Published October 12, 2012
Vice President Biden's claim at Thursday's debate that the administration wasn't told of requests for more diplomatic security in the run-up to the Libya terror attack added only more confusion to an already muddled narrative.
In addition to raising eyebrows over that comment, the vice president went a step further and threw the intelligence community under the bus -- putting the blame squarely on their shoulders for the faulty narrative, pushed for more than a week by the administration, that the attack was a protest spun out of control.
The exchange on Libya, which opened the debate in Kentucky, was among the toughest in a persistently confrontational face-off. But Biden's comment on security was drawing widespread condemnation from Republicans Friday, with Romney adviser Dan Senor saying Biden "continued the administration's pattern of misleading" on Libya.
Biden referenced the security when pressed about earlier criticism from Republican running mate Paul Ryan about the protection of diplomatic posts in Libya.
"Well, we weren't told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again," Biden said.
However, State Department officials who testified Wednesday before a House committee acknowledged there were indeed earlier requests for more security staffing -- though they also suggested more staffing would not have prevented the Sept. 11 tragedy in Benghazi.
Two former security officers who testified at that hearing, including former top security official Eric Nordstrom, expressed frustration at how their appeals for more resources were rebuffed.
"We were fighting a losing battle. We couldn't even keep what we had," said Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, former head of a 16-member U.S. military team that helped protect the embassy in Tripoli.
During the debate, Ryan later challenged the vice president on his comment.
"There were requests for extra security; those requests were not honored," he said, adding that there should be Marines in Benghazi.
Biden also stated definitively Thursday that it was the intelligence community that originally surmised the attack was just a protest spun out of control -- rather than a coordinated terror strike.
"That was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment," Biden said.
State Department officials who testified Wednesday suggested as well that when U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice claimed the Sunday after the attack that protests over an anti-Islam film were to blame, she was merely basing her comments on the intelligence at the time.
However, lawmakers by that point had been publicly challenging the notion that the protests were a factor. And sources have since confirmed that some in the intelligence community were pointing to terrorism within 24 hours of the attack.