House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) responded to President Obama’s forceful condemnation of the GOP’s effort to portray his administration’s response to the attacks on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya as a cover-up on Monday, suggesting that the president sought to downplay the severity of the incident by describing the killings of four Americans as an “act of terror” rather than a “terrorist attack.”
In the day following the Benghazi attacks, Obama appeared at the White House Rose Garden alongside then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his remarks, Obama referred to the incident as an “act of terror” and used the phrase again at a campaign rally the day after in Denver, CO. “I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished,” he said.
But Issa claimed that Obama relied on the “act of terror” formulation to dissuade Americans from thinking it was a terror attack, thus improving his chances of re-election.
“The president sent a letter to the President of Libya where he didn’t call it a terrorist attack even when at the time the President of Libya was calling it pre-planned Sept. 11 terrorist attack,” Issa told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “The words that are being used carefully — like you just said, ‘act of terror’ — an ‘act of terror’ is different than a ‘terrorist attack.’ The truth is, this was a terrorist attack, this had Al Qaeda at it.” Watch it:
Seven days after Obama’s comments at the Rose Garden, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen called the the assault in Benghazi an “opportunistic attack” in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. “I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy,” he said, presumably pleasing Issa.
During a visit to Washington Hospital Center on Sep. 13, 2001 — just two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center — President George W. Bush described the incident as an “unbelievable act of terror.”