U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-03), and other senior members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, questioned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. At a congressional hearing Wednesday, Smith gave the following are excerpts of his remarks. (Click here or image below to watch the video):
"One of my top concerns is that we seem to be relearning the same lessons--again and again.
"After the August 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Admiral Crowe sat where you sit in 1999 and told the subcommittee I chaired that "in our investigations of the bombings, the (ARB) Boards were shocked how similar the lessons were to those drawn by the Inman Commission some 14 years ago." (That would be 1985.)
"In direct response, I authored a bipartisan law--the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999--to upgrade diplomatic facilities and residences, improve threat assessments, emergency action plans, security threat lists, perimeter distances, crisis management training, diplomatic security training, rapid response procedures, storage or emergency equipment and increased anti-terrorism training in Africa.
"Before 1998 there were less than 1,000 security specialists, today there are over 3,100. I agree we need more--but how present-day security personnel and assets are deployed is a leadership issue. Clearly, we had assets that could have been deployed to Benghazi.
"When it comes to what you knew and what requests were made of you and the Department to beef up security in Benghazi, there are disturbing parallels to Kenya and Tanzania.
"Prior to the East Africa bombings, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Prudence Bushnell repeatedly asked Secretary Madeleine Albright for more security upgrades--and the Ambassador's request was rejected.
"There have been numerous press reports that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and/or his team made repeated requests for security assistance and my questions are these:
You defined taking responsibility for Benghazi in your testimony only in terms of during and after the terrorist attacks. What about before September 11, 2012? When did you personally and your staff become aware of Ambassador Stevens and his team's request for security upgrades? What exactly did you do in response? Were you personally in any way at fault?
I fully understand the host country's responsibility concerning protection, but how could we be so heavily reliant on the February 17 Brigade to provide security? How were they vetted?
Since two of the four people killed were murdered seven hours after fighting began, why wasn't the U.S. military deployed?
Why didn't the Pickering Commission interview you?"