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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 ...

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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.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin