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THE SITUATION ROOM
Clinton Resumes Testimony. Aired 5:00-6:00p ET
Aired October 22, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're continuing to await the return of Hillary Clinton. She's scheduled to resume testimony for the Select Committee on Benghazi momentarily. She's already testified for more than five hours. They've been in a break for the past hour or so as members of the committee, Democrats and Republicans, have been voting. We're going to have extensive live coverage of Hillary Clinton's continued testimony of what happened on that day in Benghazi.
Let's go to Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill watching what's going on.
Dana, I assume they're going to be resuming this hearing momentarily?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The chairman just went in. Hillary Clinton just went in that door right there, so we do expect them to resume momentarily.
Wolf, it has been a very sort of action-packed day. I mean, it's already been -- it's 5 p.m. Eastern, and it started at 10 p.m. Eastern. And guess what? The chairman just suggested that they're only halfway through their questioning. And the rounds of questioning for Hillary Clinton.
So they could be here another four hours or so to continue going back and forth. And certainly, all day long, the idea from the Republicans has been, "Look, this is not political. We're going to try to get to the bottom of what happened in the days before, during and after the deadly attacks in Benghazi."
And Democrat after Democrat have -- they've come forward and argued that this is purely political, only political. So those are the kinds of sort of disagreements you're getting from the day.
While Hillary Clinton is trying her best to stay measured, at times do something she is accused of not doing enough, which is show her emotion, show her human side, particularly when talking about how hard it was for her, as the chief diplomat, to lose somebody she sent to a dangerous place like Benghazi. And that's the kind of Q and A we're going to -- excuse me, we expect to see continue. And now we understand many hours left to go, Wolf.
BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to continue to await the resumption of this hearing. It's been pretty lively over these past several hours. They started at 10 a.m. Eastern. They went until around 1:30 or so. Then they took a break, and then they resumed for an hour and a half. And now here the chairman, Trey Gowdy, is resuming the hearing.
Let's listen in.
ROBY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Clinton, I want to talk to you about August 17th, 2012. On that day, you received two memos about Libya and its security. The first one described a deteriorating security situation and what it meant for your people on the ground. The second one also described Libya's security as, in simple terms, "a mess."
So this memo wanted you to approve $20 million to be given to the Libyan government to bolster it's own...
CLINTON: Could you tell me what tab that is on the material that you have?
ROBY: Oh, sure. The first one is I believe 33 and 34. Thank you. I apologize.
So you received those two memos. The second one also described Libya's security in simple terms as "a mess." And it was then that you were approached about approving this $20 million that we've referred to as the contingency fund; $20 million that would have gone to the Libyan government to bolster their own security there in- country. And then in fact a few days later, you approved that $20 million.
And I'm going to get back to that in a minute. But I want to circle back based on those two memos to some questions that my colleague, Mr. Pompeo, asked about the 1998 ARB. You had talked about in that line of questioning that you, in fact, had closed -- made the decision to close some embassies based on the premise that the 1998 ARB recommended the secretary of state should personally review the security situation.
You made a distinction between whether the walls should be 10- feet high versus whether or not it was a highly vulnerable situation. And so I wanted to ask you, when I was listening to that, knowing that I was going to address these August 17th memos, I wanted to ask you, when you were looking at these two memos on August 17th, one said their security was one in disarray; and the other said -- they paint picture of a country in chaos.
And I wanted to just ask you, in your opinion as secretary of state, that had closed embassies, whether those references to the security situation in Libya would amount to one as highly vulnerable per your own words?
CLINTON: Congresswoman, I want to answer your question, but I think we need the right tabs.
ROBY: Excuse me, eight and 32. I apologize. CLINTON: Thank you very much. We will -- let me take a look at
those, eight and 32.
On August 17th, there was a memo from Beth Jones, the acting secretary (sic) of state, describing a spike in violence and characterizing it as perhaps a new normal. It is very clearly something that we were following, as I have said throughout the -- the hearing today. It said that the International Committee of the Red Cross had withdrawn personnel from Benghazi and Misrata, but continued to work in the rest of Libya.
It also pointed out that there is lack of effective security and that the transition -- the kind of transition we wanted to see for the people of Libya, and particularly in Benghazi, was not as forthcoming from the Libyans themselves.
I think that the description here is certainly something that we were aware of. And a list of recent violence in Libya is something we were aware of. And the ongoing monitoring of the situation in Libya is something we took very seriously.
I -- I can tell you that these kinds of assessments were not uncommon for other places, high-threat, dangerous, unstable places, even war zones where we were also operating.
ROBY: Would you characterize those type of descriptions as highly vulnerable?
CLINTON: Well, I think that, again, there was no recommendation based on any of the assessments, not from our State Department experts, not from the intelligence community that we should abandon either Benghazi or Tripoli.
ROBY: Right. And I understand that. Secretary Clinton, you know, I guess one of the questions that we need answered is, you were a huge advocate for our presence there to begin with. What prevented you from making the decision based on the knowledge that you had from these memos about the deteriorating security situation? What prevented you as secretary of state from making that decision on your own? CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I took into consideration a wide variety of factors. There were a number of places where violence would spike and we would have to make a decision. At this point, what we were trying to do was work with the Libyan authorities. That's what the August 17th memo from Deputy Secretary Nides refers to. We were trying to provide additional security assistance so that the Libyans could do more to assist themselves.
