Associated Press – Nov 16, 2012
Former CIA director David Petraeus was sneaked into the Capitol on Friday, away from photographers and television cameras, to face lawmakers’ questions for the first time about the deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya just one week after he resigned over an extramarital affair.
The retired four-star army general, formerly one of the country’s most respected military leaders, entered through a network of underground hallways leading to a secure room. CIA directors typically walk through the building’s front door.
Petraeus is under investigation by the CIA for possible wrongdoing in his extramarital affair, though that is not the subject of Friday’s closed-door hearings. The 11 September attack in Benghazi, which killed the US ambassador and three other Americans, created a political firestorm, with Republicans claiming that the White House misled the public on what led to the violence.
Representative Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee, emerged just after 9am to say the hearing before his committee was over. He said there were discrepancies between what Petraeus had previously told the committee about the Benghazi attack and what he said on Friday.
King said that earlier, Petraeus had said it was principally a reaction to an anti-Muslim video produced in the US; on Friday he said it was an attack by extremists.
Five days after the attack, the administration sent UN ambassador Susan Rice on the Sunday news shows to describe it as a spontaneous protest. Rice relied on initial intelligence that proved incorrect, and she is now under attack by some Republican senators who vow to block her if she’s nominated as secretary of state when Hillary Clinton steps down.
Lawmakers spent hours Thursday interviewing top intelligence and national security officials in trying to determine what the intelligence community knew before, during and after the Benghazi attack. They viewed security video from the consulate and surveillance footage by an unarmed CIA Predator drone that showed events in real time.
Petraeus was appearing first before the House intelligence committee on Friday and then its Senate counterpart and was expected to provide more details about the US response. He was not expected to testify about the reasons surrounding his resignation.
Petraeus has acknowledged an affair with a woman later identified as his biographer, the married Paula Broadwell. The resignation of Petraeus, a former US commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan, stunned Washington.
The FBI began investigating the matter last summer but did not notify the White House or Congress until after the 6 November election.
In the course of investigating the Petraeus affair, the FBI uncovered suggestive emails between Afghanistan war chief General John Allen and Florida socialite Jill Kelley, both of them married. President Barack Obama has put Allen’s promotion nomination on hold.
Top national security officials were on Capitol Hill on Thursday to grapple with fallout from the sex scandal as defense secretary Leon Panetta asked service chiefs to review ethics training for military officers.
Lawmakers went forward with a hearing on the nomination of General Joseph Dunford to replace Allen in Afghanistan. But with Allen’s own future uncertain, they put off consideration of his promotion to US European command chief and Nato supreme allied commander. Allen had initially been scheduled to testify.
Leading administration officials, meanwhile, met privately with lawmakers for a third straight day to explain how the Petraeus investigation was handled and explore its national security implications. Among those appearing before the House intelligence committee were director of national intelligence James Clapper and acting CIA director Michael Morell.
Representative Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said after the hearing that he was satisfied that the FBI had behaved properly in not notifying the White House or lawmakers about the inquiry sooner, in keeping with rules set up to prevent interference in criminal investigations.
The CIA on Thursday opened an exploratory investigation into Petraeus’ conduct. The inquiry “doesn’t presuppose any particular outcome”, said CIA spokesman Preston Golson.
Petraeus, in his first media interview since he resigned, told CNN that he had never given classified information to Broadwell. The general’s biographer also has said she didn’t receive such material from Petraeus.
But the FBI found a substantial number of classified documents on Broadwell’s computer and in her home, according to a law enforcement official, and is investigating how she got them. That official spoke only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. The army has suspended her security clearance.