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Errant second-guessing by politically motivated news commentators served at least one constructive purpose. More details on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, are known.

Fox News delivered a twisted narrative that was inaccurate no matter how often it was repeated. The irritant eventually flushed out the Central Intelligence Agency, which had been reticent to talk.

A timeline delivered to reporters by a CIA official who spoke anonymously described the intense efforts to assist Americans under attack at the U.S. consulate compound.

Contrary to a Fox News report last Friday, pleas for help were not ignored or put on hold with orders “to stand down.”

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The new timeline details that effort and the time involved in rallying a local response and summoning help from out of town. The attack on the anniversary of Sept. 11 had the U.S. calling for help from friendly militias and a Libyan military unit. All of it happened with the spontaneity of an evolving emergency operation in unfamiliar territory.

The CIA was responding from a secret location, and the timeline suggests its operatives acted with all due urgency and bravery.

Any event that claims four U.S. lives, especially in a sensitive and hostile diplomatic environment, is open to scrutiny and, in the midst of a presidential race, can be expected to be exploited.

Politics are one thing. Facts are another. The CIA timeline is useful, and about a week late.

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