And, you know, it is -- it is the case that in the world we're in today, there are a lot of places that are dangerous. Violence goes up and goes down. Part of what Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones was referencing in this memo is this is a new -- is this a new normal. And the secretary does personally oversee the decision to order departure or shut down posts, and it is important to take that ultimate responsibility very much to heart, which I did.
But I think that there was no recommendation to do that. And again, I was following it. I was watching it. I was trying to, you know, make a very well-reasoned analysis. But I was also listening to the people who were both on the ground and with a lot of experience, who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, other places like that. And there was no recommendation.
ROBY: Secretary Clinton, what I'm trying to make a distinction between is the decisions that you made with respect to Benghazi and decisions that your staff made with respect to Benghazi. But I'm already running out of time, so I do want to get back to that $20 million that we talked about.
On numerous occasions, the finger has been pointed at Congress -- we're not properly funding the security, or the funding not being available for the security request. Yet I find it curious that you were able to find $20 million to support increased security forces in Libya, yet we weren't able to find money to support your own people on the ground. And, you know, particularly in light of the fact that Mrs. Lamb said that funding wasn't an issue.
So I think that it's been a little bit misleading to say it's Congress's fault, but then also it's worth pointing out that there was $20 million found for Libyan security and no dollars found to support increased security for our own people.
CLINTON: Well, as -- as I know you're aware, Congresswoman, the Congress sets spending levels in categories of spending. And as I said earlier, the requests for diplomatic security, to do exactly what you are referencing, were underfunded.
They were underfunded continuously. I am pleased that, following the tragedy at Benghazi we began to get more support from the Congress. But one of the funds that is very important when you're actually talking about an American presence in the country goes back to questions that I was being asked by Congresswoman Duckworth.
If we can help build up the Libyan security forces, they are the host country. It is their responsibility to protect diplomatic posts. So, I don't see these as unconnected. But it is true that we spent money for diplomatic security out of what the Congress appropriated...
ROBY: Right, but, Secretary Clinton...
CLINTON: ...for diplomatic security.
ROBY: ...Charlene Lamb said herself it wasn't a budget issue. So do you take issue with that statement?
CLINTON: Well, I can only tell you our analysis of the underfunding of security for our diplomatic posts was very much in line with what I have just said. That we asked for money in this administration in the earlier years, and we were underfunded.
And so I can tell you that it would have been -- it would have been very helpful to have more money for diplomatic security. And I want to thank the Congress for upping the amount of money that went to diplomatic security, working with the Defense Department to get more marines deployed to more posts and the other actions that have been taken post-Benghazi.
ROBY: And we -- we -- we appreciate that. Although, again, I -- I really think there's a conflict between Charlene Lamb's statement and -- and some that you've made about that.
But I -- real quickly, Mr. Chairman, I want to run through one quick timeline and -- and -- and make an observation. On August 17th, you received a memo on the deteriorating security in Libya. The same day, you were asked to give $20 million to the Libyan government to beef up its own security.
Your department issued a -- a -- a warning telling American citizens to get out of Libya and not to travel there. And then Libya itself issued a, quote, "maximum alert" for Benghazi.
You several times made the statement -- and we believe you -- that Ambassador Stevens was your friend. And I'm wondering why, with all of this in front of you, the Secretary of State, why did it not occur to you to pick up the phone and call your friend?
I know you've -- you've mentioned experts. I know you've said that Ambassador Stevens and -- and -- and other diplomats go into these high-threat situations with their eyes wide open.
But I just want to hear from you why, with all of this information in front of you, particularly on the date of August 17th, did it not occur to you to pick up the phone and call your friend, Ambassador Stevens, and ask him what he needed?
CLINTON: We knew what he was asking for. Those requests went to the security professionals. And I would only add, with respect to the travel warning, we issue travel warnings for many, many places in the world.
They are really aimed at informing American travelers, business travels -- travelers, tourists about conditions that they might face if they go to countries. They are not a criterion for determining whether we keep or end a diplomatic presence.
And I just want to go back to the point you were making, and read from the Accountability Review Board. "For many years, the State Department has been engaged in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work, with varying degrees of success.
"This has brought about a deep sense of the importance of husbanding resources to meet the highest priorities -- laudable in the extreme, but it has also had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.
"It is imperative for the State Department to be mission-driven rather than resource-constrained, and one overall conclusion in this report is that Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address security risks and meet mission imperatives."
ROBY: My time is out and I'm afraid my chairman is going to tell me to be quiet. But the last -- or do you...
GOWDY: Well -- well -- we -- we -- I'm not gonna tell you to be quiet. I'm just gonna ask you if you might hold it. I'm gonna try to be a little quicker on the gavel than I've been just in the interest of time. So --
ROBY: OK, I'll circle back then. Thank you. I yield back.
GOWDY: I would recognize the gentleman from Maryland.
CUMMINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The -- let me say that the -- Madam Secretary and committee, the August 17th, 2012 information memo just referenced is not something new.
CLINTON: That's right.
CUMMINGS: It's not something that this committee uncovered.
CLINTON: That's right.
CUMMINGS: In fact, Congress has had the information memo for years. It was attached to -- as an exhibit to the Benghazi ARB report that Secretary Clinton sent to Congress before her testimony to Congress in January of 2013. The ARB had it and considered it important enough to append it to its report, and Congress already questioned the secretary about her awareness of security conditions in Libya in the run-up to the attacks.
