(LIMA, Peru) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted blame for the security lapses before the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
“I take responsibility,” Clinton told ABC News Monday in Lima, Peru. “I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world at 275 posts.”
She added, “The president and the vice president wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals.”
Clinton also said that the U.S. has been aware that militants were regrouping in Libya and that there would be an effort to reestablish bases.
“We also knew aside from individuals and groups there were so many militias that have formed and so many weapons,” Clinton said. “It was something we were focused on.”
There are reports that the U.S. now has special operations forces on standby in the region ready to strike suspected terrorists. So would this administration be willing to strike them before the U.S. election?
“We will track them down whoever did this and hold them accountable and bring them to justice,” Clinton vowed. “Our track record is pretty good. Eventually we will find you.”
Congressional hearings last week revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi.
Republicans have seized on the attack and the subsequent administration response as a failure.
On Friday, Clinton said the State Department is in the beginning stages of an internal investigation on the attack. She also said the FBI investigation is continuing as well, and that she is cooperating with both. As militants gain strength in countries like Mali, Syria and Iraq, ABC News asked for a status update on al Qaeda.
“It’s absolutely fair to say the major leadership of al Qaeda including [Osama] bin Laden has been decimated,” said Clinton. “The core of al Qaeda has been severely damaged. There will be terrorists who continue to terrorize people and threaten the U.S. and our allies. We’ve never taken at all, our eye off the ball to keep going after extremists who pose a threat.”
Meanwhile, as the situation in Syria deteriorates, will the U.S. consider pushing for a no-fly zone similar to the one established in Libya?
“This has been under discussion among allies,” Clinton said. “There has been no decision made but everyone knows what the Assad regime is doing is a brutal assault on the people. We need a clear commitment of support to the opposition inside Syria and outside.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN