Obama: Time for Congress to focus on diplomatic security post-Benghazi

ADVERTISEMENT
The comments come as House Republicans have rekindled their investigation into the administration's response to the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. mission in Benghazi last year. The House Oversight panel heard testimony from three State Department whistle-blowers last week and almost two-thirds of the House Republican conference are demanding a select committee be formed to investigate security lapses and the administration's response to the attack.

Democrats have tried to put the issue behind them while, in turn, redoubling their efforts to paint the Republican attacks as politically motivated. President Obama called the probe a “sideshow” on Monday, and on Wednesday the White House released 100 pages of emails aimed at proving that the talking points used on television shortly after the attack were not altered with any political motive in mind.

On Thursday, Obama took advantage of a state visit from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to portray himself as a statesman above the political fray.

“I am intent on making sure we do everything we can to prevent another tragedy like this from happening,” Obama said. “We're not going to be able to do this alone. We're going to need Congress as a partner.

“I'm calling on Congress to work with us to support and fully fund our budget requests and improve the security of our embassies around the world. We also need Congress to work with us to provide the resources and new authorities to fully implement all of the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board [and] to increase the number of our Marine Corps guards that protect our embassies.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, introduced just such a bill on Thursday. 

Menendez's bill would give the State Department the authority to hire the best instead of the cheapest security contractors “where conditions require enhanced levels of security.” It would also authorize disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership by senior officials related to a security incident, a power the administration has requested after the ARB said it did not have the legal authority to recommend that anyone be fired over security lapses in Benghazi.

The bill would also authorize funding for the Capital Security Cost Sharing Program to provide extra security at more high-risk posts, for Arabic language training, and for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train diplomatic security personnel. It also requires planning to incorporate additional Marine Security Guards at overseas facilities and requires extensive reporting on State’s implementation of the ARB recommendations and on the designation of high-risk, high-threat posts.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill