BENGHAZI

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about her new book "Hard Choices" on Friday, June 20, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On Friday, Hillary Clinton addressed the people of Austin at the Long Center as part of a promotional series for her newly-released memoir, “Hard Choices.” The former secretary of state and US Senator signed books, answered questions and opened up to Austinites about everything from Indonesian talk shows to the future of public diplomacy.

Although this tour was not likely made without a political agenda (Clinton is the top presidential choice for Texas Democratic candidates, with a whopping 65 percent party approval rate in recent polls), Clinton was careful to create an air that was incorporative, bipartisan and highlighted the importance of public service regardless of party identification. The night was equal parts reflective and inspiring as Clinton Hillary offered lessons from her job as Secretary as well as a vision for our nation’s future.

Clinton spoke on both triumphs and regrets during her time at the State Department, as well as the struggle to maintain a “big picture” perspective for international affairs. According to Clinton, this perspective means placing a premium on how the U.S. is perceived by other countries and understanding the lengthy cause-and-effect that can spur from such relationships.

“[I think people need to realize] events in Paris, France… can affect us in Paris, Texas. What is happening far from our borders really does hit home,” Clinton said.

Although Clinton had initial reservations about coming to Texas, her speech seemed to be received very well by UT students.

“As a woman…. Clinton makes me feel empowered”, said biology senior Chanel Zadeh. “She brings a rare offering to politics, a combination of using her head and her heart. I think that’s what translates really well to people.”

Always the eloquent speaker, Clinton navigated controversial waters with ease — even when it came to some of the heavily polarizing issues, such as the Arab Spring protests of 2011 or the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

“The [attack in Benghazi] was my biggest regret,” Clinton stated remorsefully, adding that tragedies of this nature “should not be used for partisan political purposes.”

She quieted criticism of Obama’s decision to send additional military advisers to Iraq, noting that possibility for statewide democracy is “too soon to tell.” Her answers, while lacking no degree of Hillary-sized ambition, were both poised and non-partisan — traits that seemed to go over well with the Austin audience. “Texas is a tough crowd for any Democrat, but she did well,” Zadeh said. “I was impressed.”

Clinton spoke openly and candidly about an overarching commitment to public service and the importance of using our voices not to silence each other but rather to communicate to today’s world.

“We are all part of an [indispensable nation],” Clinton writes in “Hard Choices.” “And we are Americans, all with a personal stake in our country.”

Even critics of Clinton appreciated the candor and frankness of the night.

“I’ll be honest. I’m a Republican so I was a little hesitant to come tonight. But Hillary was really great”, said one anonymous student. “[The night] felt less like a political agenda being forced down our throats and more like an actual honest conversation. It was good.”

It is this less-radical-legislation, more relationship-setting approach to politics that has cast a new light on Clinton as a team player—and perhaps she is a more respected politician for it. Her “smart power” approaches to foreign policy were nuanced and largely without controversy. Aside from the Benghazi attack and the Egyptian protests of 2011, involvement in polarizing foreign policy crises has been kept to a minimum. Her tenure was more calm than controversy, more intricacy than immediacy.

It is not just Clinton’s work as a former First Lady or secretary of state that has earned her a unique and somewhat starry-eyed fan base. Rather, the most resonant of Clinton’s actions seem to be those taken on behalf of human rights. Clinton’s ongoing commitment to gay rights in Geneva, Islamic religious liberation and international women’s and children’s freedoms have made her a celebrated figure in many circles. One of her greatest achievements, she noted during the question-and-answer portion of the evening, was paying careful attention “not only to the headlines, but to the trend lines.”

But what about a future as Madam President?

“I could see it,” said government junior Julie Forrister. “Clinton has vision, perspective and the impressive political track record to support it… She’d have my vote.”

It is people, not policy. It is relations, not legislation. Though this passive and passionate side to Clinton may simply be another cog in her political agenda-setting machine — it seems that this wiser, softer Clinton might just see her day in the Oval Office, after all.

Deppisch is a government senior from League City.

