In a closed congressional hearing Friday, former Director of Central Intelligence David H. Petraeus told lawmakers that references to al Qaeda involvement in the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were stripped from the agency's talking points. In the wake of the assault, Gen. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice then went about making public statements that failed to mention the terrorist connection. They instead attempted to pin the blame for the attack on a spontaneous uprising over a low-budget YouTube video. Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, told Fox News after the hearing that "the question right now is who changed those talking points and why. ... I'd say it was somebody in the administration had to have taken it out."
This latest news adds a twist to Gen. Petraeus' exit from the CIA over the revelation he had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. On Friday it was reported that Jill Kelley, the Tampa Bay socialite who convinced a close friend in the FBI to investigate Mrs. Broadwell, had visited the White House three times in the months before the scandal broke. That raises a number of questions that can be added to a growing list: What did President Obama know when the Benghazi attacks took place, what orders did he give and how did agencies respond? The biggest puzzler is, what took place in the aftermath that spooked the administration into assuming a defensive posture in the face of this significant terrorist victory?
Mr. Petraeus is now contradicting his prior, Sept. 14 statement that had given weight to the administration's "spontaneous mob" tale. There are two key differences between then and now. In September, he was speaking as a White House mouthpiece from approved, sanitized, official talking points. On Friday he was testifying as a private citizen giving insight into the process under which the talking points were concocted.
Democrats claim the critical information linking al Qaeda to the Benghazi attack was withheld from the American people because it was classified. However, most if not all of the relevant facts were available in open source reporting that appeared days and even hours after the event. Furthermore, the administration's sanitized account included completely fabricated information. There was never any evidence of a demonstration or riot in Benghazi preceding the attack. It is not only important to know who took out the information about the al Qaeda connection and why, but also who inserted what has proven to be an outright falsehood.
At his press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Obama took direct responsibility for Mrs. Rice's false narrative. "If Sen. [John] McCain and Sen. [Lindsey] Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,'' he said. "I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi ... to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.'' This is an important point. Mrs. Rice, like Mr. Petraeus, was simply carrying White House water. Mr. Obama is ultimately accountable for everything connected to the Benghazi attack, and it is good that he is taking full responsibility. Now let the truth come out.
The Washington Times
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