More than four months after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced grilling from congressmen over the matter, Wednesday.
Clinton told both House and Senate committee members that her department is committed to strengthening security overseas.
The secretary was combative, businesslike, and at times emotional as she recounted the administration's reaction to the murder of Americans in Libya.
"I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews," Clinton said. "I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.
Republicans in both the House and Senate wanted to know whether the White House and State Department had perceived the magnitude of the growing danger from al Qaeda.
"The spiking of the ball and the thinking that when Osama bin Laden was gone, that was the end of al Qaeda, we knew nothing could be further from the truth, and the Arab spring has ushered in a time where al Qaeda is on the rise, and the world is in many ways even more dangerous," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said.
Perhaps the angriest exchange came when Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., tried to get to the root of the early White House narrative that the murders were sparked during riots against an anti-Muslim film, rather than a pre-planned al Qaeda attack.
"Again we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that and that was easily ascertained that that was not the facts and the American people could have known that within days, and they didn't know that," Johnson said.
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," Clinton responded. "Was it because of protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does that make?"
Secretary Clinton stressed that the government is beefing up security for U.S. diplomats around the world. Her likely successor, Sen. John Kerry, will be part of the team that must determine the size of the expanding al Qaeda threat throughout northern Africa, and what, if anything, the United States is going to do about it.