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. TommytheT

    What difference does it make Mrs Clinton? Makes a big difference as the American People deserve to know if there was an attempt to cover up what happened and if so, who was involved. People are pretty smart, they understand you can plan and try and things still go wrong. Might accept that, but no one should ever accept a cover up on the part of our elected officials.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • biglio

      I haven't seen any cover up by anyone, only conspiracy theorists see that....and of course republican hacks trying to discredit the administration (which they tried to do from day one)

      January 23, 2013 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • irunner

      Republicans were just using Benghazi as a way to win back the WH, but now that they lost, they are hoping to destroy Hilary's reputation, because they fear she will be their opponent in 2016. American style political theatre!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Travis

    She has more balls than any man in Congress that's for sure. And she tells lit like it is. If they don't like what she has to say then they are in the wrong job because she's as honest as you get.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah Reinecke

      Hillary has zero morals or an honest bone in her body, she takes right after her lying impeached sleazy husband. Truth doesnt matter to her.

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

      Amen to that!

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

      Put the pom poms down, Travis..... it's embarrassing...

      January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • anne112

      Agreed. McCain is unsatisfied? He was satisfied with Palin as a running mate, you'd think that it wouldn't take much to make him happy.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • 94M

      First and foremost the Sec State is a career politician. What you see in public is very different than what you see in private. She is the head of the State Dept and as such should have seen the warning signs in her daily briefings and directed extra security or the closure of the consulate when the other countries were pulling out or reducing their footprint. No matter what is said, there were serious breakdowns at the State Department, and hopefully these meeting can get to the bottom of the problems and fix them.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • lbpaulina

      And...Sarah are who? Do you intimately know Dr. Hillary Clinton? Do you have a degree in Psychology? Or you're just different from her? Did you think she embodies the strength that a woman can have? She did not freak out at the time of the husband's scandal, and? This means to be strong. It was a choice, her choice, which did not mean a lack of honesty.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      You hit the nail right on the head. And the best thing she can possibly do now is become president in 2016. That will put some real leadership in the White House, not another cool dude, rockstar. And what are they looking for??? Yes it's a tragedy, but the dangers in these jobs in other countries are inherent. It's like Americans who go hiking in Korea and Irag and are "kidnapped." Seriously??? What the hell were they doing there in the first place? The Middle East, Far East and Africa are volatile and not exactly America lovers. This is nothing new................................

      January 23, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Frannk Cardenas

      I agree Travis 100%

      January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. rightospeak

    The Bengazi incident was orchestrated just like 9/11 hoax to keep us terrorizied and to keep Obama out of the office. It was a gross miscalculation and the perpetrators will face the music – better spin than the oficial one , is it not ? You can fill the blanks as to who was involved-you know some of them . Just figure out who benefits from all the wars- it is not the American taxpayer.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah Reinecke

      a "gross miscalculation.." wow they lied on 9/12 and they continue to lie. Obama and Hillary are two peas in a pod zero morals and not one ounce of integrity.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Ancient Texan

      The most asinine statement of the day. The winner!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • 3vilmonkey

      Sara, your comments are really quite nauseating. You give a whole new meaning to the word "ignorance". Don't you have an illegitimate child who needs a diaper changed or... something??

      January 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Travis

    We need her for 2016 so bad its not even funny. I think she knows we need her so bad.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Right now we need her to tell us about Benghazi.......instead of listening to the Senate Democrats singing her praise instead of getting to what happened to our Diplomat and three other men~

      January 23, 2013 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Jakey

      Honest and Clinton are 2 words that do not normally appear in the same sentence. I am a Democrat, but if winds up as the D candidate in 2016, I am pulling the big R lever, just for spite.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. Anne

    Hillary, you are a wonderful person and politician, I wish you were the president in 2008. But You lied about Benghazi because you wanted to help Obama's reelection. End of story. You say nothing new now, just continue playing the game. Waste of time.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      The republicans have the time lines. It fits what the democrats said. Rand is a crazy. Can you say nuts.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  6. Thomas E. Shafovaloff

    Who is in charge of gathering information, at the DIA, about threats to American interists in North Aafrica?????? An assessment of their performance should be done. If those persons are not suited to making certain that information is gathered and acted upon then perhaps we should find replacements so that this does not happen again. At election time I think terrorists see an opportunity to disrupt or affect internal politics here in America – so this time should be considered a time for heightened security. Remember Spain?? The Republicans may have fallen into use – with their reaction playing out right into the 'terrorist's game."

    January 23, 2013 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Republicans need to be replaced.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mountain Goat

    It's very clear that the administrations "reach out to Muslims" political correctness policy is why protection was delayed, hell Obama and Clinton tried to blame the attack on a stupid video for 2 whole weeks....when they realized that it wasn't going to work...then changed their tune. You liberals are so easily fooled and so blind that you can't see your hands in front of your faces.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Wilson and Plame Wilso.n had been to Iraq and told Bush there is no evidence of WMD. Then his wife is outed. Hmmm

      January 23, 2013 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ancient Texan

    The Republican members of the committee just ask what really happened and why. The Dims praise her for her ability to walk on water and assure her there will be a monument built for her on the Washington scene as soon as possible.

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

      what's amazing to me is that they still don't want to know 'WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY" when it comes to Bush and thousands of our soldiers dead because of a war of choice based on faulty intelligence, but demand to know when we ourselves are attacked. They treat this administration as if it were the one's doing the attacking.

      January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Struve

    Hillary never takes full responsibility, always weasels just like a politician.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeremy

    I find it interesting that Sec of State Clinton is using the term " Anex" instead of " CIA" when refering to assistance State Dept. Personnel receive. Would admitting the obvious CIA presence in Libya risk anything for our future presence there? ( This coming from someone like myself who is studying for the Foreign Service Officer test).

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

    What the heck!!!!!! The Senate is holding a mutal admiration hearing, instead of a hearing on what happened in Benghazi!

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

    It's too bad McCain did not have to run against Hilary. That would have made for some interesting debates. I still think Hilary would have won those debates. I liked McCain until after his 2004 primary loss. After that, he changed. McCain is now just another blustery ultra-partisan politician. Too bad.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  13. Polaris

    OMG – here's another dim bulb- Rand Paul – Hillary would never work for you, nitwit!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. n222s

    Yes, John McCain is horrible. All those years in a Viet Nam prison, tortured and body broken. Such a bad man.

    He never had to deal with a concussion. Slacker!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. the prophet

    Poor Hillary set up by the very Government she represents,

    January 23, 2013 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
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