Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Paul Ryan spar over attack on U.S. mission in Libya
Attack in Benghazi killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens
Biden says administration didn't know more security was requested for post
Biden: Ryan, GOP-led House did not provide security funds administration requested
The September attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was the subject of a few claims at Thursday night’s vice presidential debate at Centre College in Kentucky.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan contended that requests for more security at the mission were denied before the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens on September 11.
Stevens, State Department computer expert Sean Smith, and security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods died that night as a result of an attack by dozens of armed men on the U.S. complex in Benghazi and a nearby annex, according to State Department officials.
Vice President Joe Biden said Ryan is in no position to argue about diplomatic security, arguing that Ryan, in Congress, didn’t provide all the embassy security funding that the Obama administration asked for. Biden also contended that the administration knew of no requests for more security at the Benghazi mission.
We’ll look at these claims separately.
Biden: “We weren’t told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security.”
Ryan: “There were requests for extra security. Those requests were not honored.”
On Wednesday, the State Department’s former point man on security in Libya told the House Oversight Committee that he asked for additional security help for the Benghazi facility months before the attack, but was denied.
Various communications dating back a year asked for three to five diplomatic security agents, according to testimony at Wednesday’s hearing. But Eric Nordstrom, the one-time regional security officer, said he verbally asked for 12 agents.
The request for 12 agents was rebuffed by the regional director of the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Nordstrom testified.
“For me and my staff, it was abundantly clear that we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident,” Nordstrom said.
Also, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was a site security commander in Libya from February through August, testified that a regional security officer tried to obtain more personnel, but ‘was never able to attain the numbers he felt comfortable with.” It was unclear whether he was talking about Nordstrom.
Five diplomatic security special agents were in Benghazi at the time of the attack, two of whom only happened to be there because they had traveled with Stevens from Tripoli, according to testimony.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy responded, at the hearing, to suggestions the State Department was responsible for a lack of preparedness: “We regularly assess risk and resource allocation, a process involving the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best available information.”
On Tuesday, two senior State Department officials told reporters that U.S. and Libyan security personnel in Benghazi were out-manned, and that no reasonable security presence could have fended off the assault.
Conclusion: It’s unclear how high Nordstrom’s request got in the administration, but he says he did ask the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs for more security help at the Benghazi post.
Biden: “The congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for.”
According to Democratic House Oversight Committee staff, the amount that the GOP-led House passed for two accounts that pay for embassy security in fiscal 2012 ($2.311 billion) was $330 million less than the Obama administration had requested ($2.641 billion).
A GOP House Appropriations Committee aide confirmed the House bill had less in these accounts than what the administration requested.
However, the final bill, after being worked on by the Democratic-led Senate, put in more money than what had passed in the House. The final bill, which passed with bipartisan support, gave a total of $2.37 billion to these accounts for fiscal 2012 – about $270 million less than what the administration had requested.
Conclusion: The GOP-led House did initially approve about $330 million less than what the administration requested, but in the final bill, passed with bipartisan support after adjustments by the Senate, put the amount a little closer to the administration’s target.
CNN’s Mike Mount, Deirdre Walsh, Jason Hanna, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.