Langevin MSNBC Interview on Petraeus Hearing
Earlier today Congressman Langevin appeared on MSNBC to discuss yesterday's Intelligence Committee hearing with General Petraeus and address comments made about the interviews given by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice shortly after the September 11 attacks in Benghazi.
Host: Right now, I'm joined by Congressman James Langevin, a Democrat on both the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. Thanks so much for being here with me.
Langevin: Thank you.
Host: Congressman, before we get to the question Congressman King just raised, tell me about the tone of the hearing and if you were satisfied with what you heard from Petraeus.
Langevin: Well, the tone of the hearing was very respectful, professional and I was very satisfied with the information that General Petraeus imparted to the committee. He was very candid and forthcoming with the questions and answers. I've always found him to be very credible and forthcoming and the hearing with him yesterday was no different.
Host: And regarding Congressman King's statement that he didn't recall Petraeus saying in September that this was a terrorist attack, what's your recollection on that?
Langevin: I was at both the first briefing and yesterday's hearing and my recollections were exactly as Director Petraeus had said it, that these were either terrorists or violent extremists. We had limited information at the time, but he was very consistent both on - I believe it was - the 14th, when we were first briefed, and then yesterday. Again, I've always found him to be very honest and forthcoming. Originally, the intelligence suggested that this might have been as a result of a protest that got spun up from there and became a violent attack, but as more intelligence came in, as all sources of intelligence were used, it was clear that there was no protest, that this was a more of an attack that erupted, but was more organized.
Host: Now, lawmakers say it appears that Ambassador Susan Rice based her initial report that the attack was the result of a protest rather than a planned attack on unclassified intelligence reports, but did she overemphasize that point since there appeared to be classified information from the start suggesting that it was indeed an attack by a terror group?
Langevin: Ambassador Rice's testimony or her interviews I believe were very consistent with what she was given for talking points from the Administration. The President himself has said that, if you're going to blame anyone that he should take responsibility, and he does, because that's the talking points that his administration gave to Ambassador Rice. So she imparted the information that she had and again, these were only limited initial reports based on very limited intelligence and I believe she was doing the very best she could at the time.
Intelligence analysis and collection is in many ways an imprecise science, if you will, art and it takes a lot of time and effort to piece all of these things together and things were moving very quickly, but I found her testimony to be very consistent with what she knew at the time.
Host: And quickly here, Congressman Peter King said it appears that the original CIA talking points did attribute the incident to Al Qaeda affiliates, but that the talking points were changed after being vetted and nobody knows who made that change. What can you tell us about that?
Langevin: Part of it was wanting not to be too specific in order to not jeopardize any sources or methods of how we got the intelligence, but more specifically, I should say that also they were being inclusive by saying extremists or terrorists that they weren't - they were being more inclusive. Sometimes within the agency, they believe the terms were synonymous, but what perhaps the public heard or what was imparted meant something very different, but the bottom line is, the intent was to convey that these were violent extremists or terrorists that were involved in carrying out this attack in Benghazi. That's what resulted in obviously unfortunately Ambassador Stevens' death and that of three others. It was a terrible tragedy and I can tell you we are making all efforts, the United States Government is making all efforts, using all sources, to track down those responsible. Time is on our side. No stone is being left unturned. We are going to find out who is responsible and those individuals will be brought to justice.
Host: Alright, Congressman James Langevin, Democrat from Rhode Island, thank you so much for your time today.
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