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. Boo

    Good for Hillary!!! Stand up to these war-mongering hypocrites....particularly John McCain...he has become a war-mongering bitter old man. He's a perfect example as to why we need term limits for the House and Senate.

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

      Yes good for her! We can still blame all of the Middle East problems on a stupid little video and offer up apologies to all those who were responsible for the attack! It fixes everything.

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

      Mr. Hanson – need I remind you that it was the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED HOUSE that VETOED extra security for our embassies.......all of sudden those hypocrites decided to be FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE....guess you fell for their lies hook, line and sinker. WAKE UP!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      AGREED Boo!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Jewels

      Agreed - McCain needs to move on. He is just annoying and angry...

      January 23, 2013 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Nonsense Boo. Stop watching Ray and read a little. There was ample power and ability to deliver the security assets.

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

      David your statement does not provide proof, nor did senator McCain, Johnson, nor Rand refute that claim. Did they?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrHanson

      Ok, granted. Trying to place the blame on anyone for the lack of security will get you nowhere. But you have to admit that her side stepping the issue and giving a knee jerk response by blaming a video and then apologizing to these terrorists for it was pretty stupid.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      The bullies have a political agenda which, for them, is more important than our our security. It hurts to see people testify and be forced to make public security aspects which could make us more vulnerable.

      Even when not top secret, our dealings aren't always suitable for public display. Stop these people who lost any trace of decency.

      This is a sign of true weakeness for the shameless politicians.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Lots of proof Scottish Mama

      Reason 1:

      Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.): "Mrs Lamb, you made this decision personally [to reject the request for more security], was there any budget consideration, or lack of budget, that allowed you not to increase the people in the security force there"

      Response: "No Sir."

      Reason 2:

      Not that it matters, as we have already seen that funding was not an issue, but the bill in question was bipartisan with more Democrats voting for the cuts than Republicans.

      Reason 3:

      The State Department got all of their requested funding for FY 2012

      January 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big_D

      The GOP house rejected the call for additional security funding for consulates in July. Rubio was part of the cover story they blamed on Rice. They should be kicked out of office but Arizona is too stupid to question McCain.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ll

      Interestingly, John McCain or Rand Paul never discussed the 50 murdered US Embassy workers under the last Republican administration....or the THOUSANDS of needlessly killed Americans in the Republicans' bogus war on Iraq, that was based on false intel given to Congress. No hearing on either of those...not even a peep...

      January 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      It's amazing how they're desperate to assign blame everywhere else, isn't it? THEY cut the budget that paid for defense of US embassies around the world. IT'S CONGRESS'S FAULT!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      BOO Very selective huh ? Just because McCain does not qualify as liberal or Hillary brown noser he is senile.

      January 24, 2013 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. WakeUp48

    Hillary Clinton is handing millions in cash to known Al Qaeda terrorists, on the heels of these terrorists claiming one of her own ambassadors in the middle of LIFG’s terror emirate – this while the West berates Iran for supporting the government of Syria as it attempts to defend itself against what is clearly a foreign invasion, not a popular uprising.

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

      You sly FOX NEWers you. Please go back to watching your one sided news show.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ll


      January 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      What flavour is that Fox News Kool-Ade, WakeUp?

      January 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rolling stones

    Wonder if McCain is the .."squirmy dog that just had its day"

    January 23, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    Maybe they should try using our soldiers to actually protect our own embassies rather than protect our freedom by attacking other countries.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Monique

    You are doing a great job Secretary of State Clinton!! I agree, stop politicizing and start fixing what went wrong so it doesn't happen again. This isn't Dems vs. Repubs, it's time to grow up Senators and do the job you were hired to do FOR the people.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • beachgalone

      she did an outstanding job today. I didn't vote democrat, but she is telling it like it is. the protocols she followed were in place before she came to her position. she's saying that this is a watershed moment to change things now that the deficiencies have been exposed. she should not be the fall guy anymore than if a republican was in this positon.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • RR

      I just went to the Secretary Of State website and left a message for Hilliary Clinton to hang in there and be strong. She is doing a great job.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Saboth

    An unexpected terrorist attack happened. There was confusion. Lots of armchair quarterbacking going on after the fact from the GOP: "well, we should have done this, and coulda done that". Just let it go.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • WDL

      Easy to arm chair quarterback.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      More manufactured outrage from republicans.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    I only have this to say, yes we lost for men in the attack, Who is responsible, the people in charge do have to share some responsibility, however, we lost many children in an attack here at home, but the replublicans don't want to change the gun laws. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!! I guess that makes them responsibility for the kids murders so they should be fired as well.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. Carson

    No matter what is said, the hard right, the haters, John McSore Loser McCain, they will never be satisfied. Embassies have been attacked in the past, nothing was ever said, embassies will be attacked in the future. Let it rest, save some money and let the dead rest. The served their country knowing the dangers. Period. Forward.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  9. jnpa

    Rand Paul said he would have fired Clinton? LOL...Rand Paul who?

    January 23, 2013 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • WDL


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

    you democrates r causing the demise of america!

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

      No. That would be republicans who try to lie, cheat, and steal their way into any office.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • SOG1969


      January 23, 2013 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      You causing the dumbing down of America.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      TO SOG who asks how do republicans who try to lie, cheat, and steal their way into any office?

      By spending their time scheming and plotting how to win even when they don't win. By gerrymandering, by voter suppression and intimidation tactics. They cannot win with a vision or a big idea, their ideas never changes from one decade to the next to the next. Tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulate – that's it!! They have no ideas that will win so they plot and scheme to win by cheating and demonizing. Some party. The party of no ideas, no ethics, no inclusion, no honesty. Washington is so corrupt it's disgusting and there is no will among the representatives to change that, get the lobbyists out of the Capital and change the way campaigns are financed. It's max time for fund-raising and campaigning and little time for legislating. Incidentally, there is no will among the People to press them for change either so we are complicit in the growing corruption in our government/corporations.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Viablanca

    What she knew and when is what most people want to know. She is married to a bold faced liar,we will never get answers and that will be OK with today's weak media

    January 23, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • SOG1969

      Don't lie the media quit watching Fox... if the media is how you get your information, then you have no informed opinion...

      January 23, 2013 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      Is this Sean Hannity?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dancing Baptist

    Love her beer goggles!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. Dan

    Bad managers blame their employees

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

      I agree! The secretaries are nominated by the POTUS, but confirmed by Congress – moreover Congress holds the purse. Therefore the employer for the Secretary of State is technically Congress.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jason

    Thank God McCain is not our President.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. John Steel

    It is time for John McCain to retire. I have news for John – spending five years in a POW camp does not make you either a military expert or a security expert. No one doubts his personal courage, but his judgment is, at best, poor. (See Sarah Palin)

    January 23, 2013 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      Can't argue with anything you said.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
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