BREAKING: Petraeus Testifies on Capitol Hill, Expected to Say He Knew Benghazi Attack Was Terror
Former CIA Director David Petraeus was expected to tell lawmakers in a pair of closed-door hearings Friday morning that he believed the Libya attack was terrorism within the first 24 hours and suspected a regional Al Qaeda affiliate and the militant Ansar al-Sharia were behind it, a source close to Petraeus told Fox News.
Petraeus arrived to meet with House lawmakers early Friday morning. His account would be sure to raise more questions from lawmakers, considering the conflicting narratives that have emerged from the intelligence community and other agencies about the attack. Petraeus himself gave a briefing three days after the attack, according to sources, in which he described it as a protest over an anti-Islam film that spun out of control.
It was similar to the account given on five Sunday shows on Sept. 16 by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice -- and Rice's defenders have since insisted she was merely basing her statements on the intelligence at the time.
Yet Petraeus, Fox News was told, on Friday was planning to bring with him the original "talking points" prepared by the CIA.
The source said Petraeus "has no idea what was provided" to Rice or who was the author of the talking points she used.
"He had no idea she was going on talk shows" until the White House announced it one or two days before.
Petraeus' testimony before the House and Senate intelligence committees Friday morning could fuel, rather than dampen, the ongoing conflict in the administration over why officials initially stressed the anti-Islam film. Fox News has learned that his testimony will be under oath; he has already started to meet with lawmakers on the House committee.
While Petraeus resigned last Friday over an extra-marital affair, his testimony Friday was expected to focus on Libya as opposed to personal matters.
The pressure was on Petraeus to set the record straight, after other top intelligence officials struggled a day earlier to explain why their initial talking points after the Libya attack minimized the role of militant groups.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees heard testimony Thursday in private meetings with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell. But Fox News was told there were heated exchanges on the House side, particularly over the talking points that administration officials relied on in the days after the Sept. 11 strike.
Fox News was told that neither Clapper nor Morell knew for sure who finalized that information. And they could not explain why they minimized the role of a regional Al Qaeda branch as well as the militant Ansar al-Sharia despite evidence of their involvement.
Further, Fox News was told Morell was pushed to explain why, during a Sept. 14 briefing, Petraeus seemed wedded to the explanation that the attack was in response to an anti-Islam video. Morell apparently said he wasn't at that briefing and had nothing further to add.
These lingering questions were sure to confront Petraeus on Capitol Hill Friday morning.
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