After leaving the closed-door hearing, King spoke with reporters for several minutes about Petraeus’ statements. Rice’s television appearances were among the topics discussed, leading King to indicate that while Petraeus did not personally write Rice’s talking points, the CIA did approve them:
Q: Did he say why it was taken out of the talking points that [the attack] was Al Qaeda affiliated?
KING: He didn’t know.
Q: He didn’t know? What do you mean he didn’t know?
KING: They were not involved — it was done, the process was completed and they said, “Ok go with those talking points.” Again it’s interagency — I got the impression that 7, 8, 9 different agencies.
Q: Did he give you the impression that he was upset it was taken out?
Q: You said the CIA said “OK” to the revised report —
KING: No, well, they said in that, after it goes through the process, they OK’d it to go. Yeah, they said “Okay for it to go.”
Watch King’s statements here:
Rice has been hit by Republicans for weeks for indicating that the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi stemmed from a spontaneous protest related to an anti-Islamic video. However, as Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has pointed out, the talking points used by Rice were the same unclassified points given to both the administration and Congress by the intelligence community.
Contrary to the current GOP narrative, Petraeus’ testimony made clear that various intelligence sources at of the time of his initial briefing to Congress indicated that a protest arising in response to a similar one in Cairo was the impetus for the attack in Libya. While those initial assessments were later disproved, the Wall Street Journal has previously reported that this change in thinking began too late to alter Rice’s talking points.
Today’s comments by King towards the intelligence community’s assessments also mark a sharp departure from his previous accusations that Rice should have known sooner that the intelligence that was presented to her was incorrect. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have both also recently said that Rice should “have known better” than to make the statements she did during her interviews.