THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Security professionals must balance
risks against the requirements of
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.
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
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
Triage in a
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
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.