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Saturday 25 October  

US lawmakers await Petraeus testimony on Benghazi

Published on 16 November 2012 - 4:20am
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US lawmakers await testimony, as early as Thursday, from scandal-plagued former spy chief David Petraeus on the assault on Benghazi that killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

The House intelligence committee announced late Wednesday that Petraeus, who resigned last week over an extramarital affair, would testify behind closed doors on Friday at 7:30 am (1230 GMT).

Senator John McCain said Petraeus was lined up to testify on the other side of the Capitol on Thursday, in the Senate Intelligence Committee, raising the prospect of multiple congressional appearances this week for the fallen general.

Either way, all eyes will be on Petraeus as lawmakers press for answers about the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Petraeus had been summoned to Washington to testify in several closed-door hearings this week on the attack, but that was prior to his sudden resignation last week.

The scandal, in which investigators discovered Petraeus had an extramarital affair with a married military reservist who wrote his biography, had thrown his participation into question.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Petraeus "has indicated his eagerness to testify and his willingness to do so."

Feinstein gave no time frame, but McCain did.

"General Petraeus as you know will be testifying before the intelligence committee," he told reporters Wednesday, adding afterwards that the general's participation would be on Thursday.

Lawmakers from both parties, and from the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, have clamored for Petraeus and others to speak at various classified hearings to learn more about the circumstances of the attack that killed ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans have called for investigations into what happened in Benghazi and why President Barack Obama's administration offered a shifting narrative of events after initially insisting the attack stemmed from a protest against an anti-Islam video.

Close McCain ally Senator Lindsey Graham said senior national security officials, notably Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, would likely be called to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

They have also increased their calls for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

McCain and Graham renewed their calls for a Senate temporary select committee to look into the Benghazi attack, stressing that a "stovepipe" approach in which three or more committees independently question different officials would not produce a unified conclusion.

McCain filed a Senate resolution seeking the select committee, then bluntly accused Obama of failing in his responsibilities as commander in chief regarding the terrorist attack in Libya.

"This president, this administration has either been guilty of colossal incompetence or engaged in a cover-up, neither of which are acceptable to the American people," McCain said on the Senate floor.

Earlier, he told reporters it was "essential for the Congress to conduct its own independent assessment" about what happened in the attack.

Graham, perhaps seeking to elevate the urgency of Benghazi, linked it to major US crises of the past including the 1970s presidential scandal.

"Watergate investigation benefited from a joint select committee, Iran Contra benefited from a select committee," Graham said.

"I think finding the truth about Benghazi is only possible if you combine the resources of these three committees, and do it in a professional manner."

McCain predicted there would be resistance from Democrats.

"The party in power never likes to have a select committee," he said. "There was resistance to Watergate commission, there was resistance to Iran Contra."

Democrats indeed poured cold war on the idea, with Feinstein saying she "strongly" disagreed with McCain.

"We will be handling the intelligence part of it. We're the committee that should do it, we're the committee that's responsible for oversight, and has the authority to do it," she told reporters. "I see no need for a special committee."

Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also refused to entertain the idea of a select committee on Benghazi until the ongoing probes have run their course, but he acknowledged he wanted more details to come to light.

"I think there are some questions which need to be answered about Benghazi," Levin said.

  • Senator John McCain walks to a briefing of the Senate Select Committee on ...
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