Hillary Clinton knocks critics as she leaves office

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WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left office Friday after delivering a parting slap at critics of the Obama administration's handling of the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya.

She told The Associated Press that critics of the administration's handling of the attack don't live in an "evidence-based world," and their refusal to "accept the facts" is unfortunate and regrettable for the political system.

In an interview Thursday, Clinton said the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans was the low point of her time as the United States' top diplomat. But she suggested that the furor over the assault would not affect whether she runs for president in 2016.

Although she insisted that she has not decided what her future holds, she said she "absolutely" still plans to make a difference on issues she cares about in speeches and in a sequel to her 2003 memoir, "Living History," that will focus largely on her years as secretary of state.

Clinton was relaxed during the interview but clearly perturbed by allegations from Republican lawmakers and commentators that the administration had intentionally misled the public about whether the attack was a protest gone awry or a terrorist attack, or intentionally withheld additional security for diplomatic personnel in Libya knowing that an attack could happen.

An independent panel she convened to look into the incident was scathing in its criticism of the State Department and singled out four officials for serious management and leadership failures. But it also determined that there was no guarantee that extra personnel could have prevented the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans.

"I was so unhappy with the way that some people refused to accept the facts, refused to accept the findings of an independent Accountability Review Board, politicized everything about this terrible attack," she said. "My job is to admit that we have to make improvements and we're going to."

Clinton faced a barrage of hostile questions about Benghazi from Republican lawmakers when she testified before Congress last week. Afterward, they still accused the administration of withholding information.

"There are some people in politics and in the press who can't be confused by the facts," she said. "They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that's regrettable. It's regrettable for our political system and for the people who serve our government in very dangerous, difficult circumstances."

Clinton hinted strongly that a divisive atmosphere would not stop her in any future endeavor. But she remained coy about whether she would run for president in 2016.

Asked if she still thought she could "make a difference," Clinton replied, "Absolutely," but added quickly that she hadn't yet decided how.

"I have made no decisions and I just can't until I have time to think it through and see how I am going to put it all together," she aid. "I will certainly write something. I will certainly speak. Those are givens, but the rest of it I don't have in mind."

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