Transcript: Clinton’s response to Sen. Tom Udall’s question on the State Department’s handling of high-threat posts overseas

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Q&A between Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) 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. Tom Udall (D-N.M.):

…Now, one of the findings of the report is the…”total elimination of risk is a non-starter for U.S. diplomacy given the need for the U.S. government to be present where stability and security are often most profoundly lacking and host government support is sometimes minimal to non-existent.”

…This report really, as you know, Madame Secretary underscores the difficulty in finding the right balance between engagement and security. And I fully support, as you’ve asked here and you made the point to our committee, the idea that we should re-program this $1.4 billion, get our act together, and respond to the recommendations.

But my question here revolves around these high-risk posts. I think the term you’ve used is having 20 of them. Is this how many there are – how many high-risk posts we have around the world?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Well, it’s a sliding scale. There’s very high, there’s high. I mean it’s a constantly evolving threat environment.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.):

Can you give us a little bit of a range? I mean, very high and –

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

You know, I would like to give you that in a classified document, because I don’t think it helps us to point out the ones that we think are most at risk and then the ones that would be perhaps in a secondary category.

But I think it’s fair to say, Senator, we operate in Pakistan. We operate in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Yemen. We operate in places where we know that our facilities are being surveilled for potential attacks, where we have a steady intel stream of plotting against us. We know that. And we make a decision – which is a difficult decision – as to whether or not that mission continues.

And I have to say that we really rely on our security professionals to implement the protocols, the procedures, and I have to say they do a tremendous job. The vast majority of the cases – I could give you a long list of attacks averted, of assassinations stopped, of the kinds of daily efforts that our diplomatic security professionals are engaged in. So I have a lot of confidence in them and we’re going to do what we can to make sure that they get the support within our bureaucracy that they deserve out on the ground protecting our diplomats.

 

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