WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton headed to Peru Monday, where she will talk about women's empowerment. But overshadowing her trip is the lingering political drama in Washington over the Obama administration's handling of last month's deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.
Clinton left for the long-planned event in Lima after another weekend of criticism from Republicans over the Obama administration's initial explanation of the Sept. 11 attack and security at the consulate in Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a long-time point man for the GOP on national security issues, accused President Barack Obama's aides on Sunday of deliberately covering up the details of the attack so that voters couldn't question Obama's handling of the war on terror.
Graham said he believes the administration knew within 24 hours of the assault that it was a coordinated militia attack and was not tied to other anti-U.S. protests across the Middle East. According to Graham, the administration suggested otherwise so voters wouldn't think al-Qaida remained a threat.
"They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that (the) wars are receding and that al-Qaida has been dismantled," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee, in an interview on CBS "Face the Nation."
"And to admit that our embassy was attacked by al-Qaida operatives ... I think undercuts that narrative," he added.
Clinton has vowed a full and open investigation on the incident. The administration initially described the attack as a more violent version of the protests that broke out across North Africa and the Middle East over a California-produced film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad. Administration officials amended those statements days later to call it a terror attack, likely by al-Qaida-linked militants, because they said intelligence became clearer in the aftermath.
In Peru, Clinton will meet with President Ollanta Humala and attend a conference on "Women as the Drivers of Social Growth and Inclusion."
She returns to Washington Tuesday.