US Embassy Saudi Arabia: Avoid Awamiyah in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

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— Domani Spero

The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia released a Security Message for U.S. Citizens in the country concerning an attack that occurred in the Eastern Province of the country and advises U.S. citizens to avoid the area.  The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed that the security incident involves two German diplomats who were shot at, their official vehicle burned but no reported injuries.

On the night of January 13, 2014, two German diplomats were attacked by unknown gunmen while traveling through the Awamiyah neighborhood of the al-Qatif Governorate in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.  While the attack disabled their vehicle (which subsequently burned), the two diplomats escaped to safety.  The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia has re-instructed its employees and their family members to avoid Awamiyah and advises all U.S. citizens to do the same. Regardless of where you are, it is always advisable to keep your security and situational awareness levels high.

Please follow these good personal security practices:

Avoid crowds or large gatherings when traveling in public;

Know where you are going and have a plan of what to do in the event you encounter demonstrations or violence;

Identify safe areas (for example police stations, hospitals, Saudi Government buildings) in your area and how to get to them quickly;

Tell co-workers or neighbors where you’re going and when you intend to return;

Minimize your profile while in public;

Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone such as U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran (013-330-3200), the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh (011-488-3800), and U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah (012-667-0080).  The emergency number for the Saudi Police, Fire, and Rescue is 999;

Be prepared to postpone or cancel activities for personal safety concerns.

Active link added above.

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Senate Report on Benghazi: Nothing Surprising, Spreading the Blame, Notable Details

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— Domani Spero

Yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September11-12, 2012 together with Additional Views.  You may read it here. The Armed Services Committee also released six files from the declassified transcripts of the Benghazi briefings here.

The report notes that between 1998 (the year of the terrorist attacks against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania) and 2012, 273 significant attacks were carried out against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel. In the course of its investigation, SSCI conducted on-the record Member and staff meetings with officials already named previously in news reports and with  the unnamed former CIA Chief of Base in Benghazi who was at the Annex on the night of the attacks and U.S. Government security personnel on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attacks.

Nothing in the findings or recommendations of the Committee was particularly surprising.  The report spreads the blame around not just on the State Department, Defense, the intel community, but also the late Ambassador Stevens for declining twice additional security offered by AFRCOM’s General Carter Ham.   But there are some notable details that we have not seen before:

More specificity about the team that flew to Benghazi:

A seven-person security team (consisting of two DoD personnel, four CIA personnel, and a linguist) flew from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi and successfully helped evacuate the Americans from the Annex to the airport. It is important to clarify that, at the time of the attacks in Benghazi, there were six DoD personnel assigned to Embassy Tripoli. Four employees were under Special Operations Command Africa (SOC-AFRICA) and reported through a similar, but separate, chain of command within AFRICOM. The other two individuals from that team were DoD personnel working (based on a memorandum of understanding) under a separate special operations task force. According to the DoD, the four staff under SOC.,.AFRICA were told by their command to stay to protect Embassy Tripoli due to concerns of a similar attack in Tripoli.

What about State’s Intel Bureau?

Based on the Committee’s review, the State Department’s INR disseminated no intelligence products related to the Benghazi attacks in the year following the attacks. Considering the attacks began on a State Department facility, involved the deaths of two State Department personnel, and were an important indication of escalating threats against U.S. facilities and personnel in the region, the Committee fmds it unsettling that INR chose not to, or was unable to, disseminate any analysis related to the attacks or the implications of the attacks.
[…]
Yet, INR officials have access to State Department information and perspectives that many in the Intelligence Community do not; therefore, INR should play a more active–not just a coordinating-role in analysis for the IC and not just the State Department. The State Department’s Inspector General went even further and found that INR should be the office to produce a comprehensive security assessment for each post based on all available diplomatic and intelligence sources.

Individuals Supporting the Investigation, Killed?

The Libyan Government has not shown the political incentive or will within its own country to seek out, arrest, and prosecute individuals believed to be associated with the attacks. Furthermore, the security environment in Benghazi remains extremely dangerous for individuals wishing to work with the U.S. Government on its investigation into the attacks. In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller noted that as many as 15 individuals supporting the investigation or otherwise helpful to the United States have been killed in Benghazi since the attacks, underscoring the lawless and chaotic circumstances in eastern Libya. It is unclear whether their killings were related to the Benghazi investigation.

Interesting Footnotes!

