Transcript: Rep. Peter King’s remarks on Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony on Benghazi
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of remarks by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), House Homeland Security Committee Chair, on former CIA Director David Petraeus’s testimony on the Benghazi consulate attack at a press briefing on Nov. 16, 212:
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Basically, we’re still not clear how the final talking points emerged. He said it went through a long process involving many agencies, including the Department of Justice, State Department, and no one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points other to say the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out.
General Petraeus – his testimony today was that from the start he had told us this was a terrorist attack – there were terrorists involved from the start.
I told him – my questions that I have a very different recollection of that. The clear impression we were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it was grown out of spontaneous demonstration and was not a terrorist attack. And I pointed out the following week when Matt Olsen said it was a terrorist attack, it made headlines because the administration was saying it was not a terrorist.
Again, it was very cordial, if you will. General Petraeus is an outstanding patriot. We shook hands before and afterwards. We all thanked him for his service.
But he was – I think has a different impression of the impressions he left on Sept. 14.
Question: Can you tell us whether or not his affair or the security issue surrounding his affair came up at all?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Only in – it was one question when he was asked at the start if that had any impact on his testimony, he said no.
Question: …Were the talking points different?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): The original talking points were much more specific about Al Qaeda involvement and yet the final ones just say indications of extremists. It said indicate even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was Al Qaeda involvement.
Question: …Why there were changes?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): They just said it goes through a long process. It’s an inter-agency process and when they come back, they were taken out.
Question: Do you seem concerned that things have been changed? Does that surprise you?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Chief of Staff at the time didn’t realize the significance of that and for an unclassified statement, this was acceptable. Again, it’s still very vague.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No… [mumbled audio]
Question: Are you satisfied with the presentation made today?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): I’m satisfied with the ultimate conclusion he reached. I told him I honestly disagree with his recollection of what he told us on Sept. 14th.
Question: What did say about the affair with Paula Broadwell?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No. There was no comment. None at all.
Question: Did that make it hard though to get past those salacious details that dominate the news here? Did that make it hard to get to the [inaudible]…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No. No. It was made clear from the start that that would not be a focus of the questioning, and I would say 10 seconds into it that was off to the side.
Question: …[inaudible] He went to Libya so obviously he was giving you a bit of a trip report. Is there anything you can tell us that he clearly learned after being on the ground?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No. That would be classified. Other than the fact that they now clearly believe there was – it did not arise out of a demonstration. It was not spontaneous. And it was clear terrorist involvement.
Question: He said that straight out?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Yes.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): This is ongoing. I mean this is – it’s still going to be – obviously the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and also people at the White House – if anyone at the White House changed the talking points.
Question: Do you think you’ll hear from him again on this and also on the Broadwell…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Well, you know, we’ll have to see. One day at a time.
Question: He still couldn’t provide any explanation though as to why it took so long to come to that conclusion?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): He was saying there were many streams of intelligence but he also stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement, and that is not my recollection of what he told us on Sept. 14th.
Question: How did he seem? Did he seem tired or worn down from this scandal that have been plaguing him?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No, he’s a strong soldier. Absolutely. He was very professional, very knowledgeable, very strong. And again, I spoke to him at the beginning of the hearing and at the end of the hearing and he’s a solid guy. You know, I consider him a friend, which made the questioning tough to be honest.
Question: You said you consider him a friend and that made questioning him tough…
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): [Overlapping audio]…we asked the questions…sometimes you’re in a hearing and adrenaline is pumping and you’re going back and forth and you realize the human tragedy here; you realize that he’s going through an awful lot. On the other hand, we have an obligation to find out all we could… It’s a lot easier when you dislike the guy…
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): He didn’t watch the testimony.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): The CIA analyst with him said that the report – the talking points were drafted – were specifically about Al Qaeda affiliations, Al Qaeda terrorist activities. They didn’t have it in front of them. They said that was after it went through the process – whatever that process is, which they seem unclear about – that was taken out.
Question: How long did the testimony last?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): He gave an opening statement of about 20 minutes. So 1 hour and 10 minutes of questioning.
Question: …[inaudible] statement that Paula Broadwell made at the [inaudible]…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No…[overlapping audio]
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Again, it was not – how do you define the administration because it also went to the Department of Justice, the State Department, and I believe the National Security Council.
Question: Did he talk about the film, the video that – what did he say about that?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Yes. Well, I can’t get into that. Nothing controversial.
Question: Did you guys watch any films today like…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No, not yet.
Question: Did they say why they took out the Al Qaeda reference in the talking point?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): They didn’t know. It was done. The process was completed, and they said okay go with those talking points…Again, I get the impression that about 7 or 8, 9 different agencies.
Question: Did he give the impression that he was upset that it was taken out?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No.
Question: You said the CIA said ok to revise reports in…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No, they – what – after it goes through the process, they said ok’ed it to go. They said okay good to go.
Question: Who did he say he thinks committed the attack?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): I would just leave it at Al Qaeda affiliates.
Question: Was it awkward to ask him [inaudible] a week after he resigned under the circumstances that he…?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Yeah, there’s a certain amount of awkwardness. Yeah, sure. I mean, obviously all of us in the room – certainly myself and all of us have great regard for him. I’ve known him for 9 years now…Actually I urged him to run for President a few years ago. I’ve been to dinner with him. I know him fairly well…It was tragic for a good person to have to go through…
Question: Was there discussion of the national security implications of his resignation?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): No. The resignation – he just addressed in the beginning. He regretted what happened and that was basically it.
Question: Was he involved in the actual decision-making the night of the attack?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): I don’t want to get into that. But he was definitely fully aware of what was going on.
Question: Did he ask for military back-up?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): I’m not getting into any of that. I can’t get into any of that.
Question: Did he stick to the story that the first attack was spontaneous but the second seemed to be more organized – mortar attack?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): I can say this: the spontaneous aspect is definitely minimized right now…It’s primarily a terrorist attack.
Question: Did he address how he interpreted the anti-Muslim film and how that sort of got to be part of this discussion?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): It was based on reports that we were getting at the time.
Question: Okay. That was part of what was going into this intelligence product that they’ve created and then they got other information later which said this was…
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): Yes, but they also at the time – Sept. 14th – had clear information that this was strong involvement with Al Qaeda affiliates, and that was not made part of their presentation.
Question: …The former director was going to explain that he kind of two streams of intelligence. One suggesting maybe Ansar al-Sharia was involved. And the other, which at the time was more robust, that it was the protest resulting from the anti-Muslim video. Is that the way he described it to you?
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.): He did but he said today that he at the time was also emphasizing the involvement of Ansar al-Sharia and my recollection was he was actually minimizing the role of Ansar al-Sharia.
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