Hillary Clinton defends handling of Benghazi attack


Hillary Clinton: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Related Stories

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has angrily defended her handling of the raid on a US consulate in Libya, in back-to-back hearings on Capitol Hill.

Mrs Clinton lashed out at a senator who accused the Obama administration of misleading the public.

She took responsibility for security failures that led to the 11 September attack but said she had not seen requests for more security beforehand.

It was her last appearance at Congress as America's top diplomat.

"Nobody is more committed to getting this right," Mrs Clinton told the Senate foreign relations committee.

"I am determined to leave the state department and our country safer, stronger and more secure," she added.

Emotional testimony

She was questioned about the raid on 11 September last year on the US consulate in Benghazi that left the US envoy to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other officials dead.

At the scene

Four months after the attack on Benghazi, Mrs Clinton has finally testified in an open hearing in Congress about what happened, how her department and the administration handed it, and how to move forward.

She will hope her long-awaited appearance before Congress will defuse some of the political acrimony that has engulfed the debate about Benghazi. Much was at stake in this hearing, not just for Mr Obama's foreign policy in his second term and how Republicans will interact with his administration, but also for Mrs Clinton herself. This is her last high-profile public appearance before she steps down in a couple of weeks.

The ambassador died of smoke inhalation when he was trapped in the burning consulate building, after armed men stormed the compound.

The assault triggered a major political row over who knew what and when.

The incident became an issue in the presidential campaign, and outrage in Congress led the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, to withdraw from the race to succeed Mrs Clinton.

Last November, Ms Rice admitted releasing incorrect information after the Benghazi attack - she said on a Sunday chat show on 16 September that the attack had stemmed from an anti-US protest.

Ms Rice later said there had been no attempt to mislead the public, but Republicans were unconvinced.

At Wednesday's Senate hearing, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, said: "We were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that."

Mrs Clinton replied with a raised voice: "But with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans - was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans."

Thumping the table four times, she added: "What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator."

Hillary Clinton said the US needed to 'figure out how to support emerging democracies in North Africa'

In another tense moment, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said Mrs Clinton's acknowledgement that she had not read the cables from Libya seeking additional security ahead of the attack was "inexcusable".

"Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables," he said, "I would have relieved you of your post."

Mrs Clinton told the senators her department was implementing - as well as going above and beyond - 29 recommendations by an independent panel that investigated the incident.

Earlier, Mrs Clinton's voice cracked with emotion as she described the moment she and President Barack Obama welcomed home the coffins of those killed in the Benghazi attacks.

"I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children," she said.

Mrs Clinton testified in the afternoon before the House foreign affairs committee, where Republican members pressed her on why cables and other memos about security deficiencies in Benghazi seemed to have been ignored.

"The dots here were connected ahead of time. The state department saw this was coming," said Representative Ed Royce, a Republican and the chairman of the panel. "The state department didn't act."

Four state department employees have been put on administrative leave over the Benghazi attack.

Mrs Clinton, who is stepping down from her post in two weeks, has spent a month recuperating from a series of ailments in December, which delayed her testimony.

She is considered a strong candidate for the Democratic nomination for president should she run in 2016.

Mr Obama has nominated Democratic Senator John Kerry to replace her as Secretary of State.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Republicans are desperate to convince themselves they really matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Rand Paul is a Senator from Kentucky, not from Tennessee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Independent report on events at Bengazhi can be found here:

    State Department officials did provide adequate security. No evidence of protest. Hope the lesson's learned are implemented.

  • Comment number 41.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Clinton snapped: "What difference at this point does it make?"
    ...so now we know why the truth couldn't be told back when they lied. Then, it would have made a difference; now, who cares "we won!"
    Next 4 years start just like the last 4 years. ...sorry the poor will still have no jobs and will continue to live on the scraps our politicians drop from their table.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    No harm to Hilary, she has shown real class with the antics of her husband.What I feel deserves closer scrutiny is the CIA being allowed to add any name to a Kill List for drones, that's the major foreign policy gaffe, not an unforeseen incident that they are all blaming Mrs Clinton for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    6. James
    Where do you get your information? 149 democrats and 147 republicans of the House voted to cut funding on embassy security. Not that one life matters more than another, but it's a big deal when an ambassador himself is killed in an attack. The fact that it was planned to celebrate the 9/11 anniversary is sick; the fact that our leaders lied to us about it is unforgiveable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Clinton has proved that she is a worthlessl. She has now doomed any further political ambitions. A remark to the rest of the world outside of the US...KISS OUR BACKSIDES AND MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. Frankly we do not give a d*mn about your opinions. Unlike those in the European Union, we like our independence as a country and you need to solve your problems within your parasitic society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The suggestion anyone in the Obama administration mis-lead the public makes no sense except in the context of the presidential race. The Republicans exaggerated every mis-stept to boost their doomed campaign.
    The failure was of imbedded procedures we now see as inadequate. The fixes will be very Hi-Tech and will not be known to the public.
    It is disappointing for this to be a political football.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Mrs Clinton has done a good job in her position and maybe even better than her boss Obama. It is a pity that she has to go under a cloud due to failure to secure the lives of the ambassador & staff.

  • Comment number 34.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    There’s a huge bureaucratic web in a field where a myriad of information comes and goes through countless levels involving countless people. When things like Benghazi happen, the issue becomes trapped in the usual and inevitable bureaucratic muck, and it’s far easier to blame high-level officials for mistakes. Add the convenience of partisan politics and you get this storm of controversy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    There was a coverup.There weren't street riots over a film on YouTube that day in Benghazi. The Ambassador had asked for more security and was denied it.There was no response from the White House.Senator Clinton's indignation is as self serving and irrational as it is unjustified.A lot of people in the administration screwed up badly and the Public knows it.Worse is they lied about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Rand Paul is a walking example of everything that is wrong with Congress. The hearings are nothing more than congressional grandstanding and he is the worst culprit. Keep on saying "if" you were president because that is as close as you will ever get to actually being president.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Every US Secretary of Defence is a war criminal (untried and untriable?) from McNamara to Kissinger (indicted in several countries) to Rumsfeld to Clinton. That is their job - to further the agenda, invade, control and gain resources, all under the illusion of 'being a force for good'. Ambassador Stevens was sacrificed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Yes , 4 lives were lost.Everyone forgets how many lives have been lost due to Channeys LIES about weapons of mass destruction!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Hillary is the credible face of an administration in shambles, that did not protect its overseas units and left its diplomats exposed to murder. What incompetence!

    Poor Hillary has the face the music. She should have stayed aloof from the Obama administration: look what's happened - the murdered diplomats & the stain on Hillary's career.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Hilary Clinton makes me proud to be an American and from Illinois - her home state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Politics in the USA is revoltingly dividing and the people deserve better than the grandstanding of these terrible people who are trying to make political hay from this.

    I submit that somebody needs to impose a government of reason upon the US. Who is going to do that? What about the Americans? They are great at doing that to other countries! Oh... wait....

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    “was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans?”

    Those are the only options you can think of, Sec of State? Give us a break and cut the childish lawyer-speak.


Page 6 of 8


More US & Canada stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.