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. LLightUP

    McCain and Paul made no points with the American People with their pompus tirade against the Secretary of State. hind-siight is 20/20 and it is much easier to criticize than make decisions out front, talking points for the American People have been blown up ad Naseum, destroyed a persons character and no one is asking why Ms C. Rice did not sit in Secretary Clinton's seat after 911. We all have wondered about the WMD and why no investigation on Television for us to view about that situation that costed thousands of lives, for that matter her boss and his vice were never held accountable for that massacre. Fair is Fair...oh and Classified means she can not talk about things Classified.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AirForce dad

    Didn't McCain just ask Clinton why she didn't release classified information to the American People??? Does he not understand what the word CLASSIFIED means??

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

      The government often hides behind "classified" "secret" etc. when it does not want to state the truth, it is a convenient excuse to stone-wall and avoid being held accountable. It is sad that you find this acceptable. The government can classify anything that it does not want to disclose. Do you not understand how this game of politics works?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. M. Simons

    Senators McCain and Johnson are disgusting and over the top in their inquiries. Sen. Johnson would not give her a chance to speak, but kept interrupting everything she tried to say. Go get 'um Hillary and remember them when you become President. You are becoming the Republicans' worst nightmare and it's 4 years till the election! LOL

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

      Ahhh! she keeps lieing

      January 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • superbole

      If all politicians lie, then it is a simple matter of sifting out probability. In this case, probability has now fallen to Clinton's favor because her conclusions have more conviction and are not paled by obvious maneuver and manipulation of the GOP at large.

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

    "let's avoid turning everything into a political football" Hillary Clinton

    This coming from the administration who's motto is "Let no good tragedy go to waste". What hypocrites.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Omstennis

    This is just another ‘pointing the finger’ and blame on ‘no money’ of the Government’s excuses to defend of their ignorance and lack of responsibility!
    As the head of States, Mrs. Clinton ran off with her own agenda instead of her real job, real duties! for short… Mrs. Clinton worked very hard but for her political ambitious and not for the people of America !

    January 23, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildbunny

      she has done her job well and long
      you would be hard pressed to find a personal agenda ...

      January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. User-301

    First of All, This Benghazi business is over. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They didn't need more protection or anyone else getting killed. They should have never been there in the first place. You REPUBLICANS better watch your back side because you know you will have to face Hillary again as President. You had better find something real to talk about and quit trying to draw the last water drop out of this Benghazi fiasco.

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

      If she can't be trusted with a little job like Secretary of State, why would we expect better performance from her as President? She's disqualified herself

      January 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hahahahahahaa

      Dan – And yet you voted for Romeny!!! Hahahahahahahah

      January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay Barnett

      Yep, we're worried because intelligent, well informed, hard working Americans are clearly in the minority. We are increasingly at the mercy of stupid people who will buy pretty much any ridiculous explanation they are fed – like you.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    Clinton assumes all responsibility but doesn't want to be held accountable. Why is it offensive to be asked to explain her actions/inactions?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill Phillips, Durham, North Carolina

    Sen. Rand Paul owes Hillary Clinton an apology for his inappropriate comments to her.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan


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

      I didn't think he came off as terribly sharp, but an apology? Sure, as soon as she apologizes for getting Americans killed and then blaming it on a ridiculous video when she knew she was lying and had been incompotent.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • RR

      Rand Paul is a disgrace and clearly his father and mother didn't teach him any manners what so ever. He is a bully, a punk and a backwards thinking person. His reasonings on political issues are never to better anything. What a waste of a Senate seat.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. andthatsthetruth

    Old, gray-haired, stodgy, arthritic, racist, lying do-nothing McCain is a relic that should have been put out to pasture a long, long time ago. But those "perks" (money) just keep him hanging on.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rad666

    McCain is obnoxious and should shut up.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PigBodine

    I wish we could send McCain back to viet nam

    January 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • YADPOI

      At least McCain had the guts to serve his country unlike that draft dodging piece of crap Clinton! Also, doesn't it give you a nice warm fuzzy knowing that you back the party that is historically anti military, and now you want someone who not only protested against the American military, but also spit on them when they returned a war that a DEMOCRAT got us into so he and his wife, Lady Bird, could make tens of millions of dollars off of because of her share of stocks in the companies that were producing the weapons for the military. While you are at it, remember, it was a Republician, Nixon, that got us out of that debacle!

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

    Up yours, McCain. Your party withheld adequate funding. The GOP is now throwing childish tantrums because it can't believe the majority of Americans - even many Republican voters - disagrees with their self-serving ideology. Your party lost the election. Go away, now - and forever.

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

      Agreed 100%!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie Daniels

      Another absolutely uninformed ignorant lib. Charlene Lamb of the State Dept. clearly stated in the initial Benghazi hearing that funding was not an issue for denying request of additional security. Coincedently she has since resigned or rather relocated. It is quite amusing for Clinton to continue to blame republicans for lack of funding on record.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • RR

      Well said. I will chim what you said...UP YOURS McCain....

      January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jay Barnett

    It was a terrorist attack. They said it was a terrorist attack all along... So where did the whole video narrative originate? Why did this adminstration buy time on Pakistani television apologizing for a video that had nothing to do with any of this? Obama is President again because Americans are stupid.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John Spurlock

    When asked if Americans were misled about the attacks by the administration, Clinton actually responded , "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

    What difference does it make if the Obama Administration LIED to the American People?

    Just how hard a hit to her head did she take?

    They form the leadership of our nation, and she wants to know what difference it makes if they LIED to us?

    She's been married to a Professional LIAR for too long!

    January 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay Barnett

      What's sad is that she knows that response – that incredibly stupid response – will play well to Obama supporters.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bobby Flunton

    McCain is an angry old man.

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