On September 11, two American diplomatic compounds were attacked in Benghazi, Libya. Four American diplomats were killed by heavily armed militants. Though the exact reason for the attack is unclear, there was some speculation that it was provoked by an anti-Muslim video. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton testified in court on January 22 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the attack.
Responsibility was a key word in Clinton’s statements. With an expanding number of foreign threats, Clinton declared she had “no higher priority and no greater responsibility” as Secretary. She took personal responsibility for the attack and stated her dedication to a “safer, stronger, and more secure” State Department and country. She also discussed the responsibility Americans and soldiers have to their country. According to Clinton, after significant acts of violence occur abroad, the number of soldiers enlisting in the Foreign Service rise.
As for the reason of the attack, an independent investigation was launched to find out exactly what happened. In the questioning following her testimony, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson asked about the initial response to the attack and the department’s effectiveness. This prompted Clinton to defensively say “was it because of a protest or… guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again….”
After the attack, Clinton worked with American and Libyan government officials while directing the State Department’s response. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman Michael Mullin, who both led the Accountability Review Board, called their work “timely and exceptional coordination.” The board works to determine how the attack happened, how to prevent it in the future and give recommendations for management and resources. A number of these recommendations have been put into action to improve safety and response.
With attacks and protests occurring around the world in the 270 posts where American diplomats serve, Clinton ordered a security posture assessment on the number of posts in potential danger. The Department of Defense worked with security assessment teams to evaluate and improve the safety of high-threat posts.
Clinton made it clear that learning from deaths and attacks is a big priority. She took the opportunity to expand on other acts of terrorism, including the Algerian hostage crisis. Since 1977, 65 American diplomats have been killed in terrorist attacks. However, there have been countless plots and possible attacks stopped by security professionals.
Despite recent criticism, Clinton nearly choked up as she said, “The United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known.”
After four years of working in a job where she sees first-hand the effects of conflict, terror, and attacks around the world, she is more determined to “keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional.”
The US State Department oversees international relations and is run by the Secretary of State. Holding this position for the past four years, Hilary Clinton will be replaced by former presidential candidate, John Kerry.