Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Conclusion of House Hearing on Benghazi Attack; Reps. Salmon, Grayson, Marino, Vargas, Duncan, Schneider, Kinzinger, Kennedy, Brooks, Bera, Lowenthal, Cotton, Cook
Aired January 23, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. MATT SALMON, R-ARIZONA: Finally, President Truman had a placard on his desk that said "The buck stops here." I know that you've taken responsibility, and I applaud you for that. But I -- I really hope that this isn't just an exercise -- another exercise in finding lower level bureaucrats that we kind of throw under the bus and actually get somewhere with this -- not about a game of gotcha, but -- but how can we fix this for the future.
And I yield back the balance. And I'd love your answers.
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, that's exactly what I'm intent on doing. And I think the ARB, not I, has made its findings. The reason ARBs were created is to try to take a dispassionate, independent view of what happened and then come up with recommendations that are the responsibility of the department to implement.
You know, the -- the ARB makes very clear that Chris Stevens, who probably knew more about Libya than anybody else in our government, did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale despite the overall trend of security problems that we faced -- and I have to add neither did the intelligence community. The ARB makes that very clear that the intelligence community also did not really zero in on the connection between the deteriorating threat environment in eastern Libya and in Benghazi and a direct threat on our compound.
So we have work to do. We have work to do inside the department. We have work to do with our partners and the DOD and the intelligence community to constantly be taking in information, making sure it does get to the right people; that it isn't somehow stovepiped or stalled, but that it does rise to decision-makers. And I'm committed to improving every way that I can on what the ARB told us to do, on assessing our intelligence.
And I think that it's fair to say, Congressman, that we -- we have to do this now because I predict we're going to be, as we saw in Algeria, seeing all kinds of asymmetric, not just to our government facilities but to private sector facilities. In Tunisia, although we -- we protected our embassy, our school was badly damaged. So we have to take a broader view.
And I think that the ARB gives us a start but it's not the whole story.
ROYCE: Mr. Grayson from Florida? GRAYSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you very much, Secretary Clinton, for your contributions to securing America's place in the world for the past four years and for your contributions toward world peace.
The first question I'd like to ask you has to do with the Accountability Review Board's report. The report does identify specifically people who were found to have engaged in the department in systematic failures and deficiencies. I want to be clear about this: You were not one of those people. Is that correct?
CLINTON: That's correct.
GRAYSON: All right.
Now, it was identified earlier that a report dating from the 1990s had said that the secretary should take a personal and active role in security. Have you done that during your four years at the State Department?
CLINTON: I have been very attuned to the environment in which threats are occurring, the intelligence that is available. Certainly not the specific requests and decision making, which rests with the security professionals.
GRAYSON: All right. Regarding the security professionals, is there anybody now in existence in the department who is responsible for viewing the itineraries of ambassadors in advance in order to determine whether there's an undue threat to their safety?
CLINTON: The general answer to that is no. Ambassadors are given what's called chief of mission authority. Ambassadors, especially those who we ask to go to dangerous posts, are -- are pretty independent folks. Some of them might say, "Well, what do you think about this or that?" but most of them make their own decisions.
Chris Stevens did not ask anyone for permission to go to Benghazi. I don't think it would have crossed his mind.
Robert Ford, who served as our ambassador to Syria, went out on numerous occasions to talk to the opposition before we pulled him out of Damascus. We had, you know, very brave ambassadors like Ryan Crocker, one of our very best, who -- it would be very difficult to say, "Ryan, you can't go do this even though you've decided you should do it."
CLINTON: But what we're trying to do is to create a more ongoing discussion between our ambassadors, our -- our bureaus back in the State Department who are regional experts and our security people, so that at the very least no ambassador is taking an unnecessary risk -- however that is defined.
GRAYSON: Well with regard to Ambassador Stevens, certainly it was brave of him to go to Benghazi on the days that he did. I have to ask you honestly, though, was there anything in his itinerary on the 10th or the 11th that actually specifically required his personal presence?
CLINTON: Well, he certainly thought so, Congressman. And he did, of course, discuss this with his own security people. Remember, we do have regional security officers in these posts. They are the ones that an ambassador will turn to. He believed that it was important for him to go to Benghazi. there were a number of meetings that he was holding and some public events that he had on his schedule and, you know, he was someone who really believed strongly he had to get out there and I think as -- as the ARB has pointed out, he -- he was given great deference by the rest of the government.
GRAYSON: Do you have any concept of the number of American troops it might have taken to actually create a totally secure environment for him in Benghazi on September 10 and 11?
CLINTON: No, the -- the number of diplomatic security personnel requested in the cables was five. There were five there that night with him, plus there was a mutual understanding with the annex that had a much more heavily armed presence because of the work that they were doing in the region.
It is very difficult to, in retrospect really anticipate what might have been. One of the RSO's who had served in Libya said the kind of attack that the compound suffered had not been anticipated. We had -- we had gotten used to, you know, preparing for car bombs and suicide bombers and things like that but this was of a different nature.
And we even saw that at the annex, which was much more heavily fortified had much more heavy military equipment; we lost two of our best and had one of our diplomatic security officers badly injured. He's still at Walter Reed.
So even the annex, which had more assets in the face of the attack was suffering losses that night.
GRAYSON: Thank you very much.
ROYCE: Mr. Marino of Pennsylvania.
MARINO: Good afternoon Madam -- Madam Secretary.
