Petraeus tells Congress Al Qaeda role known early in Benghazi attack

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on November 16, 2012, at closed-door briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees about the attack Sept. 11 on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus told Congress on Friday that the agency was aware from the outset that the Sept. 11 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, involved an Al Qaeda affiliate.

Petraeus said he and the agency tried to make that clear from the beginning, Reuters reported.

Petraeus' testimony before the House of Representatives intelligence committee and the the Senate intelligence panel comes a week after he resigned as CIA chief, citing an affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.

Reuters reported lawmakers said Petraeus told the House intelligence committee "extremists in the group" that attacked the consulate were indeed linked to Al Qaeda.

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Rep. Peter King of New York told reporters after the closed hearing that Petraeus' testimony conflicted with initial reports from the Obama administration following the attack on Sept. 14, CNN reported.

CNN wrote that King said Petraeus did not characterize the Sept. 11 attack that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans as the "spontaneous" result of anti-Muslim film protest, as the administration initially claimed.

The assault and the details surrounding it, continues to be a major source of contention between President Barack Obama and leading Republicans, who charge the White House have mislead the public about what happened in Libya.

ABC News said in his testimony Petraeus defended UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a contender for Secretary of State. Republicans have accused Rice of helping to mislead the public and vowed to block her nomination.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said "I don't think she should be pilloried for this. She did what I would have done or anyone else would have done," ABC News reported.

"To say that she is unqualified to be Secretary of State I think is a mistake," Feinstein added. "And the way it keeps going it's almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character."