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. Fred

    Give her a break.........she has blood circulating into her head for weeks now.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FG

    McCain is looking for another 15 minutes of fame.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Judith

    Old McCain is simply a resentful, bitter loser and this is his last chance to grandstand. Hillary can stand up to him and make him look like the irascible old fool that he is.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ike

      What is your old lady Hillary hiding from the old man McCain and the rest of the American public?

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

      I'd hardly call standing up to Clinton to demand the truth behind Benghazi grandstanding. The families of these good men that were killed deserve answers and so far they have been forgotten in this whole business (which is what the current administration and all the rest of people who wish this mess would just fade away wants). If McCain and others don't stand up for them, then who? Got a better idea? It's not going away and accountability will be found at some point. This isn't some stupid game, it's about people who died.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jinx88

    Rand Paul should fire himself!! What a joke!!!

    January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ergo sum

    Clinton's testimony is of significance, even if only because it will be used by her opponents in case she runs for President.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rjc

    How about this... the party keeps protecting their own, the other party keeps attacking and getting blamed for being mean. Now clowns from both sides can go back to their chambers and pat each other on the back.

    Meanwhile – nothing changes, no answers, no solutions, accountability and responsibility are shirked once again..

    January 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinewalker

      God there IS another reasonable thinking person on this earth! Thank you!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Norberto Torriente

    Secretary Clinton was "Excellent" in her response to every questions and innuendo that was throw at her. As far as what's his name Ron Paul, he was a complete idiot!! and an opportunist. That man does not deserve to be in the prestigious Chamber of the Senate. How soon some of those Republicans forgot about the previous administration and the mess they left behind not to say the least, the thousands of live that were lost.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • debra

      Rand Paul and John McCain prove their incompetence every time they open their mouths. Preening for the camera rather than an honest attempt to prevent a repeat of Benghazhi by terrorist in the future. Hillary has class and intelligence – largely missing from the congress questioning her. There are people and organizations out there that will kill Americans and that would love to see America fall. These clowns in Congress need to stop acting for the camera and each other and start doing their jobs – for a change. If we had 100 Hillary Clintons we could turn the country around to where it needs to be.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinewalker

      I like Clinton but "what difference does it make now?" and "we are in a new reality" are not really intelligent statements on her part. It makes all the difference in the world because the administration (including her) were covering up the fact that there was a terrorist attack and we are NOT in a new reality, we have BEEN in a new reality since 9-11. on a secondary note....if the Republicans delayed funding for security, SHAME on them as well.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jay

    Republicans are stupid.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • shingigg

      they are not stupid...they are SHAMELESS hypocrites who pretend they have amnesia as to their own unaccountable behavior...they assume, because of their grand stature i guess, their own selective accounts of history will trick people into thinking they are legit and that and their (pretend) amnesia is contagious when it comes to the american people's memories...

      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kari


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

    Rand Paul- "If I had been President" Hasn't he started all of his comments with that for the last few months?

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

    They are all over her because they know if she runs in 2016 she will crush whatever pathetic candidate they dredge up.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sgtjerry54

    If the the top Brass didn't Know what was going and told the American People they didn't "God Help Us" Cowpods is just that. Chris Stevens and his team are Dead Because of there action or lack of.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David

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

    January 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. J. Coman

    Contrary to what Hillary says, things are absolute. A equals A. There is no new reality and this is not "unprecedented". The fact is, Libya is an unstable country and there are factions with anti-American sentiment that live there. This is true of the Middle-East, Africa, parts of Asia and several South American countries. To not take precautions against threats against the embassy in a hostile environment, like Libya, is not only reckless it's a dereliction of duty.

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

    The GOP house rejected funding for additional security. What dis they expect? Rubio signed off on the cover story about the movie. What do they expect? It sounds like the GOP made a mistake again and they are blaming Clinton for their mistakes. You need to fund security which is congresses job, there are no volunteers. The GOP is surprised when they didn't pass the security funding because Obama got into Libya without a war. Typical GOP nonsense. I hope she rips them a new one.

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