In August of 2012, prior to the Benghazi attack, the Library of Congress published a report on behalf of a division of DOD called Al Qaeda in Libya profile. This report outlined Al Qaeda's growing presence in Libya, particularly in east Libya where Benghazi is located.
Something was especially alarming to me in this DOD report was the mention that (inaudible) and other Al Qaeda groups in Libya have adopted the black flag which symbolizes commitment to violent jihad promoted by Al Qaeda senior leaders.
In my hand, I hold a picture of the flag that the Department of State identified to be a prominent issuance of this flag and on the rise in Libya.
I also hold a picture of the same flag -- same type of flag, in Tunisia where the protesters were outside the embassy there.
In addition, I have a flag -- a picture was taken in Cairo at the U.S. Embassy where demonstrations took place.
Another picture in Jordan at the U.S. Embassy where protests took place.
In Bahrain, over 2,000 protesters who burned numerous U.S. and Israeli flags, again at the embassy.
In Kuwait, U.S. Embassy, 500 demonstrators chanting Obama we are all Samma (ph), the flag again.
And finally in Libya, the U.S. compound, the flag was flown there and carried through the streets as well.
My question, Madam Secretary, is -- were you aware of this DOD report prior to the terrorist attack in Benghazi?
CLINTON: Well, I was certainly aware of a number of reports from throughout our government. I don't know the specific one that you're referring to. There were DOD reports and intelligence community reports, State Department reports, talking about the decreasing -- or the increasing threat environment in eastern Libya. That was what we were trying to address with the Libyans.
And remember the election in July in Libya brought to victory what we would consider moderates, people who had a very different view of the kind of future than certainly Al Qaida or any of these militants have.
But there's going to be a struggle. There's going to be a struggle in this region, and the United States has to be as effective in partnering with the non-jihadists, whether they fly a black flag or any other color flag, to be successful.
MARINO: I clearly understand that, Madam Secretary.
MARINO: I clearly understand that. However, this flag was pointed out to be affiliated with Al Qaida, terrorists who attack and kill United States citizens and other individuals around the world. Do you -- did anyone in your department below you, were they aware of this report and these photos prior to? And don't you think they should have brought this to your attention?
CLINTON: Well, what I'm trying to say, Congressman, is I am well aware that there were people claiming to be associated with Al Qaida, that were attempting to influence militias, attempting to exercise more authority, along with a number of other groups that didn't necessarily work under that flag, but had the same militant jihadist mentality.
So yes, I -- I was certainly aware of that, and so was Chris Stevens, and so were -- so was our team in Libya.
MARINO: But my point is this flag kept coming up and you did not think that that was important enough to increase security, when after how many embassies where this flag was shown in demonstrations. I personally think that it would demand an increase in security. And those below you that might have known this, should have brought that to you attention.
I come from industry. I come from government. And there are individuals that just have to be cut loose when they're not performing their tasks. Are these three people that are on leave, are they still being paid?
CLINTON: They are on administrative leave, and under federal law and regulations, they are still being paid.
MARINO: What's the hold-up?
CLINTON: Because there are regulations and law that has to be followed.
MARINO: No, no, what's the hold up from a management perspective of saying, "You three let me down; this should have been brought to my attention. I no longer need your services."
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I'd be happy to give you an answer, because personnel discussions are not appropriate for public settings. But we have taken every step that was available, and we will continue to do so, and we are looking for additional authority.
But to just finish up on the point you made, we had good security at all of those embassies other than in Tunisia, because of the newness of the government. And then when they were asked to respond, they did. Because I go back to the point that was made on the other side of the aisle, we are dependent on host government support. And where it doesn't exist, unless we invade and unless we have a big military presence in a country, we are doing the best we can with our diplomatic security and private security guards and any other help we can get.
ROYCE: Mr. Vargas of California?
VARGAS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity.
And thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for being here. I also want to thank you for the excellent work that you've done not only here in the United States, but across the world. I have to say that because it's true, one, and secondly, I don't think that my wife, my 16-year- old daughter, or my nine-year-old daughter, she'd probably even turn on me and wouldn't let me in the House if I didn't say that. You are a hero to many, especially women, and you seem to bring out these deep aspirations that they have in ways that I've never seen anyone do before.
So again, thank you for your service. When I was reading the information here, it brought back to mind another assassination, murder. I was a Jesuit for five years and I spent some time in El Salvador. And in 1989, there was an assassination of Father Ignacio Ellacuria, Father Segundo Montes, Father Ignacio Martin-Baro, Father Juan Ramon Moreno, Father Amando Lopez, Father Joaquin Lopez Lopez, and also the housekeeper, Mrs. Elba Ramos and her young daughter -- she was 15 years old -- Celina Ramos.
I knew them because I worked with them. Sigundo Montes was my superior. And I know the pain that I felt when I heard that they died. I had left the Jesuits by then. And so I know that as you being the superior of the people who died I'm sure felt the same way.
That's why I am glad that we brought up the names here today. I think it is important to mention the names -- Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Mr. Sean Smith, Mr. Tyrone Woods, Mr. Glen Doherty -- because many of us who have faith believe that they didn't die in vain. And that's why I'm very proud that you're here bravely standing before us trying to figure out what to do.
And one of the things that -- that did trouble me as I read this was the reliance that we have on local security. That's the part that didn't make sense to me. I come from San Diego, we have the Marine Corps there. We have the Navy, we have incredibly good security and service people.
Why don't we rely more on them?
