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. Siestasis

    I bet he does not READ every communication that comes into his office but he wants Hiliary to read millions of cables a day. The man is daft, and he is one that is for cutting funds to govt. What a loser. KY wake up.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. Scottish Mama

    McCain can ask what he wants. I am an American and I want to know why he withheld money for the protection of these diplomats. Ask him CNN. in the interview you know he will give.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Exactly! Both Rand Paul and McCain are evil Senators whom just displayed to all Americans on live tv who they really are!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Daedalus

      They won't ask... they don't bother with hard questions anymore. For the most part CNN is just an outlet for the political noise, FNN is the right, and MSNBC is the left. If you want real reporting, it's not originating in this country.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • mcwreiole

      SENATOR McCain has no jurisdiction over fiscal matters, he is a Senator, not a Congressman. No funds were withheld, Mrs Clinton is trying to follow in the footsteps of her boss and demonize the Republicans for what was clearly her fault and clearly her total responsibility. She received billions to run the state department and clearly spent that money on other of her priorities. Every department is capped and every department has had to make decisions on how to allocate their allotted funds...she so obviously blew it.

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

      Amen. The House approved a massive security cut, then has the audacity to demand why security failed. And they wonder why they are the lowest rated congress in our history.

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

      Everybody is always such a great "Monday morning quarterback" aren't they??

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

    McCain is a walking corpse; does what he has to say even count?

    January 23, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. snowdogg

    McCain lost my respect long ago... more of the same bullying and bluster.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      McCain and Rand Paul just lost the respect of 99% of Americans. Even Republicans are speaking out against them and they want no part of a witchhunt!!! I am embarrassed that they are in office.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Davis

      Witchhunt? People died, while others did nothing then fabricated some story that it was a mass demonstration because of a video. This is on her hands, questions should be asked and answers given. She is Secretary of State, this was ultimately her responsibility. Quit being a partisan hack.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Deb

    Sen. McCain has an unrealistic view of what the American people think and the world we live in today. There is no amount of security measures or knowledge that will guarantee 100% safety for all Americans at home or abroad. McCain needs to put his foot where is mouth is and talk with intelligence and a willingness to be a positive and useful asset in government instead of a stone throwing politician.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. Carol

    John McCain is irrelevant. The only thing he does these days is stir up dust.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. popcorn

    Still stuck with WESTERN MATERIALISTIC WORLD.... why does she need glasses if she's Hillary Clinton?

    January 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. Katz

    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."
    Yet they are cutting the budget for the military. These people are either stupid or ignorant, probably both!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |

    Why would anyone think that anyone could have made a diffterent in this incident. People who serve this country know going in that things will happen. We serve because we want to make a different. God bless Secretary Clinton on her answer and love for this USA. Senate McCain need to find a life or a rock to crawl underneath. We need leadership and that what Secretary Clinton provide yesterday and today, and will provide when she become President of the United States.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason Davis

      Oh gee another partisan hack. The only thing Hillary Clinton loves, like most politicians, is herself. She isn't showing much in the way of leadership despite what partisan blinders you are using. There is very little leadership from either party in Washington. What makes you think she loves her country? She is only interested in harnessing as much power and money as possible. The biggest problem with this country is that the ignorant masses like yourself are deluded into thinking that the elite care about you or your problems, they use and manipulate you like pawns and play you against one another in a political game of chess.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Adrain

    It looks like people had to die just so Hillary Clinton could "break the glass ceiling." (In actuality, in Hillary Clinton, it wasn't really a woman who "broke the glass ceiling" but rather, a very under qualified person who used the woman-card as an excuse to "break the glass ceiling." And now people are dead because of Hillary's incompetence. It's now painfully obvious that there are consequences for hiring people for purposes other than competence.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Davis

      Competence and leadership in Washington no longer go hand-in-hand, their is no competence in either party or Washington. These people are power hungry, self centered, ego-maniacs.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Crooked Bridge

    Remember the partison based hearings after 911? Me neither.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Columbo

      Well said.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. G

    Life is dangerous everywhere! No one can expect to total safety and security even in the U.S. Example: Houston, Texas today, Newtown, Conn. December, Bengazi? Iraq, Afghanistan. Were mistakes made, sure? GOP on a witch hunt. Move on, learn from the mistakes, there is tragedy all over the world, mistakes made everyday.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Davis

      Hard to learn from mistakes if you do not know what the mistakes were, how they occurred, and what can be done to avoid them. The purpose of the hearings should be to find the truth, something that has yet to come out on this issue.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jinx88

    McCain still sounds a little bitter about his lost election, but I liked it how the committee fired back about the WMD intel screw up that McCain back in his place.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      He is also a staunch supporter of the esculating the civil unrest in Benghazhi, but just not the funding to keep our diplomats safe.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marine Security Guard

    She is telling a lie when she says Marine Guards do not protect personnel. I was a Marine Security Guard at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. I personally served as a bodyguard for the American Ambassador, Samuel W. Lewis III, on occasion. Google "Marine Security Guard" and read the job description. What a vile, untruthful woman.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prometheus

      Thanks Marine! I was hoping a current or former Marine Guard would set the record straight and show once again how ignorant she is of her Departments responsibilities.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lola

    So sick of fake Republican outrage. They carried on about this "scandal" before this election, they claimed Clinton was pretending to be sick, they finally have her right there and it's still a non story. Losers.

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

      Quit being a partisan party hack, both parties express fake outrage and are destroying this country. If you think one party is better than the other you are really ignorant.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
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