U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head to Congress Jan. 23 to testify about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
After a series of delays in her appearance, which included a medical emergency when Clinton fell, hit her head and suffered a blood clot near her brain, Clinton is set to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the morning and the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the afternoon.
Clinton, who will likely be succeeded by President Barack Obama’s nominee, Sen. John Kerry, in the coming weeks, had pledged to testify before a new secretary of state was confirmed.
“Tomorrow, both on the Senate side and on the House side, members of Congress will have a chance to hear what the secretary has to say, but also to ask her any remaining questions that they have on this matter,” Victoria Nuland, State Department spokeswoman, said at a press briefing Jan. 22.
“She will focus, not only on the ARB (Accountability Review Board) report, but on all the work that the department has done already to implement the ARB report, and give a status on that, and an update on the work that remains.”
The ARB report, mandated by law following serious injury or death at a U.S. site abroad, was critical of State Department leadership and planning, but spared Clinton any immediate blame. Released in December, the report emphasized the need for funding to support the security of diplomatic activities overseas, and blamed a “misplaced” dependence on local Libyan security forces and “system failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” for creating greater risk.
Since the report was released, four officials have been placed on administrative leave, and one of those four, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Eric Boswell, resigned.
In all, the report included more than two dozen recommendations for action following the incident.
“She pledged not only to accept all 29 of the recommendations, but to have the implementation of those recommendations well underway before her successor took over,” Nuland said. “So I think she’ll want to give a status on that.”
Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that he will hand the gavel to another senator for the morning hearing because he will be testifying before the committee the following day as part of his confirmation process for Clinton’s job.
The timing of her appearance on the hill became the subject of controversy after the State Department announced days before the release of the ARB report that Clinton had fainted and hit her head as the result of a stomach virus. Several outside commentators, including former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, accused Clinton of feigning illness. When Clinton was diagnosed with a concussion, and then the blood clot was discovered, the conspiracy theories subsided.
Several prominent Republicans have repeated claims that insufficient information about the attacks has been made available, and misleading public comments about the incident that referenced protests against a film that crudely caricatured the prophet Mohammed sank the candidacy of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice.
Clinton will likely face numerous questions about whether the agency should have predicted the attack, and whether it should have immediately laid blame for the attack at the feet of terrorist groups.