Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures during a press conference after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels Dec. 5, 2012. / AP Photo
On the same day that lower-level State Department officials filled in for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at two congressional hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, one of the committees announced that Clinton has committed to testify next month.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., announced that Clinton would testify before the committee "before mid-January."
"Secretary Clinton has confirmed that she will testify before our Committee before mid-January on the terrorist attack in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four American patriots," Ros-Lehtinen said in a written statement.
"I expect Secretary Clinton to go into lengthy detail on the issues of systemic and management failures within the State Department, the failure to respond to repeated security requests by our consulate in Benghazi, and the dismissal of intelligence reports," she added.
Clinton was scheduled to testify on the Benghazi attack today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, but she suffered a concussion last week that prompted her to cancel her appearance. Several members of Congress have said she must eventually to testify before Congress on the Benghazi attack.
A report on the attack by an independent board led by retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was released Tuesday. It did not single out any individuals for culpability. It did, however, blame failures within two bureaus at the State Department for the missteps that eventually lead to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three additional American personnel in Libya.
The two bureaus cited -- Near Eastern Affairs and Diplomatic Security -- were criticized for a security posture that was "grossly inadequate to deal with the attack," and for failing to coordinate with other agencies to better secure the consulate. The report specifically pointed to "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus."
On Wednesday, four State Department officials either resigned or were let go following the report's release. Among those who resigned were Eric Boswell, the head of diplomatic security at the State Department.
Clinton sent a letter to Congress indicating she accepts the Benghazi report's 29 recommendations for strengthening security at diplomatic posts and recognizes the need to address the "systemic challenges" at the State Department.
Clinton has largely stayed above the fray of controversy surrounding the attacks that has dogged the Obama administration, even while U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was a top contender to take her place as Secretary of State before withdrawing her name from consideration last week, has become mired in criticism.
On September 16, five days after the attacks, Rice appeared on a handful of Sunday morning political talk shows to discuss the violence. Rice's comments on those shows were guided by CIA talking points that, according to a U.S. intelligence official, "were written, upon request, so members of Congress and senior officials could say something preliminary and unclassified about the attacks." They reflected the possibility that the attacks were a result of spontaneous protests spurred by an anti-Muslim video.
Rice ultimately clarified that there had been "no protest or demonstration in Benghazi" and that "the intelligence assessment has evolved" since her Sept. 16 comments.
Filling in for Clinton at today's hearings, two State Department officials acknowledged that "mistakes occurred" regarding the security situation in Libya and pledged that the department is taking immediate action to correct "systemic problems" that may have prevented the department from preempting the attacks.
"We've learned some very hard, and painful lessons in Benghazi, and all are acting on them," said William Burns, deputy secretary of state, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We have to do better. We owe it to our colleagues who lost their lives in Benghazi."