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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid