During a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the September 11, 2012, attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya, a top State Department official refused to characterize the attacks as "terrorism."
"I have just presented the facts as they've come across," said Charlene Lamb, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs at State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. "I am not making any judgments on my own" with respect to the terrorism label, she told Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN).
BURTON: Because today as I listen to people, and you Ms. Lamb, have said— you've described these attackers in a number of ways, but you don’t mention terrorists at all. Why is that? I mean, the compound had been attacked once before, and breached, and these people had all these weapons—projectiles, grenades, all kinds of weapons. Why would you call this anything but a terrorist attack? Why do you call them attackers?
LAMB: Sir, I have just presented the facts as they've come across. I am not making any judgments on my own and I am leaving that to [unintelligible].
Other witnesses at the hearing weren't so cautious. Army Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who told the committee that he had "intimate knowledge of the security situation [in Benghazi] prior to the attack," said that the attacks were "instantly recognizable" as acts of terrorism.
The administration has waffled on the question of whether the attacks were acts of terrorism or spontaneous protests against an obscure YouTube video. As documented in a new video from the Heritage Foundation, White House officials shifted their rhetoric on the attacks when it became clear that they were not, in fact, demonstrations against that video.
While the administration has "evolved" in its rhetorical approach to the attacks, Lamb's testimony suggests that State is not yet willing to unequivocally declare those attacks acts of terrorism.