A new report by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, indicates that security at even the most exposed embassies of the United States is still inadequate.
The OIG report states that 32 of 34 recommendations from a security review of the embassy have been taken care of, but the most important one, along with its status, has been redacted. It is not too hard to imagine that it might have to do with the need for a new embassy, which has been planned but not built.
The report’s most disturbing finding is this one:
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.
The U.S. Beirut embassy, according to the OIG, currently has 64 full-time employees, 20 temporary-duty personnel to supplement the permanent staff, and 533 locally employed staff members. They represent Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Commerce and the U.S. Agency for International Development. All of them are at risk.
Yet, as in the case of Benghazi, priorities within State’s Office of Embassy Security appear woefully inadequate. Inexplicably, the U.S. embassy in Beirut is not listed as high risk on a State Department report dated November 30, 2012. As a result, the Beirut embassy is listed only as an “alternate mission” for new construction in the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program.
The fact is that, as in Benghazi, the security environment in Beirut is among the most dangerous in the world. The U.S. embassy in Beirut was attacked twice by vehicle bombs in the 1980s. The proximity to the horrific Syrian civil war has increased sectarian tensions and security incidents in Lebanon. Hezbollah is reported to be shelling Syrian government positions from within Lebanon. Some 325,000 Syrian refugees of all religious stripes have poured into Lebanon, a country of only 4 million citizens, which was occupied by Syria for 30 years.
Secretary of State John Kerry stated during his confirmation hearing that nothing was more important to him than embassy security. Learning the lessons from the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi is critically important to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel serving all over the world. The OIG’s Beirut embassy report suggests disturbingly that those lessons have not yet been properly accepted at State.