ROBY: Will the gentleman yield?
CUMMINGS: We just gave you an extra three minutes. I've got to -- I've got to use my time, I'm sorry. If I have extra time, I'll give it to you.
Within months of the attacks, the Republican investigations of Benghazi had begun, and the chief investigator, Madam Secretary, who was chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, made it clear that his efforts were directed at you. As he spoke at a political even in New Hampshire, Chairman Issa had said he came to that political event in New Hampshire to, quote, "shape the debate for 2016," end of quote. How right he was.
At that event, Chairman Issa explained -- can we roll the tape please?
ISSA: We need to have an answer of when the secretary of Defense had asset that he could have begun spinning up, why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset. I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon to stand down. And we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel.
That order is undeniable they were told not to get up and get off the airplane --
CUMMINGS: The idea that you would intentionally take steps to prevent assistance to Americans under attack in Benghazi is simply beyond the pale. The claim has also been disproven multiple times over.
First, it was disproved by the ARB, which issued its report at the end of 2012. Admiral Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and -- had led the ARB's military review and concluded that the military had, and I quote, "done everything possible that we could." End of quote.
Then the Republican-led -- the Republican-led -- House Armed Services Committee issued its report in February of 2014, Madam Secretary, which detailed all of the steps taken by the military to mobilize upon hearing of the attacks, including immediately redirecting a surveillance drone to Benghazi, ordering two Marine FAS platoons to Rota, Spain to deploy, one bound for Benghazi, the other for Tripoli, ordering the commanders and in extremis force training in Croatia to move to a U.S. Naval air station in Sigonella, Italy; and dispatching a special operations unit to the region from the United States.
About his review, the chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, a Republican, stated "I think I've been pretty well satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn't have done more than we did." End of quote.
CUMMINGS: Chairman Issa's Oversight Committee, which I am the ranking member of, even spent years actively pursuing evidence for this claim and found nothing. And as it says in the Democratic report we put out on Monday, none of the 54 individuals interviewed by our select committee has identified any evidence to support this Republican claim against you.
In fact, not one of the nine congressional and independent investigations has identified any evidence to support this assertion in the last 3 years.
My question. I sincerely hope this puts this offensive claim to rest once and for all. I'm asking you, Madam Secretary, did you order Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to stand down on the night of the attacks?
CLINTON: Of course, not, Congressman. And I appreciate your going through the highlights of the very comprehensive report that the House Armed Services Committee did on this.
I think it's fair to say everybody -- everybody -- certainly, Defense Secretary Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Dempsey, everybody in the military scrambled to see what they could do. And I was very grateful for that. And as you rightly point out, logistics and distance made it unlikely that they could be anywhere near Benghazi within any kind of reasonable time. CUMMINGS: Now, Madam Secretary, the Benghazi attacks occurred
during a period of significant upheaval and intense volatility in the Middle East and north Africa. There was tremendous unrest throughout the region.
I would like to play a clip that shows what was happening at dozens of posts throughout the world, and then I would like to get your reaction, if you can.
Please play the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Protests have spread over an amateur video made in the United States which mocks Islam. In the Afghan capital, Kabul, a thousand Afghans held a violent protests, burning cars and tires and shooting at police.
In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, hundreds of protesters from hard line (ph) Islamic groups threw petrol bombs and rocks outside the American Embassy.
And in Pakistan, at least one protester was killed.
In Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah (ph), head of the Shia-Muslim Movement (ph), Hezbollah, called for weekly demonstrations against the video. Tens of thousands have turned out in a tightly organized, peaceful protest.
Let's go live on the half now to the streets of Beirut.
(END VIDEO VLIP)
CUMMINGS: Secretary Clinton, what was your sense of how things were unfolding?
CLINTON: Congressman, they were very dangerous and very volatile.
Starting on Monday with the attack on our embassy in Cairo, going all the way through that week into the next week, there were numerous protests, some of which you have shown us clips of. And they were dangerous.
You know, the one that -- that I was particularly concerned about happened in Tunis, and it was the Friday after the attack in Benghazi.
We knew from monitoring the media, from reports coming in from our embassies throughout the region, that this was a very hot issue. It was not going away. It was being kept alive. We were particularly worried about what might happen on Friday, because Friday is the day of prayers for Muslims.
So, we were on very high alert going into Friday. I got a call through our -- our Operations Department from our Ambassador in Tunis who was in the safe room in the embassy in Tunisia. There were thousands of demonstrators on the outside. They were battering down the barriers and the walls around our embassy. They had already set on fire the American school, which is very close to the Embassy. And the Ambassador and his team were desperate for help. Their calls to the government of Tunisia, the host government, had gone unanswered.
I immediately got on the phone calling the foreign minister, calling the prime minister, who were the heads of government. I could not find either one of them. I called the president, President Marzouki. I got him on the phone. I told him he had to rescue our people. He had to disperse the crowds that were there because of the video.
He said, I don't control the army. I have nothing I can do. I said, Mr. president (ph), you must be able to do something. I've got all of my people inside the Embassy -- they are being attacked. If the protesters get through into the Embassy, I don't know what will happen.
He said, well, you know, I do have a presidential guard. I said, Mr. president (ph), please deploy your presidential guard, at least show that Tunisia will stand with the United States against these protesters over this inflammatory video.
