Rubio Challenges Clinton To ‘Explain Why Her Department Failed’

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 28, 2012 | 3:00 PM EST

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). (AP Photo)

( – Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, to “explain why her department failed.”

In an editorial published on Wednesday, Rubio said the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) report released last week “concisely lays out much that we already knew” about the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“This was the premeditated work of terrorists, not a protest about a YouTube video that spun out of control,” Rubio said, adding that “the attackers employed military tactics and used rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weapons; they also used simple weapons of opportunity, such as gasoline used to set the fire that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith.”

The Review Board laid the blame for inadequate security at the consulate in Benghazi on the State Department, leading to Rubio’s insistence that Clinton testify.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

"Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place,” the report stated.

According to Sen. Rubio, Clinton should still "explain why her department failed to adequately secure the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi and what her personal level of knowledge was of Libya security deficiencies.”

“Perhaps most concerning is that the report points to specific failures in the State Department’s chain of command,” Rubio said.  “That we operated with a skeleton staff in such a precarious environment is clear evidence that we failed to connect the dots.”

Questions remain following the State Department report, which was sanctioned by Clinton, on why the administration insisted that the attack was due to a “spontaneous protest” resulting from an obscure YouTube video that insulted Islam.

The report confirmed that there was nothing “unusual” taking place outside the mission in the hours before the attack.  Despite the fact that the eyewitnesses interviewed by the review board said there was no protest, the scene was caught by security cameras, and the mission was in communication with Washington almost instantly, U.S. government officials, including then-CIA Director David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice would suggest days later that there had been a protest.

Ruins of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack. (AP Photo)

There is also the question of why there was no military response to the series of attacks in Benghazi, which according to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who chaired the ARB, occurred over a span of almost eight hours.

The ARB report also revealed that a local militia the State Department hired to protect the consulate  was refusing to protect the movement of State Department vehicles in Benghazi on Sept. 11 in order to protest its wages and working hours.

Rubio said he still wants answers about why high-level officials in the State Department could have been unaware about the security situation in Benghazi and not done more to protect U.S. personnel and facilities there.

“Last month, while on a trip to Peru, Secretary Clinton said she took full responsibility for the events in Benghazi.  I take her at her word,” Rubio said.  “As the nation’s top diplomat, she should therefore appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in both open and classified hearings to discuss the Accountability Review Board’s findings.”

“She should explain why her department failed to adequately secure the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi and what her personal level of knowledge was of Libya security deficiencies, warnings about which Deputy Secretary of State William Burns testified were circulated to the highest levels of the State Department, presumably including Secretary Clinton,” he said.  “More importantly, Secretary Clinton should elaborate on how the State Department plans to fix the broad systemic failures that the Board identified.”

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bow their heads during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., marking the return to the United States of the remains of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo)

Rubio said Benghazi is emblematic of a broader failure in foreign policy, and added that diplomatic security should be addressed by the next Congress.

“The current administration unfortunately now has a record of frequently ‘leading from behind’ and standing on the sidelines as America’s enemies exploit our inaction,” he said.  “Hopefully one lesson of Benghazi will be that we need to fundamentally rethink this mistaken approach to foreign policy.”

Clinton was set to testify before Congress last week but reportedly sustained a concussion after fainting from being dehydrated on Dec. 13.  Clinton did not go to the hospital and has not made any public appearances since that alleged injury.  She is said to return to work next week.

Republican senators have said they will block confirmation of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has been chosen as Clinton’s successor, until she testifies on the terrorist attack.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen recently said Clinton would testify before her committee in mid-January.

Inquiries to the State Department by for comment were not returned before this story was posted.