CLINTON: Well that's an excellent question and you -- you brought back some very sad memories in talking about the losses that occurred in El Salvador.
You know, we do rely primarily on host nation support, but we have to take a harder look at the commitment and the capacity of these host nations, and therefore in places all over the world, we also have private security guards, some armed, some unarmed, we have Marine guards at many places, about 150 who at least are demonstrating a line of -- of defense, but we -- we have to do more.
And when you ask why do we rely on these -- well in part, because we don't have military assets everywhere. If you look at the statements, particularly by Admiral Mullen, who was our chairman of our joint chiefs he basically said, "Look we have to work together more closely between State and DOD, but it's unrealistic," in his words, "to tether our military to every high risk post."
So part of what we're trying to struggle through with is how do we make our facilities as secure as possible without turning them into fortresses, because our diplomats are not soldiers? How do we have reliable private security? The February 17th brigade was a Libyan government supported militia that had been protecting Chris Stevens when he showed up before Gadhafi fell. They had been reliable, they had been responsive, but they were not particularly available during those first minutes and hours of the attack on our compound.
So we -- we also had contracted with a private security company that had a permit to operate in Libya, because, you know, the United States, unless we go into a country with massive military force, we, you know, go in and we follow the rules of the country. And we had to get a security force that had a permit from the Libyan government. So these are all issues that are being looked at so we try to fill the gaps that have been identified.
VARGAS: Thank you. And the last thing I would just correct that -- you said earlier, that we haven't done enough promoting ourselves around the country -- the world, I think you have. I think you've done a fantastic job, and other than President Kennedy, I don't know of anyone that's had a better image in the Latin Americas.
So we thank you.
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Congressman.
ROYCE: We go now to Mr. Duncan of South Carolina.
DUNCAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Madam secretary.
Let me just tell you, Americans are frustrated. They're frustrated over the handling of Benghazi, what happened when four Americans died there, they're frustrated and sometimes down right angry about being -- what they think, being misled about what really happened there. Being told that this was a protest over a video, not just for a couple of days, but for weeks on end.
And then they're frustrated when they see comments from you this morning when you said, "What difference at this point does it make?" I'll tell you what difference it makes. It makes a difference when Americans think they were misled about something for political reasons.
In the hearing this morning you mentioned that we were clear-eyed about the threats and dangers as they were developing in the eastern Libya. Madam Secretary if you were really, in your words, clear-eyed about the levels of threat to our consulate in Benghazi or our special mission in Benghazi, then you should have known about Chris Stevens' memo I believe of 16 August, that said our consulate could not be defended from a coordinated attack.
Questions Americans have is, did he expect an attack? If you were clear-eyed, then why didn't your department -- why did your department reject the request I believe on 7 June for 16 additional security agents?, the site security team that would have been funded by DOD, not at the State expenditure?
If you were clear-eyed, shouldn't you have known that there was no real Libyan government to turn to for security assistance?
DUNCAN: You answered that question for Mr. Meeks earlier, when you said there was -- you were unsure about the -- the Libyan government and their ability to provide that assistance. If you were clear-eyed were you clear-eyed about the -- Al Qaida's displeasure with who we seem to be supporting during the summer elections, the moderate that was elected? If you were clear-eyed, shouldn't you have known that Al Qaida roamed freely in and around Benghazi. As my friend from Pennsylvania pointed out, there were Al Qaida flags not just at the protest, there were Al Qaida flags flying all over Benghazi.
If you were clear-eyed, were you clear-eyed when the Brits left Benghazi because they had the attack? Why did four Americans die? What was so important that Ambassador Stevens -- he knew there was a security threat in Benghazi. He went there on September 10th and 11th and gave his life for our country. What was so important for him to go to eastern Libya, knowing all these threats, knowing (inaudible) are clear?
And I think you misspoke earlier when you said you that you didn't know of any requests that were denied for more security. June 7th e- mail exchange between Ambassador Stevens and John Moretti (ph), when he requested for one MSD team -- or actually an additional MSD team, and the reply from John Moretti (ph) said, "Unfortunately, MSD cannot support the request."
There was a request made for more security, and it was denied on June 7th.
And so Madam Secretary, you let the consulate become a death trap. And that's national security malpractice.
You said you take responsibility. What does responsibility mean, Madam Secretary? You're still in your job, and there are four people at the Department of State that have culpability in this that are still in their jobs.
I heard the answer about firing or removing personnel. I get that. This was gross negligence. At what point in time can our administration and can our government fire someone whose gross negligence left -- left four Americans dead in Benghazi?
What does the word "responsibility" mean to you, Madam Secretary?
CLINTON: I think I've made that very clear, Congressman. And let me say that we've come here and made a very open, transparent presentation. I did not have to declassify the ARB. I could have joined 18 of the other ARBs of both Democratic and Republican administration, kept it classified and then, you know, just said goodbye. That's not who I am. That's not what I do.
And I have great confidence that the Accountability Review Board did the job they were asked to do, made the recommendations that they thought were based on evidence -- not on emotion...
DUNCAN: There was a lot of evidence...
DUNCAN: ... reclaiming my time. There was a lot of evidence...
(CROSSTALK) DUNCAN: ... that led up to the security situation.
CLINTON: I'm sorry, Congressman.
DUNCAN: You mentioned transparency. You haven't provided the call logs of messages, instant messages during that attack between the post and the operations center. In an air of transparency will you release these communications between Benghazi, Tripoli and Washington?
