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“There was no intent to mislead the public,” spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said. “The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling was made by the secretary following consultation with colleagues including the White House. As the [IG] report makes clear, the misunderstanding with the reviewers was resolved with the June third letter and a subsequent conference call with those experts.”

The White House likewise defended the administration’s handling of the situation.

“The Inspector General found no intentional misrepresentation of [the experts’] views. The IG further found that to the extent that there was any misunderstanding of their position, Interior acted quickly to correct it,” spokesman Bill Burton said. “The decision to implement a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was correctly based on the need for adequate spill response, well containment and safety measures, and we stand behind that decision.”

Three of the seven experts, all of whom were recommended to Interior by the National Academy of Engineering, told the IG that they accepted Mr. Salazar’s explanation that misrepresentation was caused by an editing mistake and was not intentional.

At the same time, at least one of the engineers told the government watchdog that the agency should not have called for a blanket moratorium without consulting the experts.

Indeed, five of the experts complained in a letter earlier this summer to Gulf lawmakers that a blanket moratorium “will not measurably reduce risk further, and it will have a lasting impact on the nation’s economy which may be greater than that of the oil spill.” The engineers urged Mr. Salazar “to overcome emotion with logic.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly excoriated President George W. Bush for placing ideology above science, most especially in the context of global climate debate and issues surrounding embryonic stem-cell research.

Last year, in announcing a new science policy, the president again blasted Mr. Bush for forcing “a false choice between sound science and moral values” and vowed to let scientists do their work unfettered by a political agenda.

Asked this summer why the Obama administration didn’t follow the advice of the engineers, Mrs. Browner defended the moratorium as a “policy decision.”

“What the experts were providing was their expert advice but not the policy decisions that were obviously under the purview of the secretary of the interior,” she told reporters at a June press briefing.

But the scientists maintained, in a letter sent earlier this year to Louisiana’s governor and two U.S. senators, that this doesn’t affect the scientific-prestige matter from their perspective.

“The secretary should be free to recommend whatever he thinks is correct, but he should not be free to use our names to justify his political decisions,” they wrote.

The moratorium was politically thorny from day one as environmental activists panned it as too weak while states along the Gulf decried it as an economy-killer. Now, even as Mr. Salazar lifted the ban, the industry has warned of a “de facto moratorium” created by uncertainty surrounding the new, stricter drilling rules.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, has refused to drop her legislative hold of Mr. Obama’s budget-director nominee, saying last month she needs more time “to evaluate if the lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work.”

Details of the IG report were first reported by Politico.