Petraeus: Benghazi attack linked to al-Qaeda

Testimony given one week after Petraeus resigned

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.
That's according to Rep. Peter King of New York, who spoke to reporters after a closed hearing in the House, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

After he spoke at the House Intelligence hearing, Petraeus testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He was ushered into both sessions without reporters being able to get a camera shot of him, and after he testified he left the premises, CNN learned.

Petraeus' testimony was given one week after he resigned from the CIA. Lawmakers said they didn't asking him about why he left the agency. Petraeus has admitted an extra-marital affair with his biographer.

Critics of the administration suggested that his resignation might be linked to fallout over the attack.

King said the account Petraeus gave to representatives differed from the description the Obama administration gave in the days after the event.

On September 14, three days after the attack, it was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.

King said that the word "spontaneous" was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday.

"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account).

"The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack," he said.

The precise cause of that discrepancy is unclear, King said.

Several other lawmakers chalked it up to intelligence that was evolving and coming from numerous sources.

The Benghazi attack became a political hot button during a presidential election year and raised questions regarding issues such as security at the compound and the Obama administration's initial description of the events.

King told reporters that he likes Petraeus and that it was uncomfortable, at times, to interview a man he considers a friend.

"He was a strong soldier. Very professional, very knowledgeable, very strong," King said. "He's a solid guy. I consider him a friend, which made the questioning tough. You realize the human tragedy here."

The consulate attack, which occurred this past September 11, left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Petraeus was not asked to testify under oath, King said.

King and other lawmakers said Petraeus testified that his resignation had nothing to do with the consulate attack.

That matches what Petraeus told Kyra Phillips of HLN, CNN's sister network. He said his resignation was solely a result of his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. He added that he never passed classified information to her.

Prior to Friday's hearings, it was thought that Petraeus would tell lawmakers that the CIA knew soon after the attack that Ansar al Sharia was responsible for it, according to an official with knowledge of the case. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

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