CLINTON: I will get an answer to you on that, but I will tell you once more, the reason we have Accountability Review Boards is so that we take out of politics, we take out of emotion what happened and we try to get to the truth.
I think this very distinguished panel did just that. And we are working diligently, overtime to implement their recommendations. That is my responsibility. I'm gonna do everything I can before I finish my tenure.
And I would also, going back to your first point and about the concerns that people you represented have expressed about statements that were made, I would refer you both to the unclassified version of the ARB where after months of research and talking to more than 100 witnesses, the picture is still very complicated about what happened that night. "There are key questions" -- I'm quoting -- "surrounding the identity, actions and motivations of the perpetrators that remain to be determined."
And I recommend that every member read the classified version which goes into greater detail that I cannot speak to here today.
DUNCAN: It was a terrorist attack. It's pretty clear at the motivation was.
ROYCE: Mr. Schneider?
SCHNEIDER: Madam Secretary, let me again thank you for joining us. Thank you for opening up the ARB report. We are grateful. Let me also echo the words of my colleagues and extend my own personal gratitude for your service. You did our nation well and made our people proud. You've done an extraordinary job as our nation's top diplomat and you will be sorely missed.
The Benghazi attack claimed the lives of four brave Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens, who have -- who had done so much to liberate the Libyan people.
Despite the risk involved, he returned to that country as our ambassador because he knew the important work of building a new Libya remained unfinished.
America's diplomatic corps dedicate their lives to promoting Americans' interests abroad and knowingly put themselves in danger to serve their country.
SCHNEIDER: While we know that these jobs are not without risk, we must do more to support our diplomats.
I am pleased the State Department conducted a serious investigation, and appreciate that you have already started -- stated that you'll accept every one of the 29 Review Board's recommendations.
The State Department is increasingly operating in high-threat locations throughout the world, requiring our diplomats to be stationed further afield and closer to dangers on the ground. This not only raises the security risk faced by our diplomats and development experts, but also places a strain on existing resources.
As we move forward, how will the State Department evaluate the benefits to U.S. interests from having an official presence in a given location versus the security risks faced by that diplomatic mission?
How do you expect the department will weigh physical and technical, personnel and political costs as opposed to the gains of operating in front line states?
And last, what changes do you think these demands will require vis-a- vis people and other resources at the State Department?
CLINTON: These are very important questions, and I can't do justice to them in the time left. But we will certainly get you additional written information.
But let me briefly say, Congressman, that, you know, I -- I ordered the first ever quadrennial diplomacy and development review (ph) because, as I said, I'd served on the Armed Services Committee, where we get every four years a quadrennial defense review, which really does help the Armed Services Committees in both houses plan for their authorization and I wanted to lay the groundwork for us to do the same with the State Department.
In that document we began what is a very difficult analysis about how to balance and mitigate risk versus presence. It was part of the -- it was one of the most challenging aspects of the QDDR process.
And we have an ongoing effort underway, because if you talk to many of our ambassadors who -- especially the experienced ones, they really don't want to be told by Washington or anybody where they can go, when they can go, what they can do.
They've been in the Foreign Service 10, 20, 30 years or more and they believe in their missions and they believe they have a better sense of how to evaluate risk.
At the same time we have to be conscious of and make difficult decisions about how to protect not just ambassadors but all of our personnel and their families in these high-risk posts.
It is a constant debate, Congressman. You know, we have authorized departure, we have ordered departure, and it -- it is something that we take very seriously when we do it.
You know, when -- when we left Benghazi on the night of 11th, 12th, there were others still there. The Italians were there -- the Turks were there, the Italians had just left.
I mean, people evaluate risk over time. And I think it's important to do what we can to minimize it. Some of that will be done by technology, some of that will be done by hard security, and some of that will be done by what we call soft power. But trying to get the balance right is very difficult.
SCHNEIDER: As we look forward, to the steps taken, how do we ensure -- we'll be in new places, we're going to face new challenges, how do we make sure that we're able to provide the resources to these high- threat, high-risk posts?
CLINTON: Very, very difficult. You know, that's -- that's going to be a question of new streamlined processes and protocols, sufficient security, both hard and soft, and resources.
And we just have to -- we have to ask you based on our best assessment about what we need to do our job. And sometimes, you know, you've got a budget process and nobody has predicted that you're going to have a revolution against Gadhafi. And then you've got to scramble.
How do you get somebody into Benghazi? How do you figure out what to do in Tripoli?
And there are -- I could go down the line and tell you 10 or 20 of those examples that we live with every day. So we -- we -- it's more of an art than a science, to be honest, because as of now we don't have, you know, hard parameters, but we're trying to develop the best we can.
SCHNEIDER: Thank you.
ROYCE: Madam Secretary, I understand that you have a meeting at the White House, but have agreed to stay so that members can have a few more questions. We will end by 5:00. And we really appreciate that.
We want to go to Mr. Kinzinger of Illinois.
KINZINGER: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Secretary, thank you for staying. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your service to your country. And, you know, we -- we -- as was mentioned earlier, we look forward to your next steps. We'll see what happens.
Let me just say, I'm actually an Air Force pilot. And I have a few concerns I want to lay out.
One of the first things I was told as a pilot in the military is that your country will never leave you behind. If you find yourself down in enemy lines, rest assured your country will move heaven and Earth to come get you. If you find yourself in armed conflict, rest assured your country will do everything in its power to come save you from that armed conflict.
