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. Scott

    What happened 4 years ago is not the question. Stop trying to bring up the past. Bottom line OBama and Clinton were responsible for the deaths over there. It happened on their watch. I did not agree with a lot that Bush did, but I did not try to blame it on past presidents.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • mego98125

      NO ONE tried to blame Benghazi on 'past presidents'. Yes, this happened on Obama's 'watch' but foreign policy is ongoing from administration to administration. It DOES matter what happened 'four years ago'. It matters what happened 11 years ago. If you don't understand that, you don't understand history.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      mego, how many times have people blamed Bush for 9/11? He was President for only 3 months. The previous 21 months of planning and execution was done under Clinton.

      Yet, still, 9/11 is "entirely" Bush's fault.

      Logically, yes, the previous administration(s) have a big part to play in everything that goes on... as does Congress (as Clinton, I think, is so aptly pointing out here. McCain is being a whiney "I don't want to admit my own fault" punk).

      However, NONE of this matters to voters. Democrat voters blame teabaggers. Republican voters blame communists. So Congress is playing the blame game to get votes.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      This has been going on before 9-11, since the 70's, with the Arab Oil Embargo.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      None of this was the President's or Hillary's fault!!! This time the GOP has done it! they proved to the American people how extreme they are and who they would blame if given a chance. She has been the best thing to happen to America since her husband Bill. Our President and Hillary deserve our respect as they have a difficult job especially when the GOP is raising their agenda bar to remove them. Did you see how Rand Paul and John McCain lashed out??? They let fire rush to their heads and they have set sights on her and the President all because they both lost an election in landslides!

      This is what I despise about Republicans in the GOP, they don't know the American people at all!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      By your logic, then George W. Bush is responsible for September 11th.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. romie

    reality, what usa is trying to deal with is extremely difficult. think about it. this country will fight tooth and nail against a foriegn power on our soil. so it is the same for other country's. it takes more than military to deal with these countries and we must find a way to bring all sources together to achieve the goals and end these conflicts. THIS IS A BIG BIG JOB AND WILL NEVER PROBABLY FIND A WAY OUT TO ANYONES SATISFACTION. JUST REALITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Scottish Mama

    What was just said, the money has been appropiated but not given to Defense by Congress. That says alot.

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



    January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Patrick in Wisconsin

    The fact that conservatives are so up in arms about 4 soldiers being killed in Benghazi when that many soldiers die in Afghanistan every week explains to me exactly why they are in such shambles right now. They need to get their priorities straight before they lose what little power they still have in 2014.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. mojobutta

    Hey, John: You better be nice to her. When she wins the presidency in 2016, you're history you old fungus head. You publicans never learn. We'll just have to continue to beat you down with a big stick until you get the message. LOL

    January 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. pkrbkr

    Between John McCain and Ron Johnson......they are part of what the problem is with the Republican party... Both are "empty suits"....McCain needs to go one of his MANY homes......Johnson needs to become a bit more educated! The 5 words said by one of the senators is so true......." Iraqui Weapons of Mass Destruction"......we went to WAR over these lies! why were Bush and cheney not held accountable????

    January 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    Does your government ever do anything constructive?

    National Pastime ......trash each other........even when blogging..........always me right, you wrong.........grow up America.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Yes Dave, actually our Government does do a few things, like protect your little Country so that you have the freedom to voice your opinion.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bill Graham

    John McCain's cognitive abilities of late are not satisfactory.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    Hillary we have the money to give you for protection but this is an election year and we want to starve you and put the diplomats in harms way, good luck.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Alicia

    OMG.. another dog & pony show for the dumbed down public... when most of the Obama players knew all the facts on this before it even happened....

    January 23, 2013 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe P.

      Your post implies that you "knew all the facts", since you're claiming that others did. (i.e.: You can't say they knew them unless you also know what they are). Would you please cite your sources so the rest of us can know what you know?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. sly

    McCain the old geezer thinks he's still running for President.

    John, instead of crying over spilt milk, maybe you should have obeyed President Obama's request to increase security for that particular Embassy.

    But noooo.... GOP was in a government lockdown ... "to hell with Americans in that embassy" McCain said. We won't spend another dime!

    Ho ho ho ... fools shouldn't have been over there anyway surrounded by thousands of good folks who happen to justifiably hate Americans ... oh well ... it's actually a bit of Darwin in action ....

    January 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Prometheus

    The purpose of the Hearing is to address or investigate the perceived gross negligence or incompetence of her Department which led to the deaths of the personnel at Benghazi, not what corrective actions the Department of State is performing in the post follow-up of this tragedy. All the Senators on the committee should have chided her to stay with the purpose of the hearing verses what SHE would rather have them focus on. And yes, she should and can be held accountable.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • History Bear

      Congress, who controls the purse strings and has often gutted State's budget is also responsible and needs to take responsibility for it's mistakes. And remember, she is our chief diplomat and the art of diplomacy is getting others to do things your way..

      January 23, 2013 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. History Bear

    McCain and Rand are troglydites. Both are wealthy, both are living in a past that never reallly was and both aren't happy with anyone but themselves. Stuff happens, and while the man at the top (or woman) is ultimately responsible, Congress has cut funding and refused to support improvements many times and must share the blame for the pitiful state of Embassy and Consulate security, but of course they will never admit to that. Clinton is by far not the worst Sec of State.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. joe

    Hillary Clinton voted to go to Iraq! She's a horrible leader!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Boo

      She and the rest of America WERE LIED TO by the Bush administration.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      You don't know anything do you??? Hillary is great and your clowns Rand Paul and John MClown are drama queens that have already lost this hearing! The Public and American people witnessed the just how far right and extreme these men are. They have such hatred for the President that I will never respect either of them. How can you trust these men after how they are treating our leader of the free world ? I am embarrassed at the Republican party and they are allowing these type of Senators to make their noose!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      So did Mccain and most of the republicans in congress. They too are horrible leaders and hypocrites as well.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • jim


      You don't actually believe that do you???

      The brits said the same on intel
      The French said their intel said the same
      the UN said the same thing on intel

      If you do beleive that ignorance lie then you are a politician's (and a propagandist's) wet dream.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • motochix

      Uhhh, she's NOT our leader. What political system are you dialed in to?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • cincinnatidavid

      Joe, admit it! You're just trying to duck the fact that the Iraq War was Bush's and his cronies' war.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
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