS on November 16, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Good website there, thanks for posting.

slickwillie2001 on November 16, 2012 at 7:48 PM

I do know, and this the point I was trying to make, that there are some very serious issues about national security that are being ignored as the focus is solely on the TMZ-worthy aspects of the story.

Happy Nomad on November 16, 2012 at 7:28 PM

there’s no doubt about that.

jimver on November 16, 2012 at 7:54 PM

The obvious suspicion is that the White House or some other political actor up the food chain expunged the Al Qaeda reference because it was inconvenient to the Foreign Policy President’s “I destroyed Al Qaeda” reelection narrative. But Petraeus is no longer beholden to the administration. If that’s what happened, or if it’s what he suspected might have happened, why didn’t he say so today?

Because he doesn’t now how it happened. He’s sticking to what he does know, so he can’t be accused of perjury. The rest is left up to the investigation to find out.

But we have it confirmed now that the “intelligence community” did not blame it all on the video. Someone else came up with that idea.

More and more, it’s pointing directly to Obama or one of his people.

I’d say we’re about 2 weeks from an assertion of executive privilege.

There Goes The Neighborhood on November 17, 2012 at 1:03 AM

Lies piling up deeper than manure at a stockyard.

Everybody is spewing b.s. so fast and furious it threatens to engulf the nation.

Obama, Rice, Hillary, Petraeus, Clapper, Morell, Holder, Paneta, ad nauseam.

Bovine fecal materialists.

profitsbeard on November 17, 2012 at 2:12 AM

This entire government is the epitome of incompetence and crookedness. All trust is gone.

rplat on November 17, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Congress demanded the truth and when the truth does not fit the political plan it’s a scramble to find a scape goat. The military is built on orders from the seniors in the chain of command and it’s no secret who is the Commander in Chief and it’s no secret what this empty suite will do. It’s shocking that he and everyone involved is not arrested and charged with treason.

mixplix on November 17, 2012 at 7:25 AM

All along, Petraeus was being set up for something, whatever came down the pike from the sand dunes. He was not qualified to be head of CIA and should have just retired or continued if he could in the Army. How many other talking points has the regime changed to suit their needs? We are now down to the truth being what our dear leader says it is as long as reality is covered up. Dr. Kissinger was on Cavuto last night and talked about a rift between CIA and FBI that took years to smooth over, if it ever really was. In the meantime, the ME is going down the tubes. Sure hope the guys on the ground are still doing their jobs.

Kissmygrits on November 17, 2012 at 7:59 AM

The Wages of 6 November 2012

M2RB: Led Zepplin

Resist We Much on November 17, 2012 at 10:49 AM

HotAirLib on November 16, 2012 at 6:03 PM

So, we’re supposed to be nice and polite and gracious when a high-level Dem passes (or face banishment), and this cretinous piece of filth gets to dance on the graves of four Americans and cheer as the idiot in the White House gets away with the cover-up?

Outstanding.

Left Coast Right Mind on November 17, 2012 at 11:25 PM

So, Petraeus snuck in the back door, said a few words then went back into hiding . . . and this is our “hero”?

rplat on November 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM

plewis on November 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM

I call BS on the whole tipping-them-off story: isn’t that like asking someone to shut the barn door after the horse is already out? Crappy analogy, I know, but I think y’all know what I mean. Well, maybe not the lib trolls – the ones who can think critically…

affenhauer on November 18, 2012 at 6:21 PM

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