To his great credit and to my great relief, that is exactly what he did. He sent the presidential guard. Those of you who have traveled know sometimes they are men in fancy uniforms, sometimes they are on horses, but he sent them. He sent whatever he could muster to our rescue, and the crowd was dispersed. The damage was extensive. But we thankfully did not have anything other than property damage to the Embassy and to the American school. And the government of Tunisia later helped us to repair that.
But it was the kind of incredibly tense moment -- we had protesters going over the walls of our embassy in Khartoum. We had protests, as you rightly point out, all the way to Indonesia. Thankfully, no Americans were killed, partly because I had been consistent in speaking out about that video from the very first day when we knew it had sparked the attack on our embassy in Cairo.
I spoke about it because I wanted it to be clear to every government around the world that we were going to look to them to protect our facilities. And it was a very tense week, Congressman. One that I think demonstrated how volatile the world is and how important it is for the United States to be on top of what people themselves are reacting to, and that's what I tried to do during that time.
CUMMINGS: Thank you. Thank you very much.
GOWDY: Thank the gentleman from Maryland. The Chair will recognize the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Westmoreland.
WESTMORELAND: Madam Secretary, I want to thank you for giving us a play-by-play of what happened in Tunisia.
Could you do the same thing with what happened in Benghazi? Could you tell us the same kind of play by play that -- who came to the rescue there? Because I don't know of anybody that did.
So, I don't know who you called and their lack of ability to get anybody there. It's just hard for me to -- to comprehend why you would give us that blow by blow of something that we're not even investigating here, but we appreciate it. But I do want to ask you...
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, if -- if I could...
CLINTON: ... several of you have raised the video and have dismissed the importance of the video. And I think that is unfortunate, because there's no doubt, and as I said earlier, even the person we have now arrested as being one of the ringleaders of the attack on our compound in Benghazi, is reputed to have used the video as a way to gather up the attackers that attacked our compound. So, I think it's important. These are complex issues, Mr. Congressman. And I think it's important that we look at the totality of what was going on. It's like that terrible incident that happened in Paris.
WESTMORELAND: I got you.
CLINTON: Cartoons sparked two al-Qaeda-trained (ph) attackers who killed, you know, nearly a dozen people. I think it's important...
WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time...
CLINTON: ... As -- as you are members of Congress looking into these issues, that you look at the totality so we can learn the best lessons to try to...
WESTMORELAND: Yes, ma'am. Reclaiming my time.
Let me -- let me ask you about a little thing. You said that you spent a lot of sleepless nights -- and I can't imagine -- and you said you often wondered what you could have done different. What did you come up with?
CLINTON: Oh, a long list. A long list, Congressman. To go back...
WESTMORELAND: Give me your top two.
CLINTON: Well, to go back to the point that Congresswoman Duckworth was raising about contractors.
If we'd had a more reliable security force in large enough numbers, well armed and well focused on protecting our compound...
WESTMORELAND: Well, what could you -- what could you have done different than what you did do?
CLINTON: Well, I'm trying to tell you. I think if the militia that had been engaged by both the CIA and the State Department had been more reliable...
WESTMORELAND: But you didn't have anything to do with that you said.
CLINTON: But I made a long list, Congressman, about anything that anybody could have done. And that's how I looked at it. I looked at it from the perspective of what are the many pieces. Contracting is a part of that. There are many other issues that we need to address. That's really the main reason I'm here, to continue to try to do what I can to honor those who were lost and to make sure that, you know, we are well prepared to try to prevent.
Now, we know we can't prevent everything. That's the way the world is, but to do the very best we can and there are many elements that go into that. WESTMORELAND: So the contractors would be number one. What would be number two?
CLINTON: Well, if there had -- I don't think that's -- that's an unimportant point. We had a militia. We had an unarmed static force that probably couldn't have done much more. It should, I think, inspire us to look for ways to get host countries to permit there to be more dedicated security forces well enough armed and trained to be really a force to protect our compounds and our other facilities. That would have perhaps made a difference.
It certainly might have made a difference if we had more help from the CIA there on the compound; if maybe we had a locating presence. But I have to -- I have to say in reviewing a lot of the analyses that have been made by security experts, very well-trained, experienced security people, they're not sure that anything would have stopped the attackers.
And I know that Admiral Mullen when he went into his work for the ARB was concerned that none of the diplomatic security officers had fired a shot. They had their weapons. They hadn't fired a shot.
WESTMORELAND: Ma'am, I'm not trying to cut you off. I'll try to be nice. And you're doing well. We both talk slow, so let's give each other a little breathing room here.
You talked about Ms. Victoria Nuland. You know her, right?
CLINTON: Yes, I do.
WESTMORELAND: OK. This was -- this was her briefing on September the 13th. Some reporter named Elise (ph) had asked her a question about the security. And her response was, "I'm going to reject that, Elise (ph). Let me tell you what I can about the security of our mission in Benghazi. It did include a local Libyan guard force around the outer perimeter. That guard force never showed up that night, and it did not normally patrol the outer perimeter. The only people that patrolled the outer perimeter was the unarmed Blue Mountain. But," she said, "this is the way we work in all of our missions all around the world, that the outer perimeter is the responsibility of the host government, which there wasn't really a host government at the time. There was obviously a physical perimeter barrier, a wall, and then there was a robust American security presence inside the compound."
