Live blog: Clinton testifies before Senate on Benghazi attack
Secretary of State Clinton appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
January 23rd, 2013
12:13 PM ET

Live blog: Clinton testifies before Senate on Benghazi attack

[Updated 12:13 p.m. ET] CNN's chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper, says he wasn't surprised that Clinton became emotional when she recalled calling the families of the two State Department personnel who died in Benghazi Ambassador Chris Stevens and computer expert Sean Smith.

"A lot of diplomatic people, we don’t perceive hem in this country as necessarily putting their lives at risk we think, oh, they work for the State Department, their job is not as dangerous. And it’s not true," Tapper said. "And people like Secretary Clinton have now learned that firsthand. … The other point to take is, from sources close to her, this really did take a very, very, strong emotional toll on her. In addition to an exhausting job, I think probably it’s all part and parcel of the exhaustion we’ve seen that she’s been suffering.”

[Updated 12:05 p.m. ET] CNN's chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper, sums up the criticism that Clinton received from some Republicans on the Senate panel this morning:

"Republicans were focused on two areas of criticism. One, of course, (was) the fact that the administration specifically the United Nations Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice initially in the Sunday show appearances ... (gave the view that) this was not a terrorist attack, this was a spontaneous protest because of that anti-Islam video, which of course turns out not to have been the case.

"And a lot of senators Ron Johnson and John McCain especially focused on why were these talking points false. Specifically, Johnson said that Dr. Rice was purposefully misleading the American public. Dr. Rice, of course, has said she was not that she was merely using the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and that there was no effort to mislead. She was providing as much information as she knew at the time.

"The other area where there was significant criticism, of course, came from Sen. Rand Paul, who was talking about the lack of accountability how come nobody was fired? He said that if he had been president at the time ... he would have relieved Secretary Clinton of her job, specifically for not having read all of these cables from on the ground in Libya, of diplomatic personnel requesting more security in the months leading up to the attack."

[Updated 11:37 a.m. ET] This morning's hearing has concluded.

[Updated 11:36 a.m. ET] Chairman Menendez lists takeaways from today's hearing:

"We have to look at the totality of the threat environment," he says, when it comes to protecting our personnel, not just specific threats.

He also says there needs to be clear lines of authority, instead of styles when it comes to making those decisions about security.

Menendez says Congress should be able to provide the money to protect diplomatic personnel.

He says he hopes he can do that to "protect our people as robustly as possible" and that it would be a mark on Congress to not do it.

[Updated 11:32 a.m. ET] Clinton says posts in Baghdad and Kabul may be protected by private security. "Historically, Marine guards do not protect personnel," Clinton says, instead they take care of classified material and destroy it if it might fall into the wrong hands.

[Updated 11:24 a.m. ET] Clinton tells Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy that the diplomatic security situation going forward is largely unknown.

"We are in a new reality. We are trying to make sense of changes that nobody had predicted but that we will have to live with," she says.

"Let's be honest with ourselves, let's avoid turning everything into a political football. Let's try to say this is unprecedented, we don't know what's going to happen in this new revolutionary environment ... but let's see what lessons we can learned from the past," Clinton says.

[Updated 11:19 a.m. ET] Sen. Rand Paul says he thinks the Benghazi consulate should have been under military and not State Department protection and this could pose a problem for the U.S. elsewhere.

[Updated 11:16 a.m. ET] Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, says he would have fired Clinton over the Benghazi attack. "It was a failure of leadership not to be involved," Paul says, referring to Clinton's assertion that she couldn't read all the cables concerning security in Libya.

[Updated 11:13 a.m. ET] In response to a question about high-risks posts, Clinton cites Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

"In places where we know our facilities are being surveiled for certain attacks, where we have a steady intel stream of plotting against us, we make a decision, which is a difficult decision, whether that mission continues," Clinton says.

[Updated 11:08 a.m. ET] Clinton says al Qaeda remains a threat despite recent successes against its top leaders.

"Although there has been the decimation of core al Qaeda in certain regions we do have to contend with the wannabes and the affiliates going forward," she says.

[Updated 11:02 a.m. ET] Clinton says she wants a sensible budget discussion with Congress about the State Department. "We have to be smart in making the right investments in diplomacy," she says. She says it should be a "no-brainer" to transfer their own budget money around to improve diplomatic security.

[Updated 10:59 a.m. ET] In reference to earlier remarks that Congress is not doing enough, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, puts some blame on Republicans in the House. He says the GOP-controlled chamber did not act on Clinton's request for a transfer of money to protect diplomatic personnel.

