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. warloard

    God look over our Dead. Rand Paul's idea, when something goes bad, fire them really, ok , rand you are fired. You and everyone, in the congress, you and your pals have completely destroyed anything that resembled the United States of America oh, say about 17 years ago. You are "ALL" fired.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jim Nownes

    Do you people really know what you are talking about or are you just spouting off? the reason for the questions are not to blame anyone but, to gain information so it won't happen again. Do to the stupidity of some they are forgoing the issues to input politics. Why can't we just get the answers needed to improve the security. Stop the politics and get it done.

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

    On February 14, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be "detrimental to America’s national security" — a charge Republicans rejected.

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

      too bad she had the knowledge and falsified it. She is a liar.. why do you think she said "why does it matter how it happened".... it matters because of the families involved wanting to know how there loved one passed.. it matters because your administration failed in providing honest details about what occurred because you were in the middle of trying to cover it up to cover yours and the administrations ass. This is a sad example of the organization within the Obama administration.. another reason why his cabinet is moving on including Clinton. Obama is in charge of the ambassadors abroad.. it his his administrations responsibility to keep them safe and informed. After repeated calls for additional security at this facility Obama's administration denied the extra help. Now I am not saying to was Obama himself who said no.. but it was people under his command and people who are supposed to inform him on this. The main reason why it matters is to fins a way to make sure it never happens again. That is why we are having the hearing.. not to just slam the people involved for the fun of it. But because those people exuded an ignorance that for some reason thousands of miles away in Washington someone or some group of people didn't think they needed the extra security. They also supposedly had a failed system of flowing communication.. Which most likly is just a pathetic excuse from Clinton and the administration to try and cover up their screw up.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Clear and Present Thinker

    If Rand Paul had been president ..... Well, it's certainly a relief is is not.

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

    Hillary Clinton was professional, honest and forceful as usual. She managed to make the right-wing conspiracy freaks look like the desperate losers they are, esp. that doofus Rand Paul cranky old Mr. Poopypants John McCain. Ha Ha.

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

      Didn't Clinton's boss say there is no war on terror.. And that al- Qaeda isn't a threat any more. . And now she states al-Qaeda is still a threat.. Do these two ever attend the same meetings on national security at all...

      January 23, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Davis

      Oh look another kool-aid drinking partisan political hack who thinks their party is great and cares about them and the other party is BAD. Get a clue both parties are ruining the country, get on board and quit falling into the partisan trap both sides try to get the electorate to wander into.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. superbole

    Let's just say that all politicians lie. If that's the case here, then it is a simple matter of sifting out probability. In this case, probability now falls to Clinton's favor because her conclusions have more conviction and are not paled by obvious maneuver and manipulation of the GOP at large; ham-handed accusations and meritless conspiracies wilt to Ms Clinton's hardness.

    An analysis:

    "Conservatives are likely to frame Clinton's contention that the existence (or lack thereof) of any protest doesn't really matter as merely a way to sidestep the administration's initial attempt at a some sort of a cover-up. But her point is that if there had been a protest, the consequences of the attack would not have been any less terrible and the administration would have been no less culpable, so there was no motivation for them to lie. In other words, sometimes a mistake (even one that originates with the CIA) is just a mistake, and not a conspiracy." – Adam Serwer

    January 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Johnny 5

    She'll be let go with only a slap on the wrist. America has gone soft on criminals.

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

      Only gone soft on ones that work for the government. They have immunity!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rikers

    Mrs. Clinton. Get off your high horse and admit that you and Obama made stupid mistakes.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bo

    At least I agree with Clinton on one thing, turning every issue into a political football game. So what if you fire Clinton, the issue is still there, and she is probably the only person that is working to get it solved. So deal with the issue, not the lady!

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

    McCain and Rand Paul came out of this making themselves and the GOP looking like complete mor ons.

    They did themselves absolutely no good here.

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

    You go girl!

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

    Ahh Hillary Clinton, a political punching bag. Her husband made her a joke, Obama made her a joke, and now she's making herself a joke. She should go join Sarah Palin in obscurity.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mapa

    I was an ardent admire of John McCain. He was a principled old school Republican. I am saddened to say he has now become one of the most vindictive Senators with no principles. All he thinks about is winning the next election. It is sad that a person of his stature behaves the way he does to win an election. He has no right to question anyone as he never comes up with any good ideas anymore neither do I see him taking any principled stand.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Big Jim

    We are so quick to help the Egyptians and Libyans... Look what we get! Now all N Africa is going to be this way. Even a 5th grader could have seen this coming. Clinton says nobody could have predicted this? Our government is at the highest level of incompetence... ever.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ritmocojo

    John McCain, aka the angry old white man that unleashed the shrill that is Sarah Snow Snooky Palin, is a nothing but a loser in more ways than one. Had it not been for Admiral Daddy McCain, Johnny Boy would've washed out of flight school after crashing two trainer aircraft. Daddy's pull kept him flying until he was shot down for flying too low and slow in Vietnam. No surprise there. While in captivity by the way, he sang prettier than a well-fed canary.

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