As you know, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday appeared the Select Committee on Benghazi to answer questions about what happened before, during and after the September 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. It was a long hearing with hours of back-and-forth testimony, and I wanted to share a few quick takeaways from one of my own exchanges with Mrs. Clinton.
In my first question, I asked Clinton about an email between State Department employees regarding Clinton’s awareness of the American presence and security situation in Benghazi, Libya months before attack.
In an email dated February 9, 2012, Alyce N. Abdalla said the following to State Department colleague Evyenia Sidereas:
Also, the Secretary asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi – I think she would be upset to hear that yes we do but because we don’t have enough security they are on lockdown.
I asked Clinton how this email squared with her claims to have been closely involved in the Libya strategy.
“How could this be,” I asked, “that two of your staffers are emailing about whether or not you even knew that we had a presence in Benghazi in 2012 with all your interest in Libya in 2011?”
Clinton said she “couldn’t comment on what has been reported,” about the emails and insisted “of course I knew we had a presence in Benghazi.”
I then asked Clinton why dedicated State Department employees would fabricate a substantive conversation with the Secretary of State about a country she had made such a priority. In the long explanation that followed, Clinton again insisted she was aware of the situation in Benghazi and implied that the Ms. Abdalla was a low-level employee disconnected from her inner circle.
Actually, Abdalla was the Libya Desk Officer, making her directly responsible for awareness of the situation in Libya.
When Clinton told me she had “no recollection” of the conversation, I twice asked her to look at the email in the binder in front of her to refresh her memory. Twice, Secretary Clinton refused to look at the binder.
This was only my first of multiple exchanges with Secretary Clinton, but it is emblematic of the evasive nature of some of her answers. As Secretary of State at the time of the attacks on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Clinton should have been more straightforward in answering questions, particularly when they relate to her awareness of the political and security situation leading up to the attack.
Mrs. Clinton is an important witness in our investigation about the Benghazi attacks, but certainly not the only one. More witnesses remain, and our Committee will press forward in gathering the facts needed to form a conclusive report.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her third term.