Interview With Elise Labott of CNN
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 15, 2012
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for joining CNN. I want to talk a little bit about the Benghazi attack. September 11th, the evening of this horrible day you get a call that the consulate in Benghazi was attacked, and the Ambassador has died. What goes through your head at that moment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, this was a many-hour ordeal that we were all involved in, and I was deeply concerned, as you would obviously assume, to hear about an attack, an attack that –
QUESTION: On 9/11.
SECRETARY CLINTON: On 9/11, an attack that was just overwhelming, the many-armed men, numbers not clear, not only at our post but at our annex, and then we couldn’t find Ambassador Stevens, and we were trying desperately to figure out what had happened to him and to Sean Smith and the others who were there. So it was an intense, long ordeal for everybody at the State Department and in Libya.
QUESTION: Now, I know the investigation is going to play itself out –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: -- but in the short term, the State Department officials and Diplomatic Security admit that requests for security were denied because they said that it was adequate based on the threat level. Did you get bad intelligence about the threat level, or was this a bad security decision?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, one of the things we’re going to explore in the Accountability Review that I have ordered is exactly what happened and what can we do to make sure that we learn lessons from it. Nobody wants to get to the bottom of this more than I do. I knew Chris Stevens. I’ve had a chance to meet the families of the other three men who we lost. I take this very personally. So we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and then we’re going to do everything we can to work to prevent it from happening again, and then we’re going to bring whoever did this to us to justice.
QUESTION: I understand, but eastern Libya, known to be a hub for extremist groups, on 9/11; the Ambassador clearly didn’t have enough security.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to reach any conclusions. Obviously, what happened that night was unprecedented. The waves of armed attackers that went on for hours, this was a long attack.
QUESTION: Well, do you think you got wrong intelligence then?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to get into the blame game either about what we don’t fully yet know from our own investigation. What I think is important is to make it clear that we were attacked. And what does that mean? That means that we have to do everything we possibly can to keep our people safe. At the same time, we have to continue to be out in the world. That’s a very difficult balance to make, and I’m trying to make that balance all the time, because we can’t retreat. We have to continue to lead. We have to be engaged. We can’t hang out behind walls. Chris Stevens understood that better than anybody. He believed in what he was doing in Libya, and we want to do this right in his honor and the honor of all the men who were lost.
QUESTION: You say you don’t want to play the blame game, but certainly there’s a blame game going on in Washington. In fact, during the presidential debate, Vice President Biden said, “We didn’t know.” White House officials calling around saying, “Hey, this is a State Department function.” Are they throwing you under the bus?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course not. Look, I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department, 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts. The President and the Vice President certainly wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals. They’re the ones who weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision.
QUESTION: Intelligence community initially called it a protest. State Department never did. You never did. The story has changed now. And as you know, Republicans are charging that this was a cover-up. Was it a rush to judgment, or was it bad intelligence as Vice President Biden suggests?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Elise, I take a very different view of this. I have now for 20 years been very much in the administration decision-making first with my husband; then after 9/11 working with President Bush; now, of course, in President Obama’s cabinet. In the wake of an attack like this in the fog of war, there’s always going to be confusion, and I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke –
QUESTION: Bad intelligence it seems, though.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Everyone who spoke tried to give the information they had. As time has gone one, the information has changed, we’ve gotten more detail, but that’s not surprising. That always happens. And what I want to avoid is some kind of political "gotcha" or blame game going on, because that does a disservice to the thousands and thousands of Americans not only in the State Department and USAID, but in the military, who serve around the world. Everyone wants to make sure they are as safe as possible, but they are doing the job that they were sent out to do.
