Hilary Clinton chokes up defending handling of Benghazi attack that killed US ambassador

 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton choked up today as she defended her handling of the September 11 attack on the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi, an event that threatens to stain her legacy and any presidential hopes she may still harbour.

By turns emotional and feisty, Clinton told US lawmakers that she took responsibility for the incident in which US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, but also defended herself.

She interrupted one senator to contradict him and stressed that she did not see requests for additional security to protect the Benghazi mission.

Clinton cast the incident as part of a long history of such violence as well as the result of regional instability since the Arab Spring of popular revolutions began in 2011.

Senator Bob Corker, a senior Republican, kept up the criticism of the Obama administration, saying the Benghazi attack and the US response displayed "woeful unpreparedness" for the events sweeping the region.

Speaking in congressional testimony delayed by more than a month because of her ill health, Clinton's voice cracked as she spoke of comforting families who lost loved ones in the attack, the first since 1988 in which a US ambassador was killed.

"For me, this is not just a matter of policy - it's personal," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on what is likely to be the last day that she will testify before Congress before stepping down as secretary of state.

"I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews," she added, her voice breaking as she described the ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base when the men's remains were brought home.

"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.

The attack could haunt Clinton - who is expected to step down in the coming days once her designated successor, Senator John Kerry, is confirmed by the US Senate - should she decide to run again for president in 2016, a possibility she has played down.

Militants attacked and overwhelmed the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, on 11 September in a sustained assault.

The official inquiry concluded that the State Department was completely unprepared to deal with the attack, citing "leadership and management" deficiencies, poor coordination and unclear lines of authority in Washington. The inquiry did not find Clinton personally at fault.

"I take responsibility," Clinton said, echoing comments she first made in a TV interview on 15 October and stressing that she has accepted all of the recommendations of an independent review panel that ultimately held lower-level officials responsible.

"Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure," she added.

Four State Department officials were put on administrative leave following the board's report.

A separate Senate committee report said the State Department made a "grievous mistake" in keeping the Benghazi mission open despite inadequate security and increasingly alarming threat assessments in the weeks before the attack.

Clinton was due to testify later in the day before a House of Representatives committee.

Clinton was originally due to appear before the committee on 20 December but had to cancel after she suffered a concussion when she fainted due to dehydration. Doctors later found she had a blood clot in her head and hospitalised her for several days.

The controversy over the Benghazi attack also cost Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, her chance to succeed Clinton as secretary of state.

Republicans in Congress harshly criticized Rice for her comments days after the attack in which she said the incident appeared to be the result of a spontaneous demonstration rather than a planned assault. Rice eventually withdrew her name from consideration for the top US diplomatic job.

Clinton implicitly sought to defend herself against similar attacks, saying that "the very next morning I told the American people that 'heavily armed militants assaulted our compound' and vowed to bring them to justice."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin