Transcript: Sen. Rand Paul to Clinton: “I would have relieved you of your post”

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) 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. Rand Paul (R-Ky.):

One of the things that disappointed me most about the original 9/11 was no one was fired. We spent trillions of dollars but there were a lot of human errors – huge judgement errors and the people who make judgement errors need to be replaced, fired, and no longer in a position to make these judgement calls.

So we have a review board. The review board finds 64 different things that we can change. A lot of them are common sense and should be done but the question is it’s a failure of leadership that they weren’t done in advance and 4 lives were cost because of this.

I’m glad that you’re accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with your leaving you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11 and I really mean that. Had I been President at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it’s inexcusable.

The thing is is that, you know, we can understand that you’re not reading every cable. I can understand that maybe you’re not aware of the cable from the Ambassador in Vienna that asked for $100,000 for an electrical charging station. I can understand that maybe you’re not aware that your department spent $100,000 on 3 comedians who went to India on a promotional tour called “Make tea not war.”

But I think you might be able to understand and might be aware of the $80 million spent on a consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif that will never be built. I think it’s inexcusable that you did not know about this and that you did not read these cables.

I would think by anybody’s estimation Libya has to have been one of the hottest of hot spots around the world. Not to know of their requests for securities, really, I think cost these people their lives. Their lives could have been saved had someone been more available, had someone been aware of these things, more on top of the job. And the thing is I don’t suspect you to have bad motives.

The review board said, “Well, these people weren’t willfully negligent.” I don’t think you were willfully; I don’t suspect your motives of wanting to serve your country but it was a failure of leadership not to be involved. It was a failure of leadership not to know these things.

And so I think it’s good that you’re accepting responsibility because no one else is. And this is – there’s a certain amount of culpability to the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I’m glad you’re accepting this.

Now, my question is is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey…out of Libya?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me…I…

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): 

[Interrupting] It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons, and what I’d like to know is the Annex that was close by – were they involved in the procuring, buying, selling or obtaining weapons and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries – any countries,Turkey included?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the Annex, and I will see what information is available…

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): 

[Interrupting] You’re saying you don’t know.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

I do not know. I don’t have any information on that.

And with respect to personnel, Senator, you know, first that’s why we have independent people who review the situation as we did with the Pickering and Mullen, ARB, and all 4 individuals identified in the ARB have been removed from their jobs.

Secondly, they’ve been placed on administrative leave while we step through the personnel process to determine the next steps.

Third, both Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen specifically highlighted the reasons why this is complicated because under federal statute and regulations unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty. The ARB did not find the 4 individuals breached their duty.

So I have submitted legislation to this committee, to the Congress, to fix this problem so that future ARBs will not face this situation.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): 

But here’s the problem. The review board has all these recommendations but there’s one thing that they failed to address and I think you failed to address and it sets us up for another tragedy like this: They should have never been sent in there without a military guard. They should have been an embassy like in Baghdad in a war zone and it should have been under military guard – significant military guard, Defense Department command. I don’t think the State Department’s capable of being in a war zone protecting these people. I still don’t think that. I think another tragedy could happen. I think another tragedy could happen in another war zone around the world. I think someone needs to make an executive decision, someone needs to take leadership and with that leadership should be that you shouldn’t send the men with no Marines, you shouldn’t send them in with Marines that guard records not people, you shouldn’t send them in with the same kind of Ambassador or embassy staff that you have in Paris. I think that’s inexcusable.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, Senator, the reason I’m here today is to answer questions the best I can. I am the Secretary of State, and the ARB made very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined was that of the Assistant Secretary level. The administration has sent officials to the Hill more than 30 times. We’ve given as much information; we’ve been as transparent as we can. Obviously, we will continue to brief you and others to answer any and all questions that you have about going forward.

The reason we put into effect the Accountability Review Board is to take it out of the heat of politics and partisanship and accusations and to put it in the hands of people who have no stake in the outcome.

The reason I said make it open – tell the world – is because I believe in transparency. I believe in taking responsibility, and I have done so. And I hope we’re going to be able to see a good working relationship between the State Department and the Committee going forward.




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