18 State Dept Accountability Review Boards Convened Since 1986 – Only Two Publicly Available

We recently located a GAO report (see State Department Has Not Fully Implemented Key Measures to Protect U.S. Officials from Terrorist Attacks Outside of Embassies GAO-05-642, May 2005) listing the previous Accountability Review Boards convened  from 1986 when the ARB was first mandated under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986. As of March 2005 when the GAO report was made, 11 Accountability Review Boards had been convened. Of that 11 ARBs, five investigations have focused on attacks of U.S. officials on their way to work. The remaining remaining six ARBs were on attacks against U.S. facilities.

1.  Honduras.  April 1988 attack on U.S. facilities in Honduras

2.  Greece. June 1988 assassination of a post official in Greece

3.  Philippines. April 1989 assassination of a post official in the Philippines

4. Bolivia. 1990 attack on a U.S. facility in Bolivia

5.  Peru.  1992 attack on the Ambassador’s residence in Peru

6. Saudi Arabia. 1995 attack on a U.S. facility in Saudi Arabia

7. Pakistan. March 1995 assassination of two post officials in Pakistan  (Karachi, ARB convened 4/1995)

8. Kenya and Tanzania. 1998 bombings of U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
(unclassified report available online)

9. Jordan. October 2002 assassination of a post official in Jordan
(On 27 Jan 2003, an Accountability Review Board was convened for the Murder of Laurence Foley, USAID Official in Amman, Jordan)

10. Gaza.  October 2003 assassination in Gaza of three post contractors from Israel.
(ARB completed in 2004)

We dug up some more from the Federal Register last year.  Two other ARBs (noted below) were located by The Skeptical Bureaucrat.  The State Dept said that there had been 18 ARBs convened since the statute was passed. We only have 16 on this list. Do feel free to add in the comment section if you know about the other two ARBs unlisted here.

11. Iraq.  On February 28, 2005 Convening an Accountability Review Board for the November 24, 2004 Murder of Mr. James C. Mollen, an Employee of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq (h/t The Skeptical Bureaucrat)
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2005-03-07/pdf/05-4358.pdf

12.  Saudi Arabia.  On 11 Mar 2005, the Accountability Review Board for the December 6, 2004 Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
(Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide, OIG, March 2013)

13. Iraq. On May 10, 2005 Convening an Accountability Review Board for the January 29, 2005, Rocket Attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Which Caused the Deaths of LCDR Keith Taylor, USN, and Ms. Barbara Heald. (h/t The Skeptical Bureaucrat)
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2005-05-18/pdf/05-9910.pdf

14. Iraq. On 8 December 2005, the Accountability Review Board to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of DS Special Agent Stephen Sullivan and Seven Security Contractors in September 2005 in Iraq.

In October 2005 ARB Exemption for incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq: Pursuant to Public Law 109-140 and Public Law 111-117, the Secretary of State is not required to convene a Board in the case of an incident involving serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a U.S. Government mission in Afghanistan or Iraq and which occurs in the period beginning on October 1, 2005 and ending on September 30, 2010 ( see 12 FAM 033.1)

15.  Pakistan.  On May 2006  an Accountability Review Board To Examine the Circumstances of the Death of David E. Foy and Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed in March 2006, Karachi, Pakistan

16. Sudan.  On 14 April 2008, Secretary Rice convened an ARB to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of John M. Granville and Abdelrahman Abees in Khartoum, Sudan in January 2008.

17. Pakistan.  On 22 October 2010, Secretary Clinton convened the first ARB during her tenure relating to the Death of Three DoD Personnel Assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Representative Pakistan (ODRP) on February 3, 2010

18.  Libya. On October 4, 2012, Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board to Examine the Circumstances Surrounding the Deaths of personnel assigned in support of the U.S. Government mission to Libya in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012
(unclassified report available online)

As far as we are able to tell, the OIG had only twice previously reviewed the ARB recommendations  and  both were on ARB Jeddah.  In February 2009, the OIG reviewed the State Dept’s progress towards the installation of mantraps at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. Not clear from the 2-page report if this was one of the recommendations by ARB Jeddah but the 2004 incident, according to the IG, prompted the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), in coordination with the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) to initiate a program to install pedestrian barriers, or “mantraps,” at all diplomatic posts worldwide.