Now as the representative of the administration here, I have to ask you this, from the initial attack to the second attack, there was a lull of seven hours. Now, I'm going to say this, I was one of a handful of Republicans to vote to support the president's position in Libya. I think we did the right thing there. But I did it with the knowledge that we would have the military forces in place to be able to rescue any personnel in a tough situation.
In that intervening seven hours, military assets to -- to what we know -- what we can talk about were not put in place. Aviano Air Base is 1,044 miles from Benghazi. Aviano Air Base is an F-16 base, airplanes could have been put in the air after being fueled, even if they didn't have missiles on them and there can be nonviolent things that F-16s can do to disburse crowds that I know of well. So that's a concern.
Originally, also when you briefed us, I remember -- and this has been I know hammered -- it's been hammered a little bit, but when you briefed us, you said unequivocally this was a result of the video and I remember in fact, you got pretty upset about it when somebody suggested that this was a terrorist attack. This was our -- our briefing that we had.
But we find out now, it wasn't. We find out now that it wasn't the video, it was a terrorist attack.
When we come talking about the issue of the drone and the surveillance overhead, if there was in fact a drone overhead, I would assume that there would be a link in which you could watch what is going on live or else maybe somebody under you was able to see what was going on live, or else, that link was down.
And another question I have, when it comes to -- I -- I -- I watched your -- your testimony in the Senate and you said, you know, part of the reason we had a little bit of a delay in understanding what was going on, we did not have immediate access to the security cameras, the security footage.
But yet at the same time, you had mortars being reported as being fired on security personnel. If I would hear that mortars are being fired, I would immediately assume, regardless of whether I could see what's going on overhead, regardless of if I could see the security footage, that this is more than a spontaneous demonstration.
The other question I have too, I'm laying a few out for you -- the FES -- the foreign response team, was that your decision not to deploy that right away? Was that an issue of logistics? Where does that come from?
And the final thing I want to say is this, as again, a believer, which I think you believe that we are in a time where it is very important for American leadership to be out in front to prevent a resurgence of -- of jihadist activity, of Al Qaeda activity, I'm worried about the strategy of leading from behind.
If the United States ambassador in Libya, and I say this respectfully, can't get a message forward to the Secretary of State about his concern about security in one of the most hot zones in the world, I worry about a lead from behind strategy. And if we have no assets on alert that can respond in a seven hour lull in two different attacks in the most hot spot, one of the most hotspots in the world, on 9/11, on the anniversary, is the lead from behind strategy failing? Because I really want American leadership to be strong. I believe in freedom and I believe we're the people that are going to be able to take freedom around the globe.
With that, I'll give you the remaining minute and I thank you for your generosity.
CLINTON: And I thank you for your service, Congressman, both in the Air Force and here.
There was a lot packed into that, let me see what I can cover quickly and then we'll get the rest to you in writing.
DOD took every action it could take starting from the time that the president directed Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey to do so. Again, I turn to the ARB because that's, to me, a much more factually based finding.
The board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from military combatant commanders. Quite ht contrary, the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi 12 hours after the initial attack and subsequently to (inaudible) was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response and help saved the lives of two severely wounded Americans.
Now, having said that, I think it's very important we do more to coordinate with DOD along the lines of what you're talking about because who knows what's going to be facing us in the next months and years.
With respect to the -- the video, I did not say that it was video from -- that it was about the video for Libya. It certainly was for many of the other places where we were watching these disturbances.
Now with respect to predator feed or video of the attack, we could not see that at the State Department. There was no access to that. At no time did I have a live feed of the attack. Not from any system in our compound, and not from the annex nor from any UAV. There's been confusion, understandably, because we did talk a lot about the surveillance camera video that eventually got to us.
I will give you more information about that, because I think it is important to understand how -- how this happened. And as you know, Congressman, the annex was not under our -- my authority, so information was flowing into another agency -- more than one other agency, and those people were incredibly brave, but overwhelmed as well.
ROYCE: Mr. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member and Madam Secretary, thank you for what I can only describe as a truly exemplary career in public service and a dedication to public service. And I look forward to what the future holds for you as well.
I have two broad-based questions for you, Madam Secretary. You now have obviously held this office for four years at an extraordinarily challenging time in our history. We're seeing-- we've recently passed the two-year anniversary of the Arab Awakening, we're seeing in recent headlines threats -- emerging threats from Algeria and Mali, across Northern Africa, spreading out through the Mideast, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan.
As you close on your tenure I was wondering if you might be willing to share some important lessons learned from the time that you've spent in this post, and enlighten us as to what Congress can do to help respond and even get in front of these threats as we move forward.
And related to that, if I -- if I may, assuming that you're going to say what you've said a couple of times about increased engagement at the ground level, how do we do that in areas that are unstable, where we need to depend on local governments or local security forces that, quite frankly, we've seen don't have the ability to provide the type of security that our diplomats are going to demand?
CLINTON: Well Congressman it's wonderful to see you here. And I thank you for your interest in looking sort of into the future.
Let me just make a couple of points. First, we have a lot of tools that we don't use as well as we should. I think we've abdicated the broadcasting arena where both in TV and radio, which are considered kind of old fashioned, media are still very important in a lot of these ungoverned, a lot of these difficult places where we're trying to do business.
And I think we -- we have to get our act together. I would hope that this committee would pay attention to the broadcasting board of governors which is in desperate need of assistance, intervention, and change.
