US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making it clear that she thinks she – and not the White House – is responsible for the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
“I take responsibility,” she said in a round of interviews from Lima, Peru.
"I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world at 275 posts,” she said to CNN. “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 and make a considered decision."
The Obama Administration has come under fire from critics since the attacks for changing information about what happened, who was behind the attack and why.
In televised Sunday morning interviews five days after the attack, UN Ambassador Susan Rice reiterated early assertions that the attack was spontaneous, and came during a protest over an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Critics said Rice was downplaying information that indicated the attack had been planned by terrorists.
The topic also came up during last week’s vice presidential debate, when Vice President Joe Biden said he was not aware of a diplomatic request for more security in Libya. That claim contradicted sworn statements from State Department officials and security workers.
“I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to who said what when but I think what happened is more important. We were attacked, and four brave Americans were killed,” Clinton said to CBS News. “Everybody in the administration has tried to say what we knew at the time with the caveat that we would learn more, and that’s what has happened.”
Three Republican senators – including Sen. John McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, said the blame belongs to the White House.
“This is a laudable gesture, especially when the White House is trying to avoid any responsibility whatsoever,” the three senators said in a statement released late Monday. “However, we must remember that the events of September 11 were preceded by an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi…The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there. ”
Clinton spoke on the eve of Tuesday’s second presidential debate, when President Obama is likely to be asked about the attacks in Benghazi.
"I want to avoid some kind of political 'gotcha,'" Clinton told CNN.