Hillary: Terrorists Were Involved in Benghazi

Image: Hillary: Terrorists Were Involved in Benghazi Hillary Clinton speaks with Greta Van Susteren at the FOX News Channel studio in Washington on June 17.

Tuesday, 17 Jun 2014 08:48 PM

By Greg Richter

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN and Fox News on Tuesday that, just like her critics, she is looking for answers to what happened in Benghazi, Libya, the night of Sept. 11, 2012 but she said she now believes that some of the attackers were terrorists.

With the capture of Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala announced earlier in the day, Clinton said she was "very pleased" he had been caught.

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Christiane Amanpour, moderator of an hour-long, town hall-style program, noted that many of the family members of the four Americans killed in the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi are unhappy with what they call a lack of information about what happened and about how the White House is trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"I totally relate to her as a mother, or to any of the family members of the four Americans who were killed that night," Clinton said. "I can see why she and others are inconsolable."

Patricia Smith, mother of U.S. Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, who was killed with Ambassador Chris Stevens and two others, has been vocal, blaming Clinton directly, saying the blood of her son is on Clinton's hands.

"I'm still looking for answers because it was a confusing and difficult time," Clinton said. "We're doing the best we can to find out what happened, and I hope that fair-minded people will look at that seriously."

Clinton said she wants to know who was behind the attack and the motivation of the leaders and attackers.

Clinton and the Obama administration have been criticized for blaming the attack on an anti-Muslim video early on. Critics say they were aware the video played no role, but used it because admitting the attacks were terrorism might have hurt President Barack Obama's re-election chances. Obama had said on the campaign trail that "al-Qaida is on the run."

Less than an hour later on Tuesday, Clinton told Fox News that she now knows that some of the attackers were terrorists, though others had different motivations, including the video.

"There's no doubt terrorists were involved. There is no doubt," she said. "I don't know anybody who is saying it was only the video now, but I think at the time it was a lot of information flowing around . . . that it played a part."

Amanpour asked if, knowing what she does today, she would have sent Stevens to Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11.

"If any of us had known there was going to be a wave of attacks —  remember, it started in Cairo that day and swept across the region —  I think we would have certainly cautioned . . .  people to shelter in place," Clinton answered.

Fox News' Baier challenged Clinton, who had on CNN likened the capture of the Benghazi suspect, which took almost two years, to the capture of Osama bin Laden, which took 10 years.

Bin Laden, Baier noted, was hiding the whole time, while Khattala was granting interviews to multiple press agencies, meeting with CNN in a public cafe.

Clinton countered that Khattala may have been in public, but was well-protected. Taking him into custody presented a different set challenges than did trying to find bin Laden, she said.

Fox's Greta Van Susteren asked Clinton whether she would have approved of the swap of five Taliban leaders in U.S. custody for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

"I was trying to put together a bigger deal" that would have had the Taliban renounce violence and al-Qaida, Clinton said, but it appeared to be imperative to those now in charge that Bergdahl's life was at stake.

That was only one of the differences Clinton stressed between her and President Barack Obama.

The potential Democratic presidential candidate told CNN that as secretary of state she had advised Obama to back the Syrian rebels fighting government forces. She said she and then-heads of the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency tried without success to persuade Obama to arm the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We pushed very hard. But as I say in my book, I believe that Harry Truman was right, the buck stops with the president," Clinton said.

But she said she isn't sure it would have turned the tide if the United States had gone into Syria early and helped the moderates. Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republican critics have blamed the lack of aid early on for allowing terrorist elements to join in the anti-Assad forces. They now have moved into portions or Iraq and are threatening to set up an Islamic caliphate.

"It's very difficult, in retrospect, to say that would have prevented this," she said.

Clinton has been offering views that differ from Obama's on foreign policy in recent months, including on issues such as Iran's nuclear program and dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reports.

Clinton told Van Susteren she opposes any formal negotiations with or agreements with Iran. The Obama administration is currently talking with Iran about a partnership to fight the terrorist group ISIS in Iraq.

Clinton told Baier that although she disagreed with Obama on some issues, she was never disappointed in him.

She noted that she was married to one president, Bill Clinton, worked with President George W. Bush after 9/11, and served in Obama's administration.

"I disagree with all three of those presidents on certain things," she said. "But I also believe each has tried to do what he thought was best for the country."

She would be disappointed in a president only if she thought he was either ignoring or undermining the national interest, she said, adding, "I never saw that in any of those three men."

When pressed by CNN's Amanpour about what policies she disagreed with her husband about, Clinton refused to answer, jokingly citing the legal spousal privilege that prevents a wife from testifying against her husband in court.

Clinton also said the United States had no choice but to pull out of Iraq because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki refused to sign a status-of-forces agreement.

"In retrospect, that was a mistake by the Iraqi government," she said, adding that the Iraqi people might want to consider another leader who can unite the country.

When asked by a teacher about her stance on gun control, Clinton responded, "We cannot let a minority of people, and that's what it is . . . hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people."

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