I think, too, social media is a great tool. We've begun trying to use it much more in the State Department, and not communicate with just, you know, leaders and officials, but really, as you say, get down into the grassroots. We've also -- I started two organizations to deal with countering violent extremism , one a new operation inside the State Department that is staffed with inter-agency experts. So that, you know, I'm not saying anything that's classified, but it's beginning to try to respond to Al Qaeda and other jihaddist propaganda.
So if they put up a video which talks about how terrible Americans are, we put up a video which talks about, you know, how terrible they are. We are trying to meet them in the media channels that they are communicating with people.
We're also at the beginning of an organization I helped to stand up the -- the Global Counter-terrorism Forum. Because if we don't work with partners and understand more effectively how to counter violent extremism, how to stop recruiters, how to turn families and communities against these jihaddists, there will be a constant flow of them. So we have to be smarter about that. And there are other things that I would, you know, like to share with you and others on the committee who are interested.
I often -- you know, it's not a perfect analogy, but I would say that, you know, our fight against international communism, against Soviet Union, during the Cold War, we did a lot of things really well. I mean, we kept people's hopes alive. We communicated with freedom lovers and advocates behind the Iron Curtain. We did it through media, we did it through our values. Well I think we've got a similar challenge even though it's a very different world. And let's get smart about it, and let's figure out how we're going to put some points on the board, so to speak, in dealing with both governments and populations.
And if I could just very -- I know that Representative Duncan has left -- but his question took me a little by surprise because our op center does not do instant messaging. So, the reason you haven't gotten instant messaging is we don't do instant messaging. So I wanted to put that into the record and -- and hope that his staff or someone will convey that to him.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
ROYCE: Thank you.
We'll go to Mr. Brooks of Alabama.
BROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Secretary Clinton, it's an honor to be here today and I want to thank you for the time that you've spent with us and with the Senate, for that matter. I'm sure it's been a long day.
It's been my experience that truth without credibility is meaningless, and credibility once lost is difficult to reacquire. My concern is the degree to which false statements about Benghazi have damaged America's credibility not only here, but also abroad.
I don't focus on any of your statements in that regard. Rather, I focus on some others. On September 16th, 2012 on Meet the Press, Ambassador Susan Rice stated, and I quote, "What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo -- almost a copy-cat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo which were prompted, of course, by the video," end quote.
Let me break this statement down into three parts, if I might, and I'd ask you to confirm, based on the data we now have, whether her comments were true or false.
Secretary Clinton, is Ambassador Rice's statement that Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction to the Cairo protests factually accurate?
CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at the ARB finding, Congressman, there is still question about what caused it. So I don't want to -- I don't want to mislead you in any way. That is not the weight of the evidence right now, but I think until the FBI completes its investigation, we're not going to know all the reasons why these people showed up with weapons and stormed our compound.
BROOKS: Well, Secretary Clinton, is Ambassador Rice's statement that Benghazi a copycat of the Cairo demonstrations factually accurate?
CLINTON: Well, it turned out not to be because the Cairo -- the Cairo demonstrations were not heavily armed and we did eventually get host nation security support. So there were differences. But again, I would say that Secretary Rice conveyed information that had been provided by the intelligence community and the interagency process.
BROOKS: I'm not trying to go into the process. Right now, I'm just trying to determine what the truth is as best we know at this time.
Secretary Clinton, is Ambassador Rice's statement that Benghazi was, quote, "prompted, of course, by an anti-Muslim video," end quote, put on the Internet in the United States, factually accurate?
CLINTON: I'd have to go back to my first answer, Congressman, and just say that we don't know all the motivations, so I don't want to give a sweeping answer as to what prompted those men to come out that night and attack our compound.
BROOKS: OK. Well, on September 16th, the very same day, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice made her statements to the American people and the world. Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf said on NPR that, quote, "The idea that this criminal and cowardly act was a spontaneous protest that had just spun out of control is completely unfounded and preposterous. We firmly believe that this was a pre-calculated, pre- planned attack that was carried out specifically to attack the United States consulate," end quote.
Now, as we now know, from everything I have read at least, the Libyan president told the truth. Contrast that with the statements by Ambassador Rice, to the United Nations. It forces one to wonder whether Libya's intelligence was that much better than America's on September the 16th, or whether Libyan leaders were that much more willing to be candid or to avoid misstatements.
Secretary Clinton, what evidence was there that was so compelling that it caused the White House, through Ambassador Susan Rice, to make these representations about spontaneous protests, anti-Muslim videos and the like, despite evidence and statements of Libya's own president to the contrary? What -- you know, if she's going to make these statements, an affirmative act on her part, where was the compelling evidence and what was it?
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I was not involved in the so-called "talking points process." My understanding is it was a typical process trying to get to the best information available. It was an intelligence product. They are, as I again understand it, working with their committees of jurisdiction to try to unpack that. But I will say that all of the senior administration officials, including Ambassador Rice, who spoke publicly to this terrible incident, had the same information from the intelligence community.
BROOKS: If I might interject -- I appreciate your response so far. But if you're not familiar with any compelling evidence that would support the statements made by Ambassador Rice, who would know?
CLINTON: Well, there -- there was evidence, and the evidence was being sifted and analyzed by the intelligence community, which is why the intelligence community was the principal decider about what went into talking points. And there was also the added problem of nobody wanting to say things that would undermine the investigation.
So it was much more complex than I think we're giving it credit for, sir.
