[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/art.hrchand0713.gi.jpg caption="Secretary of State Clinton spoke out Monday about the Obama administration's rigorous vetting process."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed a rare flash of frustration Monday - calling the vetting process for Obama administration nominees "ridiculous" and "a nightmare."
At a question-and-answer session with staff from the U.S. Agency for International Development, a woman asked her when the agency would be getting a new administrator and "why it's taking so long."
"Let me say it's not for lack of trying," Clinton replied. "The process - the clearance and vetting process - is a nightmare," she told the staff. "It takes far longer than any of us would want to see. It is frustrating beyond words."
The secretary said she "pushed very hard last week, when I knew I was coming here, to get permission from the White House to be able to tell you that help is on the way and somebody will be nominated shortly." But, she said, "the message came back, 'We're not ready.'"
"Anyone who has gone through it or looked at this process will tell you that every administration it gets worse," she added.
"Some very good people just didn't want to be vetted," she explained. "You have to hire lawyers, you have to hire accountants. I mean, it is ridiculous!"
Drawing laughs from the crowd, Clinton said, "And then here's one of the questions you get asked: First of all, you have to remember everywhere you've lived since you were 18. And, beyond a certain age you can't even remember when you were 18!"
One of her "all-time favorite questions," she said, is, "Please tell us every foreign national you know."
"I mean, some people who are of different ancestry, they're a hyphenated American and they have family still living in other countries, finally said it's ridiculous. I mean, I have lots of cousins I've never met. You're going to ask me to put their names down so they can all be interviewed? That's ridiculous!
"You're sensing my frustration!" Clinton sighed.