CNN: Petraeus Knew "Almost Immediately" That Benghazi Was Terrorism
CNN's Barbara Starr reports that former CIA Director David Petraeus knew "almost immediately" that the attack on an U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was terrorism. Petraeus will testify to this, tomorrow in a closed-door Congressional hearing on Friday.
According to a source close to Petraeus, he will say he disproved the intelligence reports that blamed the anti-Islam video, a claim that was made early on and amplified by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice during her appearances on all five Sunday morning shows.
"He will also say he had his own talking points separate from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. That came from somewhere other in the administration than his direct talking point. So he wants to get all this sorted out. He believes it was the all Qaeda sympathizer group, Ansar Al-Sharia, that was responsible for the attacks," Starr reports.
BLITZER: We've got breaking news. We're getting new information about what then CIA Director David Petraeus knew about the Benghazi attack and when he knew it.
Let's get right to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara, what are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have just spoken to someone, a source, a longstanding source who has spoken to David Petraeus. This is someone on his level professionally. This person is directly familiar, from Petraeus, with his thinking -- with Petraeus' thinking about what he will tell Congress tomorrow about the Benghazi attacks.
David Petraeus wants to tell Congress that he knew almost immediately after the September 11th attacks that the group Ansar Al- Sharia, that all Qaeda sympathizing group in Libya, was responsible for the attacks.
Here's how it goes. In Petraeus' view, there are two questions on the table.
Who was responsible?
And that is Ansar Al-Sharia. He has intelligence, he believes, to back that up.
The second question, what was their motivation?
That is where some of the confusion may lie.
What this source says Petraeus told him is there were about 20 intelligence reports that began to come in blaming that video in -- that anti-Islamic video that sparked the riots in Cairo. That's the confusion -- was it that film or was it a terrorist attack?
They got 20 intelligence reports blaming the film riot in Cairo. But -- and this is critical -- those reports were disproved over time, but disproved after Petraeus made his initial presentation to Congress.
So David Petraeus believes there's a lot of confusion and a lot of misrepresentation of what he originally told Congress when he briefed them after -- initially after the attacks. He wants to go up there tomorrow, sort it all out.
He will also say he had his own talking points separate from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. That came from somewhere other in the administration than his direct talking point. So he wants to get all this sorted out. He believes it was the all Qaeda sympathizer group, Ansar Al-Sharia, that was responsible for the attacks.
BLITZER: So the question, Barbara, is he -- he is convinced that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi had nothing -- nothing to do with that anti-Muslim video that had been posted on YouTube, that this was a terrorist attack by this all Qaeda affiliated organization?
The question, though, is when did he reach that final conclusion?
Did he know that before Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went on those five Sunday show -- shows and insisted that what happened in Benghazi was the result of spontaneous anger from that anti-Muslim video?
STARR: All the I can tell you, Wolf, is this source says the intelligence reports that came in blaming the video, those 20 or so reports, this source says Petraeus had those reports disproved over time, after he testified, or rather briefed, the committee -- committees on Capitol Hill.
When he looks at what Susan Rice said, here is what Petraeus' take is, according to my source. Petraeus developed some talking points laying it all out. Those talking points, as always, were approved by the intelligence community. But then he sees Susan Rice make her statements and he sees input from other areas of the administration. Petraeus presume -- it is believed -- will tell the committee he is not certain where Susan Rice got all of her information. It looks like the business about the video got disproved in the intelligence community at the highest levels -- finally disproved after the fact.
But still, Wolf, the question that hangs out there, could this basically be a combination of a lot of factors?
It gets back to motivation. The group may have been responsible.
What was their motivation?
BLITZER: We're anxiously awaiting his testimony tomorrow. But that's going to be behind closed doors, right?
STARR: Absolutely. It's not supposed to come out in public.
BLITZER: I'm sure a lot of it will, though.
Thanks very much, Barbara, for that.