Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Wednesday called the anti-Muslim film that sparked protests and attacks “deplorable,” but not an excuse for violence.
“The film is absolutely not representative of America or the American government. It is deplorable,” she told members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Last week riots and protests broke out at American embassies around the world, including in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans including the U.S. ambassador were killed. The protests were linked to an online video produced in the United States that some Muslims found offensive.
Napolitano said the United States recognizes the rights of both the video’s producer, as well as the right to “have a peaceful demonstration against deplorable speech.” She called on people of “all faiths” to spread the message, however, that violence is not appropriate.
At the same hearing Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told lawmakers that that attack in Libya appeared to have been carried out by “well-armed” people who “seized on the opportunity” that the protests provided.
He said U.S. officials are still investigating the attacks but have yet to find specific evidence of “substantial advanced planning or coordination” by the attackers. National security officials will be conducting a classified briefing on the issue for congressional lawmakers on Thursday.