Smile-a-while: CNN previews hero Petraeus!


Well-known genius prepared to “acknowledge” that he knew all along: No one who watches the press corps closely can escape the sneaking suspicion that they can’t be human life-forms.

Case in point: Barbara Starr’s report to Anderson Cooper about what Petraeus was going to testify today. Starr appeared with Cooper last night, Thursday night, in the 8 o’clock hour.

What follows was Starr's sneak preview of Petraeus’ upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees concerning the Benghazi attack.

She said the following with a straight face, confusing heretical Cooper:
STARR (11/15/12): Well, good evening, Anderson. That's right, I've spoken to a source who is directly familiar with Petraeus' thinking, what he's planning to try and say on Capitol Hill tomorrow. He wants to testify. He wants to clear up any, what he believes are misrepresentations of what he has said in the past and what he thinks really happened in Benghazi.

First up, this source says that Petraeus will acknowledge that he knew quite quickly, immediately afterwards, that it was Ansar al-Sharia, that Libyan al Qaeda sympathizer group, that was responsible for it. But they had some conflicting information. He also had some 20 reports that it might have been related to that riot that broke out in Cairo just before the attack regarding that anti-Islamic film.

There had been rioting in Egypt and of course this is the contradictory thread of the narrative here, that it was riots that, in Egypt, that led to the attack on the embassy in Libya, on the consulate in Libya. So he's going to talk about having these two threads of information, but his sense right from the start that it was a terrorist attack by Ansar al-Sharia. A pretty murky group, a pretty loose collection of characters.

Could any human make that up? According to Starr, the great Petraeus wanted to “acknowledge” that he knew quite quickly, immediately afterwards, that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the Benghazi attack.

According to Starr, Petraeus was willing to “acknowledge” this fact. To his credit, Cooper was puzzled by the great man’s greatness:
COOPER (continuing directly): So—this is really interesting to me. So just to be clear, your source is saying General Petraeus knew almost immediately or felt that it was a terrorist attack, knew the group involved, even though he told members of Congress three days after the attack that it could have been spontaneous and there's also this—the statement made by the director of National Intelligence, on the DNI, the end of October, who put out a statement saying—you know, in the wake of criticism of Ambassador Rice—saying that early reports, you know, indicated it might have been linked to—you know, might have been a spontaneous demonstration and Ambassador Rice went out on Sunday saying—you know, five days after, saying it was possibly—early reports were spontaneous demonstration had been hijacked then by other groups.

So if he had a gut feeling or knew— I don't get why the DNI would have put out that statement if Petraeus was saying it was a terror attack or felt it was.
Cooper still didn't quite "get it." Almost immediately, Petraeus knew it was Ansar al-Sharia—but that sort of isn’t what he said in real time! And it sort of isn’t what he briefed Susan Rice to say.

Don’t worry! In the case of greatness like this, the life-forms can always explain. Starr helped Cooper understand.

Finally, Cooper surrendered:
STARR (continuing directly): Well, here's what we're looking at. We're looking at two threads of intelligence. One is, who was responsible? The second one, what was their motivation? And the sense is that these two threads of intelligence began to cross. You could have had these Ansar al-Sharia people start this trouble and they could have supposedly been motivated by the riots and the video but what we know now is Petraeus feels at some point the CIA was able to largely disprove that the video played a central role.

The problem is the timing. They didn't disprove those 20 reports until after he briefed Congress.

COOPER: OK. Barbara Starr reporting at the Pentagon, appreciate that. Fascinating stuff tonight. We'll see what he says exactly tomorrow.
Starr’s explanation was clear as mud. But of one thing, there could be no real doubt:

Petraeus had understood all along! He would even “acknowledge” that fact when he testified, she explained to the floundering Cooper.

Greatness like this can be hard to fathom. We cheered Starr for the patience she showed, giving Cooper two bites at the apple.

Breaking! For Kevin Drum's report on what Petraeus said, you know what to do: Just click here.