QUESTION: Well, Ambassador Stevens’ father this week said his death is being politicized. Democrats are calling it a witch hunt. Is that what’s happening here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to get into the political back-and-forth. I know that we’re very close to an election. I want just to take a step back here and say from my own experience we are at our best as Americans when we pull together. I’ve done it with –
QUESTION: Are you saying we’re not doing that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. I’ve seen it happen where people say, “Look, first and foremost we’re Americans.” We’ve lost four brave men, dozens more had to fight for their lives over a very long battle. They had to get evacuated because of the dangers that they were facing.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, we have an election coming up. Rationale is that this is to go against President Obama. But some people think it’s to stop Hillary Clinton from making any gains for 2016.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is just so far from anything that anybody should be thinking about.
QUESTION: They still see you as a threat, Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t speak to that. The only threats I’m worried about are the threats to my men and women on the ground every day as we speak. It’s what I’m obsessed with. It’s what we’ve worked so hard to evaluate, and of course we’re part of a team. We’re a team with the – with DOD, we’re a team with the intelligence community, we’re a team with the White House, and other assets of the government.
QUESTION: What about the funding now? I mean, you’ve talked –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re also a team with the Congress, too.
QUESTION: You’ve talked about that a lot that that’s an issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s important for us to work closely with the Congress. I have every reason to believe that the leadership of the Congress cares as much as anybody about protecting our men and women, and we’ll have time to talk about what we need and how we can best deploy financial assistance.
QUESTION: You’re here in Peru talking about women’s issues, women as part of the economy. In the United States, you have 50 percent of women in the workforce, they’re not getting all the tools they need, and this is becoming an issue in this election.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is important that we do everything we can to open the doors of opportunity for everyone. And the biggest group that is not fully participating around the world are women. And so, as you know, this has been a point I’ve made repeatedly, that if we tear down the barriers to women’s full participation in the economy, whether it’s in the United States or Peru or Japan, it will be an opportunity for those economies to grow. Actually, the gross domestic product will increase.
I’m also here to see the new President. We have a lot of important relationships with him and his government on counternarcotics, counterterrorism, the problems that we’re dealing with in this very complex world of ours today.
QUESTION: Going to watch the debate?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am. I am. We’re going to try to get home in time to be sure that I see every minute of it.
QUESTION: You’ve debated President Obama. You’ve watched many debates. What does he need to do in this debate?
SECRETARY CLINTON: He just needs to be himself and answer the questions and get out there and tell people – not just those in the audience, but in our country – what he has done and what he will do. I think that this is a consequential election for both domestic and international reasons, and although I am out of politics, I am still an American and care deeply about what happens in my country.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for joining us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks very much, Elise.
# # #
Interview With Wendell Goler of FOX News
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 15, 2012
QUESTION: Forgive me – this is the first time we’ve had to talk since the Benghazi tragedy, and with respect to your hosts, I’d like to focus my questions on that. There’s a lot of discussion of the decision not to extend the mission of the additional security team in Tripoli. Would that have made a difference in the Benghazi situation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Wendell, we’re going to find out through our Accountability Review investigation that’s going on exactly what did happen. There’s been testimony it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’m not going to draw any conclusions until we have these very distinguished Americans given the chance to review everything and draw their own conclusions and make recommendations, because nobody wants to get to the bottom of this more than I. And I want to do everything I can to protect our people, and I also want to make sure that we track down whoever did this and bring them to justice.
QUESTION: Did that request come to you or does it come to a specialist in the Department on security?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m responsible for the State Department, for the more than 60,000 people around the world. The decisions about security assets are made by security professionals. But we’re going to review everything to make sure that we’re doing what needs to be done in an increasingly risky environment around the world. There’s no doubt that our men and women from the State Department, USAID, the rest of our government are having to balance all the time how to do their jobs and not stay behind high walls, but to do it as safely as possible. And that’s an ongoing, daily calculation around the world.
QUESTION: There was an IED attack in June. Did you know about that? Was the White House informed about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t speak to who knew what about that. We knew that there were security breaches and problems throughout Libya that was something that came about as the aftermath of the revolution to topple Qadhafi, with so many militias formed, so many weapons loose, and it was certainly taken into account by the security professionals as they made their assessments.
