U.S. Embassy Bulgaria Issues/Withdraws Security Message, PM Reacts to Threat Alert on Sofia Buses

Posted: 1:04 am EDT
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On March 23, the U.S. Embassy in Sofia issued a Security Message regarding a possible threat against an unspecified bus line or bus lines in the vicinity of Hotel Pliska (Boulevard “Tsarigradsko shose” 87), in the eastern Sofia neighborhood of Istok.  It advised American citizens to avoid the area and to find alternate means of transportation.

A few hours later, the message was withdrawn, the embassy posting “Security Alert no longer in effect” on its website.  According to novanite.com, the alert has angered the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov who is quoted as saying, “The information… does not match reality.”

Domestic security agency DANS and the Interior Ministry have already checked the warning submitted to 112, the emergency hotline, Borisov has explained in a statement that follows a message by the US State Department citing the country’s embassy in Sofia.

“The checkup found out it was all about unsettled love relations between a Bulgarian and a foreign national,” he has added.

Borisov has also slammed US diplomats for exporting to the public “the information received by their Bulgarian counterparts” and for doing so in an “absolutely unacceptable way”.

The security message follows the bombings in Brussels and Ankara, the latter a subject of much speculation online that Embassy Ankara had to release a statement on how it became aware of the threat.

Reuters reports that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov also says, “I want to assure Bulgarian citizens that the state investigates any indication of a threat to citizens and would not withhold such a thing from the public if there was the slightest danger to life and limb.”

Since the embassy received the information from their Bulgarian counterparts, the USG officials in Sofia were obligated to disseminate  the information or they’d run afoul of the USG’s No Double Standard policy (see 7 FAM 052).

Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.  If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.

In this case, if the embassy told its employees “to avoid” a specific area and “to find alternate means of transportation” due to a possible threat, they are required to share that information with U.S. nationals living in Bulgaria. Except in extraordinarily urgent circumstances, posts are cautioned not to issue an Emergency Message or a Security Message pertaining to safety or  security of private U.S. citizens without first clearing the language with the Department.

 

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