Andreas Lubitz was not on any terror lists and had not been suspected of suspicious behavior. The 28-year-old German pilot allegedly brought down Germanwings Flight 9525 Tuesday, killing 150 people, after deliberately locking out his co-pilot from the cockpit, French Prosecutor Brice Robin of Marseille said Thursday.

Robin declined to describe the incident as terrorism or a suicide. Lubitz did not speak after the co-pilot left the cabin and was alive until the plane crashed, Robin said.

Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, said there had been no reason to question Lubitz's performance. Lubitz was "100 percent fit to fly, without any restrictions," Spohr said. Lufthansa is the parent company of Germanwings. 

Some expressed shock Thursday that prosecutors refused to call the plane crash an act of terrorism if they truly believed Lubitz was behind the mass killing. But terrorism experts say such labeling is often overused. 

"Ordinary citizens, the media, and politicians throw around the term ‘terrorism’ so loosely that in ordinary conversation it has lost all but the most vague meanings," Lance Janda, a military historian at Cameron University in Oklahoma, told PolitiFact. "Some folks use it as a catch-all term to describe attacks or events that they don't like rather than being more precise."

Terrorism generally involves violent acts intended to intimidate or coerce, but the label can be subjective. Even U.S. agencies have different definitions, with the State Department including attacks on "noncombatant targets," and the Department of Homeland Security focusing on "mass destruction."

French officials have been hesitant to describe the plane crash as an act of terrorism this week amid the investigation into why the plane went down. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday that a terrorist attack is "not the theory we're focusing on" although "all theories must be carefully examined until we have the results of the inquiry."

A White House spokesman also dismissed notions that terrorism was behind the plane crash in a remote area of the French Alps. "There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time," officials said Tuesday.

But others were quick to portray Lubitz as a terrorist after investigators said he deliberately crashed the plane.


Some defended Lubitz, noting that many details of the crash remain unknown.