By Dan Merica
Top Republicans and witnesses ripped the Obama administration's response to last year's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, calling key executive branch officials unresponsive in the critical hours after the assault and uncooperative in the investigations that followed.
Our goal "is to get answers because their families (of the victims) deserve answers," said California Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which heard from State Department "whistleblowers" at a hearing on Wednesday.
"The administration, however, has not been cooperative and unfortunately our (Democratic House) minority has mostly sat silent," he said.
Issa spoke prior to testimony from Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya; Mark Thompson, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; and Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya.
Follow CNN's live blog of the hearing here.
By CNN's Mary Grace Lucas
A NATO alliance where member nations are hamstrung by political and economic difficulties may be a militarily weakened one, former Secy. of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday night.
"NATO is turning into a two-tiered alliance with shrinking percentage of members willing – and able – to pay the price and bear the burdens of common defense," Clinton said. "Even in these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to let the greatest alliance in history slide into military irrelevance."
Clinton was speaking at an annual Atlantic Council awards dinner in Washington where both she and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen were honored with Distinguished Leadership awards.
Clinton praised Rasmussen roundly for his work. But she didn’t shy away from the idea that NATO nations needed to think ahead about a more evenly-shared responsibility when it comes to security and readiness.
By Jill Dougherty
The president's top diplomat said Friday he wasn't looking "backwards" at the White House quashing of a proposal last summer to arm the Syrian rebels, but was instead looking at what the United States will do regarding helping the opposition.
Last summer President Barack Obama's national security team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, backed a proposal to provide weapons to Syrian rebels but, U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday, the White House blocked the idea.
That rift was unexpectedly revealed Thursday in testimony on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked Panetta and Dempsey: "Did you support the recommendation by Secretary of State - then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA General Petraeus that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Do you support that?
By Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott
We have one confession to make right off the top: we have never seen Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sleeping. Informed sources say she does sleep and in her visits to 112 countries, logging nearly one million miles in the air during her four years in office, presumably she did catch a wink or two.
But travel with Clinton is a time warp where clocks and watches showing 24 hours seem inadequate to capture a full day with America’s top diplomat.
You’re simply on “Clinton time” and if you want to survive, you must forget Eastern Standard Time, local time or any other time. Just stick with eternal present time and you’ll survive. But bring your vitamins along.
When we interviewed Secretary Clinton in her last week in office, she described it as a “flying circus” and that’s a good a description as we’ve heard. When you are “in the bubble,” as it is called, it’s a maelstrom of diplomatic security officers with earpieces, dogs sniffing for explosives, handlers and motorcades. You will be jet lagged and sleep deprived but so is she.
By Jamie Crawford
As the political turmoil in Egypt continues, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's concerned about an Egyptian military official's assertion that the current situation could lead to the collapse of the Egyptian state.
"I think that would lead to incredible chaos and violence on a scale that would be devastating for Egypt and the region," Clinton said in a CNN interview Tuesday at the State Department. "There has to be some understanding by the new government that the aspirations that the people were expressing during the revolution in Egypt have to be taken seriously. And it - it cannot in any way be overlooked that there is a large number of Egyptians who are not satisfied with the direction of the economy and the political reform."
Thousands of anti-government protesters have clashed with police and troops in three Egyptian cities, and defied President Mohamed Morsy's curfew orders. Demonstrators are upset with recent political moves by Morsy, and charge that the country's first democratically elected president is a throwback to former dictatorships.
Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's defense minister, warned Tuesday that continued instability could have grave consequences.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she can't be faulted for not solving some of the thorny diplomatic issues she faced her in term.
In her final week of Secretary of State, Clinton defended her legacy in an exit interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott.
Clinton acknowledged that her legacy includes unsolved problems in some of the world's hot spots, but noted that she assumed the job four years ago at a time of great uncertainty.
"I think we have to go back to my beginning in January '09 to remember how poorly perceived the United States was, how badly damaged our reputation was, how our leadership was in question, how the economic crisis had really shaken people's confidence in our government, our economic system, our country.
Clinton said she had sought initially simply to restore international confidence in American leadership, "sometimes against pretty tough odds," which included a crisis in the world's economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The challenges went on to include responding to the Arab Spring, forming international coalitions to inflict sanctions on Iran and North Korea and dealing with changes in Burma, Europe, Latin America and Africa. FULL POST
By Elise Labott
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
Conservative GOP members challenged Clinton on the lack of security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi as well as the erroneous account that the attack grew spontaneously from a protest over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
At two hearings, which together totaled more than five hours, Clinton acknowledged a "systemic breakdown" cited by an independent review of issues leading up to the armed assault and said her department was taking additional steps to increase security at U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Here are five things we learned from the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees.FULL STORY
By Tim Lister
Much of the focus of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday was on whether her department failed to appreciate and respond to the risks that led to the Benghazi attack - and whether it had the resources to confront such risks.
And, of course, on whether in the immediate aftermath, the administration characterized the attack candidly and accurately.
But the hearings also illustrated how the United States is scrambling to catch up with new realities in North Africa – and how it faces a long struggle in a new arena of instability.
Clinton acknowledged that “the Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”
Looking back to her confirmation as secretary of state four years ago, Clinton said, “I don’t think anybody thought [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak would be gone, [Libya’s Moammar] Gadhafi would be gone, [Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali would be gone.”
By Elise Labott
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is sprinting to the finish as America's top diplomat, preparing for a high-profile hearing on the deadly Benghazi attack and two signature opportunities to have the last word on her tenure.
Clinton, who returned to work last week after battling a virus and a blood clot, is aggressively tackling her work load, even as official Washington gets ready to pause for President Barack Obama's second inaugural on Monday.
Sandwiched between the inaugural and Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Sen. John Kerry to replace her, Clinton will testify before House and Senate committees on Benghazi.
Her appearance on Wednesday was originally scheduled in December, but was postponed as she confronted health issues.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her staff to review security for American diplomats, businesses and citizens in the entire Maghreb and North Africa region, in response to the hostage-taking in Algeria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.
"That goes not only for official American security but also the message is being given to American citizens and American businesses," Nuland told reporters at the State Department.
After last year's deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama ordered a review of security at all U.S. diplomatic facilities. In addition, an independent review board recommended to Clinton security improvements that she has ordered to be implemented. This new review goes beyond diplomatic facilities.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nuland said, is known for kidnapping and hostage-taking and. "The concern is that groups operating in the region may be trying to do larger scale operations and we want to make sure that any of our citizens and companies operating in the region are reviewing their security practices in light of this."