How important will David Petraeus' Benghazi testimony be?

Days after stepping down as CIA director, Petraeus agrees to tell Congress what he knows about the deadly attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya

David Petraeus' testimony on the deadly Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi might put to rest rumors that his affair was revealed to keep him from telling Congress what he knows about the siege.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Former CIA director David Petraeus has agreed to testify before House and Senate committees investigating the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, even though he stepped down last week over an increasingly complex sex scandal. Petraeus was originally scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill on Thursday. When he quit, Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike complained that the scandal shouldn't prevent them from hearing from the man who was in charge of the CIA when two of the agency's contractors, along with Ambassador Chris Stevens and another American, were killed in Libya. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) even questioned whether Petraeus' fear that the FBI would expose his extramarital affair had made him "consciously or subconsciously" inclined to back up the Obama administration's initial suggestion that the attack was a spontaneous outburst rather than a planned terrorist strike. Will Petraeus' testimony, expected behind closed doors later this week, clear up lingering questions about Benghazi?

It's possible we might finally learn the truth: Petraeus was in charge during the "collapse in both pre-attack intelligence and after-attack response," says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. He also went to Benghazi after the siege and talked to people involved. The American people have a right to know everything he does about "what the heck went on." Republicans "seem disinclined to let Petraeus off the hook," so maybe we'll finally get the unvarnished truth rather than administration spin.

"Petraeus : Time for truth-telling, finally"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Brace yourself for another whitewash: The fact that Petraeus stepped up so willingly "probably means he will have nothing meaningful to add," says Rick Moran at The American Thinker. If the White House suspected he was about to drop a bombshell, it could have blocked his appearances. "Since they are apparently allowing him to go forward, it looks like the former CIA director won't add much to the timeline he has already signed off on."

"Petreaus agrees to testify before Congress on Benghazi"

At least this should silence conspiracy theorists: Even if Petraeus doesn't tell Congress anything new, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, his testimony could provide welcome clarity. The public might remain in the dark, as his appearances will be held in secret "due to the classified nature of the matters being discussed." But the fact that Petraeus is showing up at all, however, could "put the lie to the accusations of some on the Right [who allege] that [revealing] the sex scandal was some way to prevent Petraeus from testifying."

"David Petraeus to testify before intelligence committees"

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us