Hillary Clinton defends handling of Benghazi attack


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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    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!"
    How does she expect us to believe her if she says lies do not matter?
    How does she expect to prevent future deaths by lies about the reason for the killings?
    How can anyone defend this insanity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    This was just the Senate.Wait 'til she has to explain to the House.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Not surprised. Many of us don't believe the Arab Spring is totally above board. None (that I know) believed in WMD either. The list is long and the dirtier it is ....there is the USA. Some Americans may agree/disagree with me but most US citizens are probably watching 'reality' tv.

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    #38. You are right it is terrible, but my point is that some politicians are using this to gain points. They are not admitting that they voted to cut funding and then saying that there isn't enough security. That is what annoys me about them. I wish that Hillary had called them out some more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    58. Irene

    Did they lie, or was there a lot of confusion about why what happened, happened? There is a huge difference between a lie and a mistake.

    Are those accusing the Administration of lying doing so based on the actual evidence, or because they dislike this Administration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    What difference does it make? This administration has lied about this from day 1. THAT is what difference if makes. There is no respect from these people, they make jokes at the expense of everyone else, demeans those that don't agree with them and now she says What difference does it make? Ask the families that you got killed what difference it makes

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Stunned by the hatred spewed here by the left. Does no one care about accountability? How can we complain about dirty restaurants, chemicals in our foods, crooked businessmen, etc. when we ignore the avoidable death of 4 Americans... we are all guilty, lazy, slovenly killers who owe these 4 who sacrificed themselves some honesty and accountability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Let's put this into perspective. Hindsight is always 100% accurate. It's easy to be 'wise' after the event. Having foresight is a far more difficult, and unpredictable, talent. No Administration in US history has been able to provide 100% security for all Americans everywhere, or even in 'dangerous territories'. Clinton is right, stop trying to point fingers and start working to fix the issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @Clayton Dale

    Hear hear! Perfectly put.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I laugh when I hear that our Congress is holding hearings and attempting to hold people accountable.
    Something needs to be done about it, but for these elected officials to to hold someone accountable, when they themselves are not accountable for their stunning lack of progress, or to the people that elected them, but to the corpoations that write checks to their accounts makes me chuckle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    The Obama administration failed in Libya. Four Americans died. Obama and Clinton both did try to deceive the public with claims about a video being responsible. Clinton should have lost her job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    46 milton
    We would welcome her with open arms. She is so much better than anything we currently have and I mean anything.

  • Comment number 51.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    How can we believe that Secretary Clinton was aware of the inadequate security at the U. S. consulate in Benghazi sooner than us! Such matters are handled by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which doesn't report to the secretary but instead to the Undersecretary for Management who reports to Clinton. Clinton has spent her time doing active diplomacy primarily. The employees are civil service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Please make the correction...Rand Paul is from Kentucky...not Tennessee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Umm Rand Paul is a Senator from Kentucky, not Tennessee, though tomato/tomatoe.

    Hillary Clinton HAS owned this issue and continues to pursue the truth. Can the same be said for the Republicans on ANYTHING these days? No. They are show boaters and obstructionist, period, end of sentence and end of thought processing for them. Grand Ole Prats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    As The Sec State the buck stops with her... Own it Mrs. Clinton... That is the responsibility of being in charge... Good people died on your watch...

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    To make you Brits even madder, she is applying for British citizenship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Have terrorists found America's Achilles heel? Read UNLEASHING COLTER'S HELL


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