Critics of that response paint a picture of a White House preoccupied with the president’s re-election campaign and determined to take the most cautious approach possible. White House officials strongly reject suggestions that politics were at play in its response to the crisis. …

Among the post-2001 changes was the creation of the DNI to oversee the 16 U.S. spy agencies. The office is responsible for collating agencies’ intelligence and reaching a consensus view to present to the president.

The DNI contended with dueling positions after the Benghazi attack. Within 48 hours, some military and intelligence analysts started briefing lawmakers about what they saw as evidence suggesting al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, was involved in the assault. …

Other officials, including those at the DNI and FBI, were more cautious about AQIM’s involvement, calling the early information inconclusive. At least some of the communications were members of AQIM bragging about their roles after the attack, officials said. One official said such boastfulness is commonplace and isn’t proof of involvement.