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MAY 2015



I was allowed to drive myself around the city to keep our many

U.S. Information Service programs on track.

A few months later, after suicide bombers struck the Multina-

tional Force barracks in Beirut, killing 299, Navy Admiral Bobby

Inman chaired a commission to review our

overseas security procedures. His commission

recommended, among other things, new con-

struction standards for diplomatic compounds

and expansion of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic


DS was reorganized, and regional secu-

rity officers began reporting directly to their

deputy chiefs of mission rather than through

their administrative (now called management)

officers. RSOs were given larger budgets to

manage, with broader liaison responsibilities.

They focused on ensuring safe environments in

which they and their colleagues could operate

effectively. Everyone understood that being

secure, by itself, could never be any mission’s

primary goal. I am not sure we all share

that consensus anymore.

As other terrorist incidents followed,

our security apparatus continued to

expand—and became an increasingly

public concern. In December 1988 Pan

Am 103 was destroyed by a bomb, killing

243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11

civilians on the ground in Lockerbie, Scot-

land. An anonymous warning, transmit-

ted in a State Department cable, had been

posted at the U.S. embassy in Moscow,

where journalists had access. Following

complaints after the crash that the U.S.

government should have shared the threat

information more widely, a “no double

standard” policy was adopted, resulting in

more public scrutiny of embassy security


Ten years later, in August 1998, when

truck bombs went off simultaneously at

the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and

Nairobi, hundreds were killed or wounded.

Again, DS received additional resources,

at the expense of funds for programs.

And after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by

al-Qaida, President George W. Bush launched the “Global War on

Terror,” and everyone was talking about security. A new Depart-

ment of Homeland Security began operations in March 2003.

Then, as I noted at the beginning of this piece, on Sept. 11,

2012, militants attacked a small, makeshift

consulate compound in Benghazi, killing

Amb. Stevens and three other American

employees. Ever since, overseas security

has been a club for politicians to use against

one another. After the State Department’s Accountability Review Board sharply critic


State for “systemic failures” and “deficien-

cies” at senior levels, increased security was

ordered worldwide.

The View Is Different from Outside

Meanwhile, I had retired in 2009 frommy

final Foreign Service posting, as public affairs

officer in Paris. I had grown accustomed to all of

the security procedures that had grown up over

The April 2013 rededication of a plaque in memory of temporary staffers from Tunis

killed in the 1983 bombing of Embassy Beirut. Presented by Beirut locally employed

staff members to their colleagues in Tunis, the original was destroyed by the mob that

attacked Embassy Tunis in September 2012. Viewing the plaque, at front left to right,

are Information Officer Stephen Kochuba, PAO Jim Bullock and Ambassador Jacob

“Jake” Welles.


Flowering cactus plants are a

traditional security barrier in

semi-arid Tunisia.