But Republicans said he was speaking generally and didn't specifically call the Benghazi event a terror attack until weeks later. Until then, key members of the administration were blaming an anti-Muslim movie circulating on the Internet as a precipitating event.
This Wednesday, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., put the blame on the director of national intelligence James Clapper.
"I think what happened was the director of intelligence, who is a very good individual, put out some speaking points on the initial intelligence assessment," Feinstein said in an interview with news channel CBS 5 in California. "I think that was possibly a mistake."
Congress is asking the administration for documents about the attack, in hopes of building a timeline of what the government knew and when.
"The early sense from the intelligence community differs from what we are hearing now," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said. "It ended up being pretty far afield, so we want to figure out why."
Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, R-Texas, a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees, said: "How could they be so certain immediately after such events, I just don't know. That raises suspicions that there was political motivation."
Obama has weathered similar criticisms before. After both the failed bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and the attempted car bombing in Times Square in 2010, the Obama administration initially said there were no indications of wider terrorist plots. The Christmas Day bomber turned out to be linked to al-Qaida and the Times Square bomber was trained by the Pakistani Taliban.
Nevertheless, polls have consistently showed voters trust Obama over Romney to handle terrorism. If Obama was worried that Monday's debate would change that, he showed no signs of it Thursday night.
Speaking at a charity dinner, he offered this preview of the debate: "Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden."
Dozier can be followed on Twitter (at)kimberlydozier, and Apuzzo on (at)mattapuzzo.
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