In the process, the most important questions about Benghazi, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, have largely gotten lost: Were requests for greater security for diplomats in Libya ignored? Even if Al Qaeda’s core in Pakistan has been decimated, what threat is posed by its affiliates and imitators in other countries where they have taken refuge? How can crucial diplomacy be conducted amid the dangerous chaos that has followed the toppling of dictators across the Arab world? …

For now, the focus of Congress and the news media is mostly on language. For weeks after the Benghazi attack, Republicans accused Mr. Obama and his aides of avoiding labeling it “terrorism” for fear of tarnishing his national security record in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Since his re-election, that issue has faded, and the debate has shifted to the talking points. …

C.I.A. analysts drafted four sentences describing “demonstrations” in Benghazi that were “spontaneously inspired” by protests in Cairo against a crude video lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. (Later assessments concluded there were no demonstrations.) The initial version of the talking points identified the suspected attackers — a local militant group called Ansar al-Shariah, with possible links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of the terrorist network in North Africa.