News Column

David Petraeus to Testify at Capitol on Benghazi

November 15, 2012

Top U.S. lawmakers snubbed calls for Watergate-type hearings on the Libya U.S. Consulate attack as ex-CIA chief David Petraeus agreed to testify on the assault.

"At this point, I think that the standing committees of the House, whether they be the Oversight Committee or the Intelligence Committee, are working diligently on these issues," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "And at this point, I think that's appropriate."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., similarly said he opposed a resolution by three Republican senators to create a select or special Senate investigative committee to probe the Sept. 11 consulate attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, including two CIA contractors.

"No," Reid told reporters when asked if he favored the special committee proposed by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

The senators said the committee was needed because many senators don't trust the administration's account of the attack. Administration officials first said the attack was a result of a spontaneous protest and not a planned terrorist attack.

Some lawmakers have suggested the White House attempted to cover up the circumstances of the attack by saying it was spontaneous.

Administration officials confirmed last week the consulate was essentially a front for a much larger CIA base about a mile away. Most of the 30 Americans evacuated after the attack were CIA employees or contractors, not diplomats.

"We want to probe everybody who was involved, all the way up to and including the president of the United States," McCain said.

The Senate Watergate Committee, known officially as the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, played a pivotal role in gathering evidence in 1973-1974 that led to the indictment of 40 Richard Nixon administration officials and the conviction of several Nixon aides for obstruction of justice and other crimes.

Its revelations prompted the House to introduce articles of impeachment against Nixon. Nixon resigned Aug. 9, 1974.

Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director Friday over an extramarital affair, agreed to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees on the Benghazi attack as early as Thursday, lawmakers said.

The former four-star general -- who ran the CIA for 14 months, including during the Benghazi attack -- was to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session Thursday or Friday, panel Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told several news organizations Wednesday.

The hearing would not address his affair, committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said.

Petraeus is to testify separately behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee Friday, the committee said Wednesday evening.

Petraeus successor acting CIA Director Michael Morell was to testify in private before the House and Senate intelligence committees Thursday. Other top-ranking intelligence officials scheduled to testify included National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Petraeus' boss.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee was to hold an open hearing on the Benghazi attack beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed briefing Tuesday.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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