Carney: ‘There Was an Issue About the Definition of Terrorism’

By Fred Lucas | October 11, 2012 | 10:47 AM EDT

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. (AP Photo)

( – Fielding contentious questions from reporters Wednesday about the reasons given by President Barack Obama for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney invoked the definition of terrorism.

Ed Henry of Fox News asked Carney at the White House briefing if U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice – and Carney himself – had misled the public “because you didn’t want to admit there was a terror attack.”

“Absolutely not,” Carney responded. “The President of the United States referred to it as an act of terror immediately after it occurred, Ed, as you know.”

Immediately after the attack, Obama, Carney and Rice blamed an obscure anti-Muslim video for inciting a protest that went out of control. But on Tuesday of this week, State Department officials said they never believed the attack stemmed from a protest over the video.

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Henry followed up, “But hold on for one second. You’re saying that on September 12th the president called it terrorism -- he used a phrase like act of terror…then why were you at this podium for several days after that, saying, ‘We don’t know if it’s terrorism?’”

Carney responded, “I never said that. I never said we don’t know if it’s terrorism. There was an issue about the definition of terrorism. This is by definition an act of terror, as the president made clear.”

Henry followed, “So you’re saying now, just to be clear, on Sept. 12, the president believed it was terrorism?

Carney said, “He said it was an act of terror, Ed. It was -- clearly, definitionally, if you look at the definition of terrorism, an assault with arms on a diplomatic--”

“But we asked you several days after that, is it terrorism, and you kept saying, we don’t know. How can you revise that?” Henry asked.

Carney insisted, “The issue was what led to the attack, and that has been an issue that we have provided assessments of based on the information that we have gleaned through the intelligence community, preliminary information. And we have made clear all along -- as Ambassador Rice has made clear… she makes clear on Sunday, September 16th, that these were preliminary assessments based on preliminary information.”

Carney later added, “You’re making a distinction between an act of terror and what led to the attack. An assault with violence and force and weapons against a diplomatic facility is by definition an act of terror.”