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. TAJ

    Quit the blow-by-blow testimony already. Everyone knows her plan is to show her "strength" by defending the absolutely indefensible so as not to lose her mojo for 2016. The worst part? The so-called "objective media" will cover for her in anyway possible. What a joke that is.

    At least Reno had the integrity to offer her resignation. Integrity does not equal Clinton!

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

    Almost every time he opens his mouth, I'm relieved that McCain and his buddy Palin were not successful in 2008. Benghazi would look like a success compared to the rest of a McCain-Palin administration. Thanks for your military service, Mr. McCain, but it's time for you to retire from the senate and let someone with competence serve.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Aezel

    LOL. Rand Paul, "if I had been president." Ah hahahahahhahahahahahahaha. Yeah buddy, maybe in your wildest dreams.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris Berry

    Senator Rand Paul's behavior was most unSenatorial in his attack on Secretary Clinton but made it abundantly clear that he is running for president.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SlammerBC

    Many of you are missing the point to all of this.

    Hours after the attack many foreign news outlets were reporting an attack on 2 different complexes by heavily armed groups, none of which were caused by protestors. This was common knowledge everywhere except information coming from our WH and many of our news outlets. I have no idea why the WH chose to lie and blame this on protestors for 5 days but I'm interested in finding out.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • zandhcats

      Obama & Hillary both apologized & took the responsibility in the mistake, what do the Republicans want? Did the Bush & his gangs ever apologized & took any responsibility for life that lost and the war? I've to bring Bush again & again, as long as the Republicans keep on playing the politic games.

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

      Yeah now we must listen to other countries TV stations. I think we go on our CIA and intelligence over a news station.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • joseph

      You are wrong. They were reporting that a protest WAS occurring and there may have been criminal elements using the protest as cover to attack. I really dont think the people attacking her know exactly what they are attacking her over. Very convoluted and no smoking gun. She says what went down, sh it happened. And yes it does just happen sometime.

      January 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jimbo

    The GOP seems more outraged by the 4 deaths in Libya, and fixing blame for them, deserved or not, than they were about the totally unjustified full scale invasion of Iraq with 100's of thousands killed. Why is that?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • fake fake fake

      just to demonstrate fake difference between two parties wholy owned by wall street and AIPAC.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Only WMD in that was the GOP.

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

      Because they are incompetent senile old white guys who are completely out of touch with reality. I wish that was being unfair but it's not.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ctong

    Strange that McCain's qualification to question is a major topic here. When someone as senior as a US CONSULATE was killed in a small-scale terror attack, shouldn't you be asking his boss all the questions about what went wrong, including months of smokescreening about it being a random mob violence in response to YouTube? If a budget cut is responsible for the death of Stevens and others, we can end many enquiries about many problems and just blame it on the economy. Clinton has been dodging the bullets for months until now, let's not make this a MacDonald's job interview for her.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    John McCain is still playing party politics with national security. Of all people in Congress he should be better than this!

    January 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. SterilizeThemAll

    What about the attack that killed 3000+ American's on 9/11 that the Republican's had TONS of warning about? What about that one? An attack that renders this attack meaningless. Where is the 'grilling' on that one? Idiots...

    January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Big_D

    The GOP controlled house rejected Clinton's request for additional funding for security at US Consulates. The screwed the pooch. End of story. Unless you want to talk about how Rubio was part of the intelligence committee that covered up the attack then blamed it on Rice. The GOP is a bunch of old men playing politics while they degrade mentally.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. FL girl

    Seriously CNN? I am one of your outmost supporters but I have to say now "shame on you!". 2 hours of discussions and the most important headline on your homepage in regard to the covering of this hearing is McCain's comments? Low on ratings or simply trying to get some drama into your field today? I watch the complete broadcast of the hearing and I can tell you McCain and Paul are more concern about their political spotlight than anything else. Nothing smart or constructive came from both their comments. Why even make it the main headline? It does not represent or describes the outcome of the hearings. The grand majority had smart and very knowledgeable discussions, which in fact are very productive to our Country. This type or reporting is what is damaging not only the journalism community of this country but also the public expectations of constant drama and a type of "Jerry Springer" spectacle. Would have never expected this idiotic manipulation of such an important reporting from your part. Again, what a disappointment.

    Nonetheless, Clinton held her own as she can against anyone, with nothing but respect and incredible clarity. I may not be a fan of Clinton but I can certainly recognize her qualities and the incredible service she has done to this country as Secretary of State. Sen. Kerry has definitely very large shoes to fill.

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

    Well mrs Clinton....... it depends on "what is, is".
    Nothing but dirtbags covering for those impeachable actions by the current administration.

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

    John McCain is about as relevant as Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Damien

    The GOP's continued pin the blame on the donkey is disgusting. It was a tragedy, no doubt, but their attempt to make a scandal out of this is simply further proof that they are obstructionists hell bent on advancing a political agenda. They care nothing about the good of the country. Go get 'em, Hillary !

    January 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MTATL67

    Considering Congressional Republican monumental failures and poor job performance...their judging on leadership is a joke. McCain has proven himself to be more interested in partisan game playing than actual concern for American security. The complaints of the takers aka Republicans do not interest me.

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