[Updated 10:55 a.m. ET] Clinton hints that Congress bears some responsibility for the security shortcomings in Benghazi. She says that congressional holds were placed on help for Libya.

"We've got to get our act together," she says of the administration and Congress.

[Updated 10:52 a.m. ET] McCain rips Clinton on how the State Department responded to security needs in Libya.

"I strongly disagree with your depiction of what we did after Gadhafi fell. We did not provide the security that was needed," he says. "We did not give them the kind of assistance that would have been necessary to dismantle the militias."

[Updated 10:50 a.m. ET] McCain is outraged over what he's heard so far from Clinton today. "Four months later and we still don't have the basic information," Mccain says.

[Updated 10:48 a.m. ET] Sen. John McCain calls Clinton's testimony so far today "not satisfactory to me."

[Updated 10:47 a.m. ET] Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, calls Clinton "as combative as ever," but he thanks her for her service to the country.

[Updated 10:43 a.m. ET] Clinton says threats to U.S. diplomatic posts are ongoing. "Sitting here today we probably have at least 20 other posts that are under a serious threat environment as I speak to you," Clinton says. "We are constantly assessing. Sometimes we get it wrong. We usually don't. But this (Benghazi) was one of those terrible tragic times where we got it wrong."

[Updated 10:40 a.m. ET]  "If you wish to fault the administration, it is that we didn't have a clear picture and we did not do as clear of a job (telling people that)," Clinton tells Sen. Jeff Flake in response to inquiries about what the U.S. knew and when U.S. officials knew it. "I can only assure you that as the information came to light and as people thought it was reliable we shared it," Clinton said.

[Updated 10:38 a.m. ET] On the initial characterization of the Benghazi attack as a protest, Clinton says in retrospective that maybe the State Department should have waited for a better assessment of the situation before issuing statements. "But thats not what we do as Americans," she said, noting we like to share what we know and note that it is subject to change.

[Updated 10:33 a.m. ET] Clinton says that right now it is more important to catch those responsible for the Benghazi attack than to figure out the "why" behind it.

[Updated 10:30 a.m. ET] Sen. Ron Johnson has a heated exchange with Clinton over the immediate response to the Libya attack, saying the State Department didn't give clear answers to the nature of the threat, that what was going on in Benghazi was more than a protests.

Clinton gets angry. "What difference at this point does it make?" she says, slamming her hand on the table. "The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information."

[Updated 10:25 a.m. ET] Clinton says Congress needs to keep the State Department accountable for making proper security arrangements. Keep asking "What are you doing and how are you doing it" of the secretary of state, she says.

[Updated 10:22 a.m. ET] Responding to a question from Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Casey, Clinton says Congress can help diplomatic security by responding to department requests.

"You can help by making sure that the needs we come to you with, like what are the training needs, the budgetary needs, the bureaucratic changes, that you help support that," Clinton says.

[Updated 10:19 a.m. ET] Clinton says the Libyan government wanted to help with security for U.S. posts but didn't have the means to do so.

"In willingness, but not capacity," she said of the Libyan government. "The Libyans were very responsive, but had no levers to pull."

[Updated 10:15 a.m. ET] Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, is asking again about security requests from the U.S. diplomatic posts in Libya.

"There were a number of conversations and meetings to try to see what we could do while Libya went through this transition ... to try to get in there to help them with security." Clinton reiterated that many of the requests never directly went through her.

[Updated 10:08 a.m. ET] Clinton says there were growing threats elsewhere after the Benghazi attack.

"I had to call the president of Tunisia to beg" for extra security while there was a threat against U.S. interests in Tunisia, she said.

[Updated 10:06 a.m. ET] Sen. James Risch of Idaho has directed the questioning back to Benghazi.

"It was a terrorist attack," Clinton says. "I called it an attack by heavily armed militants. That is clearly what happened. The harder question is what caused it? And that we didn't know."

[Updated 10:02 a.m. ET] Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, asks Clinton about what is happening with a jihadist insurgency in the northern African country of Mali.

Clinton says that Libyans with ties to former leader Moammar Gadhafi came into northern Mali at the same time there was a move by al Qaeda to establish a base there.

"We have been working to try and upgrade security around northern Mali," Clinton says. "We are now trying to help put together an African force so that African soldiers will be at the front of this fight."

"We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven" (for al Qaeda), Clinton says. "This is not only a terrorist syndicate, it is a criminal enterprise. Make no mistake about it, we've got to have a better strategy (for Mali)."

