Hillary takes onus for security failure in Libya
Washington: In an effort to deflate the Republican attack from the White House ahead of presidential elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday took the "responsibility" for the failure to defend the attack on the US Consulate in Libya that left four Americans dead.
"I take this very personally," Clinton told the CNN in an interview in Lima, the capital of Peru.
"So we're going to get to the bottom of it, and then we're going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again, and then we're going to work to bring whoever did this to us to justice," she said.
Clinton was responding to questions on terrorist attack on the Benghazi Consulate last month that left US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others dead.
The Obama Administration initially attributed this to an anti-Islam video that resulted in an instant protest. Later, the administration dubbed it as a terrorist attack.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden said the White House did not know of requests to enhance security at Benghazi, contradicting testimony by State Department employees that requests had been made and rejected.
"In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion. I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We've gotten more detail, but that's not surprising. That always happens," Clinton told the CNN.
"What I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game. I know that we're very close to an election. I want to just take a step back here and say from my own experience, we are at our best as Americans when we pull together. I've done that with Democratic presidents and Republican presidents," Clinton said.
Top Republican Senators were quick to describe Clinton's remark as a "laudable gesture" but said President Barack Obama also bears responsibility for this portrayal of the attack.
In her CNN interview, Clinton described the desperate scene in the State Department during the hours of the attack.
"This was a many-hour ordeal that we were all involved in, and I was deeply concerned as you would obviously assume, to hear about an attack," she said.
Not only was the picture coming out of Libya murky, but also, "Then we couldn't find Ambassador Stevens, and we were trying desperately to figure out what happened to him and to Sean Smith and to the others who were there."
She said her mission now is to make sure such an attack will never happen again, and also to ensure the work of American diplomats won't be stopped even in dangerous areas like Benghazi.
"We can't retreat. We have to continue to lead. We have to be engaged," she said.
Her remarks drew a quick response from three Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, including ranking member John McCain.
"We have just learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has claimed full responsibility for any failure to secure our people and our Consulate in Benghazi prior to the attack of September 11, 2012. This is a laudable gesture, especially when the White House is trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever," McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said in a late night statement.
"If the President was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of September 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred. The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there," the Senators said.
"Furthermore, there is the separate issue of the insistence by members of the Administration, including the President himself, that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video, long after it had become clear that the real cause was a terrorist attack.
"The President also bears responsibility for this portrayal of the attack, and we continue to believe that the American people deserve to know why the Administration acted as it did," they said.