Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s remarks on Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony on Benghazi
Edited by Jenny Jiang
Transcript of remarks by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on former CIA Director David Petraeus’s testimony on the Benghazi consulate attack at a press briefing on Nov. 16, 212:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): We’ve just completed now, so far, 7 hours of hearings. We have spent the last 2 hours plus with former Director Petraeus. He laid out his view, which was very much appreciated. He answered a large number of questions.
We still have 2 additional hearings and then hopefully the preparations of some findings and then a public hearing.
Question: Did the [CIA determine] this was a terrorist attack within 24 hours of the attack and did they think Al Qaeda was involved?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): I’m not going to comment now. We will most likely comment on those things in our final report. But I think, you know, we have a ways to go yet. I think we’re trying to be very careful, very cautious as well we should.
Question: …The talking points that Ambassador…[inaudible]?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): All right, since you asked that question and the rules of our committee are that you cannot use something that you’ve learned in classified session. I can give you my assessment based on questions, based on my investigation…[inaudible] that what Susan Rice – what Ambassador Rice did was use talking points put out originally by the CIA, signed off by the intelligence community. And those talking points, as I understand it, were requested by the House Committee and all the intelligence community signed off on it.
The key is there were unclassified talking points at a very early stage, and I don’t think she should be pilloried for this. She did what I would have done, what anyone else would have done, that was going on a weekend show. You would have said, “What talking points can I use?” And you’d get an unclassified version. I just read to the Committee – members that were remaining – what I was going to tell you if the question was asked to be sure it didn’t violate our rules.
So this is – particularly for people in public office because you’re used to answering questions candidly, to have to be restricted to what is unclassified is sometimes very, very difficult.
Question: Did General Petraeus [inaudible] that contradicted anything you’ve heard yesterday from the CIA or from the other briefers?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): I did not.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): I think it is making a very divisive fight. We have seen wrong intelligence before and it all surrounded our going into Iraq and a lot of people were killed based on bad intelligence. And I don’t think that’s fair game.
I think mistakes get made; you don’t pillory the person. And to select Ambassador Rice because she used an unclassified talking point – to say that she’s unqualified to be Secretary of State, I think, is a mistake. And the way it keeps going, it’s almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character. [Inaudible] I object to that.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): The question was was there a discrepancy between what she said and the CIA talking points. I only heard directly one part on one television show where she used just the CIA talking points. That’s all I heard. So if somebody else heard something different…
Question: Were the original talking points presented by the CIA changed during the inter-agency discussions…[inaudible]?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Well, let me read the original talking point:
“The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the United States Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against United States diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
Then it went on:
“This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.”
My addition: That’s clearly what happened.
Last point, the investigation is ongoing and the United States government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice to those responsible for the deaths of United States citizens.
This, as I understand it, was asked for by the House Committee – HPSC – and this was given to them. And then it subsequently became available to anybody, I guess, who asked for talking points, which the Ambassador did.
Now, as I understand the process, the CIA prepares additional talking points, which then go through the various components of the intelligence community. And those components either sign off on them, discuss them, and I believe the intelligence community signed off on these talking points.
Question: Were there changes made to them by the White House, State, any other…?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Not to my knowledge.
Question: Why was there such an unprecedented amount of security today to protect General Petraeus?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Now, I know that that’s rankling here. The General was both eager and willing to give us his views on this and his experience on this. And it’s very much appreciated, particularly because of the situation. We didn’t want to make it any more difficult for him. And you know, you people aren’t always the easiest. So you can blame it on us. We wanted to spare him that, and for any wait that you did, I apologize but you know there’s a lot of suffering going on.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Well, I’m not going to give you any other conclusions at this time…Well, I’ve got a personal assessment, which will come out in our official report, and I think I really want to leave it that way on everything except for this one thing because I really think Ambassador Rice has been treated unfairly.
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