* Petraeus to testify before same panels on Friday
* More hearings planned, including one that will be public
By Susan Cornwell and Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, Nov 15 Intelligence officials on
Thursday showed lawmakers a real-time film of the deadly attack
on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and discussed
a timeline of events in sometimes heated exchanges at a
closed-door hearing, lawmakers said.
The House and Senate intelligence committees heard from
intelligence, FBI and State Department officials on the events
surrounding the Sept. 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador
to Libya and three other Americans.
Questions about the adequacy of security, the U.S. response
to the attack, and the administration's initial public comments
have led to a growing rift between Republicans and President
Barack Obama over where the fault lies.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus, who resigned last week
over an extramarital affair, will testify about Benghazi before
the same two committees on Friday morning.
Lawmakers said they would focus questions on events in
Benghazi, where a CIA annex also came under attack as well as
the U.S. diplomatic mission. But some of them also want to know
whether Petraeus stepped down to avoid testifying before
Congress about the attack.
"Director Petraeus went to Tripoli, he interviewed many of
the people as I understand it, that were involved. So the
opportunity to get his views, I think is very important," said
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein.
After Petraeus resigned, Feinstein, a Democrat, had been the
most vocal lawmaker insisting the former CIA chief should still
testify to Congress about the Benghazi attack.
She said the film on the attack included video from a
Predator drone. "The film is a composite from a number of
sources. It is real-time, it does begin from when the incident,
before the incident started, and it goes through the incident
and the exodus," Feinstein told reporters.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of
providing misinformation in the early days following the attack.
Administration officials counter that their initial comments
suggesting the attack grew spontaneously out of protests over an
anti-Muslim film rather than a premeditated strike were based on
the best available information at that time.
'MISTAKES WERE MADE'
The State Department has come under scrutiny from critics
who say it did not respond to requests from diplomats on the
ground in Libya who sought greater security before the attack.
"We know mistakes were made and we've got to learn from
that. Our membership asked some very hard and very tough
questions of our witnesses today and we're going to continue to
do that in our subsequent hearings," Senator Saxby Chambliss,
the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said.
Senior Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham
have t hreatened to block any nomination of Susan Rice, U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, for her comments on Sunday
talk shows five days after the attack that suggested it was a
Obama came to Rice's defense on Wednesday and said if she
was the right person for a spot in his Cabinet, he would
nominate her. If Republicans had a problem with the handling of
Benghazi, he said, "they should go after me."
Rice is considered a potential candidate to replace
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has said she plans to
leave, or for another top job in the administration.
Clinton is expected to testify before Congress about the
Benghazi attack after a State Department initiated review is
completed, possibly in December.
"In the end, the assessment was still the same - that in
Benghazi, you had a group of extremists who took advantage of a
situation and unfortunately we lost four American lives,"
Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said after Thursday's
intelligence hearing in the House.
Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, said he planned to ask the former CIA chief, "General
Petraeus, did your resignation have anything to do with the fact
that you were supposed to testify before Congress?"
Ruppersberger said he had been told that was not the case,
but wanted to clarify that. The issue of whether the Petraeus
affair affected national security was sure to come up on Friday,
When Petraeus first briefed lawmakers the day after the
attack, based on a video of it, he had called it spontaneous,
but also said extremists were involved, Ruppersberger said.
"It was a combination of both."
Feinstein and Chambliss said they planned more hearings,
including one that would be public, on the Benghazi events
before releasing unclassified findings.
In the House of Representatives, Democratic Representative
Adam Schiff also said there would be more hearings, including on
"the allegations concerning General Petraeus," without
Democrats who spoke after the House committee hearing were
eager to portray the information behind closed doors as a
vindication of the initial assessment that Rice gave.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, acting CIA
Director Michael Morell, National Counterterrorism Center
Director Matthew Olsen, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and
Undersecretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy testified at
the hearings in the House and Senate.
Feinstein said lawmakers also heard from Major General
Darryl Roberson, vice director of operations, on the Joint Staff
"on what (military) assets are there, and what assets are not
Schiff said he expected the questions for Petraeus on Friday
to be "confined to the events in Benghazi, and we'll get his
perspective on what information he knew and how his assessment
of that intelligence changed over time."