Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was questioned during a lengthy congressional hearing on Wednesday concerning the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya in September that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Clinton directed the focus toward increased security in the future, as her opponents criticized her for her immediate reaction following the attack.
The White House had claimed the attack was motivated by a contentious YouTube video that criticized Islam. Clinton admitted it was actually unclear at the time what the motivation was and said the administration should have told the American people so.
“We were misled that there were supposedly protests [over the video] and something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact,” Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said during the hearing, according to CNN. He added, “The American people could have known that within days.”
At a different point in the hearing, Clinton said, “If you wish to fault the administration, it’s that we didn’t have a clear picture, and we probably didn’t do as clear a job explaining that we did not have a clear picture, until days later, creating what I think are legitimate questions.”
Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, told Clinton that she should have been fired for not responding to diplomatic cables that came from Stevens for increased security in Benghazi.
“Had I been president at the time and I found out that you did not read the cables … I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable,” Paul said, according to USA Today.
Clinton said that she did not receive those requests.
She said that in the days following the attack, she appointed an Accountability Review Board, which has since made 29 recommendations on ways in which to improve security. She reported that all recommendations are being followed, and 85 percent of them are on track to being completed by March.
The Review Board’s report found coordination problems and unclear lines of authority, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune reports that the review did not find Clinton personally responsible, but that she is expected to step down once Sen. John Kerry is confirmed by the Senate as her successor.
Clinton noted that the region is insecure and that the late Ambassador Stevens also recognized the dangers, but opted to go to Libya because he realized the importance of the U.S. mission there.
“Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Clinton said, according to the transcript. “The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. And instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria.”
While seeking to improve security in the future, and while defending her actions following the September attack, Clinton took responsibility for the attack.
“As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.”
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