News / USA

    US Boosts Diplomatic Security After Benghazi Attack

    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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.