The Cable

Biden contradicts State Department on Benghazi security

Vice President Joe Biden claimed that the administration wasn't aware of requests for more security in Libya before the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi during Thursday night's debate, contradicting two State Department officials and the former head of diplomatic security in Libya.

"We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there," Biden said.

In fact, two security officials who worked for the State Department in Libya at the time testified Thursday that they repeatedly requested more security and two State Department officials admitted they had denied those requests.

"All of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources," the top regional security officer in Libya over the summer, Eric Nordstrom, testified. "In those conversations, I was specifically told [by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb] ‘You cannot request an SST extension.' I determined I was told that because there would be too much political cost. We went ahead and requested it anyway."

Nordstrom was so critical of the State Department's reluctance to respond to his calls for more security that he said, "For me, the Taliban is on the inside of the building."

"We felt great frustration that those requests were ignored or just never met," testified Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, a Utah National Guardsman who was leading a security team in Libya until August.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released the unclassified cables containing those requests.

Rep. Paul Ryan pointed out the testimony to Biden during the debate. Ryan also erred when he criticized the State Department for assigning Marines to protect the ambassador in France but not Amb. Chris Stevens, who died in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

"Our ambassador in Paris has a marine detachment guarding him, shouldn't we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi?," Ryan said.

According to the U.S. Embassy Paris website, there is a Marine Security Guard Detachment in the embassy, but they are there primarily to protect classified information and are not part of the ambassador's personal security detail.

"The mission of the Marine Security Guards is to provide internal security at designated United States Diplomatic and Consular facilities to prevent the compromise of classified material and equipment which, if compromised, would cause serious damage to the national security interests of the United States; and to provide protection for U.S. citizens and property within the principal buildings of the Mission," the website reads, noting that in certain situations the Marines might be in a position to protect the chief of mission.

Ryan also criticized President Barack Obama for attributing the Benghazi attack to an anti-Islam video and he referred to comments today by Obama campaign spokesman Stephanie Cutter, who said the Benghazi issue was only politically relevant because the Romney-Ryan campaign was pushing it.

Biden accused Romney of spouting off about the Benghazi attack before knowing all the facts and he pledged that the administration would pursue the investigation to wherever it leads.

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The Cable

Secretaries of state defend Berman against Sherman

Secretaries of state from both political parties weighed in today on the heated congressional race between Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA), defending Berman's overseas travel while he was the chairman and now ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"During Howard Berman's 30 years in Congress, he has taken 163 junkets and missed 1 out of every 12 votes cast," reads a mailer Sherman sent out to residents of the newly created congressional district that he and Berman are competing to represent following a June open primary when they finished first and second, respectively. "Howard Berman has one of the worst attendance records in Congress."

Another flier says that Berman missed 1,380 votes over those years and lists some of the votes his missed. A third flier criticizes Berman for using taxpayer money to upgrade plane tickets to first class and using taxpayer money to pay to lease and fuel up a personal car.

"Just about no one in Congress takes more luxury junkets than Howard Berman," one mailer reads.

The Sherman campaign is playing upon a popular theme this year of criticizing lawmakers who have senior foreign-policy posts for devoting time and effort to that responsibility, allegedly at the expense of their own constituents. The tactic was used earlier this year in the primary defeat of Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN).

But according to Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and George Shultz, Sherman is not being honest with Californians about the trips.

"As former Secretaries of State for Presidents Reagan and Clinton, we want to set the record straight on Congressman Howard Berman's overseas travel during his service in the U.S. House of Representatives," they wrote in a letter Thursday. "In so doing, we urge you to reject Rep. Brad Sherman's misleading campaign tactics around this subject and hope that voters in the 30th Congressional district will instead appreciate, as we do, the tremendous service that Howard Berman has done for his constituents and for all Americans during his public career."

Sherman is underestimating the voters by demonizing the trips, which are necessary and in the national interest, they wrote:

"When Rep. Berman has traveled, he has done so in service to our nation's security and best interests. As Chairman and now the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he has worked closely with both Republican and Democratic colleagues and administrations to keep America strong and the American people safe," wrote Albright and Shultz. "And take it from us -- to do that effectively, international travel is required.... Nothing could be more misleading, in this global era, than to suggest that members of Congress should not travel when there is important work to be accomplished."

Sherman has only taken three overseas trips during his 16 years in Congress, according to his campaign's literature. Sherman's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Albright-Shultz letter.