QUESTION: Now, a week after the attack, Ambassador Rice was still saying basically this is something that grew out of a protest against the anti-Islam movie. Can you explain that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the first thing to know is that everyone had the same intelligence. But I’ve been around long enough to know that it takes time to assess all the information that you have. And as the intelligence community has now said, their assessment over the last now more than a month changed, but everyone in the Administration was trying to give information to the best of their ability at the time, with the caveat that more was likely to be learned and that there would be most likely changes.
So the fog of war, the confusion that you get in any kind of combat situation – and remember, this was an attack that went on for hours. Our post was overrun by a significant number of armed men. Our annex was attacked. There had to be a lot of sorting out. And the intelligence community, as you know so well, they look backwards. They start going through everything: Did they miss something? Was there something else out there? Then they have to put out feelers to find out what people knew. And they’ve been doing that in a very vigorous way, and we’re learning more all the time about what happened.
QUESTION: So it’s possible you could have had the same information and drawn different conclusions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s possible that everyone said here’s what we know, but it’s subject to change; it’s what we know at present. And I think that is what people tried to do. But I also understand, having been around for a while, how impatient people are to figure out what went on, what happened. We lost four really brave Americans. And come on, somebody tell me. And so it’s not very satisfying to say, look, we’re going to do this right, we’re going to get the information, and then when we do tell you, we will tell you as fully as we possibly can, which is why I immediately stood up the Review Board.
QUESTION: What do you make of the Republican claim that the Administration was reluctant to admit that al-Qaida is not on its heels, as the President often says?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t understand it completely, because we have certainly degraded core al-Qaida, including, of course, bin Ladin. But we have been very focused on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. I spoke about that in the past, even a few weeks ago.
So al-Qaida in its affiliate form, if you will, poses a threat, not to the same extent as what we faced coming out of 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but let’s be very clear: This Administration knows all too well that we face extremists, wannabe al-Qaida types, new groups popping up that want to do harm to their own people, to the United States and our friends and allies. And we are as vigilant as we possibly can be around the clock.
QUESTION: Is Libya, with its militias and weapons, an example of why you don’t want to provide weapons to the rebels in Syria?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Every case is different. I do think that the disarming of the militias is particularly difficult in Libya because there were no institutions. There was no institutional, professional army. And we face a very challenging environment in Libya, as does the new Libyan Government, who we are certainly trying to support. I think it’s a different situation in Syria. It’s a different situation in Yemen. I mean, every situation has to be evaluated.
But I can say, generally, dangerous weapons in the hands of extremists is a problem that we pay a lot of attention to and we spend an enormous amount of energy – not just the State Department, but DOD and intelligence community – trying to figure out how to prevent these groups from getting access to more and more powerful weapons. So it’s a problem.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Wendell. Good to see you.
QUESTION: And you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks.
# # #
Interview With Reena Ninan of ABC News
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 15, 2012
QUESTION: When I first met Chris Stevens, it was in a Benghazi elevator of a hotel. He really knew that area well. There was – there are some reports that he was concerned about the rise of al-Qaida. When did the U.S. become aware of transnational extremists operating in Eastern Libya, and what was the U.S. policy to deal with it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have long known that extremists have come out of Libya, and certainly after the fall of Qadhafi we understood that there would be an effort to try to reestablish a presence of extremist bases and operations. But we also knew that aside from those individuals and groups, there were so many militias that had formed in the wake of the revolution, there were so many weapons in the country. So it was something that we were very focused on and working on.
QUESTION: If there is that solid evidence of who killed Chris Stevens – and obviously these guys aren’t coming in in handcuffs – would this Administration be willing to strike them before a U.S. election?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say this. I think there are three points that are very important to me. First, we will get to the bottom of what happened. Secondly, we will learn whatever lessons can be gleaned in order to protect our people. And third, we will track down whoever did this and hold them accountable, bring them to justice.
