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Congressional inquiries into the attack on the Libyan consulate that claimed four American lives in September call into question claims made by President Obama and the administration about the nature of the assault on the anniversary of 9-11.

From the beginning, there appeared to be some confusion or miscommunication within the administration about whether the attack was a terrorist plot or a spontaneous demonstration similar to what had been happening in other Muslim countries in response to an online film denigrating Islam. The latter was the administration’s position advanced by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on television five days after the attack in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others died.

President Obama last week angrily denounced attacks on Ambassador Rice by some members of Congress, particularly Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who said they would try to block her appointment as secretary of state if she were nominated by President Obama.

Retired CIA Director David H. Petreaus told Senate and House intelligence committees in closed-door testimony Friday that he believed almost immediately that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was an organized terrorist attack. According to reports, Mr. Petreaus also told lawmakers about the involvement of militants linked to al-Qaida.

That information was left out of a list of “talking points” prepared by the administration and apparently used by Ambassador Rice. It is not clear who may have altered the talking points. The decision may have been, as some suggest, politically motivated during the presidential campaign, or as others say, to protect anonymous intelligence sources.

Administration officials have said the conflicting comments about the attacks were based on information available at the time. But it remains unclear what the administration knew and when in determining whether it responded appropriately in a timely manner to the attacks and whether there was adequate security at the consulate.

Some details may remain classified, but the congressional investigations should answer the questions.

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