QUESTION: Forgive me – this is the first time we’ve had to talk since the Benghazi tragedy, and with respect to your hosts, I’d like to focus my questions on that. There’s a lot of discussion of the decision not to extend the mission of the additional security team in Tripoli. Would that have made a difference in the Benghazi situation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Wendell, we’re going to find out through our Accountability Review investigation that’s going on exactly what did happen. There’s been testimony it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’m not going to draw any conclusions until we have these very distinguished Americans given the chance to review everything and draw their own conclusions and make recommendations, because nobody wants to get to the bottom of this more than I. And I want to do everything I can to protect our people, and I also want to make sure that we track down whoever did this and bring them to justice.
QUESTION: Did that request come to you or does it come to a specialist in the Department on security?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m responsible for the State Department, for the more than 60,000 people around the world. The decisions about security assets are made by security professionals. But we’re going to review everything to make sure that we’re doing what needs to be done in an increasingly risky environment around the world. There’s no doubt that our men and women from the State Department, USAID, the rest of our government are having to balance all the time how to do their jobs and not stay behind high walls, but to do it as safely as possible. And that’s an ongoing, daily calculation around the world.
QUESTION: There was an IED attack in June. Did you know about that? Was the White House informed about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t speak to who knew what about that. We knew that there were security breaches and problems throughout Libya that was something that came about as the aftermath of the revolution to topple Qadhafi, with so many militias formed, so many weapons loose, and it was certainly taken into account by the security professionals as they made their assessments.
QUESTION: Now, a week after the attack, Ambassador Rice was still saying basically this is something that grew out of a protest against the anti-Islam movie. Can you explain that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think the first thing to know is that everyone had the same intelligence. But I’ve been around long enough to know that it takes time to assess all the information that you have. And as the intelligence community has now said, their assessment over the last now more than a month changed, but everyone in the Administration was trying to give information to the best of their ability at the time, with the caveat that more was likely to be learned and that there would be most likely changes.
So the fog of war, the confusion that you get in any kind of combat situation – and remember, this was an attack that went on for hours. Our post was overrun by a significant number of armed men. Our annex was attacked. There had to be a lot of sorting out. And the intelligence community, as you know so well, they look backwards. They start going through everything: Did they miss something? Was there something else out there? Then they have to put out feelers to find out what people knew. And they’ve been doing that in a very vigorous way, and we’re learning more all the time about what happened.
QUESTION: So it’s possible you could have had the same information and drawn different conclusions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it’s possible that everyone said here’s what we know, but it’s subject to change; it’s what we know at present. And I think that is what people tried to do. But I also understand, having been around for a while, how impatient people are to figure out what went on, what happened. We lost four really brave Americans. And come on, somebody tell me. And so it’s not very satisfying to say, look, we’re going to do this right, we’re going to get the information, and then when we do tell you, we will tell you as fully as we possibly can, which is why I immediately stood up the Review Board.
QUESTION: What do you make of the Republican claim that the Administration was reluctant to admit that al-Qaida is not on its heels, as the President often says?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t understand it completely, because we have certainly degraded core al-Qaida, including, of course, bin Ladin. But we have been very focused on al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. I spoke about that in the past, even a few weeks ago.
So al-Qaida in its affiliate form, if you will, poses a threat, not to the same extent as what we faced coming out of 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but let’s be very clear: This Administration knows all too well that we face extremists, wannabe al-Qaida types, new groups popping up that want to do harm to their own people, to the United States and our friends and allies. And we are as vigilant as we possibly can be around the clock.
QUESTION: Is Libya, with its militias and weapons, an example of why you don’t want to provide weapons to the rebels in Syria?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Every case is different. I do think that the disarming of the militias is particularly difficult in Libya because there were no institutions. There was no institutional, professional army. And we face a very challenging environment in Libya, as does the new Libyan Government, who we are certainly trying to support. I think it’s a different situation in Syria. It’s a different situation in Yemen. I mean, every situation has to be evaluated.
But I can say, generally, dangerous weapons in the hands of extremists is a problem that we pay a lot of attention to and we spend an enormous amount of energy – not just the State Department, but DOD and intelligence community – trying to figure out how to prevent these groups from getting access to more and more powerful weapons. So it’s a problem.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Wendell. Good to see you.
QUESTION: And you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks.
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