After more than a week of improbable claims, the Obama Administration now characterizes the deadly September 11 attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya as a terrorist act. But President Obama himself cautioned that protests against the unseen film Innocence of Muslims are "natural."
"It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," White House spokesman Jay Carney told Reuters. "Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that's self-evident."
The new evaluation came as congressional committees met in closed session to press Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with top intelligence and law enforcement officials, on whether the diplomatic outpost was adequately protected by a force of mostly Libyan guards.
Libyan officials allowed FBI investigators to visit the burned-out compound only early this week, officials said, a delay that could hamper the team in gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
Carney…said some of the heavily armed men who stormed the consulate in Benghazi and killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans "may have had connections" to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of the terrorist network that is active in eastern Libya.
Elsewhere around the world, a pan-Islamic "Day of Love" was marked by violence, arson, and flag burnings:
* In Sri Lanka, protesters burned Obama in effigy.
* In Indonesia, the U.S. embassy has been closed and an imprisoned terrorist told Indonesians they should imitate the Libya attack. "We should hold our anger if we're being insulted," Abu Bakar Bashir said. "We should forgive. But if the one that was defamed is Allah, the Prophet or his Shariah, death is the punishment. The Prophet is much more precious than our souls."
* In Malaysia, protesters burned American flags outside the U.S. embassy.
The president, meanwhile, seems to be stepping back from Carney's characterization. From the L.A. Times again:
Asked later about the Libya attack during a town hall meeting in Coral Gables, Fla., President Obama appeared to fall back on the administration's earlier description of the assault — that it was sparked by anger over an amateur film, made in California and posted on the Internet, that ridiculed the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
"I don't want to speak to something until we have all the information," Obama said. "The natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests."
In his comments to Reuters, Carney maintained the administration's claim that there is no evidence the Libya attack was premeditated, a claim that seems to contradict eyewitness accounts, intelligence estimates, and warnings from Chris Stevens, the American ambassador who was killed in the Libya attack.