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U.S. to 'Close an Unspecified Number of Embassies Around the World' Due to 'Security Concerns'

3:03 PM, Aug 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The United States will "close an unspecified number of embassies around the world" because of "security concerns," AFP reports. The closures will take place on Sunday.

The wire service adds:

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Thursday called the step "precautionary" but declined to specify the threat or list which missions would be closed.

"The Department of State has instructed certain US embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4," Harf told reporters.

The decision was taken "out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations," she said.

Harf said that the embassies would be closed specifically on Sunday, with an assessment afterwards on whether to reopen them.

"It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well," she said.

Harf declined to specify from which part of the world the threat was detected.

And here's the transcript of the State Department's announcement:

Q: There are some, I guess you could call them rumors that I was hoping you could address that some U.S. embassies may be closing or closed?

MS. HARF: Yes. Just one second. So the Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4th. The department has been apprised of information that out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, that indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.

Q: Which embassies?

MS. HARF: I don't have a full list of that in front of me. I can endeavor to get that.

Q: Well, do you have a partial list?

MS. HARF: I don't have a list in front of me.

Q: So -- well, do you know who -- which ones they are?

MS. HARF: I want to -- I believe I do, Arshad, but I want to make sure I have a complete list about which ones fall under this.

Q: Do you have a geographic region?

MS. HARF: I don't. I don't.

Q: And did you say how many?

MS. HARF: I said "certain." I didn't say how many. Again, this is something that is just happening. I can endeavor to get some more details for you, and if I can share them, we'll provide that.

Q: And is that a potential terrorist attack?

MS. HARF: I'm not going to go into any more detail about specific threat information or security considerations, obviously. I would also point you to the worldwide caution that we put out in February of 2013 which speaks to potential terrorist threats in different places around the world, to speak to some of the steps we recommend people taking, and some things they take into consideration when situations like this --

Q: Under the -- under the --

Q: What's happened on August 4th?

Q: Yeah, well -- (inaudible) -- is it -- threat and security, is it correct to -- from your last statement, to understand that it is indeed threats and/or security considerations that have led you to make this decision?

MS. HARF: I wouldn't want to use a specific term except to say security considerations have led us to take this precautionary step, as we do from time to time, as you all know.

Q: Yeah, no, under the no-double standard rule, are you not obliged to tell the American public of steps -- specific steps that you are taking to protect your own officials at embassies?

MS. HARF: Yes. And if that applies in this case, those steps will of course be taken.

Q: Why wouldn't it apply in this case?

MS. HARF: I don't have that detail in front of me. I know that was a discussion as I came down here about whether it would. But I'm assuming it does. Again, and I'll get you updates as I -- as I I get them. But if it does, we would of course take the necessary steps.

Q: Just because presumably if a U.S. citizen needs to go to an embassy and you're not willing to disclose that the embassy is closed and then they show up and the embassy blows up, that doesn't seem very fair.

MS. HARF: Right. And of course we would -- well, of course we were -- we are working to disclose all of the embassies to the people that either would be coming there or that have meetings there. That process will be ongoing throughout the rest of today. As you know, Sunday in many places is not a work day to begin with, and some places of course it is. So as I get more information, I'm happy to pass it along.

Q: So this is specifically Sunday, August 4th?

MS. HARF: Correct.

Q: Or is there a potential for extension or --

MS. HARF: It's specifically August 4th. It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well. Of course, depending on our analysis, individual U.S. embassies and consulates will announce whether or not they are open and whether they're implementing restrictions or other measures.

Q: And is there any significance -- we know around 9/11, embassies undergo review beforehand and there are steps put in place. Is there any significance attached to August 4th?

MS. HARF: I don't have any further details on specific threat information or anything of that nature. I would caution people, as I think we always do, for making any assumptions or drawing conclusions before there are more facts available.

Q: And is there -- you said that this happens from time to time. I'm paraphrasing your words, but you said that this is something that has happened before. When was the last time that something like this happened?

MS. HARF: I can get specific information for you. I don't have it in front of me. As different embassies or consulates around the world receive different information, I know we adjust our security posture accordingly. I can get some more specifics for you on when in the past this has happened as well. I just don't have that in front of me.


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