The Cable

Senators to Clinton: Show us the ambassador’s cables

Two top senators on the Foreign Relations Committee don't want to wait for the State Department to do its own investigation into the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens; they want Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to show them Stevens's diplomatic cables and other correspondence now.

"While we appreciate the sensitivities associated with this ongoing investigation, we must insist on more timely information regarding the attacks and the events leading up to the attacks," wrote Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Johnny Isaakson (R-GA) in a letter to Clinton Tuesday.

They acknowledged that Clinton is in the process of setting up an Accountability Review Board, although its chairman former Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Pickering said Monday that the panel hasn't started it work yet. But the senators don't want to wait for the board to finish its report, which might not be transmitted to Congress until next spring.

"To that end, we request that you transmit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee all communications between the U.S. Mission to Libya and the State Department relevant to the security situation in Benghazi in the period leading up to the attacks, including, but not limited to, cables sent from Ambassador Stevens," they wrote.

The senators noted that Libya officials have said they warned the U.S. government about rising threats in Benghazi just before the attacks and they referenced the CNN reports, culled at least partially from Stevens's personal diary, stating that the ambassador believed his life was in danger.

"Despite these warnings, the State Department sought and received a waiver from the standard security requirements for the consulate," the senators wrote.

"We are extremely concerned about conflicting reports over the events leading up to the attacks. Specifically, we are concerned over the apparent lack of security preparations made despite a demonstrable increase in risks to U.S. officials and facilities in Benghazi in the period leading up to the attacks."

The Cable

Top Syria official leaving the State Department

Fred Hof, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Special Representative on Syria, is resigning and will leave the State Department later this month, two administration sources confirmed to The Cable.

As one of the two senior officials leading the State Department's Syria team, Hof has been hugely active in the drive to build international cooperation to move Syria to a transition away from the rule of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  He often traveled to foreign capitals, including Moscow, to push administration objectives on the Syria issue. He was also the lead on dealing with the Lebanon part of the Syria issue and represented the administration at international events with members of the Syrian opposition to plan for a post-Assad Syria, in places such as Turkey and Berlin.

In testimony to Congress last December, Hof delivered some of the harshest rhetoric to date on the Assad regime.

"Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking," he said, adding that Assad's cruelty and isolation was turning Syria into "Pyongyang in the Levant."

A former Army officer and Vietnam veteran, Hof first came to prominence as the drafter of the "Long Commission" report, which examined the 1983 bombing on the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, where he served as the Army attaché to the U.S. embassy. After a stint at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he moved over to the State Department in 1990 and worked on Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon issues before eventually moving to the private sector.

For the first two years of the Obama administration, Hof worked the Syria and Lebanon portfolios for Special Envoy George Mitchell, preparing those tracks just in case Mitchell's efforts on the Israeli and Palestinian tracks ever progressed to the point where regional actors would be brought in. Mitchell's efforts never got that far.

With his departure, the Syria team at the State Department will now be led solely by Ambassador Robert Ford, administration sources said. Larry Williamson, an acting deputy secretary of State in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, will take over much of the Lebanon part of the Syria portfolio. There are no immediate plans to appoint a new Special Representative for Syria, the sources said.

Hof did not respond to a request for comment.