Sunday, September 16, 2012

16-Sep-12: What lies behind the relaxed security at US embassies?

The US embassy in Tunis, Friday
[Image Source]  
Some quite unbelievable disclosures and suspicions in the extracts below. They come from "Our Vulnerable Embassies: The U.S. must make clear that future attacks will carry the highest price" by Michael J. Totten [City Journal, 14 September 2012]
  • "U.S. embassies usually have Marines on hand for protection, but the only security at the Benghazi consulate was provided by Libyans." 
  • "...At the Cairo embassy, according to Nightwatch, several U.S. Marine Corps bloggers claim that Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, wouldn’t allow them to carry live ammunition. “She neutralized any U.S. military capability that was dedicated to preserve her life and protect the U.S. Embassy,” they wrote. “She neutered the Marines posted to defend the embassy, trusting the Egyptians over the Marines.” I can’t verify the truth of these claims. I talked to two different staffers at the State Department’s press office and asked about the current rules of engagement when our embassies and staff are under attack, but no official, senior or otherwise, got back to me."
  • "Mark Thompson at Time magazine asked about Marine protection at the consulate in Benghazi, and he, too, reports that “senior U.S. officials decline to discuss it.”
  • "CNN quotes Yemeni human-rights activist Ala’a Jarban, who was startled by the compound’s vulnerability, especially after what had just happened in Egypt and Libya. “There were calls on social media to protest today in front of the embassy,” he said, “so I expected there might be some violence and clashes, but didn’t expect it would be that easy to break into the embassy. I’ve been there—it’s one of the most protected places in Yemen. To break in that easily was a shock to me.”
  • "Terrorists constantly probe for weak points. You can bet that al-Qaida leaders took copious notes on our newly exposed vulnerabilities. Our overseas staff had better be prepared when they come again—and they will, for we sent the wrong signal this week." 
For a taste of what's to come, this photographic survey hosted by the site does an excellent job of surveying the sights outside US and other Western embassies in the past few days. Here are three samples.

September 14, 2012 - US Embassy - Cairo [Image Source]

September 14, 2012 - US Embassy - Bangladesh [Image Source]

September 14, 2012 - Bahrain [Image Source]

One final comment from Michael Totten:
"It’s frankly bizarre that these incidents were even possible. U.S. embassies in the Middle East look to me like they’re ready for war. Entering one can be an intimidating experience even for American citizens. The first time I approached the embassy in Lebanon I sensed that I’d have a gun pointed at me if I made a single move that looked even slightly threatening.There’s a good reason for that. The embassy in Beirut was destroyed by a Hezbollah suicide bomber in 1983 and later rebuilt in the mountains outside the capital. The U.S. was keenly aware that something catastrophic might happen again, so the embassy was turned into a hard target guarded by America’s finest killers. It has been secure ever since. But by the end of this Tuesday, after the Cairo and Benghazi incidents, our diplomatic posts appeared no more impregnable than shopping malls..."

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