[Updated 9:56 a.m. ET] Clinton talks about the security climate faced by U.S. diplomatic posts going forward:

"We now face a spreading jihadist threat. We have driven a lot of the al Qaeda operatives out ..., killed a lot of them, including of course bin Laden. But we have to recognize this is a global movement. We can kill leaders, but until we establish democratic institutions, our values, we're going to be faced with this level of instability."

[Updated 9:47 a.m. ET] Sen. Corker asks why security changes weren't made when officials were "screaming out" for help.

"We did immediately do this high threat assessment," Clinton responds, noting that had never been done before. Clinton said she wanted more Marine guards, security guards, updates to construction. Clinton says that she has also recommended that the next secretary state and deputies are now included in conversations about request for security.

[Updated 9:44 a.m. ET] On her response when notified of the attack, Clinton says she went into continuous meetings. "I instructed our senior department officials and diplomatic security to consider every option - to break down the doors to the Libyan officials to get as much security support as we could," she said.

[Updated 9:41 a.m. ET] Clinton says there were efforts to upgrade the security of the Benghazi facility that was attacked. "There were inadequacies in the response. Those are the specific kind of recommendations we are currently implementing," she said.

[Updated 9:37 a.m. ET] Clinton says there conversations within the State Department of what would be the safest compound for U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens to be in.

[Updated 9:25 a.m. ET] "As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility," Clinton said of the security for the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. "Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure."

[Updated 9:22 a.m. ET] Secretary of State Clinton has begun reading her prepared text.

[Updated 9:20 a.m. ET] Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, called an earlier briefing on the Benghazi attack "bizarre," because of how little information was given.

[Updated 9:14 a.m. ET] "I know I speak for many when I say you've been an excellent secretary of state," Sen. Robert Menendez said, referring to all of the work Clinton has done during her tenure. "You have changed the face of America abroad."

[Updated 9:04 a.m. ET] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The hearing has begun with remarks by Sen. Robert Menendez, who is standing in as chairman of the committee for Sen. John Kerry. Kerry recused himself from the hearing as he has been nominated to replace Clinton as secretary of state.

[Posted 8:34 a.m. ET] Republican members of Congress plan a host of questions for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her long-awaited testimony on Wednesday about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Questions are expected to range from a security vacuum in northern Africa to new cables suggesting that Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the September 11 assault, once proposed moving the compound to a more secure location adjacent the CIA Annex, sources tell CNN.

Clinton will testify for 90 minutes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee beginning at 9 a.m., and 90 minutes before the House Foreign Affairs Committee beginning at 2 p.m.

soundoff (799 Responses)
  1. Joe Biden Jr.

    And what will happen after all this? Absolutely noting. A slap on the wrist and then business as usual. We need to fire all of these politicians and start over.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vic

      Especially John McCain. He is so out of touch. Every time he and some of the other far right open their mouth, I cringe.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • tgccp

      yes Vic, he has no clue of what it means to serve, be tortured, and then turn around and serve his country as a civil servant all these years.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. tonyh110

    unqualified people telling qualified people what to do and when. Goes on everywhere all the time in all walks of life. This current administration is the epitomy of my statement. I've worked in large engineering companies where this goes on – sheer frustration and the mistakes and consequent losses are dumped/blamed on the qualified.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Absolutely right, John McCain has no right to question Hillary Clinton and her hard work. McCain is not a maverick anymore. He needs to retire at the next possible moment to save himself the embarrassment he has caused himself since he lost in 2008.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • tgccp

      Patrick, McCain has no clue of what it means to serve, and be tortured, and then turn around and serve his country as a civil servant all these years. We, on the other hand, sitting on our keyboards are so much more qualified. Oh please.... todays society has lost the meaning of respect and common sense. If you disagree with their politics at least learn to respect their service.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Barry G

    McCain and his bunch of cronies need to be put in their place. They never take responsibility and always know how to dish it out. It is easy to sit back and be the "monday morning quarterback" after the fact. It is time he retires and get some fresh new blood in Washington.t

    January 23, 2013 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      I think a few years at the Hanoi Hilton qualifies Senator McCain to Monday morning quarterback an administration with no qualifications.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Barry, you must have forgotten when Hillary was a Senator and how much she grilled General "Betrayus." Given her position, she deserves all of the grilling she gets.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      Would love to see them question all GW Bush's cabinet and cohorts about the Iraq war, again, for real! We never got any viable answers from them about all the things that went wrong.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • J. Coman

      Would you park a brand new Mercedes in a bad neighborhood and leave the keys in it? No?

