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Clinton says consulate security her responsibility

6:17 AM, Oct 16, 2012   |    comments
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is taking responsibility for security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya where an attack by extremists last month killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Pushing back against Republican criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the situation, Clinton said here Monday that security at all of America's diplomatic missions abroad is her job, not that of the White House.

"I take responsibility," she told CNN. "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world (at) 275 posts. The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They're the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs."

Only weeks before the presidential election, the outrage has crystallized around Vice President Biden for claiming in last week's debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that "we weren't told" about requests for extra security at the consulate where assailants killed the Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Congressional hearings revealed the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi. Spokesmen for both the State Department and the White House took pains Friday to make clear that Biden's "we" referred to the White House, where such requests would not go.

"In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there's always going to be confusion," Clinton told CNN. "And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We've gotten more detail, but that's not surprising. That always happens."

She said: "What I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game."

There are three separate investigations into the attack going on now: an FBI probe into the deaths of the four Americans, an independent inquiry by a panel appointed by Clinton and the congressional hearings. Stevens was among the four killed in the attack, which came on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Three Republican senators said late Monday that Clinton's claim was "a laudable gesture," but they put the responsibility on President Obama and his national security team.

"If the president was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the president informed. But if the president was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of Sept. 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred," Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said in a statement.

Associated Press

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