I don't -- I don't think five D.S. agents not fully equipped or armed for what they were facing you could call a "robust American security presence." Would you -- would you have used the word "robust"?
CLINTON: I would certainly have said that the security on that night was reliant on a militia that did not perform as had been expected.
WESTMORELAND: I'm not talking about the militia on the outside. I'm talking about the "robust American presence" on the inside. CLINTON: Well, I -- it was considered robust in the sense that the request had been for five diplomatic security officers to accompany the ambassador. There were five there. And they did, as I have testified to, the very best they could. They were armed. And in the course of the thorough investigation conducted by the Accountability Review Board, as I was saying, Admiral Mullen zeroed in on this, having a, you know, more than 40 years experience in the military.
And he wanted to know why the D.S. agents had not fired their weapons. And they explained, as many since have heard who have interviewed them, their assessment was that it would have resulted in the loss of even greater life. And they chose not to. And Admiral Mullen reached the conclusion that they acted appropriately.
So even though we had the five D.S. agents that had been requested, they were overrun and unable to do more than they did.
WESTMORELAND: They were -- they were overrun because they didn't have any defensive positions to fight from because they refused to give them additional sand bags because they did not want it to look like a military compound. I've heard that testimony.
I want to ask you about the FEST. Are you familiar with the FEST?
WESTMORELAND: What is the FEST, Madam Secretary?
CLINTON: It is an emergency support team to help stand up embassies that have, or consulates or other facilities, that have been impacted by either natural disasters or some kind of attack.
WESTMORELAND: Kidnapping. And where are they located?
CLINTON: They're located in the United States.
WESTMORELAND: At Langley Air Force Base?
CLINTON: I'm not sure where they're located now. WESTMORELAND: They're there. And it's an interagency --
WESTMORELAND: -- task force.
WESTMORELAND: Includes the FBI, I guess the DOD, and the State Department.
WESTMORELAND: And if you look at the State Department website, FEST comes up under that, so I'm assuming that you are the lead in those agencies.
CLINTON: It's an interagency effort. WESTMORELAND: Okay. But it was deployed in 1998 in Kenya, correct?
WESTMORELAND: After the embassy bombing there --
WESTMORELAND: -- of the towers. And to Tanzania, correctly?
CLINTON: That's correct.
WESTMORELAND: They were there ready to go on short notice. They said they could have been ready in four hours to leave. This is the group of people that would go into a situation, as you described, when an embassy had been overrun, attacked, kidnapping or whatever, to basically give guidance to any of the other forces or help that was coming in, correct?
And I know that your staff -- and we've got a number of e-mails from your staff that originally recommended that you send the FEST team, and I think they may have talked to Mr. Sullivan, or it was somebody that got an e-mail. And they said they would pass it up the chain. And somebody made the decision not to send the FEST team, which would have been, as secretary of state, I would think, since it was a State Department-led mission, that that would have been the first thing that you would have wanted to get out.
But instead, if I understand correctly from the e-mail chain, your first request was to see how soon the FBI could get over there. Is that a true statement?
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, the FEST went to East Africa to help rebuild our embassy capacity. They have expertise in, you know, once our two embassies were bombed, how do we regain communications, for example.
We were not going to rebuild in Benghazi, so there was no reason to send a FEST team. There was a reason to try to get the FBI investigators into Benghazi as soon as it was safe for them to go so they could start to try to build a case so we could bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. That was absolutely the primary goal that we had in working with the FBI.
And I think it's -- you know, when we make a decision on the -- on a deployment of the FEST, it is not just the secretary of state. In this case there was the NSC involved, there was the CIA involved, there was a CIVITZ about it, and the considered conclusion was we're not going to rebuild in Benghazi. So yes, we...
WESTMORELAND: Well, that was a quick decision to make that night, that you were not going to rebuild in Benghazi, that was pretty -- CLINTON: The FEST would not have -- there was nothing to rebuild, there was --
WESTMORELAND: I understand. But you just mentioned all the agencies that would have been important to get on the ground as quick as possible, and summarize what the situation was to give you that direction.
But I know I'm out of time, Mr. Chairman, but I do want to say that what miss Roby was trying to get you to say, was what decisions did you make in regard to Benghazi? And what were you responsible to make? And I think that's what all of us want to know. What did you do? And what decisions did you make? And you said everybody else is responsible for everything else. What were you responsible for?
CLINTON: I was responsible for sending Chris Stevens to Benghazi as an envoy. I was responsible for supporting a temporary mission that we were constantly evaluating to determine whether it should be become permanent in Benghazi. I was responsible for recommending Chris Stevens to be the ambassador. I was responsible for working on the policy, both before and after the end of the Gadhafi regime. I was responsible for quite a bit, Congressman.
I was not responsible for specific security requests and decisions. That is not something I was responsible for.
GOWDY: The gentleman's time has expired. The chair will now recognize the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Secretary, we're now almost at the end of the second round of questions, and I find it necessary to amend something I said after the first round, and that is, I don't understand the core theory of this case.
I thought I did, but after this round I honestly don't understand where my colleagues are coming from. I'm probably not as good a lawyer, undoubtedly not as good a prosecutor as -- as our chairman.
Most of what we've gone over in this round, frankly, were questions that were asked to you when you testified before the House the last time, before you testified before the Senate. They were the subject of the ARB report.