QUESTION: Any closer to finding suspects?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s a lot of work going on. There’s an intense effort in our government. And I think our track record is pretty good that eventually we will find you.
QUESTION: President Biden last week said, I’m quoting here, “We’re leaving in 2014, period,” referring to Afghanistan. Was he wrong?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is the plan. In 2014, according to the decisions that were made by NATO – and that, of course, includes the United States – we would end major combat operations in 2014, the end of the year. There would be --
QUESTION: Do you believe there’s evidence to stay beyond 2014?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there is an enduring commitment that a number of countries have already made to the Afghans, including the United States, but also the UK, France, and others have said we don’t want Afghanistan to end up the way it did after the Soviet Union left and those countries that had been funding the fight against the Soviet Union retreated. So no one wants that to happen. No one wants Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists again. But what that will look like, who will be involved – all of that is still to be considered.
QUESTION: So he hasn’t torpedoed, has he, security talks with – last week with the Afghan Foreign Minister on staying beyond 2014?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think he – what he meant was that major combat operations will end. There’s never been any discussion of continuing that. What has been discussed is how to train and support and provide specific forms of assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces.
QUESTION: We’re seeing al-Qaida strengthen in some parts – in Mali, in Syria, in Iraq. What’s the real status of al-Qaida, and are they strengthening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s absolutely fair to say that the major leadership of al-Qaida, including bin Ladin, has been decimated. There has been an effort to have other al-Qaida affiliate-like organizations – al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – to try to take up the mantle of al-Qaida, but the core of al-Qaida has been severely damaged.
But we know that there will be terrorists, if they call themselves that or they call themselves something else, who will continue to terrorize people in the countries where they are based and continue to threaten the United States and our friends and allies. So we have never taken at all our eye off the ball of how we have to keep going after those extremists who pose a threat.
QUESTION: President Assad has started using his air force in Syria. The casualties have risen significantly. When the U.S. decided to go into Libya, it was because of on the grounds of an impending emergency humanitarian situation. The situation in Syria is far worse. Why not set up a no-fly zone there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Obviously, this has been under discussion among allies in many conversations, and I think that the planning that has been taking place is important. There has been no decision made. But everyone knows that what the Assad regime is doing is just a brutal assault on the Syrian people. And what we need is a very clear commitment of support to the opposition inside of Syria and outside --
QUESTION: Would you be willing to talk to the military opposition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there are conversations going on with those who are in the military – in fact, I know there are – by many different likeminded countries.
QUESTION: The debates are tomorrow. Is it do or die for President Obama? What advice would you have for him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I think he’ll do find. I have no doubt about that. And I’m racing back from Peru, where we are talking, in order to be able to see all of it.
QUESTION: What would you tell him? What advice would you give him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually just to go out and be himself and talk about what he’s done – he has a great record – and what he wants to do. I mean, this is a very consequential election for our country, and I’m out of politics but I am an American and I care deeply about what happens to our country and our people. And I think he’ll do fine.
QUESTION: When they look back and examine this election cycle, what will they say about the impact your husband, President Clinton, has had in helping him (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will leave that to historians. But I was very proud of the speech that Bill gave at the convention, because I think it made the case very strongly for the policies that President Obama has pursued and why they’re the right policies for our country.
QUESTION: When you leave your position as Secretary of State, what unfinished business will you regret leaving behind the most?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will miss the extraordinary people. I have more than 60,000 people around the world who are working hard every single day to promote peace and prosperity and who want to advance America’s interests and values and keep us safe here at home. So I will miss the people and I will miss a lot of the extraordinarily important work. But it’s work that never ends. I mean, we’re living at a time when the world is so complex, so many challenges and threats going on simultaneously. So I will be there cheering on whoever my successor is.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
# # #
Interview With Margaret Brennan of CBS
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 15, 2012
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for making time. The assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi lasted well over six hours. Did you at any point consider sending reinforcements or assets from outside of Libya in?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we considered everything, and we did, as you know, send additional assets from Tripoli, but it was a fast-moving, very difficult assault to try to figure out. As you know, the assault on the post ended. There was a gap of time, then the assault on the annex, so everybody who had any responsibility was scrambling very hard to figure out what more could be done.
