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. American Pie

    What a waste of time! Frankly and with all due respect, I completely trust that Ambassador Stevens knew better then ANYONE the dangers they were in. And if I were Ambassador and felt my life and my employees lives were in danger, I'd got me and my staffs' asses out of there months before when all the other embassies split! He knew the security threats, he experienced a bomb explosion at his hotel before moving to the compound, they experience a bomb explosion at the compound, he even told everyone he needed more security. He knew it was dangerous, why didn't he leave?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Big_D

    McCain is playing political games and everyone should know that Rubio is on the senate intelligence committee that created the story told by Rice. They are creating problems and pointing them out at the same time. They have created a GOP scandal machine with no accountability.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. GianCarlo


    January 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      So the new America is incompetence not being help accountable because she is a woman?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • SIMON

      What a stupid statement!!!! This has nothing to do with male/female dynamics!!! This has to do with mistakes made that got people killed – wake up you idiot!!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Joseph

      Why no hearing for the Republicans who allowed 50 US embassy workers to be murdered under the last administration's watch...which included John McCain? Not even a word about that...

      Why no hearing for the Republicans that started a war on Iraq that killed thousands of Americans and cost us trillions...all based on the false intel THEY presented to congress for approval? Nothing but silence....

      January 23, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      Wow....dumb and dumber!!! The issue is how they died....not that 50 people died!!! This is not a republican/democrat story – it is a story of terrorism abroad and how it was handled – GrowUp!!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      The question is Mccain received information and request from the ambassador... and what did Mccain do? He has the number to reach Hillary and Obama, and he has means to get to the CIA Director, and even call up the military. What did he do? Nothing.. yes...

      January 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • drkent3

      No, it's about partisan politics – pure and simple. The 50 people killed under the previous administration were also primarily due to terrorist acts. What the partisans keep focusing on is that the initial reports claimed it was not organized terrorism, but an unruly mob. The real question is: Why does that matter? An organized group of terrorists killed three embassy personnel, and the partisans want someone's head. There were 50 killed by organized groups of terrorists under the previous administration, and these same partisans did nothing. It is POLITICS.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Big_D

    McCain should have been in jail since he was part of the Keating 5.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • DDW 1946

      Songbird McCain is a sad excuse for a man. Big D, you are so correct.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • YWalk

      Keating 5 – $125 billion fraud on the US Tax Payer, well at least McCain got his hand slapped and then re elected

      January 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • avery

      This is about Hilary and the mistakes – HER dept made – that got people killed......and now she is saying what difference does it make??? just sickening

      January 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Julio Mickel

    This is what happens when you send a woman to do a mans job. What a shameful, arrogant old lady.. Glad to have her off her post! Good riddance!

    January 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • sly

      Yes Julio, only White Males should be in politics.

      And people with Hispanic names should not be allowed to vote.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bess

    What Rand Paul was reeeaaaallly saying is that women in higher positions should never be there to begin with, and Hilary should be fired from her job.

    Why do Republicans hate women?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • DDW 1946

      The answer to your question is because an educated woman is usually smarter and stronger in character than men.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jason Davis

    I love how everyone on here is either backing the Democrats or the Republicans, they are somehow deluded into thinking that the elite of one party or the other actually cares about them or the country. Get a clue people, both parties are destroying America and could care less about the people. To choose one side or the other is to fall into the trap these parties lay out to ensnare you and shows a complete inability to think on your own. Today is just a show of gamesmanship which will accomplish nothing, these people could care less about those who did, they just consider them part of the expendable masses.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sam

    At every corner this looks like a cover is obvious mistakes were made – hello!! It is sad that Hilary is ending her career on this note....however it is even sadder that these men had to die – because they were not being heard

    January 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee Joseph

      More than the 50 murdered US embassy workers under the last Republican administration, which included John McCain?

      Or the thousands of needlessly killed Americans in the Republicans' bogus war on Iraq, which was based on false intel presented to Congress for approval?

      January 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nathan

      The issue here is how they died....not that they died!!!! Duh!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • drkent3

      @Nathan – you keep saying "How they died". They all died in attacks on embassies by terrorists.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Scottish Mama

    Now that we had Hillary say that the funds were not there we need McCain, Rand and Johnson to tell us why they did not give it to the defense department and not let it go till we get hard copy proof and another committee meeting asking them questions on why they did not give it to the defense department. I know they were on a hiatus for 3 months so they would not vote on anything because of the election. Was the election more inportant than the safety of the diplomats?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Howard

    Projection? Eat a salad for lunch, man.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Reggie from LA

    Yes. Let's try to scapegoat on Ms Clinton, our failure to fund appropriate security and while at it, maybe we can discredit her and be all whiny about this in 3 years whenever she puts herself out there as a candidate. IT WILL NOT WORK!! We already know the game. Clinton's candidacy (if she chooses to do so) will strangle the living daylights out of any GOP candidate and we all know it and they've even admitted it in a few venues. You McCarthy-ic morons are looking more and more ridiculous each day. DO SOMETHING DECENT FOR AMERICA. Ooops. You don't know how, do you?

    January 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SIMON

    People died here!!!!! Please do not dishonor their memory by making this a "man against women in power" .......that is total bu-llsh-it!!!!!! This has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat or Male or Female..........IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THEIR CRIES FOR HELP WERE NOT LISTENED TO AND THIS IS WHY THE ATTACK WAS SUCCESSFUL!!!!!!! WAKE UP

    January 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nathan

    John McCain is not to blame here......Duh!!!!! Cannot believe the stupid posts here!!! This is about Hilary and the department she ran and how they screwed up!!!!! and now how they cover it up

    January 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Duh... it has everything to do with it. Withholding funding to be able to protect diplomats has everything to do with it and expect to see McCain and Rand in that seat next.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. obandon

    Maybe if the TGOP had FUNDED things this would not have happened.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. donald

    Whoa!!!!!! Did she actually say – "What difference does it make".......This is the greatest insult to the dead that could be given. I hope the families come forward and address this comment. The difference is what got them killled.....a protest with no warning is much different than, a planned attack – that the Ambassador was trying to get help with......I respected Hilary until now.....there is no respect in lying or covering up the mistakes her dept made

    January 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      If you would have printed the whole conversation in it's entirety it may have even made sense. But I also saw how partisan the discussions have been.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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