On April 15, 2013, a 5-page IG report dated March 31, 2013 on the “Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide” was posted online.

We don’t know what type of classification these ARBs carry, but if the intent of having an accountability review is to learn the lessons from these attacks, it seems odd that the ARBs even from the 1980s are still under wraps.  We understand that the non-public reports are not even available to DS agents and Regional Security officers.  How can that be?

 

Thanks to TSB and A.Cog for helping us complete this list!  

— DS

 

 

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State Dept’s Inspector General to Conduct a “Special Review” of the ARB Process, Not/Not the ARB Panel

According to thehill.com, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General notified the State Department on March 28 that it will be conducting a “special review” of the process that the department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) used to probe security lapses prior to and during the terrorist attack:

Doug Welty, a spokesman for the IG’s office, said the office is responsive to lawmakers’ concerns; he said this is the first time the office will review an ARB process, although it has in the past reviewed how well the State Department has followed through on the recommendations of other review boards formed after security breaches.

The review will examine “the effectiveness and accountability of the process and the resulting implementation of the recommendations,” Welty said. He couldn’t specify a time frame, but said the results would be made public: “It will take the time it needs to take to do a reliable job.”

At a State Department briefing last year, Pickering defended the ARB’s approach. He said the panel fixed responsibility “at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place — where, if you like, the rubber hits the road.”

Fox News originally reported this and found an unnamed senior State Department official to comment on this development:

[A] senior State Department official told Fox News the IG probe is not a “formal investigation” but rather a review process, and one, moreover, that will examine previous ARBs in addition to the one established after Benghazi.

The official noted that the department had published a notice early on instructing employees on how they could furnish information to the ARB for Benghazi, and that the panel ultimately interviewed more than 100 witnesses.

The original law that established accountability review boards mandates that they act completely independently, the official said, adding that the department in this case neither sought nor enjoyed any influence over the panel’s work.

In any case, Fox News headline screams “State Department’s Benghazi review panel under investigation, Fox News confirms.

So we checked with State/OIG and was told by Douglas Welty that this is a  “special review of the Accountability Review Board process.” He pointed out that when he spoke with the reporter at Fox, he specifically said this was not an “investigation.” “When OIG uses the term “investigation,” it means we are looking into the possibility of criminal activity,” according to Mr. Welty. 

We asked Mr. Welty if this special review was specifically requested by a congressional representative or some other entity and we’re told the following:

We already had plans to conduct a review of the ARB process when we responded to Senators Lieberman’s and Collins’ post-Benghazi inquiry last year. Our current review is not a response to or the result of the recent congressional investigation or upcoming congressional hearing on the Benghazi attacks.

Reviews, inspections and audits of security issues is an important part of our oversight work. Whenever appropriate, we will check on the status of recommendations made by ARBs, as we did in our Jeddah and “mantraps” reports. The report will note if an ARB recommendation has been implemented. If so, how, and if in process, what is being done. If it has not been implemented and no progress has been made, then that will be noted, as well.

In late December, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine released Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi.

We did, in fact, blog recently about the March 2013 OIG’s review of ARB Jeddah (see 2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not). That’s the only OIG review of a previous ARB that we are aware of.

We would be interested, of course, to see what the OIG finds in its review of the ARB process. However, there are a couple of things that we are sort of curious about.   One is the fact that the State Department has not had a permanent IG since 2008.  If you look at this org chart, the IG (that is the Deputy IG) reports directly to the Secretary of State. We are curious how often does the IG sits with the Secretary of State – monthly, quarterly, and so on and so forth?  Two, we’re wondering if in practice the IG actually deals more directly with “M” (the Under Secretary of Management) rather than the Secretary of State?  We anticipate that whether justified or not, these two issues may bite in the post-IG review.

Also, given how politicized Benghazi has become, we’re also wondering if it might have been more wise for State/OIG to work with Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity & Efficiency (CIGIE) on this ARB process review.

Of course, even with that, there’s no way to tell if this would end the Benghazi controversy. In fact, our guess is we would be hearing about Benghazi for months to come. Whether or not all the hearings and reports would actually amount to improved security and better risk planning/mitigation for our people overseas remains a big question.

