Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beirut: The Next Benghazi?

Beirut: The Next Benghazi?

Posted By Michael Volpe On June 12, 2013

Nine months after four Americans, including our ambassador, were killed at the US consulate in Benghazi, a new State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) report warns that a series of security vulnerabilities at the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon leaves it vulnerable to a similar attack in that unstable area.

The report released in May concluded that a series of security deficiencies, including weaknesses in the physical structure itself, leave the Beirut embassy vulnerable. While the State Department has put in place a plan to upgrade the facility, a new structure won’t be completed until 2016. As the OIG report said,

Physical security vulnerabilities at mission facilities, which include office buildings and residences, place employees at risk. Compliance with Overseas Security Policy Board standards is not possible at the current location.

Construction of a new embassy compound (NEC) in Beirut, including office and residential facilities, was scheduled by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) as an alternate candidate for 2016.

The report further concluded that staff wasn’t receiving proper counter-terrorism training:

Some embassy employees feel they lack training for responding to an attack or a crisis. Unlike staff at other critical threat posts, Embassy Beirut employees do not take the foreign affairs counterterrorism course, which provides training on emergency medical procedures, chemical biological remediation, and driving in dangerous situations.

The OIG report also pointed out that the State Department didn’t classify the embassy in Beirut to be in a “high threat” area.

Not only does Beirut have a high presence of the terrorist group Hezbollah, but the civil war in Syria has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Lebanon.

The report comes at a difficult time not only for the State Department but for security in Beirut. Over the weekend, a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in Beirut left at least one protestor dead. (It should be noted that Iran’s state run media has denied any such attack occurred.)

Meanwhile, this State Department OIG report comes on the heels of a separate OIG report on the embassies in Kabul and Baghdad that concluded that inefficiencies there led to wasting over $200 million in tax payer dollars.

The State Department didn’t respond to a comment for this story.

Meanwhile, CBS News is reporting that in a separate unreleased OIG report top deputies of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actively attempted to shut down investigations including an investigation into child abuse allegations against the US Ambassador to Belgium and reports that Secretary Clinton’s security detail routinely visited prostitutes.

As all this is going on, the State Department recently approved a $140 million upgrade to make the embassy in Mauritania more energy efficient, including a 50 kilowatt wind turbine. Furthermore, security at the embassy in Benghazi was outsourced to local militias, with ties to Islamists, on the night of the attack last September. The militias were mostly absent on the night of the attack. Taken together, all these report raise serious questions about the priorities and management of the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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