Donald Lambro
One of President Obama's national security boasts in the 2012 presidential election was that al Qaeda's ranks have been "decimated," they're "on the run," and "on the path to defeat."

So when the evil, terrorist network built by Osama bin Laden destroyed the U.S. consulate in Libya and killed our ambassador and three other officials on Sept. 11, it sent a chilling message that, contrary to Obama's preposterous claim, al Qaeda's very much alive and capable of killing Americans with impunity on U.S. soil.

Indeed, despite Obama's election-year claim that al Qaeda had been all but put out of business, they're deadly reach has since spread throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Far East and elsewhere.

This is why when their attacks occurred in Benghazi, in the midst of the final, critical weeks of the campaign, the Obama administration went to great lengths to soft-pedal its official explanation to the point of hiding the fact that al Qaeda was involved at all.

The first explanation came from the State Department who said that the attack as a peaceful protest triggered by anger over an anti- Muslim Internet video in the U.S. that, well, kind of got out of hand.

In fact, it led to the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others who perished in the fiery siege. Its statement made no mention of al-Qaeda terrorists.

It was clear soon after that, as details tumbled out in a flood of dispatches and eyewitness accounts, that this was not only a terrorist act but by the al Qaeda network Obama said he had crushed.

But that wasn't the story the White House or Obama's campaign advisers wanted voters to hear because they feared it would hand Mitt Romney an effective national security issue against the administration.

Romney did immediately criticize the State Department's "protest" explanation, correctly charging that this was a terrorist attack that raised the question why the consulate was not given adequate security to protect its staff.

The administration quickly shot back, accusing Romney of "playing politics" with the killings, a political tactic the White House and its allies in Congress have been using ever since. And a compliant news media gave the Obama response headline treatment.

But just three days after the Benghazi murders, then-CIA Director David Patraeus told the House intelligence committee behind closed doors that al Qaeda had led the attack. His conclusion no doubt had already been shared with the White House in Obama's daily intelligence briefing.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.