Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s voice cracked today during the Senate testimony about the investigation into the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11.
She grew emotional at one point as she discussed the four American victims of the Benghazi attack, saying the incident is not just about ‘policy, it’s personal.’
‘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, her voice shaking.
‘I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews.
‘As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility,’ Mrs Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
She insisted on Wednesday that the department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen security at U.S. missions worldwide after the deadly September 11 raid on the consulate in Libya.
In probably her last appearance on Capitol Hill as America’s top diplomat, Clinton once again took full responsibility for the department’s missteps leading up to assault at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Mrs Clinton alternated between being feisty and emotional in her responses, though one thing that did not change throughout the hearing was that Senators- from both parties- praised her service to the country in her most recent governmental role.
‘It’s wonderful to see you in good health and as combative as ever,’ said Senator John McCain, who has long been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi investigation.
Clinton said the department is implementing the 29 recommendations of an independent review board that harshly criticized the department as well as going above and beyond the proposals, with a special focus on high-threat posts.
‘Make no mistake about it, we have got to have a better strategy,’ she said.
She also defended the State Department’s immediate response to the attacks, saying it was ‘timely and exceptional’ and ‘saved American lives.’
But she noted that the U.S. is facing ‘increasingly complex threats.’
‘We should never forget that our security professionals get it right more than 99 per cent of the time,’ she said.
But ‘we have been facing a rapidly changing threat environment,’ she added.
‘We now face a spreading jihadist threat. We have to recognize this is a global movement.’
Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, insisted that the attack could have been prevented.
‘There were systemic (security) deficiencies and I know you know that,’ Mr Corker said to Mrs Clinton. ‘To my knowledge no one has been held accountable.’
He referred to cables showing that Ambassador Stevens had asked for greater security at the consulate prior to the attack.
‘These officials were screaming out for more security,’ he said.
In response to those charges, Clinton said, ‘We can’t think now about what could have, should have, would have happened.’
‘Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum,’ she said.
‘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.’
Clinton was the sole witness at back-to-back hearings before the Senate and House foreign policy panels on the September raid, the independent panel’s review and steps the Obama administration has taken to beef up security at U.S. facilities worldwide.
Clinton had been scheduled to testify before Congress last month, but an illness, a concussion and a blood clot near her brain forced her to postpone her appearance.
Her marathon day on Capitol Hill will probably be her last in Congress before she steps down as secretary of state.
President Barack Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry to succeed her as Secretary of State, and his swift Senate confirmation is widely expected. Kerry’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Clinton’s testimony was to focus on the attack after more than three months of Republican charges that the Obama administration ignored signs of a deteriorating security situation in Libya and cast an act of terrorism as mere protests over an anti-Muslim video in the heat of a presidential election. Washington officials suspect that militants linked to Al Qaeda carried out the attack.
‘It’s been a cover-up from the beginning,’ said Senator John McCain, the newest member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Politics play an outsized role in any appearance by Clinton, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and is the subject of constant speculation about a possible bid in 2016.
The former first lady and New York senator — a polarizing figure dogged by controversy — is about to end her four-year tenure at the State Department with high favorable ratings.
A poll early last month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 65 per cent of Americans held a favorable impression of Clinton, compared with 29 per cent unfavorable.
Challenging Clinton at the hearing will be two possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates — Florida’s Marco Rubio and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, also a new member of the committee.