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. Wendall loves Scotland

    Hi CNN moderators-– Nice work. Censorship.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tom

    McCain is a bitter irrelevant archaic man who needs to be put out to pasture. His views represent about 5 percent of the population , he is a classic example of the need for term limits in congress

    January 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cedaly1968

    The issue to these hearings is to try and politically hang someone. The point of "misleading the American people" is to try and tarnish President Obama during an election. The reality is that Libya is the wild west and diplomatic efforts there are dangerous. And sometimes people die because of it. Were mistakes made, yes. Are they trying to correct those mistakes? Yes. Is it a tragedy, yes. But I am guessing few people feel worse about it than Sec. Clinton because the Ambassador was her friend. This whole thing is another example of a gigantic waste of time. If we spent as much effort on deficit reductions and managing government growth as we do on the blame game we would be riding surpluses again.

    As for the posts saying she can't do the job because she's a woman, grow up and act like an adult. Sec. Clinton is widely regarded around the world as a shrewd politician able to call friends and allies on the carpet. This hearing basically just backfired and did more to establish her credibility as a potential President.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. A92coupe

    Rand Paul wants to know why nobody was fired for the Benghazi stuff!! Why not find out why some of the Wall Street Banking crooks weren't fired??

    January 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Because Government cronies bailed them out

      January 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • f. carter

      What a stupid and silly questions. Then it would be fair game to say I would like to know how and why did over 6 thousand US soldiers died in vain? because they were nothing but foot soldiers? here we have ambassador 3 seals means more then 6 thousand man and woman that died in a senseless war?

      January 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindsey Brutus

      Because government cronies like Obama and McCain bailed them out! I guarantee that Rand Paul would have voted Hell No! to any bailout of banks just like his father did!

      January 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scottish Mama

    Now we know that nothing new or that the reports came out just as Obama, Hillary, and Rice said. We must also see if the congress withheld funds.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      More specifically why did the Republicans in the House cut off funds to the State Department for the protection of our embassies...

      January 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Sorry I have been saying for defense Dept. for security of the diplomats it is the State department.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sly

    This is quite amusing. We actually let Americans go to countries where everyone justifiably hates us and wants to kill us?

    Gee .... what happens when 100,000 locals want to kill Americans? Those 4 workers were toast the next time they left the Embassy to go shopping anyway, so what's the big deal?

    Maybe Americans should actually think a bit next time they celebrate the Shock and Awe murder of 500,000 people. And yes, 95% of YOU were celebrating those bombs.

    Y'all should know that what goes around comes around. It's called Karma.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John Horgan

    Mr. Paul how many Republicans called for firings after 9-11? Bush should have been the first to go. Talk about not reading the emails. What a bunch of hypocrites!

    January 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Congratulations, both incidents on 9/11 were accomplished by a Clinton. One let the terrorists In, the other couldn't keep them Out

      January 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Dan- Bush let 9/11 happen remember it happened in 2001?

      January 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lindsey Brutus

      If Rand Paul were president we never would have got involved in Libya in the first place! In fact, we never would have invaded Iraq and would have been done with Afghanistan a long time ago!

      January 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Lindsay do we bring it to them or let them bring it to us?

      January 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Scottish Mama

    Oh yeah, follow the money. When was the last time the congress appropiated funds?

    January 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vern Levy

    "Let's be honest with ourselves, let's avoid turning everything into a political football..." Really? Like when the Obama administration tried to downplay this terrorist attack for a week because they didn't want negative news to hurt his campaign for reelection. And then Scty Clinton trying to deflect blame for Obama by trying to take responsibility. WAKEUP people!

    January 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Obama took the blame and Hillary also took responsibility. What else do they want. She took responsibility today, the reports given to the committee support her claims. Now why weren't there money to protect them?

      January 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Another example of a liberal organization that can't live within its budget. If you can't do more with less than do less

      January 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Dan the money was there it was not dispersed, if I heard them right.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bert Gertman

    Hillary and Obama are Marxist jokes. Both need to go to jail. Americans died because they were too busy trying get elected. Like true commies they will never be held accountable they are experts at deceit. Sickening!

    January 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Marxist? Commies?
      You forgot "pinko".

      January 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Can Republicans/tea baggers BE anymore stupid???

      January 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. the prophet

    What is amazing is many bloggers express discontent yet still do nothing

    January 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      What would you have them do prophet?

      January 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. the prophet

    Help wanted lier department

    January 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      I think they have the liar department in every branch.

      January 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. billbaker

    How dare anyone question this poor little squeaky clean lady. She and her husband set the standard for high morals.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      They questioned her, now it is congresses turn.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Now it's Congress's turn to explain to the American people why they cut the funding for the emabassiies protection. We all know where the blame for this incident lies...and it isn't with the administration or the state department. Both Houses of Congress need to be held accountable...

      January 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. farquar

    Hey look. They have a tweet from Leahy at 3:34 PM. Where is he, Bermuda?

    January 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dreamer96

    John McCain keeps saying no one brings a rocket propelled grenade to a random protest....He knows he is wrong...we are talking about the middle east.....and teenagers involved in the Libyan Arab Spring grabbed weapons from the captured Libyan weapons in Iraq...and they walk around every where carrying weapons like that....It makes them feel important....Just like people carry guns around in the USA...It makes them feel important....The GOP was in charge in Iraq and let those 250,000 Iraq soldier go home with out jobs,..and they looted the Iraqi Army Weapons depots and ruined the country...and started making IED's in just days and killing our troops in mass.....and the GOP was in charge in Iraq and had over 100,000 well armed US troops and still could not protect our troops.......

    The GOP are blind to their part in this...They set it up in Libya for this ...and they know it too,.....and like Karl Rove said...When things are going bad Attack the other side......Never admit your mistakes and make them the other sides fault...That is the Karl Rove Way...Always Attack...Always blame your mistakes on the other side...

    January 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Let us not forget who armed al queda, Reagan and Wilson of Texas.

      January 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • dreamer96

      Scottish Mama

      It sickens me when Reagan sold those WMD's to Saddam in Iraq from 1980 to 1988 using GWBush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney, and Newt Gingrich knew and just days after the 911 attack Newt was in a Pentagon meeting planning the Afghan and Iraqi wars ...and covering up the part the GOP played in those wars and the 911 attack...always promoting Reagan as a GOP God....when it was Reagan foreign policy of arming anybody that would fight our enemies for us...We mess up after the Soviets left Afghanistan and Charlie Wilson knew it....

      January 23, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Dreamer- thank you for posting such a truthful account. We all make mistakes, because of being "just human", we are nothing fancy, it is just we can speak.

      January 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
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