Sen. Conrad: Amb. Rice Was Using ‘Unclassified’ Talking Points on Benghazi

By Elizabeth Harrington | November 16, 2012 | 12:26 PM EST

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) (AP)

( - Senate Intelligence Committee Member Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the reason Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice blamed the Benghazi terrorist attack on an obscure anti-Muslim YouTube video was because she was reading from "unclassified" talking points.

However, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, however, said that the original “unclassified” talking points did state that al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists groups were involved in the consulate attack. But in a final editing process – by whom it is still unknown – those al-Qaeda/terrorist references were removed from the final talking points.

Following the closed door hearing with former CIA Director David Petraeus on Friday, Senator Conrad described the difference between "classified and unclassified" to defend Amb. Rice.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (AP Photo)

"And so you hear people saying different things at different times because what is classified cannot be discussed publicly," he said. "It cannot be discussed publicly because it would reveal, potentially, the sources and methods of intelligence, which are critically important to our country."

"So it is very important to understand that when people are talking in a classified setting they can say much more than they can say in an unclassified setting," Conrad said.

"The notes that Ambassador Rice was speaking from were in an unclassified setting."

"And you should know that what is available on a classified way may be different than what is available in an unclassified way," he added.  "And she did the entirely responsible thing in answering questions based on what was unclassified and agreed to by the entire intelligence community as reflecting their unclassified views at the moment that she used those talking points."

"That is critically important to understand," Conrad said, adding, "I don't want to go further."

According to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), former CIA Director David Petraeus told members of the House Intelligence Committee this morning that original CIA talking points indicated the attack on the Benghazi compound was a terrorist attack.

President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus. (AP)

Petraeus testified that he knew "almost immediately" that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda linked group, was responsible for the attack, according to Rep. King.

However, when Rice made five appearances on separate Sunday morning shows back in September, she repeatedly denied terrorism was involved and blamed the attack on a "spontaneous protest" sparked by an obscure, shoddy YouTube video. It is unclear who is responsible for the edited talking points.

As reported by, Rep. Heck said, “"Now, we still don't know who briefed Ambassador Rice and exactly what talking points she used and who edited them from the time they left the intelligence community 'til the time she made her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, and neither Director Petraeus nor any of the witnesses we had yesterday were able to answer that question.”

"The initial talking points, which were put together in an unclassified format at the request of the House Intelligence Committee, initially did state that al-Qaeda affiliated groups were involved,” said Heck. “However, by the time, we understand, that went through its editing process after it left Langley, that reference was taken out."