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. cincinnatidavid

    John McCain and Rand Paul shouldn't be permitted to handle would-be bombshells that just go off in their hands.

    January 23, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Mrs. Clinton spoke well to ask what her attackers' questions and accusations had to do with the present, as the timing, just before Obama's election to a second term, was a last hope for the Republicans.
    The GOP tried to use these diplomatic deaths to elect Romney, and they still lost. Now they are trying to use these deaths to elect the Victorian Scrooge they will nominate for president in 2016.
    They will continue to fall behind the earth's orbiting of the sun until they evolve into the present century.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Hello Joey. And eloquently said as usually. You truly have the gift.

      January 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      as usual. See what I mean. lol

      January 23, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. trex

    ..........Hey, Rand........we wouldnt have fired you up here in would have ................NEVER BEEN ELECTED................just ask Smith......................................

    January 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rene

    A little life style face lift and some hair color and she wil be good to go in 4 years. The State Department failures will be water under the bridge.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bunny

    Maccain, still nursing grievance from 2008... he is senile, Rand Paul latest tea party upstart needs to be stamped out like a coach roach!! in 2014. Conceited "if I were president...did not one I like to fire people person just get fired by the american people....." Rand Paul very dangerous for the country!!

    January 23, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sad American

    This is just a witch hunt by republicans to put the blame on someone. It would be like wanting to fire George bush for sept 11 happening. You can put blame on a individual for acts of terrorism. It takes a community to fight crime not an individual. It's sad the country we live in that people are concerned with themselves rather than the masses.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sad American

    McCain was shot down and held captive while in the service. That compared to a regular job means he would have been fired. He survived on his grandfathers and fathers boot straps. He is a epic failure and receives praise for being a hostage that is all.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. johnworks1956

    Someone take that Texas embarrassment back to Texas. We in Kentucky do not want Rue Paul speaking for us.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      Did the people in Kentucky gave you authority to speak on their behalf ? Are the vast majority of people in Kentucky shameless admirers of Hillary Clinton like you ? Then why in the h{word} do you presume speaking for them ?

      January 24, 2013 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. kommy

    McCain may be senile at its best, but he is right.

    January 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dreamer96

    Ambassador Steven died from breathing too much smoke..a wet rag over his mouth might have saved his life...
    He was separated from his guards and lost his way in the burning Embassy....
    Ambassador Stevens made a wrong turn in the hall way...
    He was not murdered...but died because he got lost in a burning building....

    January 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      Dreamer, you lucky lucky man/woman. You just got yourself hired by al Qaeda Libya Chapter as their official spokesman. Who knows about those details except you ? Congratulations.

      January 24, 2013 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Nate

    Let's face it, if the state department had waited until they knew everything to tell us, the republicans would accuse the administration of hiding.

    January 23, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      NATE You are right. Next time next emergency situation let us not act hastily. Call a special session of Congress bring the topic up and argue to our hearts content. Maybe the terrorists will just tire of waiting and give up. Good Idea. Where were you when this country needs you ?

      January 24, 2013 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. dreamer96

    John McCain says a protester does not bring a RPG to a protest...but we are talking about the middle east where owning a weapon and displaying it in public is a sign of manhood...Just like for some in the USA...

    John McCain also knows that the former leader of Libya Muammar Gaddafi killed many of his own people....and many in Libya were feed anti-American views for decades by Muammar Gaddafi....and Others were mad that the US did not rush in to help the Libyan people right away...And others looked at Americans in Libya as outsiders, non Muslims on Muslim soil....These many different groups did not have to be members of any organized group or to say the protesters where known to be terrorist and had to be terrorist to be carrying a RPG in Libya....The students in the Arab Spring became soldiers and learned to use many weapons from fighting in the Arab Spring...

    January 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      McCain knows what he is talking about, DREAMER. In the Middle East, they are prone to bring AK47s. They certainly do not bring RPGs or mortars. Please read more. It does not hurt and prevent you from embarrassing yourself.

      January 24, 2013 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. dreamer96

    One House member is asking why didn't we send in the F-16's to defend the US Embassy....What a joke...are we going to bomb a crowd outside the gate of our US Embassy?...The blast wave would have done terrible damage...and a strapping run by the F-16's with their machine guns blasting would have been bad too....Friendly fire happens in situations like that...even a hell fire missile launched from a drone has a big blast wave....

    January 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • pedro bundol

      Please read carefully, DREAMER, before ranting off. He said to use low flying F16s to scare the terrorists off not bomb them. It is good if I am always here to baby sit you. Do not continually embarrass yourself please.

      January 24, 2013 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. joe Luconte

    Unfortunately, Hillary continues to blame evryone except herself for he own inability to lead. Not only is it disappointing but it sure makes the once Great Country has been desecrated by the Clintons refusal to admit they made a mistake. Review the history or their politics...there is a pattern. I hope the American people wakeup before its too late.

    January 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jluke

    Typical Clinton Garbage, your a failure

    January 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
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