WASHINGTON (AP) — As Republicans heap criticism on Vice President Joe Biden for claiming the Obama administration was unaware of well-documented requests for extra security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday the precise details of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the compound still remain unclear.
One month after the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, Clinton said the administration is committed to uncovering the truth about what happened.
"There is much we still don't know and I am the first to say that," Clinton told reporters at the State Department after meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
"But as someone who has been at the center of this tragedy from the beginning, I do know this: there is nobody in this administration motivated by anything other than trying to understand what happened," she said.
"We are doing all we can to prevent it from ever happening again anywhere and, of course, we are, as a government, doing what it takes to track down those who are responsible."
Clinton was to deliver a speech later Friday to a Washington think tank in which she was expected to defend posting U.S. diplomats in dangerous corners of the world.
Republicans have seized on the incident as a sign of weakness in President Barack Obama's foreign policy and criticized the administration for at first suggesting that the attack was motivated by anger at an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. That explanation has now been discarded as evidence mounts that it was a well-organized terrorist attack.
Republicans have also denounced the administration for denying several appeals for additional security at the consulate in the months before the attack. And they have seized on Biden's statement in Thursday's vice presidential debate that "we weren't told they wanted more security there."
On Wednesday, two former security officials testified before Congress that their requests for more manpower were either ignored or rejected. Senior State Department officials acknowledged that that was the case but insisted that there was no evidence that more security would have thwarted or otherwise mitigated the attack.
Biden said, "We did not know they wanted more security again."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Biden was referring specifically to the White House, which wouldn't receive such requests.
Biden also defended the administration's early explanation that the attack sprang from anti-video protest, saying that had been the judgment of the intelligence community at the time.
"We said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew," he said. "That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view."