U.S. officials spun a web of falsehoods after the terrorist attack in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed.
Feelings of shock and anger and calls for swift retribution followed quickly on the heels of the Sept. 11 murders of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans during an attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
But in addition to the justice to be meted out to the attackers, there's a political accounting due here at home for the inadequate security at the consulate and the slew of misstatements by U.S. officials about what happened and why.
It's now clear that, contrary to what some administration officials repeatedly said, the assault on the consulate was a planned terrorist attack by al-Qaida and had nothing to do with an Internet video that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.
That cover story withered under public scrutiny before being retracted by the Obama administration. Now officials from the U.S. State Department have stated publicly that, contrary to the administration's public statements, they never believed the video had anything to do with the attack.
A number of important questions must be answered by the U.S. House committee that is conducting an inquiry.
Who conceived the false story about the attack being the result of a demonstration that got out of hand? Why did U.S. officials feel the need to misstate what had occurred?
A second line of inquiry concerns the inadequate security at the consulate. Officials in Benghazi had prior security problems and, in anticipation of a 9/11 anniversary attack, had requested additional protection from the U.S. State Department. Their requests were denied, and tragedy followed. Why?
Misstatements about what led to the attack were made by highly placed officials.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice made a number of public appearances in which she stated that the violence was not pre-planned and that a demonstration aimed at denouncing the video erupted into the assault on the compound and the murders. Her statements raised immediate questions because the attackers' weapons included rocket-propelled grenades, hardly the kind of gear carried by the typical demonstrator.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added her prestige to Rice's characterization of events by calling it a "response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
It could be that the cause of the attack was attributed to a spontaneous demonstration as a cover to prevent disclosures about the request for and denial of beefed-up security.
Then again, there could be more to the story. Why else would high-powered Obama administration officials be drawn into this web of deceit?
Following the deaths of our diplomatic personnel, President Obama spoke with great determination about the need to identify and punish the individuals responsible, suggesting that it is a moral imperative to do so.
It is equally important to determine why a number of officials within the Obama administration, including the president himself, told the public this was not a terrorist attack. There is still far more to learn about this tragic story.