Vice President Joe Biden is now under enormous pressure after stating during his Thursday night debate with his GOP opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan, that the diplomatic staff at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, never requested additional security prior to the deadly terrorist attack on September 11, 2012.
However, career diplomats and State Department officials claimed they indeed requested additional security but the request was denied by superiors in Washington.
During much of Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate Paul Ryan questioned the Obama administration’s handling of the Libya assault which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Vice President defended the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis and denied that the State Department had turned down a request for security reinforcements in the months before the raid.
Earlier on Thursday GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched his own condemnation of Barack Obama’s handling of the attack, saying the President and his minions “failed to grasp the seriousness of the challenges that we face.”
On the day before the Biden-Ryan debate, the State Department had begun the process of coming clean about what occurred in Benghazi during a hearing before the House Oversight Committee led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose two of her staff to be available for interviews with Issa’s committee and, for the first time, they publicly acknowledged the truth many had already suspected.
Contrary to earlier assertions by Administration officials, there was no protest over an anti-Islamic YouTube video. In fact, according to testimony, the attack had nothing to do with a video made in California. The attack was a brutal and coordinated assault by terrorists on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
“I appreciate Secretary Clinton’s efforts to cooperate with this investigation. The steps she has taken to have those working under her tell the truth about what occurred is an important step in the right direction,” said Rep. Issa.
“However, this hearing has been called for the expressed purpose of examining the security failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy. The “safe haven” within the compound, which some State Department officials seemed to think could protect the Benghazi compound’s inhabitants, did not work. The overall level of security at the compound did not meet the threat,” Issa stated.
Accounts from security officials who were on the ground and documents indicate that they repeatedly warned Washington officials about the dangerous situation in Libya. Instead, however, of moving swiftly to respond to these concerns, Washington officials seemed preoccupied with the concept of “normalization.”
Issa went on to say:
“In the accounts we have heard, it included “artificial timelines” for removing American security personnel and replacing them with local Libyans. This occurred even as training delays, new threats, and logistical barriers seemed to present a compelling case for extending the deployment of American security forces. Requests for extensions and more security by the mission in Libya, however, appear to have often been rejected or — even more disturbingly — officials in Washington told diplomats in Libya not to even make them.
“We know how the tragedy in Benghazi ended. The questions I put before our panel today are: What went wrong? What should have been done differently? What lessons must we quickly learn so terrorists do not use the attack on Benghazi as a template for other attacks?”
Secretary Clinton reportedly empanelled a blue ribbon committee to fully investigate what occurred. The history of such panels – including those that examined the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and the bombing of the USS Cole – suggests that their effort will take months if not years.
This Clinton-appointed panel purpose is to understand what the State Department recognizes went wrong, what it can do to avoid a reoccurrence, and how quickly it can institute changes.
“Protecting our diplomats has long been a bipartisan issue. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the House voted to approve the bill that set the funding level for the State Department. I hope that Members today will stay focused on the dangers facing our diplomats and not allow the politics of the election season to creep into today’s hearing. Urgent attention to this security failure is required, that facts about what happened in Libya have driven this investigation and deserve to remain the focus of this hearing,” Issa stated.