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The FBI director met with top Libyan officials on Thursday to discuss the probe into last year’s killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi where authorities are planning a curfew following an upsurge in violence, Libyan officials said.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2012 in an attack that Washington officials suspect was carried out by militants linked to the al-Qaida terrorist group. There has been little news of progress in the investigation, and U.S. officials have complained about poor cooperation with governments in the region.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the visit, said FBI Director Robert Mueller discussed the case in Tripoli with senior officials, including the prime minister, justice minister and intelligence chief.

It is unclear when authorities plan to impose a curfew following a string of deadly attacks, assassinations of top security officials and other unrest in recent months. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan said on Wednesday that 18,000 new police recruits would be dispatched to the city to enforce the curfew.

Interior Minister Ashour Shaweil told reporters that when it starts, it will be enforced for five hours every night beginning at midnight. Several check points will be installed around the city, he said.

Authorities in Libya have been struggling to form unified army and police force since 2011 when former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in a mass uprising that turned to armed conflict when citizens raised arms against Gadhafi’s forces.

In recent months, there has been a series of assassinations of top security officials and bombings of security headquarters in the northeastern city of Benghazi. Some blame Islamist extremists, but residents suspect more than one group is involved and that some of the violence is being carried out by those who have personal vendettas against officials who once served in Gadhafi’s police force.

In this June 29, 2012 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress said Sunday they want to know more details about the FBI investigation that revealed an extramarital affair between ex-CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer, questioning when the retired general popped up in the FBI inquiry, whether national security was compromised and why they weren’t told sooner.

“We received no advanced notice. It was like a lightning bolt,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The FBI was investigating harassing emails sent by Petraeus biographer and girlfriend Paula Broadwell to a second woman. That probe of Broadwell’s emails revealed the affair between Broadwell and Petraeus. The FBI contacted Petraeus and other intelligence officials, and director of National Intelligence James Clapper asked Petraeus to resign.

A senior U.S. military official identified the second woman as Jill Kelley, 37, who lives in Tampa, Fla., and serves as a social liaison to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. A U.S. official said the coalition countries represented at the military’s Central Command in Tampa gave Kelley an appreciation certificate on which she was referred to as an “honorary ambassador” to the coalition, but she has no official status.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kelley is known to drop the “honorary” part and refer to herself as an ambassador.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation, said Kelley had received harassing emails from Broadwell, which led the FBI to examine her email account and eventually discover her relationship with Petraeus.

A former associate of Petraeus confirmed the target of the emails was Kelley, but said there was no affair between the two, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the retired general’s private life. The associate, who has been in touch with Petraeus since his resignation, says Kelley and her husband were longtime friends of Petraeus and wife, Holly.

Petraeus resigned while lawmakers still had questions about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Lawmakers said it’s possible that Petraeus will still be asked to appear on Capitol Hill to testify about what he knew about the U.S. response to that incident.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the circumstances of the FBI probe smacked of a cover-up by the White House.

“It seems this (the investigation) has been going on for several months and, yet, now it appears that they’re saying that the FBI didn’t realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn’t add up,” said King, R-N.Y.

Petraeus, 60, quit Friday after acknowledging an extramarital relationship. He has been married 38 years to Holly Petraeus, with whom he has two adult children, including a son who led an infantry platoon in Afghanistan as an Army lieutenant.

Broadwell, a 40-year-old graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and an Army Reserve officer, is married with two young sons.

Attempts to reach Kelleyand Broadwell were not immediately successful.

Petraeus’ affair with Broadwell will be the subject of meetings Wednesday involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

Petraeus had been scheduled to appear before the committees on Thursday to testify on what the CIA knew and what the agency told the White House before, during and after the attack in Benghazi. Republicans and some Democrats have questioned the U.S. response and protection of diplomats stationed overseas.

Morell was expected to testify in place of Petraeus, and lawmakers said he should have the answers to their questions. But Feinstein and others didn’t rule out the possibility that Congress will compel Petraeus to testify about Benghazi at a later date, even though he’s relinquished his job.“I don’t see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn’t testify,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants to create a joint congressional committee to investigate the U.S. response to that attack.

Feinstein said she first learned of Petraeus’ affair from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call Friday with Petraeus. She eventually was briefed by the FBI and said so far there was no indication that national security was breached.

Still, Feinstein called the news “a heartbreak” for her personally and U.S. intelligence operations, and said she didn’t understand why the FBI didn’t give her a heads up as soon as Petraeus’ name emerged in the investigation.

