Clinton: "It's Our Job" To Prevent Another Attack On U.S. Diplomats
Updated: Updated 01/23/2013 07:32 PM
By: Erin Billups
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before panels in the Senate and House of Representatives Wednesday about the deadly September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
WASHINGTON - Once again, Clinton took responsibility for how the State Department handled the raid that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
She said she is determined to leave the State Department and her country safer, stronger and more secure.
Clinton and Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, got into a heated exchange about the initial account of the attacks.
Johnson told the secretary of state, "We were misled that there was supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, and assaults sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact and the American people could've known that within days and they didn't know that."
Clinton responded, "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 and decided they'd go kill some Americans? 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."
The secretary of state became emotional when speaking about her time with the families of the victims of the Libyan raid.
"For me, this is not just a matter of policy. This is personal," Clinton said. "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag draped caskets off the plane at [Joint Base] Andrews. 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."
An independent review board was highly critical of how the State Department handled the attack and its aftermath and gave 29 recommendations on how to improve security for U.S. diplomatic missions.
Clinton's remorse was not enough though for several Republican lawmakers, who have been waiting for months to question her.
"The answers, frankly, that you've given this morning are not satisfactory to me," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona. "The American people deserve to know answers, and they certainly don't deserve false answers."
"I would have relieved you of your post," said Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. "I think it's inexcusable."
Senator Paul and others criticized the State Department's failure to provide additional security to the Benghazi outpost, which had been requested.
Democrats, meanwhile, praised Clinton for her implementation of a review board's recommendations following the deadly attack.
They also warned against a game of "gotcha" politics.
"We need to be clear eyed that there is blame to be shared right here in Congress," said Rep. Eliot Engel of Westchester.
Throughout the hearing, Clinton defended the State Department, and even pushed lawmakers for more funding to better secure U.S. embassies.
"We need your help to help us pay for what we're trying to do," she said.
Clinton was scheduled to testify in December, but her testimony was delayed by a concussion that sent her to the hospital with a blood clot.
This will be one of Clinton's final acts as secretary of state.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was nominated by President Barack Obama to be her successor.
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