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. Michelle

    All I want to know is: WHO is going to "take responsibility" for LYING to the American people via media about BLAMING A YOU TUBE Video- I don't care what "29 future steps they take" – WHO authorized the LIE to the American people for 3 weeks,,, WHO– that's all we want to know–at least 4 WH (including Hitlery) repeated that LIE..

    January 23, 2013 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • ann

      That is the main question here which is not being addressed. Lying to the American public should have consequences. They are supposed to represent us, not lie and hide stuff from us.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mtheumer

      It was a fluid situation, but no one is going to give to the satifaction of calling it a deception, because it wasn't. People like you will never be satified by the reality of a situation like this.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Indyswimmer66

      Still waiting for Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, etc., to come clean about the "Bib WMD Lie" that cost ten's of thousands of lives, and sent the U.S. into near-bankruptcy.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • 7263cab

      Yes, and the people went ahead a re-elected him anyway. This is not the only situation that has been lied about, let's talk Fast and Furious too

      January 23, 2013 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Equalizer357

      These people has no SHAME, stop blaming Bush and his past administration. he's DONE. People hired BO as their president then he should work...! I'm an employer myself, when I hire an employee to do a job and he keeps blaming the guy whom he replaced FOUR YEARS AGO. What would I do...???

      January 23, 2013 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Yeah the whole gotcha climate is getting nothing worthwhile done around here. So let me fix everything so we can move on:

      It was a dangerous place to be let alone have an embassy. Someone got killed in their chosen line of work.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Antonio

      And while were at it. lets find out who lied about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction where we lost thousands of lives. Such hypocrites, how soon we forget.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • ann

      I wouldn't mind to hear about the WMD either. Lying is lying period.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • SOG1969

      Worst than lying about WMD is outing an active field agent of the CIA... treason... where was the outrage then?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. musa


    January 23, 2013 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. polnick

    She is a well-connected power and surely has given her OK of the questions. Expect Hillary to be exonerated of any wrong doing, but she will admit to being slightly less than vigilant.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Johan S

    Republicans won't take responsibility for throwing the 911 memo in the toilet, but Hillary has to be responsible for the embassy attack?

    If the republicans had allowed budget increases this wouldn't have happened. Instead we had to choose which embassy iraq, afghan etc gets better protection. GOP is responsible.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • anne112

      what's good for goose is good for gander. If we are to excoriate Hillary for lying about Benghazi let's do the same to the Bush Administration for lying about the non-existent WMDs.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

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

      January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Jackson

      Why doesn't anybody ask why the diplomat put himself in this area when he knew it was dangerous. Chances are that what happened in 2001 has been dealt with as much as it is going to be. Regarding the WARs we as Americans wanted to punish somebody and Saddam was an easy target. Had we not decided to stay it would not be an issue.

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

    Well I guess when you can't win elections all you have left is OBSESSING about imaginary conspiracy theories on internet forums. LOSING!

    January 23, 2013 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rob

    That blood clot was so bogus and if it were a Republican pulling that stunt, the extremist media would have been all over it...rather than gushing at the publicity stunt swearing in.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      you cannot win against the liberals, they want to destroy the economy, freedom and any honestly that might exist. They are growing in nunbers due to welfare and their laziness.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr Fitzs

      Wow ... you guys are as delusional as the suicide bombers and terrorists that we've been fighting all these years. Before we know you'll be strapping bombs to yourselves and blowing up "liberal" resturants and "members of the extremist propaganda" .... you should really step back and take a good look at yourselves. The "Liberals" aren't the problem.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • 7263cab

      You are so right Rob. Just take a look at how the media swooned, slobbered all over this innaguration compared to Diane Sawyer's attacks on Laura Bush when he was elected for his second term. Her question went something like, do you think a lavish innaguration should be held with the Iraq war going on? Hypocrisy at it's best.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • SOG1969

      I see the new GOP taliban has showed up here...

      January 23, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. terry green

    Go hillary

    January 23, 2013 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Please GO!

      January 23, 2013 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Crocodile tears!

    January 23, 2013 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. ann

    Well at least she took responsibility. I am glad she didn't make excuses like a lot of politicians. I do not however, understand how you would not have proper security at such a high risk location.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      it was intentional to get the result.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • ann

      @Meki80 What leads you to believe it was intentional?

      January 23, 2013 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jake

    Smart lady with the exception of her choice of spouse.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      no , they are a perfect pair, both liars.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • jon wilson

      You mean quite possibly the most popular president in U.S. history?

      January 23, 2013 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. The Source

    Why is there no Investigation into the Bushes ties to the Bin Laden family working for the Carlyle Group and Indictments for Dick Cheney with government Contracts for Halliburton. The Republican Party needs to be held accountable for their actions there was no panel or committee to even question them under Oath over this? The 911 Commission also Interviewed Bush and Cheney separate rather than together during the Investigation. Where are the Republicans now on this Issue using patriotism to hide lies that many top 2% companies mad profits from the blood Of our troops!

    January 23, 2013 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Geezer

    What about the thousands killed in Iraq needlessly? Who knew what, when?

    January 23, 2013 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Akr

      Republicans have very selective memory and do not care about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and 3,000 US soldiers that they caused by allowing Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield invade Iraq based on a lie.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Lee214

    Tears don't help grieving families, Mrs. Clinton.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • KJones

      Woman Hater!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. joe t

    What happened in Benghazi is a tragedy and should be dealt dealt with, but not as a GOP instigated circus. If they want to address leadership failures and do an investigation, let them investigate the leadership and intelligence failures of 9/11 where 3000 + Americans were murdered on American soil under the GOP watch or the bogus intelligence used to push us into Irag and Afganistan, causing the deaths of 6000 + American servicemen and servicewomen.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. Amushadie

    What about questions on supporting rebels to kill innocent people in Syria

    January 23, 2013 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
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