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“I don’t understand what took them so long,” said the former official, who requested anonymity in order candidly to discuss his successors’ handling of the incident.

“From what I have read [about the briefing], there is nothing in there that they shouldn’t have been able to put out six weeks ago.”

In the absence of detailed answers to questions about the events of that night, “conspiracy theories inevitably emerge,” the former official told The Times.

“The questions multiply and you never get out from under it,” the former official concluded.

This account was based in part on wire service dispatches.