Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Embassy Shutdowns: Brought to You by Lawyers, Politicians, Fearful Bureaucrats . . . Oh, and Al Qaeda, too

Lots of press about the closing of several US and UK embassies in the MidEast. The issue of closing an Embassy or a Consulate for security reasons is a complicated one that involves intel collection and analysis, domestic and foreign politics, coordination with allies, lawyers, fear of Congress and the press, and, of course, just plain ol' wet-finger-in-the wind guesswork. I have had a bit of personal experience with the matter on which to draw, so, I, therefore, decree that my seven readers will read about it. Oh, yes, I will have some nasty things to say about intel leaks, but will never mention the weasel of the steppes. One more thing before getting to the topic: I am very conscious about not revealing classified information or sensitive procedures so some stuff I will have to "mush up" a bit or leave a little vague. I, therefore, ask the forgiveness of State gurus who will read this and say, "Wait a minute! He left out the part where . . .."

Information about a threat to an embassy or other facilities can come from a variety of places and sources. It can come from a local source, such as a friendly host country service, an embassy source, or from a friendly embassy or third country service, usually, in my experience, British or Australian (BTW, Americans do not appreciate that the Aussies are VERY good; they are very under appreciated allies; I loved working with them; no Aussie will ever have to buy his own drink if I am around.) The information can also come from Washington. We might get the raw info, or more usual, we would get an analysis that highlighted the threat. The big issue then becomes how specific we find the threat, and whether we think we can counter it quietly, in the shadows. If, for example, we get information that the bad guys are planning an attack against a specific embassy or other target, get a time frame, maybe some other data that identifies the terrorists, we might keep the information confidential and see if we, perhaps working with the local service, can nip the threat early. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one such incident in my career. The Aussies and we had collected very specific information about a planned attack, the nature of the attack, i.e., a truck bomb, the proposed date of the attack, and even who was going to do it. We tipped off the local service and its specially vetted counter-terror unit, working with US and Aussie help, nabbed the bastards in the midst of putting the final touches on a huge truck bomb. As noted, that is extremely rare.

Most of the time, the threats are vague, something along the lines of "Abdul plans his wedding very soon." We then have a problem. How do we counter that? What can we do to head that off? This sort of vague information also sets bells ringing among the legions of lawyers at State, CIA, DoD, NSC, and all across DC. It also puts the Consular Affairs bureau into a high state of anxiety, as well as the Congressional Relations and Public Affairs people--all terrified of being accused of not disseminating information that could save the life of an American citizen. That leads to the issuance of those fairly worthless "travel advisories" all of you have seen, "The Department of State urges Americans planning on traveling to or residing in Upper Jihadia to exercise great caution and to remain in touch with the nearest US Embassy or consulate . . . " Sort of akin to when your mother would yell as you went out the door with your new bicycle, "Be careful!" These advisories, by the way, often cause great irritation in our relations with Upper Jihadia, as they could cost it tourist dollars and imply that the government of UJ is unable to ensure its own public order. The wording of the advisories is a matter for considerable negotiation within the bureaucracy, and, often, consulted with close allies before being issued. In general, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and many other Western countries issue almost identical warnings.

If the threat is deemed "imminent" or "fairly specific" that raises the issue of closing those diplomatic facilities seen at greatest risk. We cannot quietly close a diplomatic facility. The State Department is required to inform the American public that the facility is closing due to a credible threat. In even touchier cases, the issue becomes whether to have our official personnel, and perhaps even regular Americans (depending on the nature and scope of the threat), removed from the country and flown back to the US or to a safer place elsewhere. That is a huge and very costly step. It also raises the issue of who, if anybody, remains at the post, and, of course, when and under what conditions you re-open, e.g., do you allow dependents to return? How sure are you of when the threat has abated?

As you can surmise, all this involves a lot of guessing, shooting in the dark. These are not easy matters. What, of course, makes them even more difficult is politics. Are the politicians in DC playing games with the information? Are they steering us to keep a place open by downplaying the threat, e.g., Benghazi, or are they fostering a sense of crisis to distract from something else, perhaps the case these last few days? I don't know.