But there were a few unique lines of questioning that I want to comment and ask you about. One of my colleagues spent his time asking about some of your interactions with your press people. I guess, critiquing your overall Libya strategy and something he called the "Clinton doctrine".
We've been assured this committee, contrary to what Representative McCarthy said, is not about attacking you. But frankly, I don't see the relevance of any of those questions in terms of what actually happened in Benghazi except as a means of trying to attack you or make a political statement regarding the presidential campaign.
And then there was the continuing preoccupation with Sidney Blumenthal. The chairman spent -- both panels asking you about Sidney Blumenthal. And -- and I have to say I just don't understand the preoccupation with Sidney Blumenthal. You would think, for the time we have spent on him, that he was in Benghazi on the night, manning the barricades.
There is not a member on this dais that doesn't have friends they've known for a long time, that send them unsolicited e-mails, and we're too polite to write back saying, you know, this really isn't all that helpful.
There's not a member here that hasn't had that experience, so I don't know why that is so remarkable. So, I honestly -- honestly don't understand this fixation, but I -- I do know one thing about Sidney Blumenthal. It's been abundantly clear here today.
My seven colleagues do not want the American people to read what he said in his deposition. And I'll tell you, it's not because of anything he said. What they really don't want the American people to see is what they asked.
And it was what Ranking Member Cummings intimated, which is they've gone on national TV to say, "we're not interested in the foundation, we're not interested in all these other things. We're only interested in whether we've gotten everything."
But when you read that deposition, you see that is exactly what they were interested in. Now, I can't release it myself. But I can tell you Sidney Blumenthal by the numbers. So, here's Sidney Blumenthal by the numbers.
Republicans asked more than 160 questions about Mr. Blumenthal's relationship and communications with the Clintons, but less than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks.
Republicans asked more than 50 questions about the Clinton foundation. But only four questions about security in Benghazi. Republicans asked more than 270 questions about Mr. Blumenthal's alleged business activities in Libya, but no questions about the U.S. presence in Benghazi.
And Republicans asked more than 45 questions about David Brock, Media Matters -- I have no idea what that is, even, and affiliated entities, but no questions -- no questions -- about Ambassador Stevens and other U.S. personnel in Benghazi.
That's Sidney Blumenthal by the numbers.
Now, there were a couple lines of questioning that I did understand. One of them was about the Accountability Review Board report. Now, not the one, actually, that's relevant to today, about Benghazi, but the one that was written 17 years ago about a different attack in Tanzania. Mr. Pompeo put up a very nice chart -- they've got great exhibits -- selectively quoting from that report. And the -- the implication was the secretary should have security, should be the one deciding the security at every facility around the world.
What he didn't read to you was part of the same section of that report, which says, quote, "in the process, the secretary should re- examine the present organizational structure, with the objective of assuring that a single high-ranking officer is accountable for all protective security matters and has the authority necessary to coordinate on the secretary's behalf." Quite a different impression you get from reading the whole thing.
We had a debate about whether we should participate in this committee, given where it was going, and where it's been. Mr. Cummings said we should, so we could be in the room to point out when a witness wasn't treated fairly.
I have to say I think he was right. Much as I held the opposite opinion. But it's important to be able to point out, if they're not going to give you the actual report or give you the time to read it, where they want to be selective to make a point.
Now, I don't think that selectively quoting that 17-year-old ARB sheds much light on what happened in Benghazi, but it is a nice way to attack you.
I also want to talk a bit about something that I spent a lot of time on, as the ranking on intel and as a member of the investigation that the intelligence committee did. That was a Republican-led investigation. Two of my colleagues here are on the same committee, went through the same investigation.
And my colleagues have intimated that -- that there was an effort to spin what happened. And -- and they have neglected to point out, as you might imagine and as you well know, that the intelligence we got after an attack like this -- in the fog of war, initially, you believe one thing and then you get more information, you understand something better, and then you get more and you understand still something better.
And we were briefed by the director of the CIA at the time. I wish he were here today. And our understanding kept evolving. And in the beginning we got it wrong. And I've looked through that.
And -- and in that initial intelligence, within a few hours, there were some reports indicating it was a direct attack, as you told the Egyptian prime minister at the time. That was what was understood in the immediate hours.
Within 24 hours, though, we had intelligence -- both open source and signals intelligence -- that there was a protest. That the protest was hijacked and that it became an attack, and your statements are -- were in -- indicative and reflective of what we knew then.
It wasn't until about a week or ten days later when we actually got the videos from the compound that we learned definitively there was no protest.
Well, that simple chronology sheds a lot of light on why you and Ambassador Rice said what you did at the time. Not a member here has shown anything you've said or the Ambassador said that was at all inconsistent with what our intelligence agencies told us exactly at the time.
It -- it may come of interest to some of my colleagues who are not on intelligence to know that there are still a great many people in the intelligence community that believe the video was part of the motivation of some who attacked us on that night.
I wish, frankly, we spent more time giving you an accurate representation of the documents and the reports and the facts instead of making an effort to demagogue on this.
I find it fascinating, frankly, that my colleagues put so much reliance in a 17-year-old Accountability Review Board report, but they place no weight in the one actually about Benghazi.
Thomas Pickering has 40 years of experience. There's probably no one in the diplomatic corps more respected. Admiral Mullen, the other co-chair, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, someone the Republicans and Democrats both respected tremendously -- are we now to believe that they're a bunch of rubes, that they had the wool pulled over their eyes or that they were corrupt or incompetent?