QUESTION: Why not send in assets from outside the country in addition to those coming from Tripoli?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, partly because of the difficulties of trying to do that. But I think all of this will be examined in the Accountability Review Board, because after all, we have this independent board to sort through everything: what happened, because we have to get to the bottom of it; what we need to learn from it, because we have to do whatever it takes to protect our people; and then of course to follow up and follow any lead to track down whoever did this and bring them to justice. So we are very focused on finding out everything we can and then learning from it. But we’re also, at the same time, doing a very big analysis of what’s happening right now, making sure we do what we can to protect people, and it’s a terrible tragedy what happened in Benghazi, and we want to make sure that those four men will be remembered because of the changes that we possibly can do to help others.
QUESTION: There are people within the Foreign Service looking at what happened in Benghazi and saying, “This shows that there are soft, vulnerable American targets that can be hit.” So when you look at your decisions that night, do you expect your own decision not to send in assets from outside of Libya to be in question?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Margaret, I don’t want us to reach any conclusions about what we did or didn’t do without the full context. I mean, I understand why people want to ask questions, but I just caution that we need to look at everything, and everything needs to be explained at the same time. We have 275 posts around the world. We have more than 60,000 people. We live in a dangerous, risky environment today in many places around the world, and we are constantly calculating, particularly led by our security professionals, about what needs to be done, where assets need to be. We partner with DOD whenever we can. But it’s a constantly calculating analysis that has to go on in order to make the best decisions.
QUESTION: And there are usually emergency action plans in place for all those embassies and posts. Was there one in Benghazi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s always emergency plans in place, and there are always constant updates to it. Now, as you know, Benghazi was not a permanent facility. It was a post with an annex, and there’s no doubt that it was overrun, some have said in an unprecedented attack that could not have been foreseen and could not have been stopped. But I want to know the answers. I want to know if that’s true.
QUESTION: So there was not a contingency plan in Benghazi because it wasn’t –
SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s – no, there’s always an emergency plan for every post.
QUESTION: Okay. On September 16th, Ambassador Susan Rice made a number of TV appearances. Did you approve her speaking points that she delivered on the TV shows that day?
SECRETARY CLINTON: She got the same information that everyone got, and I think she very clearly said here’s what we know now, but this is going to change. This is what we have at present, but it will evolve, and the intelligence community has said the same thing. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. I mean, you feel an obligation to say something, because something terrible has happened, but more likely than not there will be additional details, what people thought might be changed by new information, or in the case of the intelligence community, something that they are able to pull from their review of all available intelligence.
So I think that what’s important is we were attacked. We were attacked, and this was not the only place where our people were at risk. We were facing serious problems in many places over – from September 11th over the following weeks, and what we were trying to do was to stay ahead of it and to try to make sure that we were prepared. In many places, there were governments, governments that have a responsibility under international law to protect diplomatic facilities and were able to do so. In Libya, as you know, they don’t yet have control over security. It’s something that we are trying to help them with, but unfortunately, they were not able to be very responsive in Benghazi.
QUESTION: Who briefed Ambassador Rice that day? Did you sign off on that briefing and those speaking points?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You would have to ask her.
QUESTION: You didn’t speak to her before that appearance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but that – everybody had the same information. I mean, I’m – I have to say I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to who said what when, but I think what happened is more important. We were attacked, and four brave Americans were killed. Others were injured. Dozens had to fight for their life and had to get evacuated. Everybody in the Administration had – has tried to say what we knew at the time with the caveat that we would learn more, and that’s what’s happened. So I think that – I’ve seen it before not just in respect to this. I think it’s part of what the fog of war causes.
