Washington: Hillary Rodham Clinton firmly defended her actions on Benghazi as she came face-to-face on Thursday with the Republican-led special investigation of the 2012 attacks on a US diplomatic mission in the Libyan city, hoping to put to rest the worst episode of her tenure as secretary of state and clear an obstacle to her presidential campaign.
Democrats have assailed the investigation as a ploy to derail Clinton's White House bid.
The hearing comes at a moment of political strength for Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Today, a potential rival for the nomination, Vice President Joe Biden, announced he would not join the race. Clinton also is riding the momentum of a solid debate performance last week.
Clinton kicked off a long day of questioning with a plea that the United States maintain its global leadership role despite the threat posed to US diplomats. She hailed the efforts of the four Americans who died in the September 11, 2012, attacks, including the first ambassador in more than three decades, but told the House Benghazi Committee that the deadly events have already been exhaustively scrutinised.
"We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad, leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology" Clinton said in her opening remarks, the closest she came to directly rebuking her Republican investigators.
Rep Trey Gowdy of South Carolina started the hearing with a series of questions that he said remained unanswered: Why was the US. In Libya, why were security requests denied, why was the military not ready to respond quickly on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and why did the Obama administration change its story about the nature of the attacks in the weeks afterward?
"These questions linger because previous investigations were not thorough," Gowdy said.
Clinton addressed some of these matters early on. She stressed a need for diplomats to advance US interests in the world, even in dangerous places, and said perfect security can never be achieved. She noted the various attacks on US diplomatic and military installations overseas during the presidencies of her husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s and Ronald Reagan a decade earlier.
The US military campaign against Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 helped prevent "genocide," Clinton asserted, noting the Libyan dictator's threat to hunt down opponents like "cockroaches."
The American-led intervention came after requests for assistance from allies in Europe and the Arab world, and extensive study and discussion by the US government, she said.