Petraeus told lawmakers that security at the consulate was so lax that protesters literally walked in and set fire to the facility, according to a congressional official who attended the briefing, leading to Ambassador Chris Stevens' death from smoke inhalation. Petraeus said security at the CIA annex was much better, but the attackers had armaments to get in.
Petraeus, who had a long and distinguished military career, was making his first Capitol Hill testimony since resigning last week in disgrace over an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. Lawmakers said he did not discuss that scandal except to express regret about the circumstances of his departure and say that Benghazi had nothing to do with his decision to resign.
Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb but those names were replaced with the word "extremist" in the final draft, according to a congressional staffer. The staffer said Petraeus testified that he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly.
The congressional officials weren't authorized to discuss the hearing publicly and described Petraeus' testimony to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Petraeus explained that the CIA's draft points were sent to other intelligence agencies and to some federal agencies for review. Udall said Petraeus told them the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it.
"The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing," Udall said. "The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved."