News / USA

US Boosts Diplomatic Security After Benghazi Attack

US Boosts Diplomatic Security After Benghazi Attacki
X
January 24, 2013 10:45 PM
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says last September's deadly attack on a U.S. mission in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi prompted her to take several urgent steps to improve security at diplomatic posts worldwide. But some American diplomats say they worry that new security rules ordered by Washington also could make it harder for their counterparts to do their jobs. VOA's Michael Lipin has more from Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi has prompted her to take urgent steps to improve security at diplomatic posts worldwide.

But some American diplomats worry that new security rules ordered by Washington also could make it harder for their counterparts to do their jobs.

In the Benghazi attack, suspected al-Qaida militants raided several U.S. compounds on September 11, 2012, killing four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

Earlier that day, anti-American protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, angered by a U.S.-made film about the Prophet Muhammad. Yemenis offended by that film also broke into the U.S. embassy compound in Sana'a.

  • Yemeni protestors break a door of the U.S. Embassy during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Mohammed, Sana'a, Yemen, September 13, 2012.
  • Yemenis protest in front of the U.S. Embassy during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Mohammed, Sana'a, September 13, 2012.
  • Egyptian protesters burn tires as they clash with riot police outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, September 13, 2012.
  • An Egyptian protester throws back a tear gas canister toward riot police outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, September 13, 2012.
  • A policeman stands in front of a police car set on fire by protesters in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, during clashes between protesters and police, September 13, 2012.
  • White House staff are pictured after they lowered the U.S. flag to half staff on the roof of the White House in Washington, September 12, 2012, following the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
  • President Barack Obama delivers a statement with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, September 12, 2012
  • A burnt car is parked at the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen, in Benghazi, Libya, September 12, 2012.
  • An exterior view of the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi September 12, 2012.
  • An interior view of the damage at the U.S. consulate, which was attacked and set on fire by gunmen yesterday, in Benghazi, Libya, September 12, 2012.
  • Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed along with three of his staff on September 11, 2012 during a demonstration at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  This photo was taken at his home in Tripoli, June 28, 2012.
  • A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012.
  • An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Libya, late on September 11, 2012.
  • U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in flames during protest, September 11, 2012

Deploying more Marines

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Secretary Clinton said she has responded to those incidents by asking for hundreds of additional Marine security guards to be sent to vulnerable diplomatic posts.

She said she also appointed an official to the new position of deputy assistant secretary of state for high threat posts, with responsibility for giving missions in dangerous places “the attention they need."

Findings of the Accountability Review Board for Benghazi

  • There were no protests before the attacks.
  • Intelligence provided no specific warning of the attacks.
  • The scale and intensity of the attacks was not anticipated.
  • Systemic failures and leadership deficiencies in the State Department resulted in inadequate security.
  • The Libyan government's response to the attack was "profoundly lacking."
  • U.S. personnel in Benghazi acted with courage in a "near impossible situation."
  • There was not enough time for U.S. military assets to have made a difference.
Clinton said she has designated more than 20 U.S. missions around the world as high-risk sites requiring tighter security.  But she said their locations are classified.

A labor union that represents American diplomats told VOA that sending more Marines to guard high-risk missions is a positive step.

American Foreign Service Association President Susan Johnson said many U.S. consulates and some embassies have had to operate without any Marines.

"Marines are there principally to guard and secure premises rather than offer personal protection,” she said. “Nonetheless, having them there in an emergency can also buy you time and can certainly help you to prevail or escape or minimize the damage, so we welcome that. But the Marines are not out there yet."

Seeking congressional help

Secretary Clinton also said she needs congressional support to implement security recommendations made by an independent panel that investigated the Benghazi attack. She urged lawmakers to give her the authority to use some existing State Department funds for deploying more security personnel and upgrading construction at U.S. missions.

Clinton also appealed to Congress to provide additional money for diplomatic security, saying the funds approved last year were inadequate and 10 percent below what she had requested.

Security overkill?

Anti-U.S. Protests Timeline:

  • September 11: Protesters attack U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americas are killed
  • September 12: Anti-U.S. protests spread to several Arab countries.
  • September 13: Protesters storm U.S. embassy compound in Sana'a, Yemen
  • September 14: Protests spread further across Africa, Asia and the Middle East
  • September 15: US orders non-essential personnel and families of diplomats out of Tunisia and Sudan
  • September 16: A protester dies during a clash with police in Pakistan
  • September 17: A protester dies during a clash with police in Pakistan
Some diplomats have expressed concern that the State Department could tighten security too much as it tries to satisfy congressional Republicans who accuse it of not doing enough to prevent the Benghazi killings.

Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria and Bahrain, told VOA that political pressure on the Obama administration to avoid risky diplomacy is more “severe” than it was before Benghazi. 

“One of the biggest problems we are dealing with is an environment in which Washington officials become so nervous about security that they reduce the flexibility of diplomats in the field to make critical security decisions.”

Neumann, president of the Washington-based non-profit group American Academy for Diplomacy, said ambassadors should be the ones to decide whether they or their personnel make risky trips outside of their offices.

Nicholas Kralev, author of America's Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st Century Diplomacy, said existing restrictions on diplomatic travel already have made life difficult for the diplomats.

“In many countries where it is deemed not safe to travel outside the capital, diplomats are banned from going. In some countries, they may get a waiver of that, but they have to request written permission.”

Kralev said Secretary Clinton tried to strike a balance between diplomatic security and flexibility before the September 2012 attacks.

“Unfortunately after the attacks, I do not see how this can happen, now that the focus is much more on the security part of this,” he said.

Accepting risk

Union leader Johnson said many diplomats have been speaking up in favor of flexibility.

“Benghazi is bringing the issue to the forefront. I am seeing a bit more pushback from the Foreign Service against calls to eliminate all risk, not travel anywhere and get 64 permissions to do so."

She said another way to improve security is to boost federal funding for training diplomats in foreign languages and country knowledge.

“[That training] makes you far more attuned to what is going on. You are more able to avoid a dangerous situation, and if it happens, you are better able to respond to it,” she said.

Neumann said no measures can provide perfect security.

“The steps [announced by Clinton] are good, but they do not mean that you can avoid another Benghazi or another diplomat being killed. That is not within the realm of the possible,” he said.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Just Me from: south
January 25, 2013 1:49 PM
Are you kidding me? There are still folks blaming a film for the Benghazi attack??? I looked at the date and reread the article. It's true, but how is it possible that anyone, at this point, manages to buy into those invented lies as the cause of four American deaths? I find this incredibly stupid.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid