Petraeus’ Coffee

Remember Jim’s question whether David Petraeus was withholding intelligence last year? And remember my observation that Dick Cheney’s propagandist had resuscitated Petraeus’ gripes about talking points? And remember my focus on the way the Intelligence Committees had become mere spokespeople for the Intelligence Community?

The WaPo adds to that thread. First, by pointing out that Petraeus responded to Dutch Ruppersberger’s (allegedly unsolicited) request for talking points by trying to include intelligence he hadn’t in his briefing.

“We had some new members on the committee, and we knew the press would be very aggressive on this, so we didn’t want any of them to make mistakes,” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III (Md.) said last week of his request in an account supported by Republican participants. “We didn’t want to jeopardize sources and methods, and we didn’t want to tip off the bad guys. That’s all.”

What Petraeus decided to do with that request is the pivotal moment in the controversy over the administration’s Benghazi talking points. It was from his initial input that all else flowed, resulting in 48 hours of intensive editing that congressional Republicans cite as evidence of a White House coverup.

A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus’s early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee’s request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency.

The information Petraeus ordered up when he returned to his Langley office that morning included far more than the minimalist version that Ruppersberger had requested. It included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack and an account of prior CIA warnings — information that put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency.

And by claiming that the minimal talking points the NatSec establishment came up with didn’t meet Ruppersberger’s needs.

Morell responded with concern about whether Petraeus would approve the document, even after other agencies had signed off.

“Please run the points by the Director, then get them to HPSCI,” he wrote soon after. “I spoke to the Director earlier about State’s deep concerns about mentioning the warnings and the other work done on this, but you will want to reemphasize in your note to DCIA.”

Morell was right to be worried.

In an e-mail sent two hours later to Morell and others inside the agency, Petraeus wrote, “No mention of the cable to Cairo, either? Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this, then. . . [National Security Council] call, to be sure; however, this is certainly not what Vice Chairman Ruppersberger was hoping to get for unclas use.”

Asked about Petraeus’s warning, Ruppersberger said, “I’m not sure what he meant. I had no expectations.”

It appears, then, that Petraeus tried to use Ruppersberger’s request (which, I suspect, we’ll one day learn wasn’t all that spontaneous) as an opportunity to introduce new issues into the discussion, basically to save his own ass.

It sure looks like Petraeus was more involved in creating the opportunity for the talking points controversy than we have thus far confirmed.

9 replies
  1. harpie says:

    I am sorry for the O/T first comment, but Military Defense Attorneys for former CIA prisoners have written to Hagel about the conditions at Guantanamo:

    […] “Recent trends in leadership fail in this duty. Just as the events leading to the massacre at My Lai derived from the dehumanization of the Vietnamese, there should be no question that the root of war crimes and mistreatment of prisoners likewise requires one human being to dehumanize another.” […]

    …ask Hagel to examine Bogdan’s “fitness to command.”

  2. Garrett says:

    I was just reading, in All In, a somewhat similar story of how David Petraeus maneuvered Hamid Karzai into the ALP program.

    So began Petraeus’s courtship of Karzai

    didn’t meet Ruppersberger’s needs

    It’s a relationship, you see. With, I think, a six letter word for it.

    Usually done on desktops.

    Or while hiding under them.

  3. Alan Willard says:

    “Remember Jim’s question whether David Petraeus was withholding attention last year?”

    Did you intend “intelligence” instead of “attention”?

  4. Jim White says:

    And while we’re going back to old posts that made pertinent points in real time as these events unfolded, don’t forget Marcy’s post that pointed out Mitt mentioning that situations like the Iran hostage crisis are “electoral opportunities” that he would readily take advantage of.

    That statement from Mitt was very much a part of my thinking as I looked at what appeared to be moves by Petraeus to create just such an opportunity for Mitt. These latest revelations change a few of the details, but still fit very well with that interpretation to many of Petraeus’ moves during the immediate aftermath of Benghazi.

  5. klynn says:


    And when have we heard ANYTHING about what the “much broader case” happens to be…Afterall, a number of generals found their duties stripped. (Forgive the pun.)

  6. lefty665 says:

    @klynn: The other brass was whacked for individual failings.

    Stripped to the essentials, Betrayus was inadvertently caught up in something not Broadwell. A leak investigation would seem to be All In to fill the Bill, or Paula as the case may be.

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