UNDISCLOSED MISSION

11.13.12

David Petraeus’s Secret Trip to Libya After the Benghazi Attack

Congress wants to know why David Petraeus took a classified trip to the country where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered—and what the general found out while he was there. Eli Lake reports.

Last month, as the FBI was closing in on his affair with Paula Broadwell and the political fight over Benghazi was heating up, David Petraeus made an undisclosed trip to Tripoli, Libya. The purpose of the trip, according to congressional and U.S. officials, was to examine what remained of the CIA’s presence in the country after the United States abandoned the agency’s base and nearby U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi after the Sept. 11 assassination of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

More than two months after the Benghazi attack, congressional committees are asking for more information about the former CIA director’s trip. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, confirmed on Tuesday that the committee was seeking the report from Petraeus on his visit to Libya.

“Yeah, we will eventually get that,” Chambliss said after a hearing on Benghazi on Tuesday. Asked what he thought the committee might learn about Benghazi, he said, “I don’t know. That’s why we have to get the report.”

‘The CIA intends to provide its oversight committees the information they are looking for on Benghazi.’

Thus far, the CIA has not turned over the report from Petraeus, who resigned last week after acknowledging having an adulterous affair. One Senate staffer who works on intelligence issues said the CIA has told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the agency has not yet finished processing the report.

“The CIA intends to provide its oversight committees the information they are looking for on Benghazi,” a spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Petraeus visit to Libya helps explain why both Democrats and Republicans have insisted that he testify to Congress on the Benghazi matter. On Tuesday, the interim CIA director, Michael Morrell, testified before a Senate intelligence panel in a session that was not open to the public.

Video screenshot

Eli Lake breaks down the scandal's unsolved mysteries.

This week, the Senate’s inquiry into Benghazi has been overshadowed by Petraeus’s sudden resignation over his affair with Broadwell, the former military intelligence officer who wrote a favorable biography of Petraeus called All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.

The FBI reportedly learned of the affair while investigating a cyber-harassment claim from Jill Kelley, a Tampa woman who was an informal hostess in the community around MacDill Air Force Base. Initial reports said the FBI had concluded its investigation and found no harm to national security.

But the probe continues. On Monday, FBI agents appeared at Broadwell’s home and confiscated her computers. Chambliss said Tuesday that the FBI investigation was ongoing and that it appeared to involve classified information. He also said the initial FBI investigation touched on national-security issues and that the intelligence committees should have been told earlier about the probe. But Chambliss also stressed that he still wanted to learn more about the FBI’s investigation and did not know if there was a breach of classified information or if national security was damaged. The bureau’s deputy director, Sean Joyce, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

The Daily Beast reported on Sunday that Broadwell gave a speech on Oct. 26 in which she appeared to speak for Petraeus when asked about what he knew about Benghazi. Broadwell said the CIA base in Benghazi had detained members of a Libyan militia and that may have been one reason the U.S. mission was attacked on Sept. 11.

Chambliss denied the claim Tuesday. “The CIA doesn’t hold prisoners, they don’t have any authority to hold prisoners,” he said. “As far as I know they did not have any there.”