Obama urges Congress to fund diplomatic security
President Barack Obama urged Congress on Thursday to fund upgrades to US embassy security around the world, as a way of truly honoring the memory of four Americans killed in Benghazi.
Obama made the call in his latest bid to regain the initiative after Republicans accused his administration of covering up details of the September 11 attack to safeguard his re-election hopes last year.
The president said he was committed to improving security at US posts abroad as recommended by a State Department review board set up to probe the attack on the US mission in the eastern Libyan city.
"We're not going to be able to do this alone. We're going to need Congress as a partner," he told reporters at the White House.
"I'm calling on Congress to work with us to support and fully fund our budget request to improve the security of our embassies around the world."
The president also said Congress would need to help fund the posting of more US Marines to embassies and consulates abroad.
"We need to come together and truly honor the sacrifice of those four courageous Americans and better secure our diplomatic posts around the world," Obama said.
"That's how we learn the lessons of Benghazi, that's how we keep faith with the men and women who we send overseas to represent America and that's what I will stay focused on as commander-in-chief."
The State Department has asked Congress to approve $4.4 billion in the current fiscal year to improve security "at high-threat posts and permit new construction projects," agency spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
State Department officials were also working to improve "training for those headed to dangerous posts, increasing intelligence and warning capabilities," as well as improving Arabic language training.
Of the 29 recommendations made by the review board, most had already been addressed, Psaki stressed, highlighting that 48 new diplomatic security officers would start work in July out of a total of 151 new posts.
The State Department Accountability Review Board had slammed "grossly inadequate" security at the Benghazi mission.
The agency then realigned its 2013 budget request to help reinforce its diplomatic outposts.
Obama was speaking a day after the White House released 100 pages of emails and documents showing the deliberations of senior officials in several agencies as they set the early US narrative in the days after the attacks.
The move was designed to counter Republican claims of a cover-up but is unlikely to quell investigations from Obama's foes on Capitol Hill who sense a chance to damage the president politically early in his second term.
The attack on September 11, 2012, first blamed on a spontaneous protest, then attributed to extremists, killed US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The release of the emails "allows the American public... to see first hand the conversation that took place over the course of emails," Psaki said, stressing that "these were CIA-drafted and CIA-finalized talking points."
In a budget measure passed in March, Congress provided more than $3 billion above the State Department's budget requests for 2012 and 2013 to address embassy security needs, Republican congressional sources said.