  1. Holy shit. Listening to Peter King on Hannity's radio show right now. Hannity is now saying as a matter of fact that Petraeus knew almost "instantaneously" who it was. The only question is who told Susan Rice to lie. It's amazing how fast these republicans are runnig to the microphonese to spin what was said in these classified closed door hearings.

    1. Susan Rice was supposed to know, and report, Petraeus' "gut feeling." If we didn't have his gut feeling within 10 seconds after he felt it, it's a scandal. Don't you get that?

  2. At the time of the attack, most of the Muslim world was rioting.
    IF the White House initially thought the attack was related to that stupid movie - who could blame them? Four dead is bad, of course, but, Senator (John McCain) Depends was fine with Bush lying us into a war that ended up killing 5,000 American soldiers - that wasn't worth an investigation?

  3. I am about to quit following the news,again, due to my frustration with finding any single place where I can find reasonable, common sense, professional journalism coverage of daily events in America and around the world. This Susan Rice story,or non story as I believe, is a perfect example of our modern press being manipulated for political gain. I could outline where this story has gone off the rails and why as most readers of this blog could but feel no compulsion to educate those that continue to allow themselves to be spoon fed political garbage on a daily basis. Bob however seems to have the energy to try and show how and why the press is so disappointing. I don't know how he can stand reading and listening to so many bad journalists to prepare this blog. I would never be that noble unless there was big money in it which I doubt there is. At which point I do realize it wouldn't be so noble.

  4. Can't we just all agree that Anderson Cooper is a joke? A show of hands will suffice.

  5. Could we all agree that this is why it's called "journalism," a daily take on things, rather than the final word? When did journalism start getting confused with the writing of measured (if still problematic) historical accounts?

  6. From the NY Times article Fri on Petraus' testimony. "They {meaning the Admin] knew right away that there were terrorists involved in the operation,” said Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee".

    So this entire thing seems like a tempest in a tea pot to me, a made up crisis, but if, "IF" this quote is to be believed, then, unless Rice's point is, it was a 'spontaneous repose', in this case carry out spontaneously BY TERRORISTS, as defined by Petraus, anyway, a premise hard to swallow, then her initial-qualified-statements on MTP had to be misleading. At best. If she knew "TERRORISTS', again as defined by Petraus, were involved, any allusions to spontaneity are stretched.

  7. Oopsie. The Somerby defense or Rice is crumbling.

    Well, in fairness, some degree of defense continues to the extent that one could excuse a "news presenter" from reading false information. No one really expects the news presenter to have knowledge of the underlying events.

    Meanwhile, it turns out the "CIA talking points" were edited from the original text through an intra-agency process.

    The talking points initially drafted by the C.I.A. attributed the attack to fighters with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the organization’s North Africa franchise, and Ansar al-Shariah, a Libyan group, some of whose members have Al Qaeda ties.

    Mr. Petraeus and other top C.I.A. officials signed off on the draft and then circulated it to other intelligence agencies, as well as the State Department and National Security Council.

    At some point in the process — Mr. Petraeus told lawmakers he was not sure where — objections were raised to naming the groups, and the less specific word “extremists” was substituted.

    Now we know the CIA initially provided accurate information consistent with our current understanding. Inaccurate information was provided to the public by Rice and the administration. Why?

    The administration's defense now, but not before now, is that they withheld information to avoid tipping off the suspect groups.

    1. The very same NYTimes 11/17 article quotes Congressman Schiff, who was at the hearing, as saying that Petraeus was "'adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda.'" So which is it, anon 12:43:

      (1)Schiff is lying? (2)Petraeus was lying - under oath? or (3) this is a manufactured controversy advanced by Republicans for political purposes?


    2. Oh no, Anonymous...this is DEFINITELY a " manufactured controversy advanced by Republicans for political purposes." At least as far as I'm concerned. But White House missteps, if we may be generous, still may have taken place. The two actions are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you can almost take it for granted when both sides of the aisle misbehave.

