Transcript: Rep. Adam Smith’s remarks on Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony on Benghazi
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of remarks by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on former CIA Director David Petraeus’s testimony on the Benghazi consulate attack at a press briefing on Nov. 16, 212:
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): I think it was really informative. It was, you know, incredibly the majority decided not to show the video and we had a lot of questions about whether or not to show the video [mumbled audio] to see it.
But I think the really frustrating thing about this is there’s never been any question from the beginning of this that this was a terrorist attack. Nobody has ever denied that it was a terrorist attack. What we’ve questioned is how far planned was it? It appears now, even with the best intelligence, that this was somewhat spontaneous.
In Libya, there are very armed extremists. They launched an attack on U.S. interests the same way folks in Cairo did – primarily in response to the video. So it was both a terrorist attack and spontaneous. And why that has to be mutually exclusive is completely beyond me.
We’re still investigating to figure out exactly who the groups were but it appears some of the armed extremists in Libya took advantage of the situation and briefly, over the matter of a few hours, organized an armed assault. And no one has ever denied that.
So I think the over-politicization of this is really regrettable because we’ve got some really important questions to answer. What do we need to do to ensure that our diplomatic corp is safe throughout the world? How do we change that? What is the nature of the extremist elements operating out of North Africa? How strong a threat do they pose to us in that region and is there potential that they can go transnational like they did in Yemen? Those are the questions that we need to answer – not a ridiculous debate about exactly what type of terrorist attack this was?
Question: Were you briefed by Mr. [James] Clapper?
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): Yes.
Question: Congressman King said today that the talking points were altered…[inaudible]
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): That’s just completely wrong. I mean, look, there’s simply nothing to that. I think the question is the extremist group that we’re most focused on in Libya is Ansar al-Sharia. There are others, and they’re certainly inspired by the same ideology that motivates Al Qaeda. Whether or not they’re directly affiliated with them, it does not appear so at this time but we’re still gathering evidence on that. So the issue of whether or not this was Al Qaeda – there are, regrettably, a fair number of violent extremist groups who share similar ideology who are not directly affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Question: But were the talking points changed?
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): Talking points were not changed. In fact, they were very basic and straightforward.
Question: Did you see the talking points that Ambassador Rice used?
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): He read them. I did not see them but Director Clapper read them. There were 3 basic points, which were one, this appeared – there was a demonstration that grew into a larger violent attack. Point two, very important point, was very early – we’re still trying to figure out what’s going on. I forget what point three was…At this point we don’t know exactly who did it.
And to this point today, we still don’t know exactly who did it. It does not appear that it was pre-planned.
I mean, a good comparison was the embassies bombings that occurred in Kenya and Tanzania. Those were planned over months. There was a truck bomb involved. That was clearly an Al Qaeda-led planned attack.
This was a group of armed extremists in Libya who took advantage of a situation to, in a matter of hours, throw together an armed assault. That appears to be what it was.
So nobody has ever said that it wasn’t a terrorist attack. What we’re trying to figure out is exactly what type of terrorist attack it was.
So, again, it’s regrettable that this has become so partisan and so political when we have serious questions to answer.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.): Time. Yes. I don’t know. We will get a chance to see it [video]…We had time at the end of the day. They said that we just didn’t have enough time to show it. Apparently, it takes about a half hour.
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