By Jim Kouri
While appearing on Fox News Channel on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told anchor Megan Kelly that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may testify before a senate panel in about two weeks to answer questions about embassy security and the bloodbath at a U.S. consulate that suffered from insufficient security.
During Sunday morning’s television news shows, the primary focus of discussion was the testimony given on Friday by former CIA chief and retired four-star general, David Petraeus, and the bloody terrorist attack on the Benghazi, Libya, U.S. consulate. However, according to an expert in security management, very little attention is being paid to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s failure to heed the warnings contained in a congressional report on the subject of embassy security and safety released in July 2011.
“Secretary Clinton and her staff received a report regarding diplomatic security from the U.S. Congress but she and her staff appear to have ignored its findings and failed to implement its recommendations,” said Thomas Sullivan, a security and safety expert. “Clinton said she took responsibility for what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, but then she refuses to make any statements regarding that incident.”
Sullivan believes a full investigation is needed since the Obama administration was warned by a Government Accountability Office report that was released to the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and concerned agencies and organizations in 2011.
According to a Government Accountability Office report, prior to the Benghazi terrorist attack, there had been more than 40 violent attacks on embassies worldwide since 1998, including the attack on the American embassy in Monrovia, Liberia in 2003.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security protects people, information, and property at over 400 locations worldwide and has experienced a large growth in its budget and personnel over the last decade, according to the GAO analysts.
Diplomatic Security trains its workforce and others to address a variety of threats, including crime, espionage, visa and passport fraud, technological intrusions, political violence, and terrorism. To meet its training needs, Diplomatic Security relies primarily on its Diplomatic Security Training Center (DSTC).
The Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security is responsible for the protection of people, facilities, information, and property at over 400 embassies, consulates, and other facilities throughout the globe, according to the GAO analysis.
In addition, Diplomatic Security provides protection to the Secretary of State, foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and several other U.S. government officials. Diplomatic Security dedicates 72 special agents to provide a 24-hour protective detail for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alone. Yet, a consulate in terrorist-infested Benghazi didn’t have half that number of trained security officers.
Since the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa, the scope and complexity of threats facing Americans abroad and at home has increased and diplomatic security must be prepared to counter threats such as crime, espionage, visa and passport fraud, technological intrusions, political violence (riots and intrusions), and terrorism, according to analysts at the GAO.
To address these objectives GAO analysts interviewed numerous officials at Diplomatic Security headquarters, several domestic facilities, and 18 international postings. They also analyzed diplomatic security and State Department budget and personnel data, as well as assessed challenges facing diplomatic security officials through the analysis of interviews with personnel positioned domestically and internationally, budget and personnel data provided by the State Department and Diplomatic Security, and planning and strategic documentation.
Since 1998, the Office of Diplomatic Security’s mission and activities — and, subsequently, its resources — have grown considerably in reaction to a number of security incidents. As a consequence of this growth, analysts identified several challenges. In particular, the State Department is maintaining a presence in an increasing number of dangerous posts, which requires additional resources, the analysts noted.
In addition, staffing shortages in domestic offices and other operational challenges — such as inadequate facilities, language deficiencies, experience gaps, and the difficulty of balancing security needs with State’s diplomatic mission — further tax Diplomatic Security officials’ ability to implement all of its missions.
Diplomatic Security’s desire to provide the best security possible for State’s diplomatic corps has, at times, been in tension with State’s diplomatic mission. For example, Diplomatic Security has established strict policies concerning access to U.S. facilities that usually include personal and vehicle screening, according to the GAO analysts.
Some public affairs officials — whose job it is to foster relations with host country nationals — have expressed concerns that the security measures discourage visitors from attending U.S. embassy events or exhibits. In addition, the new embassies and consulates, with their high walls, deep setback, and strict screening procedures, have evoked the nickname, “Fortress America.”
The State Department has also received criticism from liberal-left think-tanks for adopting what seems to be a “zero tolerance” for security incidents. Two groups are encouraging State to change its security culture and practices from risk avoidance to risk management.
The GAO analysis revealed that Diplomatic Security’s ability to fully carry out its mission of providing security worldwide is hindered by staffing shortages in domestic offices–even in light of its workforce growth–and other operational challenges such as inadequate facilities, pervasive language proficiency shortfalls, and host-country constraints, among others.
GAO recommended that State enhance Diplomatic Security’s course evaluation and tracking capabilities. The GAO also recommended that State develop an action plan and time frames to address proposed increases in high-threat training.