WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at times emotional and fierce, insisted on Wednesday that the department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen security at U.S. missions worldwide after the deadly Sept. 11 raid on the consulate in Libya.
In her last formal testimony on Capitol Hill as America's top diplomat — but perhaps not her last time on the political stage — Clinton once again took full responsibility for the department's missteps leading up to an assault at the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Her voice cracking at one point, Clinton said the experience was highly personal. I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a jam-packed hearing.
Her voice rising to Republicans' challenges at another point, she defended the Obama administration and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was vilified for widely debunked claims five days after the attack that protests precipitated the raid rather than terrorism. She challenged the GOP focus on Rice's comments, which were based on intelligence talking points.
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? What difference, at this point, does it make? a clearly exasperated and angry Clinton told Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.
She insisted that people were trying in real time to get to the best information, and that her focus was on looking ahead on how to improve security rather than revisiting the talking points and Rice's television appearance.
Clinton took Republicans to task, chiding House GOP members for recently stripping $1 billion in security aid from the hurricane relief bill and the Senate panel for failing for years to produce an authorization bill.