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January 22, 2013

Clinton Prepares for Benghazi Testimony

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is preparing to testify before Congress Wednesday on security failures associated with last September's attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.  

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Secretary Clinton will focus on what U.S. diplomats are doing to put in place recommendations from an Accountability Review Board investigation into the Benghazi attack.

"You will recall that she pledged not only to accept all 29 of the recommendations, but to have the implementation of those recommendations well under way before her successor took over.  So I think she will want to give a status on that," Nuland said.

The independent review found what it called "profoundly weak" security at the Benghazi compound and a "pervasive realization" among people who served there "that the special mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security."

Republican lawmakers on the congressional committees before which Clinton will appear have questioned why U.S. diplomats were in Benghazi last September 11, given documented concern about security there.

There was also political fallout over the Obama administration initially blaming the violence on Islamist protests and not on a terrorist attack as has now been established.

From the start, Nuland says, Secretary Clinton has taken responsibility for what went wrong. "There was no question at any point in those statements that she considered it her responsibility to learn the lessons from this and to take the Department forward," Nuland said.

This likely will be Secretary Clinton's last congressional testimony before stepping down as secretary of state. She was to have answered these questions back in December, but was excused after fainting at home while recovering from a stomach virus.