Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2013. / SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
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Updated: 10:28 a.m. ET
In highly-anticipated testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this morning cited a "personal" commitment to improving diplomatic security abroad in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in Benghazi. But even while taking personal responsibility for the deaths of four Americans in the attacks, Clinton defended her own actions and those of her staff with regard to the response to Benghazi, and outlined the steps she says the State Department has taken to prevent future similar occurrences.
Clinton, growing emotional at times during her testimony, stressed her belief in the continued importance of U.S. diplomacy abroad, but cited the inherent risk of taking an active role in "unstable" political environments."
"We have come a long way in the past four years and We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, our security at home is threatened," she said. "Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect this country we love. And they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation."
She argued, however, that diplomatic personnel "cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. So it is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need and to do everything we can to reduce the risks."
As a result, Clinton said, she has worked with the State Department to swiftly to implement a series of outside recommendations aimed at ensuring that similar attacks don't reoccur. But she once again took responsibility for the personnel in Libya as well as in the State Department generally, and stressed that her commitment to protecting future diplomats stretches beyond a policy level.
"As I have said many times, I take responsibility. And Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure," she said. "For me, it's personal."
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