Lebanon is rated at the critical level for potential violence but the U.S. embassy in Beirut has put itself at increased risk because of poor security and inadequate counterterrorism training. Aged embassy compound that fails to meet security protocols, according to an internal investigation that raises new questions about the Obama administration’s commitment to protecting Americans overseas in the aftermath of the Benghazi tragedy.
Beirut was also the site of one of America’s deadliest terror attacks, the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks that killed more than 240 service members. It recommended the best solution was to build a new facility.
And their superiors back home in Washington seem unaware of the threat level, failing to harden weak physical security or provide needed counterterrorism training, the inspector general observed. The risks remain high as the civil war in Syria continues to threaten the stability of Lebanon due to the influx of more than 325,000 refugees, and tensions with Hezbollah remain high with frequent rocket attacks and other skirmishes.
“The Department’s threat rating for Beirut is critical for terrorism and political violence, but the embassy is not included in the Department’s recent list of high-threat missions,” the report noted. The embassy has recently “acquired property, but Beirut is listed only as an alternate mission for 2016 in the Department of State (Department) Capital Security Construction Program,” the investigators said, questioning the department’s lack of urgency.
State Department officials declined to discuss the report. It is unbelievable that the State Department did not have Beirut on the high threat list.” Officials declined to say whether Beirut was added to the high-threat list after the inspector general’s warnings.
The inspector general cited numerous security failures, noting the Beirut embassy’s mail screening facility does not comply with department regulations. The inspection also found that “the embassy has not adequately addressed the physical, environmental, and procedural security issues with the telephone switch and unclassified server room,”
U.S. officials have since repeatedly promised to tighten security at State Department facilities worldwide. However, several investigations from the department’s own internal watchdog suggest that the administration is far from its goal. In February, the Washington Guardian reported that many U.S. embassies and diplomatic outposts exempted themselves from security requirements without the knowledge of the State officials in Washington. Further, investigators said the State Department’s record keeping was so lax that it still had active waivers on file for facilities it no longer operated.
In the case of Beirut, embassy employees felt they lacked the appropriate training for responding to an attack or an emergency crisis, the investigation found.
“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,”
Even thought the Bureau of Diplomatic Security has mobile training teams to “provide on-site training for all embassy employees, including local guards and bodyguards,” it was not offered in Beirut
The report stated that security requirements under the Compliance with Overseas Security Policy Board standards, “is not possible at the current location” because of its outdated facilities and uusual physical attributes. The embassy compound’s health facility “is located on a steep hill in a prefabricated modular unit that is accessible only by climbing outside stairs, making the unit inaccessible to disabled personnel or personnel being transported by stretcher or gurney,” investigators noted.
Arturo Munoz, a senior political scientist at the Rand think-tank and an expert on security issues, said foreign diplomats working in Beirut are facing two-fold security risks with the ongoing war in Syria combined with embassy compound concerns.
Sources—washington guardian, sara carter