WASHINGTON — Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton told the Benghazi Select Committee Thursday she justified blaming the attack on the U.S. consulate on Benghazi on a YouTube video based on the claims of one terrorist ringleader, as well as a “need” to talk about the video to keep other terrorists from attacking the United States.
Clinton found herself in a back and forth exchange with committee member Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan over the matter.
“I was very careful in saying that some have sought to justify. In fact, the man that has been arrested as one of the ringleaders of what happened in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is reported to have said it was the video that motivated him,” Clinton said.
“None of us can speak to the individual motivations of those terrorists who overran our compound and who attacked our CIA annex. There were probably a number of different motivations,” she said noting that the intelligence community “took the lead” in analyzing the information at the time.
Clinton later added, “We also knew, congressman, because my responsibility was what was happening throughout the region, I needed to be talking about the video, because I needed to put other governments and other people on notice that we were not going to let them get away with attacking us, as they did in Tunis, as they did in Khartoum.”
Clinton said the State Department was not making up the intelligence and only to “get it, make sense of it, and then to share it.”
“When I was speaking to the Egyptian prime minister or in the other two examples you showed, we had been told by Ansar al-Sharia that they took credit for it. It wasn’t until about 24 or more hours later, that they retracted taking credit for it.”
She continued, “And in Tunis there were thousands of protesters who were there only because of the video, breaching the calls of our embassy, burning down the American school. I was calling everybody in the Tunisian government I could get, and finally, President Marzouki sent his presidential guard to break it up. There were — is example after example. That’s what I was trying to do during those very desperate and difficult hours.”
Clinton later said if she did not mention the video it would have “deterred governments from coming to our rescue, because they would be, perhaps, ambivalent about doing so.” She added, “I mentioned the video because I feared what would happen and it did happen.”
Clinton, along with President Obama and Ambassador Susan Rice, blamed filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-born Coptic, for inciting the attack through his film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that was critical of Islam. Nakoula, a resident of California, was hauled to jail for bank fraud days after the spotlight fell upon him. He was released in August 2013.
It was later discovered the video was not the cause of the attack but the administration never issued an apology to Nakoula.