WASHINGTON — With the Benghazi terrorist attacks once again in the news, Vice President Joe Biden Friday promised better protection for American diplomatic posts during a ceremony to mourn slain foreign service officers at the State Department.
Although Biden didn't directly mention the Sept. 11 2012 attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, the announcement comes as Republicans have renewed calls for hearings into the incident, which left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.
"We have a solemn obligation to do more and more to protect them," Biden said.
"Yesterday, without revealing anything that's classified, we had our daily meeting, the President and I, with the CIA director and the NSC; it's called the PDB, the presidential daily briefing," Biden said. "You know what the discussion was about yesterday? The president made the case about we have to protect these more dangerously-located embassies."
The administration is clearly wary of renewed public interest in the Benghazi scandal, which scuttled Obama's plan to appoint UN Ambassador Susan Rice as Secretary of State.
After months of little public action, the administration has suddenly refocused on the issue: in addition to Biden's comments, the State Department on Wednesday released photos of three men who were seen outside the compound during the attack.
Those efforts come as Republicans have demanded information from the White House and State Department on alleged pressure being put on whistle blowers to not testify about the attack.
Friday's ceremony was in honor of the foreign service officers killed in the last year, including Stevens and Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old who was just two years into her career at the State Department when she was killed in Afghanistan just a few weeks ago, making her the first American foreign service casualty since Benghazi. Families of the victims attended the ceremony, where Secretary of State John Kerry spoke as well as Susan Johnson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association. General John Allen and CIA Director John Brennan were also in attendance.
Beefing up protection for American posts abroad became a front-page topic after the attack on Benghazi in September, which killed four Americans and which continues to drive some foreign policy debate today.
Kerry told anecdotes about each of the six officers killed this year as well as two diplomats killed during the Vietnam War also being honored as the 50th anniversary of that war rolls around.
In a speech that at points quoted Irish poet W.B. Yeats, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Biden said that the government was working to ensure greater safety for diplomats but that the job would always be dangerous.
"The truth is that most Americans don't understand you all," Biden said. "They don't understand this outfit called the State Department."
"Being a diplomat has become even more dangerous and at the same time more necessary," Biden said.
Biden, who spoke in a hoarse low whisper throughout his remarks, drew on his own experience losing his first wife and child in a car accident to give advice to the families who lost family members this year.
"You know you're going to make it the day the thought of him or her flashes to your eye and the memory brings a smile to your lip before a tear to your eye," Biden said.