Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to testify to Congress next week about the September terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Four months after the Benghazi attack that exposed startling flaws in U.S. diplomatic security, lawmakers will have their first chance to question Clinton about the incident, in what likely will be her final round of congressional testimony as America’s top diplomat.
In October, she said she bears ultimate responsibility for the security lapse.
“I take responsibility," Clinton said. "I am in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world.”
She was to testify last month, but illness and an accident forced a postponement.
Despite multiple investigations into the Benghazi debacle and the resignation of high-ranking State Department officials, lawmakers say questions remain about the September 11 attack. Among them: Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“Why was the State Department unprepared for an assault there," she asked. "Especially on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history?”
But Clinton’s testimony before House and Senate panels is likely to be mostly forward looking, said National security expert Rudy deLeon.
“What we are expecting to hear, in the secretary’s own voice, is the plan she has to reinvigorate and enhance diplomatic security services," he said. "What we are reminded of is how delicate the security situation is, and how attentively we need to stay focused.”
Will the Benghazi attack be a permanent and defining stain on Clinton’s tenure at the State Department? Former U.S. NATO Ambassador Robert Hunter does not think so.
“I do not think her image was at all tarnished by this. Secretary Clinton has set an incredible standard in the last four years in terms of America’s standing abroad, human rights, women’s rights,” Hunter said.
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher agrees.
“She has given this country 20 years of decent, good service. And I am not about to sling mud at her. She maybe made a bad call. She has made 20 years of good calls.”
Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Capitol Hill precedes a Senate confirmation hearing for President Barack Obama’s pick to be America’s next secretary of state, Senator John Kerry.