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Secretary Clinton Testifies Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Benghazi

Secretary Clinton Testifies Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Benghazi

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Ranking
Member, members of the committee, both older and new. I’m very grateful for this opportunity
and I thank you very much for your patience to give me the chance to come and address
these issues with you. As both the Chairman and the Ranking Member
have said, the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 that claimed the lives
of four brave Americans – Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – are
part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa.
Today, I want briefly to offer some context for this challenge, share what we’ve learned,
how we are protecting our people, and where we can work together to not only honor our
fallen colleagues, but continue to champion America’s interests and values. Any clear-eyed examination of this matter
must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review
Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Benghazi joins a long
list of tragedies for our Department, for other agencies, and for America: hostages
taken in Tehran in 1979, our Embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar
Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered
in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009, and too many others. Since 1977, 65 American
diplomatic personnel have been killed by terrorists. Now of course, the list of attacks foiled,
crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals
get it right more than 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world.
That’s why, like my predecessors, I literally trust them with my life. Let’s also remember that administrations of
both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts
to learn from these attacks and deaths to implement recommendations from the review
boards, to seek the necessary resources, and to do better in protecting our people from
what has become constantly evolving threats. That is the least that the men and women who
serve our country deserve. It’s what, again, we are doing now with your help. As Secretary,
I have no higher priority and no greater responsibility. As I have said many times, I take responsibility,
and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State
Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure. Now, taking responsibility meant moving quickly
in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis, but also
to further protect our people and posts in high-threat areas across the region and the
world. It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi
and to recommend steps for improvement. And it meant intensifying our efforts to combat
terrorism and figure out effective ways to support the emerging democracies in North
Africa and beyond. Let me share some of the lessons we’ve learned,
the steps we’ve taken, and the work we continue to do. First, let’s start on the night of September
11th itself and those difficult early days. I directed our response from the State Department,
stayed in close contact with officials from across our government and the Libyan Government.
So I saw firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and former Chairman Mike Mullen called timely
and exceptional coordination; no delays in decision making, no denials of support from
Washington or from our military. And I want to echo the Review Board’s praise for the
valor and courage of our people on the ground, especially the security professionals in Benghazi
and Tripoli. The board said the response saved American lives in real time, and it did. The very next morning, I told the American
people that heavily armed militants assaulted our compound, and I vowed to bring them to
justice. And I stood with President Obama in the Rose Garden as he spoke of an act of
terror. It’s also important to recall that in that
same period, we were seeing violent attacks on our embassies in Cairo, Sana’a, Tunis,
Khartoum, as well as large protests outside many other posts where thousands of our diplomats
serve. So I immediately ordered a review of our security posture around the world, with
particular scrutiny for high-threat posts. I asked the Department of Defense to join
Interagency Security Assessment Teams and to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine
Security Guards. I named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat
Posts so missions in dangerous places get the attention they need. And we reached out
to Congress to help address physical vulnerabilities, including risk from fire, and to hire additional
Diplomatic Security personnel. Second, even as we took these steps, I hurried
to appoint the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen
so we could more fully understand from objective, independent examination what went wrong and
how to fix it. I have accepted every one of their recommendations.
I asked the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources to lead a task force to ensure
that all 29 of them are implemented quickly and completely, as well as pursuing additional
steps above and beyond the recommendations. I also pledged in my letter to you last month
that implementation would begin, and it has. Our task force started by translating the
recommendations into 64 specific action items. They were assigned to bureaus and offices
with clear timelines for completion. Eighty-five percent are now on track to be completed by
the end of March; a number are already completed. And we will use this opportunity to take a
top-to-bottom look and rethink how we make decisions on where, when and whether people
operate in high-threat areas, and then how we respond to threats and crises. We are initiating an annual High Threat Post
Review chaired by the Secretary of State, and ongoing reviews by the Deputy Secretaries,
to ensure that pivotal questions about security do reach the highest levels. We will regularize
protocols for sharing information with Congress. These are designed to increase the safety
of our diplomats and development experts and reduce the chances of another Benghazi happening
again. We’ve also been moving forward on a third
front: addressing the broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region, because,
after all, Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power
dynamics and shattered security forces across the region. Instability in Mali has created
