For the first time, White House press secretary Jay Carney publicly characterized the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as a "terrorist attack."
"It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," Carney told reporters on aboard Air Force One en route Florida. "Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. So, again, that's self evident."
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEAL security guards Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed when insurgents stormed the diplomatic compound nine days ago on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Administration officials had initially been reluctant to classify the incident as an act of terrorism, citing a pending investigation. But top U.S. counterterrorism and homeland security officials now say there are signs that the attackers may have had ties to al Qaeda.
"The facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy," said National Counterterrorism Center director Matt Olsen testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill
"What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack. Again, we're still developing facts and still looking for any indications of substantial advanced planning. We just haven't seen that at this point," he said.
Olsen said that the attackers "may have had connections to al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda's affiliates, in particular al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb."