Real Culprit of Benghazi Talking Points: Petraeus, CIA

'Washington Post' says they were mostly intended to make the CIA look good

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2013 11:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – So far, most of the public anger about the Benghazi scandal has focused on the State Department. But the Washington Post has an in-depth piece today suggesting that the real blame for the infamous talking points may lie with everyone's favorite philandering ex-spy chief, David Petraeus. "It was from his initial input that all else flowed," the paper argues. Here's how the Post says things went down:

  • It all began when the House intelligence committee asked Petraeus for some minimal guidelines to ensure members didn't reveal anything classified while talking to the press.
  • Instead, Petraeus produced a much broader document that included the classified information that Ansar al-Sharia was suspected in the attack and mentioned that the CIA had sent "numerous" warnings. It also said the attack was "spontaneously inspired."
  • The draft generated some blowback even within the CIA. The CIA's general counsel noted that it conflicted "with express instructions" from the FBI, National Security Council, and Justice Department, who didn't want to name any suspected perpetrators.
  • Petraeus circulated them anyway. The State Department complained, as did the NSC, mostly objecting to naming Ansar and mentioning the CIA warnings. The White House was basically the only entity with no objections.
  • The talking points were pared down to three bullets. Petraeus was not a fan, but not because he objected to the spontaneously inspired bit. "No mention of the cable to Cairo, either?" he complained. "Frankly, I'd just as soon not use this then." But he said it was the NSC's call.

David H. Petraeus, former army general and head of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks at the annual dinner for veterans and ROTC students at USC, March 26, 2013.
David H. Petraeus, former army general and head of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks at the annual dinner for veterans and ROTC students at USC, March 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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