Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed 4 Americans. (AP Image)
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(AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton insisted on Wednesday
that the department is moving swiftly and aggressively to strengthen
security at U.S. missions worldwide after the deadly Sept. 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.
Her voice cracking at times, Clinton said the work was highly personal.
stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped
caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and
fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters," she said.
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
"Nobody is more committed
to getting this right," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer,
stronger, and more secure."
focused not only on the attack but the growing threat from extremists in
northern Africa, pointing out that Libya was not an isolated incident.
Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security
forces across the region," she said. "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
She said the Obama administration is
pressing for a greater understanding of the hostage-taking and rescue
effort there that left three Americans dead.
a packed hearing room, Clinton parried tough questions from
Republicans, offering a detailed timeline of events on Sept. 11 and the
Obama administration efforts to aid the Americans in Libya while
simultaneously dealing with protests in Cairo and other countries.
She also took House Republicans to task for recently stripping $1 billion in security aid from the hurricane relief bill.
something of a valedictory, Clinton noted her robust itinerary in four
years and her work, nearly 1 million miles and 112 countries.
faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time
that blue and white airplane carrying the words "United States of
America" touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it
is to represent the world's indispensable nation. And I am confident
that, with your help, we will continue to keep the United States safe,
strong, and exceptional."
Clinton is the sole witness at back-to-back hearings before the Senate and House foreign policy panels on the September raid.
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.
Absent from the
hearing was Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the man tapped to succeed Clinton.
His swift Senate confirmation is widely expected. Kerry's confirmation
hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
testimony was focusing on the Libya attack after more than three months
of Republican charges that the Obama administration ignored signs of a
deteriorating security situation there 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-Qaida
carried out the attack.
"It's been a cover-up
from the beginning," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the newest member of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday.
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
A poll early last month by
the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found 65 percent
of Americans held a favorable impression of Clinton, compared with 29
On the panel at the
hearing were two possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates -
Florida's Marco Rubio and Kentucky's Rand Paul, also a new member of the
Clinton did little to quiet the
presidential chatter earlier this month when she returned to work at the
State Department after her illness. On the subject of retirement, she
said, "I don't know if that is a word I would use, but certainly
stepping off the very fast track for a little while."
respect to Benghazi, the State Department review singled out the Bureau
of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs, saying
there appeared to be a lack of cooperation and confusion over protection
at the mission in Benghazi. The report described a security vacuum in
Libya after rebel forces toppled the decades-long regime of strongman
The report made 29 recommendations to improve diplomatic security, particularly at high-threat posts.
for the number of State Department employees fired for their handling
of Benghazi, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said four people
were put on administrative leave. They included Eric Boswell, who
resigned from the position of assistant secretary of diplomatic
But Nuland declined to say if Boswell and the others still are working for the department in some capacity.