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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MAY 2015

29

Security professionals must balance

risks against the requirements of

diplomatic engagement.

BY ANTHONY C . E . QUA I NTON

Anthony C.E. Quainton, a retired Senior Foreign Service

officer, is currently a Distinguished Diplomat-in-Res-

idence at American University. From 1992 to 1995 he

was assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security.

He also served as ambassador to the Central African

Republic, Nicaragua, Kuwait and Peru.

T

he buck stops at the regional secu-

rity officer’s desk. All security officers

know that, yet few of their colleagues

acknowledge it. This dichotomy is

at the heart of the ongoing tension

between security professionals and the

diplomatic staff of our embassies and

consulates.

When there are failures, the secu-

rity officer will be at the center of after-action investigations,

including Accountability Review Boards. These investigations

will start with the assumption that in some way the RSO was

negligent in carrying out assigned responsibilities. The recent

dramatic attack on Ambassador Mark Lippert in Korea and the

ongoing debate about what happened in Benghazi are but the

latest examples of this phenomenon.

Outside critics want to know whether the RSO took all

appropriate steps to protect Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens

in Benghazi. And did Amb. Stevens take all appropriate steps to

Diplomatic Security

Triage in a

DangerousWorld

FOCUS

ON MANAGING RISK

protect himself as he carried out his duties as chief of mission?

While it isn’t useful to get into the substance of that highly

charged debate, several senior Diplomatic Security Bureau

heads did roll in the aftermath of Amb. Stevens’ death, and a

great deal of attention was focused on specific security mea-

sures that were (and were not) taken at the facility in Benghazi.

The same may now be true with the attack in Seoul.

Such incidents should give us pause and prompt us to ask

how security professionals can do their jobs in an extremely

REUTERS

U.S. Ambassador to China James Sasser peers through the

heavily-damaged door of Embassy Beijing on May 10, 1999,

following two days of attacks by Chinese protesters over

NATO’s May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.