Intel Committee Member on Petraeus: ‘Essentially, He’s Using a Technicality to Say: Well, I Didn’t Lie to You Guys’

November 21, 2012 - 4:19 PM

David Petraeus

(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Devin Nunes (R.-Calif.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, says former CIA Director David Petraeus is “using a technicality” to say to the commitee “I didn’t lie to you guys” about what happened in Benghazi.

Nunes also says the only people he has seen who talked about the Benghazi attack as a “spontaneous event” were political appointees of President Obama.

“This whole thing with the YouTube video was a lie from the beginning,” Nunes told CNSNews.com.

"All of the people, all of the intelligence that I’ve seen, does not indicate at all that this had anything to do with the YouTube video," said Nunes.

Nunes says the initial written intelligence report about Benghazi that was provided to the congressional intelligence committees on the morning of Sept. 12--twelve hours after the attack--said that what happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11 was a terrorist attack.

“I’ve seen no one talk about a spontaneous event that occurred after a demonstration, other than people who serve at the pleasure of the president,” said Nunes.

“Let’s just take anyone who is associated with the president of the United States, who serves at the pleasure of the president, put those folks aside,” said Nunes. “All of the people beneath that, who are the men and women who protect this country, who either serve in the CIA or any of the other intelligence agencies, all of that intelligence, all of that raw intelligence that we have seen, indicates clearly that they knew shortly after that it was a terrorist attack. So take that.

“Then, when that information went upstairs to people who serve at the pleasure of the president, it begins to get murky. And it’s just not believable,” said Nunes. “So, it wasn’t believable the first time when Director Petraeus and others came and told us, and then made these unclassified talking points, that this had something to do with a YouTube video.

“The YouTube video was clearly a joke,” said Nunes. “No foreign government believed that, including the Libyans themselves who came out that weekend, even before [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.] Susan Rice went on that weekend, and said that this was a terrorist attack. So no one believes it, no other foreign intelligence service believes it, and people within our own intelligence services didn’t believe that.”

Nunes said that on Sept. 14, about forty-eight hours after the congressional intelligence committees received the initial written intelligence report saying Benghazi was a terrorist attack, CIA Director Petraeus appeared in the House intelligence committee.

At that point--in contrast to the first intelligence report from the morning of Sept. 12--Petraeus did tell the committee the attack was linked to a spontaneous demonstration protesting the YouTube video.

CNSNews.com asked Nunes of Petraeus: “When he came on September 14th, did he tell the committee that he had believed that in some way what had happened in Benghazi on September 11th arose out of a spontaneous reaction to the YouTube video?”

“Yes,” said Nunes.

“He did tell the committee that?” CNSNews.com asked.

“Yes,” said Nunes. “In unclassified talking points, that’s what he told us.”

Nunes says that when Petraeus returned to the committee to testify again last Friday, he insisted that he had always known that Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

“Well, what Director Petraeus tried to tell us the other day was that he knew all along that this was a terrorist attack,” said Nunes.

“Here’s how they’re essentially parsing words,” said Nunes. “I kind of equate it to when you sit down and you get a home loan and you’ve got 70 pages of stuff to go through and you have to sign your name 25 times.

“So, imagine spending all the time going through that and people asking questions, and in that timeframe, one or two times, the director mentioned something about terrorism, you know, that it could possibly be terrorism,” said Nunes. “So, essentially he’s using a technicality to say: Well, I didn’t lie to you guys. I said that this could have been a terrorist attack.”

“That’s what he said on Friday?” CNSNews.com asked.

“Yeah,” said Nunes.

“Did he deny that he had told you also that it was a spontaneous demonstration?” CNSNews.com asked.

“No, no, no,” said Nunes. “They admit now that they got that wrong. On the 14th, we knew that they got it wrong on the 14th. Anybody with any common sense—I’ll go back to this again—there was no foreign country, no press reports, no nothing of anybody that was on the ground there that said this had anything to do with a demonstration, period.

“It wasn’t believable on the 14th,” said Nunes. “Then he comes in on Friday, and we also had testimony on Thursday by the DNI Director [James Clapper]. So, their whole storyline is we gave you guys these unclassified talking points. We did mention in the classified setting that it was terrorism. Which, okay, maybe they did, but, you know, when do we not talk about terrorism in a classified setting.”

Nunes said that the committee does not yet know the genesis of the false claim that the attack in Benhgazi had arisen from a spontaneous demonstration against a YouTube video, and that finding out the genesis of that claim is a target of the committee’s investigation.

“How did those talking points get developed between the first assessment that says no spontaneous demonstration and Petraeus telling you two days later there was one?” CNSNews.com asked.

“Well, therein lies the question that we’re trying to get to the bottom of,” said Nunes. “So, it’s been kind of out there that somehow this went to the deputies committee on the National Security Council. That’s one story. Could have been changed by the Principal’s Committee? We don’t know. Could it have come from someone higher up in the White House? We just don’t know that. That’s one of the things we have to get to the bottom of.”

On Feb. 13, 2009, President Obama issued a policy directive laying out the structure of the National Security Council for his presidency. The Principal’s Committee is chaired by the National Security Adviser and its regular members include the White House chief of staff, the attorney general, the secretaries of state, treasury, defense, homeland security, energy, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the director of national intelligence, and the U.S. representatives to the United Nations. The deputies committees consists of the deputies of these people.

To see the entire transcript of CNSNews.com's interview with Rep. Devin Nunes click here.