BROOKS: Thank you for your candor, and thank you for your time...
ROYCE: The ranking member and I have discussed going to three minutes for questions from here on out. And without objection, that's what we will do.
Let's go to Mr. Bera from California.
BERA: Secretary Clinton, thank you for appearing before the committee today.
As a new member of Congress, I think I speak for all the freshmen that we're not gonna get much time to serve with you, but we hope in a few years we'll get that chance to serve again.
You know, from my perspective, the tragedy in Benghazi was the loss of four American patriots. That loss was felt pretty deeply in northern California, particularly around Ambassador Chris Stevens. You know, his family had deep roots in our community. The best way for us to honor their memory and their service is to do our utmost to make sure the lessons of Benghazi -- and do everything that we can to honor and -- and protect our men and women around the world in an increasingly dangerous situation.
You've been very forthright today and forthcoming with information. We truly appreciate that.
You know, much has been made today about the flow of information, but I want to quote the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen who said after the ARB was issued, "As someone who has run large organizations -- and the secretary of state has been very clear about taking responsibility here -- it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff and over time certainly didn't bring that to her attention." That was Admiral Mike Mullen. Secretary, how many cables did you say arrived every year to the State Department, 1.4 million? Can you tell me how long it takes you to read 1.4 million cables?
CLINTON: Well, if I'd ever tried to read 1.4 million cables, I don't think I'd be sitting here today. I'd probably be, you know, collapsed somewhere.
You know, I appreciate what Admiral Mullen said, because when you do sit on top of large organizations -- in his case the United States military, which is huge -- and in my case the State Department and USAID, you put into place processes and you have to trust the judgment, the good sense of the people in your organization.
So those 1.43 million cables, they come into the State Department. You know, the tradition is they're all addressed to me, but, you know, the vast, vast majority are funneled through these processes to get to the right people who are expected to take the right actions.
And 99.9 percent of the time people do. I want to reiterate that. It's -- it's an incredible organization with dedicated people, particularly our security professionals who have stopped so many attack, protected so many people.
But occasionally we see a serious problem like we have seen here. And that's what we're trying to fix.
BERA: Well, thank you for your candor.
CLINTON: Thank you, sir.
ROYCE; Mr. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
COTTON: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. Thank you for coming. We're all here -- very happy to have you here. Very happy for your recovery. I know I bring greetings from many of our mutual friends in Arkansas, some of our peers on the other side have expressed their ambitions for your future.
I'd like to say that I just wish you'd won the Democratic primary in 2008.
CLINTON: I did pretty well in Arkansas.
COTTON: You did.
You said on September 21st that we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered the four Americans at Benghazi.
CLINTON: Yes, sir.
COTTON: Earlier today you said I certainly hope the FBI is able to investigate (inaudible) those responsible. Does the difference in those two statements reflect any concern on your part of the progress of that investigation?
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, first congratulations...
COTTON: Thank you.
CLINTON: ... and good to see you here.
No, it does not, but I -- I am conscious of the fact that talking about FBI investigations is something you have to be extremely careful about for obvious reasons.
I think it's -- it's clear or I hope it's clear that President Obama, when he says we're gonna bring people to justice, even if it takes some time, he means what he say. Obviously, the FBI is conducting an investigation. What actions are taken will be determined in the future.
COTTON: What is the United States government's position on the role of Al Qaida in Islamic Maghreb in the attack on Benghazi?
CLINTON: Again I'm not going to prejudge what the FBI determines. We know there are Al Qaida-related organizations as we saw from the -- the pictures that were held up throughout the region including in Eastern Libya. We know that people like we saw with the recent attacks in Algeria like to associate themselves with Al Qaida, but we've got to be careful about what that means.
Core Al Qaida has been severely depleted coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What we're dealing with now is the jihaddists who have been associated with Al Qaida who have gained, unfortunately, very serious combat experience, coming back to the countries that they left, in order to go wage jihad in central Asia.
So whether they call themselves Al Qaida, or Boka Haram (ph), or Ansar Al Shari'a (ph), they are all part of the same global jihaddist movement. And there may be differences between them, but their goals are unfortunately the similar and pose similar threats to us and our partners.
COTTON: Both the chairman and Mr. Poe have referenced a Tunisian suspect who's been released. I believe that's Mr. Ali Harzi (ph), on January 8th, it was reported in the New York Times.
Is -- do you find it distressing that the Tunisian government has released that gentleman in light of the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid we've given them over the last two years? CLINTON: At this point, Congressman, I do not for two reasons. First, I had a long conversation with high-ranking Tunisian officials about this, as did Director Mueller of the FBI when he was there in person. We have been assured there was an effort to have rule of law, judicial process, sufficient evidence not yet available to be presented, but a very clear commitment made to us that they will be monitoring the whereabouts of the -- Harzi (ph) and we're going to hold them to that and watch carefully.
COTTON: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
ROYCE: Mr. Lowenthal of California.
LOWENTHAL: Thank you -- thank you Madam Secretary. First, I also want to compliment you on your exemplary service, but more than that I want to say how much I've appreciated your openness, your thoughtfulness today, your transparency. And What I'm struck with in this hearing is a greater appreciation of the courage of State Department personnel. I think I -- we are left with that understanding of just how courageous the personnel have been in taking on assignments that in the past never had been taken on before. And you've ably I think presented to us why that's important. Why it's important for emerging democracies that we be there.