–DS

2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not

The results of the Accountability Review Board convened after the terrorist attack of the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah was never released to the public. So the only recommendation that we know of, which to-date has not been remedied is that one about the construction of safe areas within the embassy compounds.  And the only reason we know about this? The OIG posted its 5-page review online.

A remote safe area, cited by a March 2013 5-page OIG review is “a designated area within a building that serves as an emergency sanctuary and provides at least 15- minute forced-entry and ballistic-resistant (FE/BR) protection, emergency power, ventilation, communications, and emergency egress (12 FAH-5 H-040, Glossary).”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the intent for this is to have a temporary sanctuary for people who are not able to get into the safe haven which offers a longer FE/BR protection.

The brief OIG document published online details the background:

During the December 6, 2004 terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, gunmen killed four locally employed staff members and injured nine others working outside the consulate building. An ARB determined that these employees were killed or injured because the general services annex building did not have a safe area to which the employees could retreat. The Department concurred with the ARB recommendation to construct safe areas throughout compounds at posts worldwide. It planned to address first the most vulnerable posts with critical and high terrorist threat levels and proposed that the OSPB address compound safe areas as a formal security standard for all posts.

Here is a clip of that attack:

Why is this coming up now?

Apparently the OIG did four inspection cycles in 2012 where inspectors visited 17 missions.  65 percent of the missions visited  (11 out of 17) did not have remote safe areas.  What more, “none of the RSOs could identify a safe area that was constructed as a result of the Jeddah ARB.”  The inspectors also found that four missions rated high or critical for terrorist threat or political violence “lack of a compound emergency sanctuary.”

During four inspection cycles in 2012, security inspectors visited 17 missions and made several significant observations. The inspectors identified 11 missions that did not have remote safe areas and made formal or informal recommendations to construct compound emergency sanctuaries on the compounds. Of the remaining six posts, three had sufficient safe areas and three were small enough that employees could quickly access the chancery safe areas during an emergency. Security inspectors noted the lack of a compound emergency sanctuary at each of four missions rated high or critical for terrorist threat or political violence. In addition, none of the regional security officers in the 17 posts could identify a safe area that was constructed as a result of the Jeddah ARB.

The OIG document only indicates review of 17 missions out of over 283 compounds worldwide.  A high percentage of the 17 missions reviewed, about 65% did not have the recommended safe areas.  So if we expand that to cover all post worldwide, that’s potentially 185 compounds around the world with no safe areas.  The OIG says:

Inspectors also found that new embassy compounds constructed after the Jeddah attack did not include remote safe areas. OIG subsequently learned that the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will implement the standards for all new embassy compound projects planned after FY 2012.

$200 million needed to upgrade 283 compounds, but then it gets tricky ….

The FY 2013 Department budget request to Congress included $688 million for security upgrades, including $87.7 million for CSUP. According to the budget request, the program funds comprehensive security upgrades, major FE/BR door and window replacements, chemical/biological retrofit projects, emergency egress projects, and security upgrades for soft targets. The budget request does not specifically mention compound emergency sanctuaries as one of the projects; however, the action memorandum signed in 2011 identified CSUP as the source of funding for the estimated $200 million necessary to upgrade 283 compounds. The memorandum also notes that funding for compound emergency sanctuary upgrades would be provided in competition with other worldwide priorities.

Funding for CSUP has declined over the past 5 years from a high of $108 million in FY 2008 to the current level of $95 million under the continuing resolution. Adding another $200 million security program to the CSUP without a corresponding increase in funding will likely result in many embassies not receiving a compound emergency sanctuary upgrade for many years.

And that’s where we’re at on a 7-8 year old Jeddah ARB recommendation. How many more accepted recommendations from that ARB alone are languishing in dark binders labeled “implementations?”  How many more from other unreleased ARBs?

Doesn’t it make you wonder if an ARB is just a pretty harmless paper hammer.

— DS

 

Related post:

A ‘Rocking Affair’ and Finally Watching the Terror Attack on U.S. Consulate Jeddah

 

Related item:

Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide (pdf)