As Senator Rand Paul’s questioning of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins, she indulgently smiles at him. Those smiles quickly disappear. Senator Rand Paul makes it clear he believes her claimed non-involvement was a failure of leadership, and he says it several times. In the conversation about the Accountability Review Board, note that later in the video Hillary Clinton says the board found the level of accountability was at the “level of Assistant Secretary and below.” In other words, she was found not culpable, even though she claims accountability for the Benghazi terrorist attack on an unprotected consulate. Paul says it is inexcusable that she did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens asking for increased security. Watch the video here, read the transcript below. You’ll find a couple of comments of mine inside brackets [ ]. The most important part of the questioning from Paul, in my opinion, is in green text below.
Begin loose transcript:
Rand Paul: One of the things about the original 9/11 is that no one was fired. We spent trillions of dollars, but there were a lot of human errors, 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 we can change. A lot of them are common sense and can be done, but the question is, it’s a failure of leadership that they weren’t done in advance and 4 American lives were lost because of this. I’m glad that you are accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with you 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 is inexcusable.
The thing is, that we can understand you are not reading every cable. I can understand that maybe you are not aware of the cable from the Ambassador in Vienna that asks for $100,000 for an electrical charging station. I can understand that maybe you are not aware that your Department spent $100,000 on 3 comedians who went to India on a promotional tour called Make Chi, Not War, but I think you might be able to understand that you should be aware of the $80 million spent on a consulate in Mahshahr al-Sharif [Readers, I’m not certain what this references and am researching – will update if I find the info] 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 think by anybody’s estimation, Libya has to be one of the hottest of hot spots around the world. Not to know of the 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 of 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 for 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 is good that you are accepting responsibility, because no one else is. There is a certain amount of culpability to the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I’m glad you are accepting this.
Rand Paul: Now, my question is, is the United States involved with an procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?
[Clinton is flummoxed]
Hillary Clinton: To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me.
Rand Paul: It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons, and what I would like to know is, the annex that was close by – were they involved with procuring, buying, selling weapons, and are these weapons being transfered to other countries? Any countries, Turkey included?
Hillary Clinton: Well Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the Annex. I will see what information is available…
Rand Paul: You’re saying you don’t know?
Hillary Clinton: I do not know. I have no information on that.
With respect to personnel Senator, that’s why we have independent people who review the situation. We did with the Pickering and Mullin ARB [Accountability Review Board] and all four individuals identified in the ARB have been removed from their job. Secondly, they’ve been placed on administrative leave while we step through the personnel process which will determine the next steps. Third, both Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullin specifically highlighted the reason why this is complicated because under Federal Statute and Regulation, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty. The ARB did not find these four 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.
Rand Paul: Here’s the problem. The review board has all these recommendations, but there is one thing they’ve failed to address, and I think you’ve 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. There should have been an Embassy, like in Baghdad, in a war zone, and it should have been under Military guard, significant Military guard under Defense Department Command. I don’t think this State Department is capable of being in the war zone and protecting these people. I still don’t think that…I think another tragedy could happen in another war zone around the world. Someone needs to make an executive decision. Someone needs to take leadership and with that leadership should be that you shouldn’t send them in with no Marines, you shouldn’t send them in with Marines to 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 is inexcusable.
Hillary Clinton: Well Senator, the reason I am here today is to answer questions the best I can. I AM the Secretary of State, and the ARB made it very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined, sat at the level of Assistant Secretary and below. The Administration has sent officials to the Hill more than 30 times. We have given as much information…we’ve been as transparent as we can. Obviously we will continue to brief you and others to answer any questions you have about going forward. The reason we put into affect an Accountability Review Board, is to take it out of the heat of politics and partisanship and accusation and 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. I hope we will be able to see a good working relationship between the State Department and the Committee going forward.
End Loose Transcript