Why is their report of so little value? It's hard for me to escape the conclusion that the one centric fact of them all is that you are running for president, and with high poll numbers. And that's why we're here.
And I -- I say all this because I never want to see this happen again. I don't want, four years from now or eight years from now or 12 years from now, in another presidential election, for us to be in here or -- for one side or the other -- I don't want the Republicans to say, "let's do Benghazi again, that really worked." or the Democrats to say, "they did it to us, let's do it to them."
And -- and I think, frankly, by only pointing these things out, that's the only way we're going to avoid having this happen again. Well, let me just ask you on that 17-year-old ARB, and in light
of Mr. Morell who came in and -- and talked to us, not about the security at the diplomatic facility, but at the CIA annex.
His testimony was, "all of the improvements to security at the Benghazi base, the idea to conduct an assessment, the assessment itself, the implementation of its recommendations, were all done without the knowledge and direction of the director and I. It happened exactly where it should have happened, which is in that security office."
SCHIFF: So, same view on the CIA's part. Of course, they're not here. But would you like to comment on what the full recommendation of the Tanzania ARB was, and the very similar process used in our intelligence agencies?
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Congressman Schiff, and I think you make an excellent point. I'm aware of Deputy Director Morell's testimony. It's very similar to what I have said here. It's very similar to what I believe General Petraeus would have said had he come before you.
That the issues about security, whether we're talking State Department or we're talking CIA or any other agency, are not made at the level of the secretary, director. It is made at the appropriate level of the security professionals.
And I think what Mike Morell told you in the Intelligence Committee investigation you would hear from anyone in the government at a high level who has to deploy Americans around the world.
We see that with the Defense Department. You know, we see breaches of security on our military bases. And we know that everybody is struggling to get it right. And as I have said, in the vast majority of cases our security professionals do.
And then unfortunately, there are instances where they do not. And that is why we have after-action reports or why we have the Accountability Review Board, to look at what happened and try to learn from it.
And going all the way back to Tehran and Beirut and East Africa and the 100 attacks on facilities around the world since 2001, we have tried to learn and apply those lessons. And we'll, I hope, continue doing so.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
I yield back.
GOWDY: The gentleman yields back.
The chair will now recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Clinton, just a few minutes ago, you said some of you
have raised the video. Raised the video? You raised the video. At 10:08 on September 11th, 2012, you raised the video.
At 10:08, with Americans still fighting for their lives, an hour- and-a-half before the attack ends, you raised the video. So I'm going to go back to that 10:08 statement. In our first round you said that the statement was not meant to explain the type of the attack or the cause of the attack.
So let's look at your statement. The official press statement from the Department of State, statement on the attack in Benghazi, press statement, Hillary Rodham Clinton, secretary of state, Washington, D.C., September 11th, 2012.
Twelve sentences in this statement, I'm going to focus on the one. "Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
There is the cause, there is a motive presented there. And there is only one motive. You say this, you say, inflammatory material caused vicious behavior. Vicious behavior -- vicious behavior that led and resulted in the deaths of four Americans. There sure seems to be cause there.
CLINTON: Congressman, may I read what I said? What I said is that: "I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed.
"We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack. This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government's full cooperation.
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
"Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear, there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind. In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."
JORDAN: Right, and I'm asking, you said the first round there was no motive, no cause, you weren't trying to explain the cause of the attack. It sure seems to me like you did. You said to...
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, what I...
JORDAN: What you presented, you said -- you presented inflammatory material was the reason for the vicious behavior. Is that not cause and effect?
CLINTON: Well, that's not what it says. What I said was, some have...
JORDAN: I know what you said, you read the whole thing.
CLINTON: I did.
JORDAN: I'm asking about that one sentence, because earlier you said it wasn't -- there was no cause, no motive presented. I think there was. And that is what I think most of the American people thought.
CLINTON: Well, I know there was a great deal of news coverage that looked at the events in Cairo, looked at what happened in Benghazi, and drew some comparisons and maybe even connections.
I know, as we just heard from Congressman Schiff, there was a lot of fast-moving analysis by the intelligence community to try to make sense of all of this. And I can only tell you from the perspective of having been in the...
JORDAN: Secretary Clinton, hang on a second. The intelligence may have changed some, but your story didn't. That is the point.
CLINTON: Well, that is...
JORDAN: Privately -- and privately your story was much different than it was publicly. Again, you said to the Egyptian prime minister, we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film, it was a planned attack, not a protest.
You said to your family, terrorists killed two of our good people. So your story privately is much different than what you're telling the American people.
The intelligence may have changed, the video may have had an impact in other places, but in Benghazi it didn't. And you tried to put them all together, that is what bothers us.
Let me show you a slide here. This is from September 14th. In the first statements by Jay Carney: "Let's be clear these protests were reaction to a video that had spread to the region. We have no information to suggest that Benghazi was a pre-planned attack."
The statement below is from your press person in Libya. Sends this to Greg Hicks and to the experts in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, the same people who said Susan Rice was off the reservation on five networks.
Here is what they get. He is what she says to them. "Benghazi, more terrorist attack than a protest. We want to distinguish," distinguish, "not conflate the events. This was a well-planned attack." So, again, privately the experts in the Near Eastern Affair
Bureau, the experts on Libya, know that this was a well-planned attack. But publicly Jay Carney is saying the same thing you're saying publicly, we have no information that this was pre-planned, this was caused by a video.
