10:25 AM, Nov 25, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The terrorist attack against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, awakened renewed interest in the security of overseas consulates and embassy facilities. A recent report by the State Department's Office of the Inspector General spotlights some major concerns regarding the safety of American diplomats and staff in Minsk, Belarus, as well as the security of communications. The report notes that some progress has been made during the last year, but more remains to be done.
The report lays out the difficult conditions for the diplomatic mission in Belarus, noting that to visit the "Embassy Minsk is to step back in time to an era when American diplomats in Eastern Europe operated in inhospitable environments." The government of Belarus is often hostile and imposes severe restrictions, including a five-person limit on American staff. This has produced a ratio of five Americans to 119 locals staff members, too high by normal standards, and has also resulted in the five Americans (down from 35 in 2008) serving long hours and often double duty. The limit remains despite assurance from the Belarus government that it was only temporary, and is largely responsible for the staff's inability "to comply with numerous security, consular, information technology, reporting, and management requirements.”
The American staff is generally praised by the inspector general for excellent work and ingenuity under difficult conditions. For instance, the report relates an incident where consul foiled "the kidnapping of an American citizen by repeatedly calling his cell phone until the kidnappers, alarmed by the U.S. Government label appearing on his phone’s screen, released him unharmed." Additionally, the chargé d’affaires is credited with improving security since arriving in 2012:
The chargé has also reinforced embassy security measures. When he arrived at post in 2012, access control was haphazard. Badges were not issued to visitors, and the local guard force used familiarity as a criterion for granting personnel access to the compound. The chargé and management officer/post security officer moved quickly to implement the required access control policy and procedures. The chargé has also worked with the Kyiv-based RSO to enhance mission security.
Security concerns, however, remain as noted elsewhere in the report:
The 2012 chief of mission controls statement of assurance noted that a physical security survey has not been performed within the past 3 years. As discussed earlier in the report, there are serious facilities, [portion redacted] deficiencies that did not appear in the 2012 statement. The OIG team stressed that, in preparation for the 2013 statement, it is important that the mission review, document, and establish an improvement plan to resolve current deficiencies.
Because the main facility (the "chancery") is in a state of disrepair and a $34 million planned renovation is on hold, all embassy business must be conducted from an annex. This as well as the intrusiveness of the government of Belarus makes conducting private communication virtually impossible. The report notes that communications security is non-existent:
Embassy Minsk staff members, both American and local, are subject to regular harassment by the Belarusian security services. American staff residences have been entered surreptitiously. The embassy and all U.S. and Belarusian staff are under constant physical surveillance...
The embassy does not have classified communications. Staff members operate on the assumption that everything sent on unclassified systems or spoken on the telephone is monitored by Belarusian security services and other local security agencies.
Restrictions and sanctions against Belarus by the U.S. and other countries make it important for diplomatic staff to keep a close eye on visas granted by the embassy:
The United States has also imposed sanctions on Belarus under several additional laws and executive orders, These sanctions include travel and financial sanctions and asset freezes against officials who have undermined democratic processes and against state-owned and other companies that have supported proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or money laundering. The European Union also maintains a broad range of sanctions against individuals and firms.
1:02 AM, Nov 14, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Two former CIA officials who fought in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, were asked to sign additional nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) more than six months after those attacks. The two officials, who will testify Thursday before a subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, were presented the nondisclosure agreements during a memorial service in May at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, honoring Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, two of the CIA-affiliated personnel who died during those attacks.
Benghazi isn’t going away.Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
When South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham threatened last week to place a hold in the Senate on all Obama administration nominations until the president and his advisers cooperate fully with investigations into the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, White House press secretary Jay Carney responded with a familiar accusation.
7:01 AM, Oct 28, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
CBS's 60 Minutes ran this report last night on the Benghazi terror attack of September 11, 2012:
11:51 AM, Oct 17, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
President Barack Obama delivered remarks from the White House Thursday morning following the conclusion of the government shutdown and the raising of the debt ceiling. The president praised government as an entity "we rely on" in a "whole lot of ways." He also said that he hoped the country had learned that "smart, effective government is important."
From Benghazi to Tunis.Oct 21, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 07 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
During a press conference on July 26, Tunisian interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou listed the suspected terrorists thought to be responsible for two high-profile assassinations in his country. Among the names was one Ali Harzi—the same name as one of the chief suspects in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. On September 12 of this year, Al Jazeera connected the dots in a piece titled “The Benghazi link to Tunisia’s assassinations.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:00 PM, Sep 20, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on his recent story about the Benghazi Review Board, the congressional hearings on Benghazi, and the debate over whether to defund or delay Obamacare.
Do the media care?7:45 PM, Sep 19, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
The leaders of the Administrative Review Board that investigated the attacks on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, appeared before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Thursday, and offered testimony that further undermined the already-tattered credibility of their own probe.
3:22 PM, Sep 11, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City by terrorists. Eleven years later on September 11, 2012, events unfolded in Benghazi, Libya, that would ultimately leave a U.S. diplomatic facility gutted and four Americans dead. As of 8:46 AM today, the U.S. State Department had not acknowledged either anniversary.
Hosted by Michael Graham.12:00 PM, Sep 11, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the Benghazi controversy, one year later.
11:12 AM, Sep 11, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
On September 3, 2013, CIA director John Brennan sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers responding to questions about CIA-affiliated personnel who were on the ground during the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The letter is below:
1:00 AM, Sep 11, 2013 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
One year after the terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the survivors may finally begin to talk.
2:01 PM, Sep 10, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Although the White House posted its annual Presidential Proclamation of National Days of Prayer and Remembrance commemorating September 11th, 2001, there is no mention of the Benghazi attacks of 2012.
8:28 AM, Aug 21, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Charles Lane and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News: