Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified Friday that the spy agency’s first talking points called the Sept. 11 Libya attacks an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist act, but that that language was removed for the final version ultimately used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, lawmakers said.
Petraeus testified that the CIA’s initial response referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and Al-Qaeda, the Associated Press reported, but that those names were replaced with the word “extremist” during an inter-agency process to come up with a final draft. Petraeus did not know which federal agency made the change.
“No one knows yet exactly who came up with the final version of the talking points,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told reporters after the closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing.
“The fact is, the reference to al-Qaida was taken out somewhere along the line by someone outside the intelligence community,” King said, according to the AP. “We need to find out who did it and why.”
But Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said Petraeus testified that the CIA’s draft points were circulated to other intelligence and federal agencies for review. Udall told the AP that Petraeus said all agency leaders, including Petraeus himself, were presented with the final document and all 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.”
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi assault.
Petraeus resigned from his CIA post last week after admitting to an extramarital affair.