CLINTON: Congressman, the next morning, at 9:59, I gave another statement. And I listened carefully to what you said and you kept talking about cause. Well, the word cause is not in my statement of the night before. I was talking...
JORDAN: I'm referring to what you said to me in our first exchange a few hours ago.
CLINTON: Well, no -- well, I'm sorry, Congressman, if I haven't been clear, I will try to be clearer. I was talking about people throughout the region trying to justify attacks on our facilities, as we saw later in the week, and justifying their behavior, and repeating it.
And using the fact of the video not only to arouse crowds, as we saw in the video clips that the ranking member played, but also that would deter governments from coming to our rescue because they would be perhaps ambivalent about doing so.
So you're right, I mentioned the video because I feared what would happen and in fact, it did happen. And in the next morning -- the night before was a brief statement that we put out because we knew we had lost Sean Smith. And I felt an obligation to tell that to the American people.
JORDAN: Madam Secretary?
CLINTON: The next morning I gave a much longer statement, and it was very clear. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our building. That's what it says.
JORDAN: Secretary Clinton -- Secretary Clinton, that's all good. But you said you were trying to communicate to folks all over, all the folks you have around the Middle East, right?
CLINTON: Yes, I was trying to send a message, yes.
JORDAN: OK, I got it.
But that is not what the experts said. They said don't conflate the events, tell the truth about Benghazi, talk about what happened there, other places where the video may have had an impact, fine, say that.
Why did you put them all together when you didn't do that privately? When you told your family about Benghazi, it was, terrorists killed two of our people. When you talked to the Libyan president, Ansar al-Sharia did it, al Qaeda did it. When you talked to the Egyptian prime minister, we know it's not a film, we know it's not a protest, we know it's not a video, it's a terrorist attack.
CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I was working off the information that we had, which was that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility.
CLINTON: And at that point I did say that it was an al Qaeda- related group.
JORDAN: Madam Secretary, look...
CLINTON: We were also...
JORDAN: Look at the difference in these two statements. One says it wasn't a pre-planned attack, that's Jay Carney talking publicly; the other one says -- from your experts in Libya, says it was a well-planned attack.
Now they could not be further apart. They could not be. That's what the -- that's what I'm having a hard time figuring out.
And you know what's interesting? The date of this, 9/14/12, 9/14/12. You know what else happened on the 14th, September 14th? There's another document that's kind of important. That's the same day that Ben Rhodes drafted his talking points memo. Bullet point number 2 -- to underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video, not a broader failure of policy, because we couldn't have Libya -- your baby, as Mr. Roskam pointed out earlier -- we couldn't have that fail, can't have that.
So the same day you got Jay Carney saying this was in no way a pre-planned attack and the experts in Libya talking, Greg Hickson and Near Eastern Affairs people are saying it was a well-planned attack, that same day, the talking points that get Susan Rice ready for the Sunday shows, make sure you focus on --
CLINTON: Well Congressman --
JORDAN: Make sure you focus on the video, not about a broader policy failure. After all, we've got an election coming in 50-some days.
CLINTON: Well Congressman, I believe to this day the video played a role. I believe that the person we have --
JORDAN: But your experts --
CLINTON: There were many experts. If you look -- you probably haven't had an opportunity to read the excellent report issued by the Democrats -- but on September 13th, the intelligence community issued its first thorough, fully coordinated assessment of what happened in Benghazi. It said we assess the attacks on Tuesday against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi began spontaneously, the attacks began spontaneously following the protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Extremists with ties to al-Qaida were involved in the attacks.
There is no contradiction. The protest because of the video, bringing in those who were affiliated with al-Qaida --
JORDAN: Is there a contradiction -- is there a contradiction right here?
CLINTON: There is no contradiction, Congressman.
JORDAN: How about this contradiction. A well-planned attack, no pre-planned attack. How about that? One of them is well-planned, one of them isn't. Jay Carney said there was no pre-planned attack and the experts in Libya said it was a pre-planned attack.
CLINTON: Well the experts in Libya were among the experts looking at this and analyzing it. We went on the basis of the intelligence community, and they were scrambling to get all the information that they could.
And yes, the intelligence community assessment served as the basis for what Ambassador Rice said when she appeared on the Sunday show. And on September 18th, when the video footage arrived from the security cameras, the deputy CIA director has testified it was not until September 18th when the CIA received the Libyan government's assessment of the video that showed the front of the facility with no sign of protesters that it became clear we needed to revisit our analysis.
And then after they looked at the video footage and FBI reporting from interviews of personnel on the ground in Benghazi during the attacks, the CIA changed its assessment. And that was explained thoroughly in the bipartisan reported issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence which did a very thorough, Congressman.
GOWDY: The gentleman yields back. Madam Secretary, I think we're going to take a quick 10-minute break. Two of my colleagues throughout the day have asked for 10 seconds, I've had a third colleague ask for 10 seconds. If she holds it to 10 seconds, I will the gentlelady from Alabama 10 seconds.
ROBY: I just wanted to point out that the ranking member is actually incorrect. The August 17th memo that I was referring to in my last question, we have not had the opportunity to discuss with Secretary Clinton and how it affected her decision, and it was just declassified last week.
GOWDY: All right. With that, we will take a 10-minute break and come back.