an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further
attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria. And let me offer our deepest condolences to
the families of the Americans and all the people from many nations who were killed and
injured in that recent hostage crisis. We are in close touch with the Government of
Algeria. We stand ready to provide assistance. We are seeking to gain a fuller understanding
of what took place so we can work together with Algerians and others to prevent such
terrorist attacks in the future. Concerns about terrorism and instability in
North Africa are of course not new. They have been a top priority for the entire Administration’s
national security team. But we have been facing a rapidly changing threat environment, and
we have had to keep working at ways to increase pressure on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb
and the other terrorist groups in the region. In the first hours and days, I conferred with
leaders – the President of Libya, Foreign Ministers of Tunisia and Morocco – and then
I had a series of meetings at the United Nations General Assembly where there was a special
meeting focused on Mali and the Sahel. In October, I flew to Algeria to discuss the
fight against AQIM. In November, I sent Deputy Secretary Bill Burns to follow up in Algiers.
And then in December, in my stead, he co-chaired an organization we started to respond to some
of these threats: the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which was meeting in Abu Dhabi, as
well as a meeting in Tunis of leaders working to build new democracies and reform security
services. We have focused on targeting al-Qaida’s syndicate
of terror – closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering extremist ideology, slowing
the flow of new recruits. And we continue to hunt the terrorists responsible for the
attacks in Benghazi and are determined to bring them to justice. We are using our diplomatic
and economic tools to support these emerging democracies and to strengthen security forces
and help provide a path away from extremism. But let me underscore the importance of the
United States continuing to lead in the Middle East, in North Africa, and around the world.
We’ve come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now. When
America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism
takes root; our interests suffer; our security at home is threatened. That’s why I sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi
in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution,
then during the transition. A weak Libyan Government, marauding militias, terrorist
groups; a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he did not waver. Because
he understood it was critical for America to be represented there at that time. Our men and women who serve overseas understand
that we accept a level of risk to protect the country we love. And they represent the
best traditions of a bold and generous nation. They cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs.
So it is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need, and to do everything
we can to reduce the risks. For me, this is not just a matter of policy.
It’s personal. I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets
off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers,
the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children. It has been one of the great honors of my
life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving
here in Washington; more than 270 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every
day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, because they believe, as we believe, the United
States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known. And when we suffer tragedies overseas, as
we have, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases.
That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of patriots I’m talking about. They
do ask what they can do for their country, and America is stronger for it. So today, after four years in this job, traveling
nearly a million miles, visiting 112 countries, my faith in our country and our future is
stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United
States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent
the world’s indispensible nation. And I am confident that, with your help, we will keep
the United States safe, strong, and exceptional. So I want to thank this committee for your
partnership and your support of diplomats and development experts. You know the importance
of the work they do day in and day out. You know that America’s values and vital national
security interests are at stake. And I appreciate what Ranking Member Corker just said: It is
absolutely critical that this committee and the State Department, with your new Secretary
and former Chairman, work together to really understand and address the resources, support,
and changes that are needed to face what are increasingly complex threats. I know you share my sense of responsibility
and urgency, and while we all may not agree on everything, let’s stay focused on what
really matters: protecting our people and the country we love. And thank you for the
support you personally have given to me over the last four years. I now would be happy to answer your questions.

4 comments on “Secretary Clinton Testifies Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Benghazi

  1. Why were Americans sent to Benghazi? Why does the State Department send Ambassadors to obviously dangerous situations? Why is the United States/USAID financing regimes that don't protect our diplomats?

  2. If you are tired of all the tyranny, the injustice, the corruption from our government, we have the means  to do something about it. We the People need a Common Law (Citizens) Grand Jury in every states and counties. It is completely run by We the People and it is our Constitutional right and the Supreme Court agreed it's our Constitutional right. It supersedes all federal courts decisions and they must enforce the decisions of the Citizens Common Law Grand Jury. With that we can arrest all those criminals in our government and nullify all non-constitutional laws and much more. The Common Law (Citizens) Grand Jury gives We the People the power to make right of the wrongs. Wake up People and be aware! We the People are the rulers of our country and the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land!!!

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