      Why then, would Hillary and the Obama administration have an embassy in a bad country with minimal protection and little backup? And how can they justify a statement like "This is a new reality" and the attacks were "unprecedented"? It's a country that, up until a year ago, was an enemy nation. We know there is anti-American sentiment festering there, so how could we not have even begun to imagine that an attack would occur at some point.

      Things are absolute. You don't walk into a bad neighborhood without expecting, or at least anticipating, that something bad will happen. How can you expect to put an embassy in a bad country and not expect something to happen?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe (Houston, Texas)

    How much longer will the GOP milk this thing? They are more concerned about 4 people dying in high risk foreign countries than with 20 babies being shot while at school.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Evelyn Connaway

      THEY WILL MILK IT AS LONG AS THEY CAN – ANYTHING TO KEEP FROM WORKING AND GOING FORWARD TO WORK FOR THE GOOD OF OUR COUNTRY AND IT'S PEOPLE.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. n222s

    I'm sorry. We should just accept everything Hillary says at face value. Nobody should ever question her, or her judgement! She is the greatest person ever and would never, ever lie. For example, when she conveniently found those Rose law firm billing records just days after the statute of limitations ran out. Well, that was credible. When she blamed the right wing NYT for spreading rumors about her husband's indiscretions, that was obviously the truth. When she said she was named after Sir Edmund Hilary when he didn't become famous for years after her birth, well, her mom was psychic is all. When she said she made 100k in futures from reading the WSJ, she is so smart, what is not to believe?

    January 23, 2013 at 11:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • n222s

      You are so right, New Generation. Anyone who believes everything she says IS a complete moron.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. MaryM

    John McCain and Rand Paul will lose their seats in this next election. John McCain use to be a well respected Senator.
    Not anymore, he has become a bitter old dinosaur. Rand Paul is just plan crazy

    January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • n222s

      Mary, you are right. We should not respect the judgement of a man who spent years being tortured. HE didn't have to deal with a concussion!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • tgccp

      yea he has no clue of what it means to serve, and be tortured, and then turn around and serve his country as a civil servant all these years. You, Mary, are so qualified to judge him.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. B

    Oh snap you tell em Hill
    "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said. "Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?"

    January 23, 2013 at 11:24 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Z_2k

    We're not concerned about WHY the "militants" did what they did, Ms. Clinton. What we are concerned about is why the State department and/or US military did (or didn't ) do what they did.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • tgccp

      exactly – so many are missing this point!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. ShawnDH

    I think I sepak for most people when I say, "Shut Up John McCain."

    He has been obsessively and desperately trying to stay relevant with this imaginary SCANDAL! CONSPIRACY! and it's really pathetic.

    Aren't you demented right-wingers getting tired of being pretend OUTRAGED!!!! over everything? It's lame. I'm embarrassed for you.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • n222s

      You are so right Shawn! A man who spent years being tortured defending our country SHOULD be told to shut up! It doesn't make him infallible.

      However, his service and sacrifice gives him the right to ASK anyone in government any question he so desires.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. Won

    SHUT UP MCCAIN!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • n222s

      Those years spent in a Vietnamese prison for defending your country does not give him the right to question this poor woman. She had a concussion after all!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. How embarrassing

    Sen Paul shows the world that Kentucky now has two blow hards who care more for the spotlight and making false and outragous comments just to get on the evening news. Sick sick man with no class.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Evelyn Connaway

      COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WakeUp48

    The result of the U.S. government’s intervention in Libya provided terrorist groups with more weapons than anything done by the two-bit offenders prosecuted for “material support of terrorism” in the past decade.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. beevee

    The old fool McCain is still bitter about losing the presidential bid to Obama. The guy should retire and shut his mouth. There may be flaws in hadling the situation in Benghazi., but the cobative attack on the secretary of state just reflects the republican leadership anger and jealousy and nothing more. Get over it you morons.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • tgccp

      This is the guilty liberal defense and answer that is supposed to shut everyone up. If this was under a republican administration you would be screaming to hang the Hillary types. Hypocrisy at its best!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. indep100

    H Clinton and S. Rice pushed for regime change in Libya (the assassination of M.Gadhafi) and we are now living with the consequences.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. paul

    Rand Paul never said he would have fired Mrs Cinton. Please blog the facts not your opinion or interpretation of the fact. Thank you

    January 23, 2013 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • WDL

      dude, he did say that. what are you watching?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Siestasis

      I would fire Rand Paul but I would have to move to KY and that is too high a price to pay.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      SORRY TO SAY, HE DID SAY THAT! AND MORE HE SHOULDN'T HAVE SAID. NASTY LITTLE PERSON.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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