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Petraeus takes the wind from conspiracy theorists' sails

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In the week since former CIA Director David Petraeus announced his resignation, the right has come up with a variety of colorful conspiracy theories, all of which have been left in tatters. Was his sex scandal hidden from public view to boost President Obama's re-election prospects? No. Was the White House blackmailing him? No. Did he step down to avoid congressional testimony on Benghazi? No.

But over the last day or so, the right has stumbled upon a new micro-scandal: the original CIA draft materials referenced specific suspected terrorists, but their names were removed and replaced with the word "extremist" in the final draft.

"A ha!" the conspiracy theorists proclaim. "This proves Obama's people hid key details! It's clear evidence of ... something!" It's really not.

Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that classified intelligence showed the deadly raid on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration withheld the suspected role of specific al-Qaida affiliates to avoid tipping off the terrorist groups.

The recently resigned spy chief explained that references to terrorist groups suspected of carrying out the violence were removed from the public explanation of what caused the attack so as not to tip off the groups that the U.S. intelligence community was on their trail, according to lawmakers who attended the private briefings.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted that Petraeus "was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda. He completely debunked that idea."

The names of terrorists believed to be involved were removed for reasons of national security, and all of the relevant intelligence agencies signed off on the edited text. As Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) explained to the AP, "[I]n an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved."

Susan Rice then relied on the intelligence community's findings to update the public five days after the attack, and everything she said reflected the best information available at the time.

And before Fox News suggests Petraeus is still lying in order to protect the Obama administration, let's not forget that Petraeus is no longer part of the Obama administration. He's a private citizen, free to speak his mind freely -- and in this case, everything Petraeus is saying is consistent with everything the White House has said, and Petraeus' remarks have left the right's conspiracy theories in tatters.