(WASHINGTON) — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed on Wednesday that President Obama believes the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a “terrorist attack” — a term the president has not yet used in his characterization of the violence.
“It is our view as an administration, the president’s view, that it was a terrorist attack,” Carney told reporters.
The administration, which is still investigating the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, initially suggested the assault was linked to broader protests fueled by an anti-Islam movie.
Last week, Carney said it was “self-evident” that the violence was a terrorist attack.
“It is, I think by definition, a terrorist attack when there is a prolonged assault on an embassy with weapons,” he reiterated on Wednesday.
On Monday, the president told ABC’s The View that “there is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the on-going assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action.”
Asked why Obama has declined to use the term “terrorist attack,” Carney said “there’s no reason that he chose the words he did beyond trying to provide a full explanation of his views and his assessment that we need to await further information that the investigation will uncover.”
Republicans, including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have criticized the president and his administration for not leveling with the American people.
In a letter to the president, eight House Republican committee chairmen on Wednesday said they are “disturbed” by the administration’s statements that would “lead the American public to believe this attack was a protest gone wrong, rather than what it truly was — a terrorist attack on the United States on the anniversary of 9/11.”
“This seems like a pre-9/11 mindset — treating an act of war solely as a criminal matter, rather than also prioritizing the gathering of intelligence to prevent future attacks,” the lawmakers wrote. “Moreover, given that violence in the region continues unabated, what actions are we undertaking to deter terrorists from capitalizing on the successful Benghazi attack, or launching similar attacks elsewhere in the region or in the homeland?”
Carney said on Wednesday that the administration has provided as much information as possible.
“We made clear that our initial assessment and interim reports were based on information that was available at the time,” he said. ”It continues to be the case that we provided information based on what we know — not based on speculation, but based on what we know — acknowledging that we are continuing an investigation that will undoubtedly uncover more facts, and as more facts and more details emerge we will, when appropriate, provide them to you.”
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Eric Bradner, Shimon Prokupecz and Dan Merica, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Jose Pagliery, CNN
Dan Merica and Sophie Tatum, CNN