Clinton warning over deadly Benghazi attack
Secretary of state tells Senate inquiry raid on US mission in Libya was a sign of rising militancy
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned yesterday of rising militancy in the wake of the Arab Spring, in an emotional and at times heated testimony into the deadly Benghazi attack.
"Benghazi didn't happen in a vacuum," Clinton said at the start of a Senate hearing into the September 11 assault on a US mission in eastern Libya.
"The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region," she told the Foreign Relations committee called to review the lessons learned from the attack, in which US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The top US diplomat choked back a sob as she described having to call the families with the news that Stevens, and information manager Sean Smith, had been killed.
Appearing at her last congressional hearings before she steps down later this month, Clinton reiterated that she took full responsibility for security deficiencies at the mission.
But showing no signs of her long period of ill-health, the top US diplomat angrily defended the administration of President Barack Obama and ambassador Susan Rice against charges that they had sought to cover up the true events surrounding the attack.
"What difference does it make?" she demanded, thumping her fist on the table as Senator Ron Johnson repeatedly asked her why the administration had falsely initially blamed the deadly attack on protests outside the mission.
"It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator."
Clinton insisted there was no greater priority than protecting the State Department's 70,000 staff in 275 posts around the world, saying she had already moved to implement the recommendations of an internal review to boost security. "This is not just a matter of policy. It's personal.
"I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews" air force base, Clinton told the senators.
Her testimony comes on the eve of a Senate hearing to confirm her successor, Senator John Kerry, who is expected to be easily voted in and could take over within days as the top US diplomat.