Transcript: Hillary Clinton on the Libyan’s inadequate response to the Benghazi attack

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Libyan government’s inadequate response to the Benghazi consulate attack. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was held on Jan. 23, 2013:

Is it will or is it capacity when obviously what you need is both. I have found the Libyan officials to be willing but without capacity.

And part of our challenge is to help them build greater capacity because now it’s about them.

You know, it’s not only about what happened to us in Benghazi, which every official in the Libyan
government was deeply upset about, but they have their own problems now. They’re having leaders attacked and assassinated on a regular basis so we have to do more to help them build up their security capacity. And, again, I would ask this committee to work with us.

There are holds on a lot of the security funding that would go to Libya to assist them in building capacity. There are those I know in the Congress who say, “Look, Libya is a wealthy nation. We don’t need to give them any money.” Well, until they get up and going, it’s in our great interest to give them the resources like we have with other countries over the past 40 years.

But just to finish up on the point you made, we had good security at all of those embassies other than in Tunisia because of the newness of the government. And then when they were asked to respond, they did. I go back to the point that was made on the other side of the aisle: We are dependent on host government support. And where it doesn’t exist, unless we invade and unless we have a big military presence in that country, we are doing the best we can with our diplomatic security and private security guards and any other help we can get.

We do rely primarily on host nations’ support but we have to take a harder look at the commitment and the capacity of these host nations. And therefore in places all over the world, we also have private security guards – some armed, some unarmed. We have Marine guards at many places – about 150 – who at least are demonstrating a line of defense.

But we have to do more. And you asked why do we rely on these – well, in part because we don’t have military assets everywhere. If you look at the statements, particularly by Admiral Mullen who was our Chairman of our Joint Chiefs, he basically said, “Look, we have to work together more closely between State and DOD but it’s unrealistic” in his words “to tether our military to every high-threat post.”

So part of what we’re trying to struggle through with is how do we make our facilities as secure as possible without turning them into fortresses because our diplomats are not soldiers? How do we have reliable private security?

The February 17th Brigade was a Libyan government supported militia that started defending Chris Stevens when he showed up before Qaddafi fell. They had been reliable. They had been responsive. But they were not particularly available during those first minutes and hours of the attack on our compound.

We also have contracted with a private security company that had a permit to operate in Libya because the United States – unless we go into a country with massive military force, we go in and we follow the rules of the country. And we had to get a security force that had a permit from the Libyan government. So these are all issues that are being looked at so that we try to fill the gaps that have been identified.

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