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 144.

    Personally Congress, you need to focus on more immediate threats than something that could have, would have, did happen, when you put people in a volatile environment.
    As for Mrs C, she has accepted responsibility for this oversight, so read the official reports in your spare time. And get back to helping protect this country from it's enemies within!

  • Comment number 143.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Mrs.Clinton you have done an extraordinary job during your tenure at the State Department. America is in a better place today on the international scene because of your open-minded, open-ended approach to tackle international politics and crisis. This event was indeed an unfortunate tragedy but should not deterre you from pursuing your political career...Senator Mc Cain should retire....

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Indeed Mrs Clinton...doesn't matter what 4 guys were doing in Benghazi, they are dead now.....Even if they were gathering and doing the logistics to deliver weapons to the Syrian Rebels. Nothing is for random...

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Let me clue you in, there are a lot of Americans that think G. Bush and Barack Obama should both be sharing the same jail cell along with most of their cohorts. Neither one has done a thing to improve America rather they have done their best to tear it apart, in an effort to improve their own parties standing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    She's done a tough job as well as anyone; even at the cost of her recent health scare & if she is back to full health & up to it, she should run for President in 2016 & she'd win. Since the Libyan war broke Al Qaeda & all other roaches would have being intermingled with US Gov. staff & would even have served them their breakfast. So what's the drama? The GOP would have made the same "Ferrago"!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    This was a prime example of a giant political intellect dealing wth intellectual pgymies. What an embarrasment our congress is. These things aren't about oversight they are bout posturing and political payback. Just imagine a hick like Rand Paul being President. Clinton answered all the questions that were asked in her opening statement. I like the best quoate"what difference does it make"

  • Comment number 137.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Clinton was a political patronage appointment and got to be SOS because she was a part of the Millionaires Club, the US Senate. Being a President's wife does not qualify as diplomatic experience. She put on too many miles on her travels but nothing to brag about as being diplomatic success. Condi was even worst. These hearings are a facade & waste of taxpayers money. GOP plan D to oust Obama

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    We couldn't tell the American public this was CIA trained and armed terrorists that murdered American citizens, so we made up a story about protesters and thought you were all too dumb to find out the truth but you did so that's why I'm angry, is what she meant to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Congress is a hot-bed of hindsight, isn't it? They always know what someone else should have done, they just don't have a clue what they should be doing. And given Rand Paul's lack of success running a presidential campaign, who cares what he would or would not have done?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Whew that was a long day for Hill!

    Due to federal laws the people held most responsible for this horrible incident are still on the government payroll because under current statutes what they should be fired for, neglect in leadership, is NOT something that they can, by law, remove them for. In comparison to the congress then she has done everything in her power thus far,can they say the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    You can sense in all this a vicious vindictiveness on the part of Republicans who still can not get over losing the November election. They are like ravenous dogs for the kill. They want somethng, anything, to hang on Obama but I never heard them say a word one word about the Bush administration's criminal conduct of the Iraq war they didn't even care about how the war was to be funded. Rot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    "We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act," President Barack Obama said. "And make no mistake, justice will be done."

    Aye? When?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    @121. DavidinUSA

    Obama must be laughing - her chances of being President in future are surely shattered. Mr President - suits you, sir!


    Doubtful. If it was within his power he would chose her as his successor.
    But She was never going to run 2016. I hate to say it but she will be 69 in 2016 That makes 73 in 2020 and therefore not electable.
    Unpopular attitude i know but the likely truth

  • Comment number 129.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 128.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    She can' actually be reading a statement about how badly she felt, can she?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I think Hilary Clinton have excellent speaking English. Does it she polite, listen etc. Both Hilary Clinton and William Hague private meeting. I am supporting vote for US president candidate in 2016, I really don't understand why explained to the US president Mr Obama.

  • Comment number 125.

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


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