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. M

    I'm from Wisconsin. Ron Johnson is a blight on the record of excellent Republican senators from WI. Well... he and Joseph McCarthy.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. John J.

    Wow, the Republicans must be really convinced Clinton is a strong '16 Presidential candidate, they ganged up on her to distroy/discredit her. In the process, they are forcing her to disclose things that are better left unsaid for our national safety.

    Does anybody else think these guys are bullies? How disgusting!!!

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

      They are, and this is purely politically motivated.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • BobZemko

      If this attack had happened under a Republican administration, you would not have a heard a peep from McCain.

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

      She SHOULD have been fired...this nonsense of bullying is assinine...we were too busy worrying about spinning the story versus reporting the TRUTH!!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      You hit the nail directly on the head! They are circling their old Republican wagons.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bart

    This is not about anything accept trying to wound Hillary Clinton politically because she looks like a shoe-in for the Democratic nominee for the presidency. And that is it!!!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. David

    Blame Bush .... Blame Fox.... Blame the old White man.

    Ah yes. Good objective thinking.

    Rest easy libs. No need to squirm because "your gal" ... screwed up. Most of America has no idea what Bengazi nor that Hillary is even testifying. They are too busy watching TMZ/ American Idol/OWN.... while they adjust their tin foil hats.

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

      Said the old, white, Bush-supporting Fox News watcher, who is too blind to see his won tin foil hat.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • casper

      Let's get a line of republicans a mile long from the aftermath of the false Iraq war and fire or imprison them. Yes, a couple people died in Libya. That sucks but we live in a dangerous world. How about not starting wars with trumped up fake data intentionally? 4,000 American soldier's blood on GOP hands forever!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Ah yes. Butthurt sarcasm at its finest. Also 2 glowing examples provided to demonstrate my original point. Thanks fellas.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • unbelievable

      tin foil hats? really? you had to go there? you say they while EVERY conservatives out there glued to faux news is gearing up for obamas tyrannical descent into their homes to take away their guns....what a dum dum

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

      Thanks "unbelievable" for providing another glowing example to affirm my point.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Autumn

    Thats why McCain was not elected president. He needs to sit his old senile ass down somewhere.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Truth

    The youth and minorities of America believe anything the snake oil salesman , Obama and Clintons , say regardless of the truth. These people have continually lied and their suporters just cover their ears.

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

      Translation: WAHHH !!!! Obama won. WAHHHHHHH !!!!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Truth? You can't handle the truth.

      Keep telling yourself that fantasy, see how well it will work for your side in elections to come.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      As the nineteenth-century pundit Josh Billings, who was a contemporary of Mark Twain’s, once said: "The trouble with people is not that they don’t know but that they know so much that ain’t so."

      January 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Deep

    What's up with this Benghazi obsession and GOP? I don't undermine the loss of human and Americal lives as I think it is very unfortunate. But four lives versus dozens of Americans getting killed on our streets and in their homes and no one has the guts to standup against the NRA and their fanaticism about guns behind the covers of 2nd ammendment.

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

      What else do they have? They have let the Tea Baggers take hem over the cliff.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. chucksmom

    Mr. McCain's advisors must be pulling their hair out. He's irrelevant, and so obviously trying to hold on to his 15 minutes of fame. Sit down old man. You're done.

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

      You kids get off my lawn.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    Mccain is just mad because he can't get it up anymore. When is this guy going to croak already?

    January 23, 2013 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. HomeSweetHome

    I have been watching and listing to this Republican Trial and what I have gotten out of it is the State Department was making do with what the 112th Congress give them to work with.

    The 112th Congress spent more time trying to bring down the Executive Branch of our Government and it cost us lives. It is time this 113th Congress stop going down the same road of the previous Congress.

    The Secretary has said time and time again that she is just trying to get the money that she was "already" allotted to put the recommendations into place. With what we have already loss why is she asking for that money now. Why has this not already been done? Do we have to loss more Diplomats for the Republicans to get the message that they are damaging this Country's ability to get its job done? They had no problem giving "Black Water" all that it needed without over site and without having to wait for it.

    This is a prime example of the Republican Congress "kicking the can" down the road and trying to pass the blame on to someone else. I hope and pray we do not lose more Americans because of the Republican Congress having a "Temper Tantrum".

    As for John McCain, we would like to know where he was during the outing of a CIA Agent, 9/11, WMD and the fall of our economy.

    As for Ron Paul, it is a shame the people of Kentucky were not allowed to send this man home where he belongs.

    Thank you Secretary Clinton for your work, you do us proud.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      No manager anywhere has unlimited resources. Good managers prioritize with the assets they have. Bad managers blame Congress and act surprised when something bad happens.

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

    This n222 is right that John McCain was captured. You think he would have more empathy for people. His torture made him very bitter.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. kommy

    The broadcast confirm just one thing- for decades the foreign policy conducted by US Department of State was not in the best AMERICAN interests. I'll stop sort calling it ANTI- American.

    For the short term benefits, US bled major dollar on a long term. Thus Kosovo and toying with extremism gave Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraq gave Iran as main regional power and majority of Iraqis are Shi'ite too.

    More than 2 trillions dollars were wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan- the wars that cannot be won. Clinton just signed up that Libya and Egypt went the same way, and will be major headache in the nearest years.

    The war with Iran will simply cripple US economy, with 12 millions families already lost their homes, and national debt hit 16 trillionths- nobody really knows how far the printing can go.

    What Clinton did't say- she has a total lack of leadership, she let things float down the drain.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. us_1776

    McAlzheimer's go find something to do besides trying to attack the other party.

    We have tens of millions of people out of work thanks to the massive GOP economic collapse.

    How about putting together a JOBS bill? Remember those? Jobs.

    The things you promised us you would do in 2010 and haven't done a single thing about yet?


    January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jon

    When asked about the "protest excuse" Clinton says "what difference does it make?" It makes a lot of difference when there is plenty of motive to spread this disinformation to hide failure of the Obama Administration and protect a re-election campaign. She then says "how dare you think we would purposely lie." Well what do you honestly expect us to think? Then the excuse becomes "well Bush did it so why can't we?" That's not how our leadership should be. Two wrongs don't make a right. Someone on one side or the other needs to bring some integrity back to Washington

    January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • IreneNY

      Someone on one side or the other needs to bring some integrity back to Washington

      Well you know it won't be the republicans, they gave up on that a long time ago.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sly

    What were those fools doing in enemy territory surrounded by thousands of local patriots who justifiably hate Americans?

    Oh ... same thing those money grubbing oil workers were doing over there surrounded by enemies.

    If you can't stand the heat, don't hop into the fire.

    I guess some Americans forgot we killed over 500,000 Middle Easterners in order to take their oil.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • danny

      The problem is we did not kill all of them.

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