QUESTION: There are those who because of the vulnerability look at this and say why was Ambassador Rice saying there was no information, which is what she said on CBS, no information that this was a preplanned attack when just days before Libya’s President had publically and repeatedly said there was evidence?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, those are all pieces of information that people will have evaluated in the overall assessment. I can only speak for the United States Government and the information that was given was given to everyone. That information evolved. The intelligence community has said that. So I think that we can –
QUESTION: It wasn’t an intelligence failure?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to get into the blame game. I think intelligence is very hard to do, and what we’re going to find out as we do this accountability review and we get what will be the best possible chronology that will be attached to what we knew when, which takes time. It cannot be just produced automatically. Then you and the media, the Congress, and others will have a good basis of information.
I understand the anxiety and the desire to try to get answers. Nobody wants to get answers more than I do. These were people who I cared deeply about. I knew Chris Stevens. I asked him personally to be in Benghazi during the Libyan revolution. I personally nominated him to be ambassador, because I could not think of a better person to represent the United States, somebody who understood what was at stake for Libya, what was at stake for the United States, how these revolutions could be so positive or could be hijacked. He understood that, and he was instrumental in working with the Libyans. So I care deeply about what happened that night. I care deeply about what we’re going to be doing going forward. And I want everybody to know that we’re going to get to the bottom of this, and when we do, that information will all be public, and people will be able to draw their own conclusions.
QUESTION: And lastly, Madam Secretary, before I let you go, coming up on these last three months of your term, what do you have to do to consider it a success?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve had a lot of very important challenges over the last now nearly four years. The world has changed dramatically. We’ve had economic crises, we’ve had Arab Springs, we’ve had all kinds of challenges in places large and small, but I think what’s important is that we have asserted American leadership, American values, American interests, and we’ve also made it very clear that when it comes to our security, it may take time, but if you kill Americans, we will find you, and we will hold you accountable and bring you to justice one way or the other. And that’s what we intend to do when it comes to Benghazi. It’s what this Administration, it’s what the American people expect. And we will continue to advance our interests, promote our values, and protect our security.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
# # #
Interview With Catherine Chomiak of NBC News
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 15, 2012
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madam Secretary, for doing this. I wanted to start with Libya and then move on to Pakistan. On September 11th in Benghazi, things were calm until around 9:40, officials tell us, and at that point a security officer saw dozens of heavily-armed men coming in through the front gate. And that security officer notified the Embassy in Tripoli, and then Washington as well, and then kept in contact and gave updates. I’m wondering, was it not apparent that evening that this was a coordinated terrorist attack and not just a protest spun out of control?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s one of the questions that will be answered by the review once everything is looked at. Because the intelligence committee information that was available in the immediate aftermath was given to everyone, and everyone saw the same information but said, look, we will tell you what we know now but we expect it to change, we expect it to get more detail. And that’s what’s gone on over the last weeks.
I think the important thing is we were attacked. At the same time, there were protests and attacks going on across the region and even beyond. So what we had to do in the State Department was keep focused not on why something happened – that was for the intelligence community to determine – but what was happening and what could happen. And that’s what I was very much working on day and night, to try to make sure that we intervened with governments, we did everything we could to keep our people safe, which is my primary responsibility.
QUESTION: And you mention the intelligence that was given, and some have been critical and the intelligence agency has come out and revised and put out that statement. Some have called this an intelligence failure. Is that fair?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think we want to get into any blame game. I think what we want to do is get to the bottom of what happened, figure out what we’re going to do to protect people and prevent it from happening again, and then track down whoever did it and bring them to justice.
So from my perspective, I have a great deal of concern about what we have to do to make sure this doesn’t happen, and that means even while we’re doing the investigation about Benghazi, we’re constantly reaching out, making sure that our posts have what they need, doing reviews all the time so that we can try to stay ahead of whatever might happen. Because this was unprecedented – significant numbers of armed men coming into a post like that. We’ve seen things like this from Tehran to Beirut to Nairobi. We see it, but we have to constantly be learning new ways to prevent it.
