The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 16, 2012

Petraeus believed terrorists behind Libya attack

(Continued)

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said it's still not clear how the final talking points developed. The edited version was used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack when the White House sent her out for a series of television interviews. Republicans have criticized Rice for saying it appeared the attack was sparked by a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video.

"The fact is, the reference to al-Qaida was taken out somewhere along the line by someone outside the intelligence community," King said. "We need to find out who did it and why."

King said Petraeus had briefed the House committee on Sept. 14 and he does not recall Petraeus being so positive at that time that it was a terrorist attack. "He thought all along that he made it clear there was terrorist involvement," King said. "That was not my recollection."

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice's comments in the television interviews "reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly."

"There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process," Schiff said. "They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information."

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said it's clear that Rice "used the unclassified talking points that the entire intelligence community signed off on, so she did completely the appropriate thing." He said the changes made to the draft accounts for the discrepancies with some of the reports that were made public showing that the intelligence community knew it was a terrorist attack all along.

Lawmakers spent hours Thursday interviewing top intelligence and national security officials, trying to determine what intelligence agencies knew before, during and after the attack. They viewed security video from the consulate and surveillance footage take by an unarmed CIA Predator drone that showed events in real time.

The congressional staffer told the AP that the composite video shown to lawmakers to illustrate the chronology of the attack also included the cellphone footage that has been on YouTube showing Stevens being carried out by people who looked like they were trying to rescue him.

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