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Petraeus Testifies At Closed Congressional Hearings


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Former CIA Director David Petraeus is testifying before two congressional committees today. He's been called to discuss the CIA's role in the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, back in September; an attack that took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. This also happens to be General Petraeus' first public appearance on Capitol Hill since he resigned over an extramarital affair.

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston joins us now. Dina, Petraeus is no longer CIA director. He resigned last Friday. Remind us under what auspices, he can testify.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: Well, he's on the Hill as the former director of the CIA. So the agency provided him with a prep book, and sample questions and answers, and some CIA staff people. He spoke before the House Intelligence Committee for almost an hour and a half, earlier today.

WERTHEIMER: Now, what would committee members - what do they want to know?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, it's a classified session, so they can only tell us so much. But what we know is where the questions were headed. Republicans have said the Obama administration misled the American public about the attacks. And that's what has motivated some of the questions in the early session with the House Intelligence Committee. Republican Congressman Peter King, of New York, told reporters after the session that lawmakers asked Petraeus about why the Obama administration kept saying the attacks started spontaneously, in response to this anti-Muslim movie trailer on the Internet. It's unclear how that was really resolved, but we know it was discussed.

WERTHEIMER: Petraeus made a secret trip to Libya, just before he resigned. Did that come up?

TEMPLE-RASTON: We know that members of Congress wanted to talk to Petraeus about that; partly because he actually interviewed people who were there, and tried to get his arms around what actually happened there. Now, one of the controversies has been whether the CIA - who had officers stationed at an annex near the compound - were told to stand down, and not try to help the consulate. In fact, the CIA has said that they did respond. In fact, they responded within 24 minutes of finding out that the consulate was under attack. And that's likely to be a topic of conversation as well.

WERTHEIMER: This testimony is happening amid the scandal about an extramarital affair, and the possible leaking of classified material. What about that? I assume that members of Congress are deeply interested in that.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, actually, that hasn't been a subject of conversation. They've been very careful to sort of tiptoe around that. I mean, King said that there was only one question about the affair this morning; and the question was, did this affair affect Petraeus' testimony today? And Petraeus said no. I mean, King made clear that lawmakers realize this is a very hard time for Petraeus, and that they were trying to be sensitive. Yesterday, the CIA actually announced that the inspector general at the agency had opened an investigation into Petraeus' conduct. They're looking to see if he used CIA security details, or private jets, to facilitate the affair he had. That review's going to take weeks. And I think that's what we're going to hear about next.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

WERTHEIMER: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.
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