Transcript: Sen. Kent Conrad’s remarks on Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony on Benghazi

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) on former CIA Director David Petraeus’s testimony on the Benghazi consulate attack at a press briefing on Nov. 16, 212:

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): …Because of security considerations and classifications so I’m very restricted in what I can say…

What is very clear is that Ambassador [Susan] Rice used the talking points that the intelligence community had all signed off on. That is very, very clear. She used the unclassified talking points that were signed off on by the entire intelligence community. So criticisms of her are completely unwarranted. That is very clear.

Question: Are you able to say whether the CIA thought it was a terrorist act within the first 24-hours and did it include Al Qaeda?

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): I don’t think I should respond to that question because of the questions of classification. Again, what is very clear is that Ambassador Rice used the unclassified talking points – the unclassified talking points – that the entire intelligence community had signed off on. And so she did completely the appropriate thing.

Now, there are other things that are classified and that’s a totally different subject and I can’t talk about that.

Question: Did General Petraeus contradicted anything that you heard yesterday?

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): Well, look, General Petraeus as Director of the CIA has been completely consistent.

So much of this confusion arises because of the difference between what is classified and what is unclassified. And so you hear people saying different things at different times because what is classified cannot be discussed publicly. It cannot be discussed publicly because it would reveal potentially the sources and methods of gathering intelligence that are critically important to our country.

So it’s very important to understand that when people are talking in a classified setting, they can say much more than they can say in an unclassified setting. The notes that Ambassador Rice was speaking from were in an unclassified setting. And you should know that what is available in a classified way may be different in what is available in an unclassified way.

And she did entirely the responsible thing in answering questions based on what was unclassified and agreed to by the entire intelligence community as reflecting their unclassified views at the moment that she used those talking points. That is critically important to understand.

I don’t want to go further but I did think it was important for you to know the difference between classified and unclassified, and that’s why you hear things that seem at variance that may not be at variance at all.

Question: Do you believe that Sen. McCain and other Republicans have the same understanding?

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): I hope everyone would have that understanding now after the detailed briefings we’ve received.


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