Page 18 - Foreign Service Journal - February 2013

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originate in Hollywood and Silicon Valley,
not the local post. So long as U.S. facilities
in a host country are secure, the physical
appearance of our embassies is unlikely to
signifcantly infuence popular opinion.
Lots of Talk, But Few Actual
Just how fortifed are U.S. embassies? It
depends on who’s speaking.
We hear often of the fortress-like
appearance of our embassies in Baghdad
and London, to cite two examples of cities
with a history of serious terrorist concerns.
But visiting the other 270-odd diplo-
matic facilities around the world reveals
potential vulnerabilities in many of our
I still recall one mid-sized embassy
where I worked a few years ago. It was
so close to the street that visa applicants
waiting outside could look into our ofces
and read our e-mail. And the chancery in
one small island nation is so unprotected
that I once overheard some U.S. tourists
remark, “Tat’s it?Te McDonalds at least
has armed guards.”
During my frst few weeks in Kabul
in 2006, I regularly felded complaints
from colleagues that the embassy was
overly security-conscious and we were
too isolated from the public. Ten one
morning, the concussion from a suicide
bombing at the front gate cracked the
blast-resistant window in the room below
mine—a sobering reminder of the value of
the setback requirements imposed by the
Secure Embassy Construction and Coun-
terterrorismAct. Te complaints stopped
for a few weeks, but resumed when new
staf arrived.
Whatever the security situation in a
given place, U.S. diplomats need to leave
their ofces to meet with contacts, learn
about the host country, visit assistance
projects, and carry out the many activities