Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton explained that Libyan government had the “willingness” but “not capacity” to safeguard American diplomats

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was held on Jan. 23, 2013: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

…One of the things I’m most interested in exploring with you today a little bit is how information flows within the State Department and in particular looking in hindsight looking forward how we can prevent some of this happening. So I was curious about a number of things. First of all, did – were you ever asked to participate in any sort of internal or inter-agency meeting before this attack with regards to the deteriorating security situation in Libya?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

…I reiterate my taking responsibility. And as I have already said, with specific security requests, they didn’t come to me; I had no knowledge of them.

With regard to the situation in Libya – not just eastern Libya but across Libya – there were a number of conversations and meetings to try to see what we could do while Libya went through this transition from transitional government to interim government to elections to try to get in there and help them with security because it was clear that that was going to be one of their highest needs once they finally got stabilized.

So, you know, there were a number of meetings, and I personally went to Libya in October of 2011. I spoke with the then-leadership. I met with them in international settings. We sent teams out, both civilian and military experts to try to help them.

Until recently, while they were going through their transitions it was a very difficult conversation because they didn’t have the authority they thought. But now we’re beginning and we have a long list of ways we’re trying to help improve security in Libya.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): 

For example, at the October 2011 meeting, at that meeting – did this issue come up with regards to the inability of the Libyan government to protect our diplomatic institutions? Did that issue come up at all in that conversation?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, we obviously talked a great deal about the deteriorating threat environment in Libya. One of the reasons we had our own people on the ground and why we were looking to try to figure out how to better protect Benghazi and how to have understandings with those in the Annex is because it’s a host country responsibility but, you know, they were not in a position to do what we would expect from an organized country.

But they did have the militias, and you know the February 17th Brigade had proven to be responsive in the past prior to 9/11. Other militias in Tripoli had proven to be responsive. In fact, when I landed in Tripoli I was met by the Zintan militia. That was the welcome I had. All these guys dressed in black, holding their automatic weapons. That was my welcoming party. So we knew we were piecing together what a host nation was not yet able to do.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

Right. And then there was another meeting on March 2012. So just to be clear in October of 2011 and again in March 2012, I believe that’s here with the Prime Minister, and neither one of these meetings was there a specific conversation between you and then with regards to concerns that we had that the – not just the deteriorating security situation but the inability of them as a host country to meet their obligations to provide security.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Of course.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

So there was a conversation?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, this was a constant conversation, Senator. And what I found with the Libyans was willingness but not capacity.

You know, in Tunisia, as I told you, they had capacity but I had to call and just tell them we had to get that capacity out there because, you know, they’re still trying to figure out how to be a state without being a security state.

With Cairo, we had to call and tell the Egyptians “Get your people out there.”

So with Libya, it was different. The Libyans were very responsive, very willing – but no levers to pull.

And what we’ve been trying to do – and you know, we need your help to help us pay for what we’re trying to do – we are trying to help them build a decent security force to try to reign in the militias as best they can.

So this was a constant conversation.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

Before the attack in Benghazi, what had we done specifically to help them build their security capacities?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, there’s a long list and I’ll be happy to provide that to you, because it is filled with, you know, training, with equipments, with the kind of planning that they had not done before. And I’ll be happy to send you the details on that, Senator.




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2 Comments on “Transcript of Senate hearing Q&A: Clinton explained that Libyan government had the “willingness” but “not capacity” to safeguard American diplomats

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Clinton’s response to Sen. Tim Kaine's question on the temporary status of the Benghazi consulate | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Clinton’s response to Sen. John Barrasso's questions on the security arrangements in place before the 9/11 Benghazi attack | What The Folly?!

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