David Petraeus was sneaked into the Capitol, away from photographers and television cameras, on Friday for the disgraced former CIA director’s first, closed-door congressional testimony since resigning in disgrace last Friday.
Petraeus, the retired four-star Army general and formerly one of the most respected U.S. military leaders, was whisked into a House Intelligence Committee hearing in a manner more suited to covert operative — through a network of underground hallways leading to a secure room.
His entrance was hidden from the dozens of cameras by Capitol Hill police barring doorways and back staircases. During previous appearances before Congress, CIA directors typically have walked through the building’s front door.
The secretive arrival attested to the circus-like atmosphere of the scandal that has preoccupied Washington, even as the possibility of war looms in Israel and the U.S. government faces a market-rattling “fiscal cliff” that could imperil a still-fragile economy.
Petraeus is under investigation by the agency for possible wrongdoing, though that’s not the subject of the closed-door hearings before the House and Senate intelligence committees. Petraeus was expected to field questions Friday from lawmakers about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
The attack in Benghazi, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, created a political firestorm; Republicans claim the White House misled the public on what led to the violence.
Lawmakers spent hours Thursday interviewing top intelligence and national security officials in trying to determine what intelligence agencies knew before, during and after the attack. They viewed security video from the consulate and surveillance footage by an unarmed CIA Predator drone that showed events in real time.
Petraeus started with the House committee, which met in a secure room several floors below the main area of the Capitol Visitors Center where tourists gather when they are visiting Congress.
“Director Petraeus went to Tripoli and interviewed many of the people involved,” said the head of the Senate committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
Added Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.: “”I’d like to get his sense of why it took as long as it did to get more accurate assessments of what took place in Benghazi.”