WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking full responsibility for the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during a terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last September.
During her testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton said that the State Department is moving aggressively to strengthen security at U.S. missions worldwide following the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
“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.”
Clinton defended United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice for her original comments blaming the deaths in Benghazi on protests over an anti-Muhammed film that generated deadly demonstrations across Muslim nations.
“Nothing could be further from the truth” that Rice mislead the public with her comments, Clinton said, adding that she “wasn’t involved in the talking points process.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., though, took issue with Clinton’s answers.
“The answers you’ve given so far this morning are not satisfactory to me,” McCain said. “The American people deserve to know answers, and they certainly don’t deserve false answers.”
Clinton’s testimony focused not only on the attack but the growing threat from extremists in northern Africa, pointing out that Libya was not an isolated incident.
“The 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 Algeria.”
She said the Obama administration is pressing for a greater understanding of the hostage-taking and rescue effort there that left three Americans dead.
In 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.
In something of a valedictory, Clinton noted her robust itinerary in four years and her work, nearly 1 million miles and 112 countries.
“My 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.
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.
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