“We are very much able to keep things in a classified setting,” she said. “At least if you know, you can begin to think and then to plan. And, of course, we have not had that opportunity.”

Clapper was told by the Justice Department of the Petraeus investigation at about 5 p.m. on Election Day, and then called Petraeus and urged him to resign, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

FBI officials say the committees weren’t informed until Friday, one official said, because the matter started as a criminal investigation into harassing emails sent by Broadwell to another woman.

Concerned that the emails he exchanged with Broadwell raised the possibility of a security breach, the FBI brought the matter up with Petraeus directly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Petraeus decided to quit, though he was breaking no laws by having an affair, officials said.

Feinstein said she has not been told the precise relationship between Petraeus and the woman who reported the harassing emails to the FBI.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, called Petraeus “a great leader” who did right by stepping down and still deserves the nation’s gratitude. He also didn’t rule out calling Petraeus to testify on Benghazi at some point.

“He’s trying to put his life back together right now and that’s what he needs to focus on,” Chambliss said.

King appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Feinstein was on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Chambliss was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.”

Libyan men, one waving a pre-Gadhafi flag, attend a funeral in Benghazi, Libya on Monday for victims buried in a mass grave.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BENGHAZI, Libya — Tribal leaders and militia commanders declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semiautonomous state on Tuesday, a unilateral move that the interim head of state called a “dangerous” conspiracy by Arab nations to tear the country apart six months after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

Thousands of representatives of major tribes, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration at a conference in the main eastern city of Benghazi, insisting it was not intended to divide the country. They said they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but needed to do this to stop decades of discrimination against the east.

The conference declared that the eastern state, known as Barqa, would have its own parliament, police force, courts and capital — Benghazi, the country’s second largest city — to run its own affairs. Foreign policy, the national army and oil resources would be left to the central government in the capital Tripoli in western Libya. Barqa would cover nearly half the country, from the center to the Egyptian border in the east and down to the borders with Chad and Sudan in the south.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the Tripoli-based interim central government known as the National Transitional Council, warned the declaration “leads to danger” of eventually breaking up the North African nation of 6 million. But he also said it was to be expected, because the east played a pivotal role in ending Gadhafi’s rule.

The interim leader has not in the past blamed any Arab nation for meddling, while praising Gulf nations like Qatar, which was supportive of the rebels fighting Gadhafi.

Abdul-Jalil appealed to Libyans for patience and resolve in the face of the country’s mounting problems.

Fadl-Allah Haroun, a senior tribal figure and militia commander, said the declaration aims for administrative independence, not separation.

“We are not talking about changing the flag or national anthem. We are talking about different administration, a parliament and managing the financial affairs,” he said.

The east was the cradle of last year’s uprising and civil war that ousted Gadhafi. In the early days of the revolt, the entire east came under opposition control and remained that way until Gadhafi fell in August. The eastern rebels set up the National Transitional Council, originally in Benghazi, which then moved to Tripoli and became the central government.

BENGHAZI, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi loyalists seized control of a Libyan mountain city in the most serious challenge to the central government since the strongman’s fall, underlining the increasing weakness of Libya’s Western-backed rulers as they try to unify the country under their authority.

The taking of Bani Walid, one of the last Gadhafi strongholds captured by the new leadership late last year, was the first such organized operation by armed remnants of Gadhafi’s regime. A simultaneous outbreak of shootings in the capital and Libya’s second largest city Benghazi raised authorities’ concerned that other networks of loyalists were active elsewhere.

The security woes add to the difficulties of the ruling National Transitional Council, which is struggling to establish its authority and show Libyans progress in stability and good government. Four revolutionary fighters were killed and 25 others were wounded in the fighting, al-Fatmani said.

There were no immediate signs that the uprising was part of some direct attempt to restore the family of Gadhafi, who was swept out of power in August and then killed in the nearby city of Sirte in October. His sons, daughter and wife have been killed, arrested or have fled to neighboring countries.

Instead, the fighting seemed to reflect a rejection of NTC control by a city that never deeply accepted its rule, highlighting the still unresolved tensions between those who benefited under Gadhafi’s regime and those now in power.