Lawmakers on Petraeus hearing: ‘We’re learning a lot’

Lawmakers who attended private, closed-door hearings of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday said former CIA Director David Petraeus did not discuss and was not asked about his extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell.

With Petraeus focused squarely on his understanding of the Libya attack, lawmakers said he was instructive, but provided just one element of an ongoing probe into what caused the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca. is surrounded by reporters following a committee hearing in which former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack in Libya on Capitol Hill on Friday. (Cliff Owen — Associated Press)

“We’re learning a lot, but we have in my opinion not come to a point where we can draw a firm conclusion as to exactly what happened,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters after the hearings. “He laid out his view, which was very much appreciated. He answered a large number of questions. We still have two additional hearings and then hopefully the preparations and findings and a public hearing.”

According to a lawmaker who heard the testimony, Petraeus testified that he believes the Sept. 11 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya was an act of terrorism that did not arise out of a spontaneous demonstration.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Petraeus’s testimony “comprehensive, I think it was important, it added to our ability to make judgments about what is clearly a failure of intelligence. He described his actions and that of his agency, their interaction with other agencies and I appreciate his service and his candor.”

But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Petraeus’s comments highlighted lingering concerns about how the State Department responded to requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound.

“I think that’s what the growing amount of inquiries should be about in the days to come,” Rubio said.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), a member of the House panel, suggested to reporters that he was frustrated by some of Petraeus’s answers, but he and other lawmakers expressed sustained support for the former director: “I have a lot of trust and respect for the man, he served this nation well.”

Read more on this story: Petraeus testifies that Benghazi attack was terrorist act, lawmaker says

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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Ed O'Keefe · November 15, 2012