Despite a newly reignited debate over the Obama administration's handling last year of a terrorist attack last year in Benghazi that killed four Americans, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Friday the source of the renewed controversy - a congressional hearing this week featuring the testimony of three "whistleblowers" - hadn't really produced any new information.
Kerry, speaking online Friday afternoon during a Google+ hangout, said he'd been following reports of the hearings closely. But he said that, "after all of the hearings that I took part in" as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and in classified and unclassified briefings, I really haven't learned anything new" this week.
"What we know is that four very courageous Americans, all of whom were out there on the front lines... they lost their lives," Kerry said. "It was a terrible event, it was a terrorist attack. We all understand that."
In the wake of a House Oversight Committee hearing about the Benghazi attacks, Republicans renewed their criticism of the Obama administration for its actions. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday "there's gonna be more hearings and more information." During the hearings, State Department officials criticized the department - then led by Hillary Clinton - for how its officials responded to the events in their immediate and more long-term aftermath.
Kerry said he "respected" the three people "who spoke up in the course of these hearings," and said he understands that their experience during the attack was "emotional."
"But so is losing our ambassador" and the other three people who died in the attacks, he said. "It's a tragedy, but I hate to see it turned into a pure, prolonged, political process that really doesn't tell us anything new about the facts."
Asked about his thoughts on the biggest global priorities for the future, Kerry stressed the need to address climate change and global warning - and warned that barring to do so would lead to "people fighting" in "wars over water."
"That is a major challenge of the future," he said.