The Cable

Obama to visit Burma on Southeast Asia swing

Fresh off his reelection victory, Barack Obama is about to put his personal stamp on his administration's "pivot" to Asia.

The president will resume his international travel schedule next week and visit Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and the annual meeting of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the trip, which will be from Nov. 17 to 20. In Thailand, Obama will meet with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. In Burma, he will meet with President Thein Sein and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"During his interactions in the region he will discuss a broad range of issues including economic prosperity and job creation through increased trade and partnerships, energy and security cooperation, human rights, shared values, and other issues of regional and global concern," Carney said.

Obama became the first U.S. president to join the East Asia Summit last year and he also attended the annual ASEAN conference when he traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for both events. A greater U.S. presence in Asian multilateral organizations is a pillar of the administration's rebalancing strategy toward Asia.

But when Obama made a round of calls to world leaders today to thank them for their congratulations following his reelection, no East Asian officials were on that list. Egypt's new leader got a call, but not the prime minister of Japan, long one of America's closest Pacific allies.

Obama spoke with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, President Mohammed Morsy of Egypt, President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.

That list includes four out of five of Obama's self-identified world leader buddies. The fifth, outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, did not get a call today.

"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," Carney said.


The Cable

Benghazi documents available to senators only when they are out of town

Under pressure from senators, the State Department is allowing some lawmakers to look at cables and other documents related to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, but only today and tomorrow, when most senators are not in Washington.

Congress is gearing up for a full week of Benghazi-related hearings next week, including a Nov. 13 hearing behind closed doors of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry has written two letters to the State Department requesting congressional access to information and documents related to the circumstances leading up to and during the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens. Several sensitive documents have already been leaked to congressional offices and the media, so the State Department has decided to let some senators view Benghazi documents but not take them home.

"We are currently in the process of gathering and reviewing record responsive to Congressional requests. Our efforts have already identified a large volume of potentially responsive records that address the security situation leading up to the attack," State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs David Adams wrote to Kerry on Nov. 2 in a letter obtained by The Cable.

"To facilitate your committee's work, we want to offer you and other members of the committee the opportunity to review these cables and memoranda. This set of material contains classified and other sensitive information... Mindful of these concerns, the Department is prepared to make copies of these documents available for the committee's in camera review."

One senior GOP Senate staffer told The Cable that State is only making the documents available for senators and committee staff to view today and tomorrow, which won't actually allow the members to prepare for the hearing. Staffers for committee members are also not allowed to see the material.

"Funny since no member is in town," the aide said. "The timing and limited access clearly demonstrates the administration cares more about playing politics with the tragedy than accepting responsibility."

Committee members Bob Corker (R-TN) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent Clinton a letter Nov. 2 asking that the documents be sent to the committee, not just made available for viewing on a limited basis.

"Over the past several weeks, cables, emails and other communications regarding the security situation in Benghazi prior to and since the attack on our consulate have been leaked to some Congressional offices and media outlets, resulting in conflicting reports in the press. We have also called for the official transmittal of these documents and are still awaiting your response," Corker and Isakson wrote. "On September 25, 2012 and again on October 3, 2012, we sent you letters requesting that all communications between the diplomatic mission in Libya and the State Department related to the security situation be transmitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without delay. We respectfully ask for an update on the status of our requests for these documents."

UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) annouced the witness list for the Nov. 15 Benhgazi closed hearing at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The witnesses will be Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce,Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy,andNational Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen.

UPDATE #2: A spokesperson for Corker told The Cable that after Corker spoke directly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department agreed to allow staffers for Sens. James Risch (R-ID) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) view the documents while their bosses are out of town. Corker will be in Washington Friday and will view them himself as well, the spokesperson said.

Update #3: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines writes in to contest the GOP aides' assertion that access to the documents was limited. "At the committee's request, the Department has made documents available to the committee professional staff and Members. Committee staff are here during recess, and we provided documents to them," he said. "In fact, Senators, and Committee staff, can review the materials whenever they want, and we have offered to bring the materials up to the committee as many times as Members and staff want, and when they want to review them. We've made this clear to the committee."