#18| SSCI Transcript, Hearing on Security Issues at Benghazi and Threats to U.S. Intelligence and Diplomatic Personne/.and Facilities Worldwide Since the Attacks, December 4; 2012, p. 67. However, on page 47 of its classified report, the ARB concluded: “While none of the five DS agents discharged their weapons, the Board concluded that this was a sound tactical decision, given the overwhelming degree to which they were outgunned and outnumbered: A decision to discharge their weapons may well have resulted in more American deaths that night, without saving lives. The multiple trips that DS agents and Annex security team members made into a burning, smoke-filled building showed readiness to risk life and limb to save.“

#65 | The Committee recognizes that there were communications between State Department employees in Libya regarding security during this time period, including an August 22, 2012, document entitled, “Security Requests for U.S. Mission Benghazi” that was sent from OS agents in Benghazi to the RSO in Tripoli that included specific requests for (I) physical security, (2) equipment, and (3) manpower. There is no indication those requests were passed on to State Department Headquarters in the form of a cable.

#68 | An August 28, 2012, memo entitled, “Regional Security Officer Turnover” from the outgoing RSO stated: “U.S.Mission Benghazi has an uncertain future; Post is scheduled to close December 31,2012. Various alternatives are being proposed, including colocating with the Annex. The RSO should be aware that requests for expensive security upgrades may be difficult to obtain as headquarters is hesitant to allocate money to a post that may be closing in a few months.” Classified Report of the ARB, December 18,2012, Appendix 6, p. I.

Wondering why it was necessary to classify #18 and #68 from the publicly available ARB Report? Do you know?

The Senate report in 85 pages long.  The report itself is 42 pages long with its findings and recommendations. The report includes three appendices; as well, there are “Additional Views” attached to the report:  a 5-page one from the Democrats on the SSIC (Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller IV, Wyden, Mikulski, Udall, Warner, Heinrich and Maine Senator Angus King);  a 16-page one from the GOP members of the Committee namely, Vice-Chairman Chambliss and Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio and Coburn and a 4-page statement by Maine Senator Susan Collins who co-authored with then Senator Joe Lieberman the HSGAC 2012 report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi.

So, basically, what they could not agree to put in the body of the report, the SSIC members placed as attachments to their bipartisan work. We expect that the morning shows on Sunday will be populated with politicians talking about their “additional views” on the report.

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Email of the Day: “I hope that nobody is injured …”

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— Domani Spero

Via SSCI Benghazi Report (p74 of 85) |

According to Mr. Nordstrom, the previous U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, and his Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Joan Polaschik, traveled to Washington in mid-February 2012 to specifically ask for additional security personnel. 155 in addition to meeting with Ms. Lamb, they met separately with Mr. Kennedy and other senior officials. Yet, when the Libyan mission transmitted its official request for additional security personnel on March 28, 2012, the push back from Ms. Lamb’s office was swift and significant. While the request, which included five temporary duty Diplomatic Security agents in Benghazi, was clearly reasonable, one of Ms. Lamb’s subordinates asked Mr. Nordstrom why the official cable sought “the sun, the moon, and the stars.” When Mr. Nordstrom stated that he did not understand why this was an issue, the response from Ms. Lamb’s office Was telling: “Well, you know, this is a political game. You have to not make us look bad here, that we’re not being responsive.” 156 in a disturbingly prophetic e-mail to DCM Polaschik following this exchange, Mr. Nordstrom wrote:

I doubt we will ever get [Diplomatic Security] to admit in writing what I was told [in] reference [to] Benghazi that OV[International Programs] was directed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Lamb to cap the agents in Benghazi at 3, and force post to hire local drivers. This is apparently a verbal policy only but one which DSIIP/[Near Eastern Affairs] doesn’t plan to violate. I hope that nobody is injured as a result of an incident in Benghazi, since it would be particularly embarrassing to both DS and DAS [Lamb] if it was a result of some sort of game they are playing.

Mr. Eric Nordstrom - Regional Security Officer, U.S. Department of State (second from left on the full witness panel) "The Security Failures of Benghazi" House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, 10-10-12 (Photo via Oversight and Reform Committee/Flickr)

Eric Nordstrom – Regional Security Officer, U.S. Department of State (second from left on the full witness panel)
(Photo via Oversight and Reform Committee/Flickr)

Foreign Policy writes that the SSCI findings are “a case study in how no one and everyone in the State Department, the U.S. intelligence community, and the White House has been held responsible for an attack that has fueled a political firestorm in Washington — and left four Americans dead.”

No one and everyone.

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