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. triago

    time to face the music hilldog

    January 23, 2013 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Hmmm...

      Sure you could have done a better job... But I guess it's easier to just call people stupid names. Look who's stupid now! You! Oh, and why didn't the air force intercept the planes on 9-11? Or the crazies that bombed Beirut? Or Timothy McKvey in Oklahoma? Oh, I know! Because they are terrorists! So the Secretary of State was busy in many other parts of the world, and congress didn't fund a marine squad to protect Ambassador Stevens. Well guess what. It didn't help the Marines in Beirut either... You, sir, have a short memory and a smaller brain to blame and call names. But then again, look who is stupid now.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. truth teller

    Should have saved some money by cancelling this dog and pony show. been watching since it started and it is a total farce. What a waste of time and money.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    Hilary Clinton was not telling lies but have done her bit as a woman. security is a deep or core business and needs somebody that have nine live inside HIM to manage.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Don


      January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      He's being a chauninist, Don. He meant the SoS post should be held by a man.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      To paraphrase Rev Dr Felix Nwosu "Derp. and other inarticulate nonsense..."

      January 23, 2013 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Rev Dr. Carr

      to insinuate that because the post of sec. of state is held by a woman as a failure to this situation sir is unamerician to say the lest . you being a man of the cloth should know better than to cast stones....pray for peace and stength for All of our leaders might be a better choice have disrepected All american women , the goverment and yourself with your comment .....

      January 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jimmy

    She treated the Al-Qaeda animals in Libya as a bunch of "peaceful protesters" that are seeking "freedom" and "democracy". I hope that she along with all the other American officials that are supporting the Islamists/Al-Qaeda in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia will be prosecuted in the future. No American Citizen should be immune from supporting Al-Qaeda.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Rev Dr. Carr

      How do get your ideal that Clinton treated terrorist as protestors ....These terrorist have aired beheading of our soldiers over the net and get all jacked up because some knuckle head makes fun of them on you tube ....and takes lives of our American personal a country that has had an uprising against a ti rent ,wanting a democracy...must I remind you of how the chain of command works .THE CONGRESS must approve everything FIRST...The us is not in wartime where the president has the power to superseded the congress ...bottom line is the congress needs to stop behaving as if there's a civil war between the reps and the administration and do their jobs for the people and by the people ...not acting for their party lines this hearing does nothing but show the world division and weakness of our congress and the lack of power of our president and his administration I say why wait for three months to not pay congress start now this hearing is a waste of time and money

      January 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vern

    Just tell me who gave the order to "Stand Down" when our heroic defenders were screaming for help, then follow it up
    the chain of command to it's source. Isn't it interesting that nothing has leaked out from our military. Washington has
    them on a short leash, no doubt.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jay

    In Clinton and Obama's defense: Benghazi was a hassle ... there are funner things to do on the taxpayer's dime.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jerry

    Of course it's personal! Now, when will this Obamalooney trained liar/hypocrite going to admit fault/responsibility?! Let me guess...


    January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • JoJo

      There were seven embassy attacks under the presidency of Bush. ( also the attacks on the world trade centers ) I don't recall all this chatter then when the embassies were attacked. It's a dangerous world out there.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Donnie the Lion

      I think when she said the words "I take responsibility" was when she took responsibility.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • anne112

      " I think when she said the words "I take responsibility" was when she took responsibility." Thanks! I needed that chuckle!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. brown

    Hillary is such an ignorant out of touch AIPAC tool.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. lbpaulina

    To Indyswimmer66.
    I'm happy that someone still believes in the fairy tales: it will never happen. The intrinsic arrogance these people have makes them think that war, tortures, etc. were necessary to find the WMD in Iraq. The problem is that no WMD was found (CIA 2005 report) and the war became Operation Iraqi Freedom. I think we are all guilty of hypocrisy, because none of us says the truth. Maybe we are just bored, because these people (the republicans) are very annoying.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. DeepintheHeart

    I had hoped Hillary would be honest and straightforward. Why do I have such unrealistic expectations? She's a Clinton, for Pete's sake!

    January 23, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. lcleejr

    republican politicians will try to make this into a political issue. they know if she decides to run for president in 2016, she would crush any republican that would run.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • anne112

      True. She would be a formidable opponent.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. JT

    I hope it is personal for Hillary..... she is responsible. The fact that our ambassador wasn't just 'killed'... but sodemized and tortured before he died speaks volumes to the half-ass attention they paid the situation.... and don't get me started on the election-time cover up when they sent Rice out on the Sunday shows...... for shame. This is what happens when you have rookies leading this nation..

    January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Boom.

      Don't forget about how they said he "died in the safe room" from "suffocation"... Then those photos were released...

      January 23, 2013 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. TheCommonDominator

    Did she seriously just say "What difference does it make?" HUH!?!?!?!?!? 4 dead AMERICANS THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE YOU SELF ABSORBED SYCOPHANTIC OBAMA SUCK UP.

    I cannot believe this is happening and worse is most if not all of the blind Obama voters don't even know what Benghazi is. But they know when the check will arrive.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Zoey

      At this point is doesn't matter what name you put on it. It's just labelling.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • maria

      Really ??? My bet is that all of that white trash that sits in their trailers and get morbidly obese from eating food stamp groceries are related to you. You Buddy are living up to your name COMMON and let's throw STUPID in for good measure. Where were you when your boy Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction that led to the death of thousands of Americans? I know... Waiting for your GED results to come in the mail.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • anne112

      I can just picture the Cheeto smear all over his wifebeater.

      January 23, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jorge Sedano

    Clinton is splitting hairs in her testimony... The response was delayed.. But government can not admit to that story because of the White House initial resones

    January 23, 2013 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Nick G

    Are safe rooms not available for these kinds of emergencies that can give a few hours at least of protection while waiting for help? Have some remote controlled machine guns operable from inside the room also. The bad guys in the movies have had these for years.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
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