Transcript: Hillary Clinton on the State Departments’ efforts to improve embassy security after the Benghazi attack

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on . The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was held on Jan. 23, 2013:

First and foremost, we have to do the right job prioritizing based on the resources we do have. And I would be the first to say it’s not all about money but it’s also not without budgetary consequences, and so we have to find out what’s the right balance.

Secondly, immediately after this happened, I spoke with Secretary [Leon] Panetta, Chairman [Martin] Dempsey, asked the Defense Department to work with us in putting together inter-agency security assessment teams to go out and look at our high-threat posts because our military brings a different perspective. And that was a very important process, which we are going to continue.

We’re also looking to see how we can better cooperate on the security aid we give to other countries. It’s got to be a combination of both military assets and expertise but also development, rule of law, democracy-building. It can’t be one or the other. They have to be married together.

This is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of High-Threat Post. I want one person held accountable looking at these high-threat posts, talking to our military and intelligence partners, being a voice at the table not just for all 275 posts but really zeroing in on a real-time constant evaluation about what our high-threat post need.

But in addition to that, we’re going to continue our work with the Defense Department and the inter-agency security assessment threat.

I’m also, for the first time, elevating a lot of these security issues for high-threat post to the secretarial level because it hasn’t been there before, and I think given what we’ve experienced, it needs to be.

We’re also looking for the transfer authority to add to our Marine security guards, our construction, and our diplomatic security.

We’re enhancing the training for everyone.

We’re taking a hard look at another problem that the ARB pointed out and that was our temporary duty assignments. You know, very often, given especially the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in some other large posts, we have a lot of our most experienced diplomatic security people going there.

You know, in the two times we’ve had serious assaults on our Embassy in Kabul – Kabul is fortified. Kabul has ISAF troops across the street. As they draw down, we have to recognize that the danger is not going to leave with our ISAF military. So we have to take a hard look at all of this and we have to embed that responsibility in this new experienced Deputy Assistant Secretary to do that.

That’s exactly what I’m intent on doing and I think the ARB – not I – has made its findings. The reason ARBs were created is to try to take a dispassionate, independent view of what happened and then come up with the recommendations that are the responsibilities of the department to implement.

You know, the ARB makes very clear that Chris Stevens probably knew more about Libya than anybody else in our government did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale despite the overall trend of security problems that we faced, and I have to add neither did the intelligence community.

The ARB makes that very clear that the intelligence community also did not really zero in on the connection between the deteriorating threat environment in Eastern Libya and in Benghazi and a direct threat on our compound.

So we have work to do. We have work to do inside the department. We have work to do with our partners and DOD and the intelligence community to constantly be taking in information, making sure that it does get to the right people, that it isn’t somehow stove-piped or stalled, but that it does rise to the decision-makers.

And I’m committed to improving every way that I can on what the ARB told us to do, on assessing our intelligence.

And I think that it’s fair to say, Congressman, that we have to do this now because I predict we’re going to be, as we saw in Algeria, seeing all kinds of asymmetric threats not just to our government facilities but to private sector facilities.

In Tunisia, although we protected our Embassy, our school was badly damaged. So we have to take a broader view. And I think that the ARB gives us a start but it’s not the whole story.


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