News / USA

Embassies Around the World on Alert, Marines Sent to Benghazi

The killing of the ambassador and three diplomats in Libya and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt are raising concerns worldwide as all overseas embassies review their security practices.  The events occurred on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, which leads many to believe they were pre-planned.

U.S. embassies are no stranger to terrorism.

2011: Afghanistan.  Taliban insurgents ambush the embassy and NATO forces.  Seven are killed.  
2008: Yemen. Armed attackers and car bombs outside the embassy kill 19.  
1998:  Simultaneous bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.  More than 200 dead.  

And now: the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats die when extremists storm the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Christopher Hill has served as an ambassador in Iraq, South Korea, Poland and Macedonia.  He says he’s watched security change throughout the years.

"When I first entered the foreign service, a visitor could walk in through an embassy, and maybe get stopped by a Marine guard.  But certainly, there was no hardened outer wall like there is today,” he said.

Hill’s embassy in Macedonia was breached in 1999 when the few local police officers there were overwhelmed by demonstrators.  He says it’s common, even now, to have local officers guard the perimeter, but the difference in Libya was that the crowd was so heavily armed.  After the 1999 demonstration in Macedonia, officials discussed closing the embassy, but that was dismissed.

“If we shut down the embassy, we were concerned that other embassies would follow suit, and we would end up with a much worse political problem. So, we brought in additional Marines.” Hill said.

And, that’s the next step for Libya.  Fifty Marines -- a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team - have been deployed to secure U.S. facilities.

“A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security, and we will not turn our back on that," said Secretary of State Clinton.
U.S. embassies in at least seven countries are warning of possible anti-American actions and are advising Americans to be vigilant.

“What one should be doing is to keep eyes and ears open and know what might be developing. But often in these adrenalin or testosterone-filled moments, things that you think might happen, happen much more quickly and much more strongly than you ever thought.  You are often asked to imagine the unimaginable. Imagine that some small group planning to attack the embassy turns into a much larger group than any of your intelligence could have alerted you to,” Hill said.

U.S. facilities around the world are now reviewing their security and examining possible vulnerabilities... all in an effort to be proactive, rather than reacting with increased security following a tragedy like Tuesday's.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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