QUESTION: And there has been criticism of the intelligence, and there’s also been criticism of the Administration. Yesterday, Senator Graham said this Administration is either misleading the American people or incredibly incompetent about what happened in Benghazi. That’s a very, very serious charge that he’s making. What do you say to him and to others?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I highly respect him and others who share the deep concern I do that something terrible happened, and we have to find out what it was. My only point is that the Administration has tried to provide information with the caveat that more would be learned, but everyone has done their best to get information out. What I’m interested in is getting to the facts: What did happen? And I was at the – from the time it started until this minute as we’re sitting here really focused on trying to make sure that we had everything that our people needed, and if there are changes that we have to make or that our security professionals need to do, we’re going to learn what it is and we’re going to do it.
QUESTION: One of those issues around security that has been raised is: Was the State Department too concerned with Libyan political sensitivities about contractors coming into the country after the revolution? Could you talk a little bit about that? Was there an emphasis on – in the security posture of relying on local Libyans, and could that have been an issue that led to what happened in Benghazi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think specifically we need to really sort that out to see whether that had any effect. It’s something that I don’t want to make a judgment about until I get all the facts. But in a more general way, we can’t bring people into any country unless we take military action against that country. But in the ordinary course of dealing with other countries, we can’t bring anybody in who doesn’t get a visa, who isn’t approved to be there by the country.
So when some people say, well, we should have just put people in, that’s not the way it works. You have to get the visas. You have to get the approval. Now, the military, as we know, they went to Afghanistan, they went to Iraq, they’ve gone other places in the past. But other than those kinds of exceptions, even they have to get approval to have what we call boots on the ground.
So I want the American people to understand more about how all of this works, but I want to do it once we get all the facts.
QUESTION: And speaking of the American people, after 9/11, when New York City was attacked, Americans really rallied together. We really haven’t seen that with Benghazi. It’s become very quickly a political issue. I’m wondering why you think that is. And do you think it serves the American public and America’s interests that Benghazi has been so politicized?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can only say that based on my experience the last 20 years, when our country was attacked in the ‘90s and my husband was President; when we were attacked when George W. Bush was President; now, of course, I serve President Obama – we’re at our best when we rally around. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get to the bottom of what happened, because we should, and we should then hold people accountable, make changes where necessary.
But I really believe that tragedies like what happened in Benghazi should be viewed in a nonpolitical way. Everybody should pull together as Americans.
QUESTION: And changing topics, I imagine you’ve been following the updates of the 14-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan. And I’m wondering, what would you say to her today if you could? And what do you want to say to all the other school girls just like her who have flooded the streets of Pakistan in outrage?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the people of Pakistan are saying what needs to be said so eloquently now – that children, boys and girls, deserve to go to school; they deserve to have the chance to make the best of their God-given potential, to make a contribution to their society. And any country that doesn’t stand up against extremism in order to protect its children has to really take a hard look, and I think that’s what’s happening in Pakistan. And I certainly hope so because there are so many thousands of young girls who deserve to go to school, who deserve to have an education, and those who are committing these terrible acts of violence need to be brought to justice.
QUESTION: And just one quick one if I may. Madam Secretary, you’ve been in your fair share of high-profile debates. (Laughter.) I’m wondering if you have anything for the President? Any advice to give him for tomorrow?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think he’ll do fine. I think he just has to get out there and talk about what he’s done for the country and what he wants to do for the next four years. I am out of politics, but I do care deeply about what happens to the country that I love and that I’ve served, and I think he will do fine in explaining what needs to happen next.
QUESTION: That you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Hillary Clinton's Media Interviews on Benghazi
These are transcripts of some of the interviews Secretary Clinton gave last night beginning with the one who broke the news of that she was publicly accepting responsibility for security failures in Benghazi , Elise Labott of CNN followed by Wendell Goler of FOX News who probably was the second as I gathered from Gretawire.