Clinton, whose popularity is running high and is considered a prime Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016, will be facing many hostile questioners, including two possible Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Two diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and two CIA employees, were murdered in the attack. Within days, Republicans began a political assault on the administration for failing to adequately protect the consulate and for allegedly misleading the public about how it happened and who did it. Their pressure on Susan Rice—the U.S. envoy to the United Nations who made what turned out to be erroneous public statements based on CIA briefings about the attack—caused her to pull her name from the list of people President Obama was considering to replace Clinton.
Clinton is likely to face questions about her exact whereabouts on the date of the attack and how much she was in the loop as events unfolded there, how much she may have had to do with crafting public announcements about the attack after the fact, whether documents and witnesses were withheld from Congress and why little progress has been announced in the investigation of who killed the four Americans. Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in North Africa are widely viewed as responsible, although none of their members may have taken part in the attack.
An Accountability Review Board report issued in December found deficiencies and made 29 recommendations. The unclassified version noted, among other things:
Overall, the number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing.Since the attack, more than 30 hearings and closed door briefings on Benghazi have been held with State Department officials present.
Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to certain needed security equipment, although DS funded and installed in 2012 a number of physical security upgrades. These included heightening the outer perimeter wall, safety grills on safe area egress windows, concrete jersey barriers, manual drop-arm vehicle barriers, a steel gate for the Villa C safe area, some locally manufactured steel doors, sandbag fortifications, security cameras, some additional security lighting, guard booths, and an Internal Defense Notification System.
Special Mission Benghazi's uncertain future after 2012 and its "non-status" as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult, and left responsibility to meet security standards to the working-level in the field, with very limited resources.