The Cable

Hillary Clinton's opening statement on Benghazi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is chairing the hearing.

Here are Clinton's opening remarks

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity.

The terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 that claimed the lives of four brave Americans -- Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty -- are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa. Today, I want to offer some context for this challenge and share what we've learned, how we are protecting our people, and where we can work together to honor our fallen colleagues and continue to champion America's interests and values.

Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Benghazi joins a long list of tragedies, for our Department and for other agencies: hostages taken in Tehran in 1979, our embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009, and too many others.

Of course, the list of attacks foiled, crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals get it right 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world. That's why, like my predecessors, I trust them with my life.

Let's also remember that administrations of both parties, in partnership with Congress, have made concerted and good faith efforts to learn from the tragedies that have occurred, to implement recommendations from the Review Boards, to seek necessary resources, and to better protect our people from constantly evolving threats. That's what the men and women who serve our country deserve. And it's what we are doing again now, with your help. As Secretary, I have had no higher priority, and no greater responsibility.

As I have said many times since September 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure...

The Cable

Bipartisan Senate delegation calls for shift in Syria aid

U.S. humanitarian aid to Syria is not enough, not going through the right channels, and not reaching the people who need it most, according to a bipartisan group of senators who just returned from a trip to the Middle East.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) led a delegation last week to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Afghanistan that included Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gilibrand (D-NY). Several of the delegation members spoke at a Tuesday press conference on the trip and all called for more U.S. humanitarian aid to be given to Syrian refugees and the Syrian opposition directly, rather than being funneled through NGOs or international intermediaries.

"The main area of agreement among us, both Democrats and Republicans, is the need for the United States to do more to help the Syrian people in their struggle for freedom," said McCain. "From Syrian opposition leaders and refugees we heard a very consistent message. We heard that the longer this conflict goes, the worse it gets for Syria, the region, and indeed the world, with increasing numbers of extremists falling into the fight... We heard desperate pleas for U.S. support and assistance."

McCain told the story of a teacher in a refugee camp the delegation visited in Jordan, whom he said was representative of the refugees the delegation met on the trip.

"We heard a visceral frustration and outright anger, especially from the refugees, about the inadequate level of the U.S. support and assistance in their struggle against the Assad regime," he said. "This woman warned us that these Syrian children would, in her words, seek revenge on those who did not help Syria in its hour of greatest need."

Specifically, the Syrians want increased humanitarian aid to go directly through the new Syrian opposition council that President Barack Obama publicly recognized as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Several of the senators said that the United States must increase support for the opposition body lest it lose the support of the Syrians on the ground it hopes to eventually lead.

"We are delivering significant humanitarian assistance into Syria, but it's going through international aid agencies and being distributed out of Damascus, rather than in ways that strengthen the credibility and the reach and the effectiveness of the Syrian opposition council," Coons said.

The delegation met with Syrian opposition council leaders in Cairo.

"They expressed that they need more support from the international community," Ayotte said. "One of the requests the Syrian opposition coalition made to us is that they be the recipient of humanitarian aid."

The senators said they all supported increased military aid to the Syrian opposition, but there was no unanimity on exactly how that aid should be given and to whom. McCain and Ayotte said they supported both directly aiding the rebel Free Syrian Army and establishing a no-fly zone. Coons, Whitehouse, and Blumenthal said they supported increased military aid to the rebels, but didn't get into specifics.

"Where we might differ is on exactly the weapons, the delivery, the means, the timing. But frankly, all of us see that the jihadists are gaining more and more ground, more and more visibility and credibility in the ongoing fight against Assad. And the United States has a shrinking window in the ability to make a difference on the ground in the fight for freedom in Syria and in the fight to sustain and stabilize our regional allies," Coons said.

"Well said," McCain chimed in.