The decisions made by former CIA Director David Petraeus after a meeting with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the wake of last year’s Benghazi attack are considered the pivotal moments in the controversy over the Obama administration’s talking points regarding the incident, reports the Washington Post
Meeting informally with the committee three days after the assault, Petraeus, then director of the CIA, was asked by Rep. C.A. Ruppersberger III, D-Md., to guarantee committee members did not inadvertently let classified information slip when talking to the media about the attack.
“We had some new members on the committee, and we knew the press would be very aggressive on this, so we didn’t want any of them to make mistakes,” Ruppersberger said.
“We didn’t want to jeopardize sources and methods, and we didn’t want to tip off the bad guys. That’s all.”
The committee got much more than it asked for and therein lies the controversy.
It was Petraeus’ initial input that created the administration’s version of the attack, resulting in two days of intensive editing that congressional Republicans view as evidence of a cover-up by the White House.
Recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies reveal Petraeus went far beyond what was asked of him.
Some see this as an attempt by Petraeus to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and that of the CIA.
The information Petraeus set forth included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack as well as an account of prior CIA warnings, the latter putting Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior CIA officials.
The White House apparently did not object to the Petraeus talking points, seeing itself as a mediator in the war of words between the CIA’s top lawyer and the agency’s deputy director, who both expressed opposition to what Petraeus wanted.
“What [committee members] were looking for was the lowest common denominator,” said an anonymous senior administration official.
“That’s not what the agency originally produced.”
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