My question is very similar to the one of Congressman Schneider's. And that was, how do you make that analysis between risk and presence? What are some of the obstacles in making that? How -- -- how do we move forward with that, and how does the Congress understand some of those -- that kind of balance?
CLINTON: Well, this is my ongoing hope that we can get it more right than wrong. Let me just make a few points, because it's an issue that I hope this committee takes very seriously.
First of all, you've got to remember that when we talk about the State Department and diplomatic facilities, that covers -- we are the umbrella for so many other agencies in our government. If we were not there, many of those agency's representatives would have a difficult time being there. I mean, we are the diplomatic presence that permits us to pursue law enforcement objectives, intelligence objectives, military objectives, and so much more.
So it's not just about us sitting around and say, you know, do we really want our diplomats at risk? It's OK, what are the equities of the rest of the government that would be effective (sic) if we decided we had to close shop because the risk was too great?
I want to stress that because I don't think you can understand, at least from my perspective, how difficult the calculation is without knowing that it's not just about the State Department and USAID.
Secondly, I don't think we can retreat from these hard places. We have to harden our security presence, but we can't retreat. We've got to be there. We've got to be picking up the intelligence, information, building relationships And if we had a whole table of some of our most experienced ambassadors sitting here today, they would be speaking with a loud chorus,like, you know, yes, help us be secure, but don't shut us down. Don't keep us behind high walls in bunkers, so we can't get out and figure out what's going on.
So that's the -- that's the balance I've been trying to make for four years. ROYCE: We will only have time for two more questions. We will end at 5:00.
We'll go now to Mr. Cook from California.
COOK: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
First of all, I want to compliment you. It's been a long, long day, and to survive all these questions and everything, it's been tough.
I want to talk to you about the Marine security guards. And this is from somebody who spent a long time in the Marine Corps, but not under the cognizance -- part of DOD, not under the State Department.
And you had some things in here about additional Marine secure -- excuse me, Marine security guard detachments.
CLINTON: Yes, sir.
COOK: And the question is about whether it's prudent to task organize those assets that are organic to you, and perhaps put them in those areas that have the high-threat level? And if you could answer that, I'd appreciate that.
CLINTON: Congressman, it's a -- it's a very astute observation. I mean, we believe that we need to increase both our Marine security guard detachments as well as our Diplomatic Security, and create more synergy and cooperation in these high-threat posts.
The Marine security guards, as -- as you know, are very, very much a presence on more than 150 of our posts. And in order to give them the facilities and support they need, they need a Marine house. They need to be very close to the embassy.
Because as -- if you ever -- if you saw the recent movie "Argo," you saw the Marines in there, you know, destroying the classified material when the mob was outside in Tehran.
They are experts at that. They are people that are totally relied on by the entire mission.
But, as I said earlier, historically their job has not been personal security. So we've got to figure out, working with DOD and particularly with the Marines, you know -- and most of them are very young. You know, I take pictures with them everywhere I go. And usually the sergeant's a, you know, older, more experienced, but most of the, you know, the Marines on duty are quite young.
We've got to figure out how we really take advantage of their presence. And that's a conversation we're in the midst of with our -- our DOD colleagues.
And with your experience, I would welcome any insight or ideas you've got about how we really do use Marine security detachments better.
COOK: Thank you very much. I yield back my time. ROYCE: Thank you.
We'll go to Grace Meng from New York.
CLINTON: Congratulations, too, Grace.
MENG: Thank you for -- thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member.
Madam Secretary, it's wonderful to see you here again. And if you have any advice for a fellow New Yorker finding her way in her -- in this town, please let me know.
As a woman and as a mom, thank you so much for being a role model for women not only in the United States, but all throughout the world. Thank you for your compassion and leadership, always.
I'm curious. In the past weeks, we've seen the French respond decisively to the situation in Mali. The African Union has fought well in Somalia.
Do you see this as an advancement of multilateralism in combating Islamic extremism in the Mideast? In Africa? And what more can we ask from allies in that area?
CLINTON: Well, congratulations, Grace. And that's an excellent question, because I think that's exactly what we're coping with right now is, I'm very proud of the work we did on -- with African nations to stand up, financially support and train the AMISUN (ph) force that has driven Al Shabaan (ph) out of the dominant position that it had.
That meant putting American trainers, working with troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, eventually Kenya, advising some other countries that were willing to put in assets. It took money. It took time. But we just recognized the new Somali government, which could never have been possible without American support and multilateralism. Because the U.N. was strongly behind it, we got other nations to invest.
What we're looking at now in west Africa is to try to help support an African A-U (inaudible), ECOWAS-supported troop combination from a number of countries, to really take the lead against the terrorists in northern Mali. Again, this is, you know, this is hard. If the United States comes in and does something on our own, and I appreciated what Congressman Kinzinger said, you know, we -- you know, nobody can match us in military assets and prowess.
But a lot of the challenges we face are not immediately or sustainably solved by military action alone. Therefore, we've got to get countries in the region to increase their border security, to increase their antiterrorist, counterterrorist efforts inside their own borders.
We have a lot to do now in west Africa. So I think you're right to point out the United States has to play a role, but it needs to be part of a multilateral effort in order to have a chance of success.
ROYCE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. We've discussed many important issues. I remain concerned about whether the accountability review board captured the full picture of what happened, but I think we can agree to work together moving ahead to improve security in a number of different areas.
This hearing now stands adjourned.
CLINTON: Thank you.