      So, look at it this way...Petraeus testify s, allegedly, that someone changed the wording of the CIA TPM...from specific names of the entities in questions, to the generic--and lets face it--more innocuous term "extremists". Which, if history is a guide could mean anything from Barry Goldwater, through Gerry Adams, to Nelson Mandela, types. All of whom had that title at one time as bequeathed by a White House admin. But lets take it all at face value...and the proffered reason for the change? Not to tip off the bad guys we knew it was they, or suspected it was they, who perped this. Ok, so far? So what that must mean is; the preparer of the CIA TPM was TOO STUPID to figure that out themselves. They needed someone over in the White House to say, 'hey, guys, lets not let them know we know"? Is that what we are being told? Look, calling them "extremists" was a helpful prerequisite for Rice et al saying IT might have been spontaneous. You KNOW once you named the specific groups, the 'spontaneous' theory, especially, given the date of event, Sept 11 was ludicrous on its face.

    3. The word "extremists" could well apply to many of the complete idiots in the Republican party.

    4. Why I would think the word "terrorist" applies to some of the idiots in the GOP. What has that got to do with this? Does that magically cancel out what may have happened here?

    5. Jonst, I don't get your point. Apparently, you seem to believe that it is monumentally significant that the admin didn't unequivocally say at the immediate outset that this was an Al Qaeda terrorist attack, and the use of the cautious characterization they gave it, couching it that this just happened and is subject to further investigation, is deeply nefarious and of profound significance. I think you have wandered off the deep end on this. I will grant you it is possible that the White House made missteps and anything is possible, but you seem to be saying that just because something is possible, it is true, without explainng why it matters or what the motivation would be for whatever it is that the admin supposedly said or didn't say.
      AC / MA

  8. Jonst, I can't take this idiocy any longer. This is the problem when you live your life in a Fox bubble.

    Lawmakers said Petraeus testified that the CIA's draft talking points written in response to the assault on the diplomat post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus told the lawmakers that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn't sure which federal agency took out the reference.

    ....Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb but those names were replaced with the word "extremist" in the final draft....Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Petraeus explained that the CIA's draft points were sent to other intelligence agencies and to some federal agencies for review. Udall said Petraeus told them the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it. "The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing," Udall said. "The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved."

    ....Schiff said Petraeus said Rice's comments in the television interviews "reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly."

    The talking points were changed during the process of review by OTHER INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES. Petraeus can't say exactly who did it, but it is absolutely clear that it wasn't the WH.

  9. First of MM, I have watched Fox news, a couple of times in my life, maybe for 5 mins. All I could take. I am, if one wanted to generalize, like you seem to be comfortable doing, from afar, a Glen Greenwald Progressive.

    Next, I think the GOP has exploited this entire episode, shamelessly. Like the carnival hucksters they have morphed into this past years. I think this a minor engages in a so called Global War Against Terror, or whatever the latest name is,, one is going to have causalities. It seems the height of immaturity (at its worst) to howl and whine the moment one death on our side (or, 4, as in this case) occur. I think Huckleberry Graham and St John McCain are incorrigible, grandstanding, fools.

    And I also think the someone in the White House altered, and cooked up, a misleading (at best) response because they were getting pilloried by the GOP and their syncopates in the Press, and they felt this unfair. Which, indeed, it was. So they sent Rice out to dance on the head of a pin...

    Are my reactions to this influenced by the way I detest the liberal chicken hawks, the R2P worshipers always at the ready to send someone else's kid off to die with their calls for 'liberal intervention'? Of whom I put Rice front and center of this group and dread her being appt SOS? Yes, perhaps. But I still think the facts speak for themselves. And this assertion, which you seem to hold up as banner of competency "The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing," Udall said. "The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved." is ludicrous on its face. Are you trying to he trying to assert, that the CIA could not figure that out for themselves? Because if that is accurate, if the CIA needed someone other agency to correct that oversight...well, I think that speaks for itself.

    1. Jonst, that's all very interesting, except there doesn't appear to be any evidence at this time that what you "think someone in the White House" did is in fact true.

    2. MM, yes, it certainly is "all very interesting".