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Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: I have worked to discover the truth about the Benghazi attacks

January 28. 2013 6:13PM

The terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, resulted in the tragic loss of four Americans and has shaken our country and our diplomatic corps. It represented the first murder of a U.S. ambassador since 1979 and was a stark reminder that our diplomats around the world put their lives on the line every day for our country. Simply put, the U.S. government did not do enough to protect those diplomats, and we need to do better in the future.

I take that responsibility very seriously, and since the day of the attack my focus has been on learning what mistakes were made and taking steps to prevent them from being repeated in the future. Unfortunately, the Jan. 24 Union Leader editorial completely misrepresents my work over the past several months and its criticisms are simply not factual. In reality, I have been quietly focused on rising above the political rancor and working in a bipartisan fashion to find out the facts and ultimately limit the risk of another Benghazi.

I joined my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a bipartisan Sept. 27 effort demanding the State Department provide an accurate and full accounting of the events that took place before, during and after the attack, as well as an assessment of the state of security of other diplomatic missions around the globe.

I participated in the Foreign Relations Committee's investigation of the matter and have attended six formal hearings and classified briefings on this issue. I have spent hours listening to testimony of administration officials. At two public hearings on the Benghazi attack, I raised the concern about having too few military assets in the region to respond to such an attack. I asked how we identify and prioritize "high risk" posts like Benghazi and pressed the administration to assess the cooperation between the Pentagon and State in the lead-up and aftermath of the attack.

I had the opportunity to view classified video which showed real-time footage of the attack in Benghazi and question intelligence officials on the events.

I have also read the Accountability Review Board's (ARB) well-documented report on what went wrong in Benghazi and attended a briefing on the report by the two independent co-chairs. The report, a direct and honest account of the mistakes that were made, outlines the insufficient security platform that was in place, the gaps in intelligence, and detailed "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies." As a result of the report, four ?high-level officials have been put on administrative leave.

The ARB also explicitly stated that Congress failed to provide the kinds of resources the State Department needed to do its job safely. This is exactly why I raised the issue of resources with Secretary Hillary Clinton, who understands more than most that empty words of support without real, actual resources will do nothing to protect our diplomats abroad. Congress must make sure the State Department has these necessary resources in the future.

I have spent my career focused on real, bipartisan solutions. That is how I always approach contentious issues, and the attacks in Benghazi and its aftermath are no different.

It is my job as a U.S. senator to not only get to the bottom of what happened, but also to make sure Congress and this administration take steps to avert future attacks. We failed to do enough to protect Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11. We have to be honest about what mistakes were made, learn from them, and make sure we don't repeat them.

Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate.

Editor's note: The Union Leader stands by its editorial which noted Sen. Shaheen's failure to ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton important questions about Benghazi.

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