WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday told CNN that she assumes responsibility for last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“I take responsibility” for what happened on September 11, Clinton said in an interview during a visit to Lima, Peru.
She added: “I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha,” citing the Nov. 6 presidential election. She insisted President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had not been involved in security decisions related to the consulate.
The attacks on the Benghazi mission, and the Obama administration’s response to the violence, has become a contentious election issue and Clinton’s comments came a day before the second presidential debate between Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
Romney has seized on the attack and said the death of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans killed at the consulate reveal weakness in Obama’s foreign policy. Romney has accused the administration of not providing adequate security to American diplomats and misrepresenting the nature of the attack.
Foreign policy has been considered a strength for Obama, who has been praised for the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the withdrawal of troops from unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congress has increased pressure on the State Department to release information about the attack. Obama and Clinton have both vowed a full investigation.
“We can’t not engage,” Clinton told CNN. “We cannot retreat.”
Clinton also sought to play down criticism that the administration initially linked the violence to deaths to a protest over an anti-Muslim film.
There is always “confusion” after an attack, she said.