U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies on the September attack on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya during a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington January 23, 2013. (Photo : Reuters)
Hillary Clinton finally gets a chance to tell her side of the story.
Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning about the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that left four Americans dead, including the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens.
At issue is whether the Obama administration adequately heeded requests for more security before the attack, and Republican claims that the administration tried to blame the attacks on a spontaneous mob rather than a coordinated offensive by Al Qaeda.
A report by an Accountability Review Board (ARB) cited by Republicans at the hearing said, "Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place."
In response, Clinton was contrite. "As I have said many times, I take responsibility," she said.
She detailed the sequence of events during the attack, as well as the overall situation in the region.
"Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum," she said. "The Arab revolutions have scattered power dynamics."
These attacks aren't new, "but we have been facing a rapidly changing threat environment," she said. "We continue to hunt the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi."
In response to a softball question from Democrats, Clinton talked about picking the site for the diplomatic compound, which was hand-selected by Ambassador Stevens. "We were constantly asking what was the best place," she said. "We continued to try to upgrade the facility that was attacked."
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the highest ranked Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, pressed Clinton on why no one has been held accountable for the lapse in security at the Benghazi compound. "To my knowledge, no one was held accountable."
"These officials were screaming out for more security," he said of the ambassador and his team.
In response, Clinton pointed out that most investigations happen internally, not in a public forum like Republicans have demanded. "We've had 19 ARBs since 1988", she said. "Only two have ever been unclassified," one on the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, and this one.
"This committee never had a public hearing about the 17 other ARBs because they're classified," Clinton said.
Clinton will answer question from the committee all morning. At 2:00 p.m. EST, she will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. These testimonies will be some of her last obligations as Secretary of State, as she is expected to step down soon to retire, relinquishing her post to Sen. John Kerry, perhaps to contemplate a run for president in 2016.