Turning to some of the information that has come out about the current threat level, I am appalled, absolutely appalled by the apparently deliberate leaking by senior Obamistas of, if true, highly sensitive information, and the methods used to obtain it. That sort of irresponsible leaking can get people killed. It also, presumably, tips off the bad guys as to what we know and how, and can lead them either to switch to other methods of communication or to play games by feeding us bad information. In other words, in a world already filled with dozens of "X" factors, the dopes in the Obama misadministration are pumping more variables into the equation.

The Obama misadministration, despite the denials, has had its "Mission Accomplished" moment. We heard repeatedly that AQ was on its last legs, that we could not continue to fight this endless war on terror, etc. Now--"Suddenly!" as Professor Reynolds would state--AQ is everywhere in the Middle East and Africa, our personnel are fleeing their posts, and our 21st century version of Davy Crockett, the Predator drone, is swatting militants off the parapets.

Early American drone at work 



  1. Just more evidence that Dear Leader was telling the truth when he said al Qaeda was on the run. They are running after our State Department people whom they are herding like sheep ... and that's just from their shadows.

  2. How is Tom Kratman doing?
    just being SNARKY

  3. anon..
    We Pay these fucks to be..and buy..and then they hire lobbyists from there favorite flavour of the week ngo's/
    I am SURE he knows how it works.
    We are funding our own downfall.
    and it makes me sick.

  4. Yes, leaks can kill. The great irony is that they are touting this as an abundance of caution with an implicit thread of lessons learned from Benghazi when it is apparent that when it comes to potential loss of life at the expense of politics there have been no lessons learned. What a ship of fools. Dangerous fools, arrogant fools.


  5. Feckless, incompetent, small time, corrupt administration circling the drain. No American administration can prevent, control, or ameliorate the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, BUT
    the Obama administration couples helplessness with abject stupidity and stunning ignorance of how the world works.
    Oh, I forgot, Obama went to really swell schools and is really, really smart. Everything should be fine.

  6. " Sort of akin to when your mother would yell as you went out the door with your new bicycle," and wear clean underwear!
    During these bug outs what about all the sensitive materials, equipment, etc in these places? Do they leave someone behind to secure them( a few lucky marines and low level FO staff), or are they just there for the taking? This is insane. They must be praying Kerry gets some kind of agreement with the Pals and Isrs for them to trumpet as the break through of the ages. The whole thing has acquired a strange momentum of it's own that the O's can't change short of something drastic on their part. With their risk adverse behavior that you've pointed out they can only run at this point.

    1. Also what about the services these embassies and consulates are supposed to provide, the political reporting, liaison with local military, services for local American citizens, etc. None of this matters and can just be shut down in a whole region for weeks?

  7. There seems to be some cognitive dissonance going on here.

    Mr. Snowden leaks info that the Obama Regime is unconstitutionally spying on ordinary US citizens -- and he is a traitor fit only for the 9th Circle of Hell.

    The Obama Regime leaks truly damaging info on how the US spies on foreigners who intend to do physical harm to US citizens -- and the silence is deafening. Where is John McCain with his spluttering condemnations? Where, for that matter, is our esteemed host?

    1. I brought up the topic right here. As I have said before, one cannot justify or excuse Snowden's behavior by pointing to the outrageous behavior of the OBamistas.

  8. Counselor Affairs bureau ...

    Er, ahem, harrumph! It ought to be Bureau of Consular Affairs. Someone as senior as you shouldn't have missed that one!

    Ex-cconsular scut


    1. Shorthand. I also say State Department when it should be Department of State. I also say President Obama when it should be former President Obama.

    2. I would LIKE to say, instead of former president o'bama, inmate #195-F4351.

      Notice I didn't capitalize either the title or name of the current usurper?

    3. Still Harrumpf, even if I otherwise respect and admire your writings.

      A "counselor" gives advice; a "consular officer" deals with services to his fellow citizens in a foreign country (plus the visa line).

      I guess my other working experience as an English teacher (mostly ESOL) is showing.

      Come to think of it, I thank you for revealing to all here how fundamentally unimportant the Bureau of Consular Affairs is to the real work of diplomacy (at least to some).

    4. I've saved lives. Not metaphorically, not hypothetically. Literally. In person. Saved them. On several different occasions. Once it was a young child. How many POL/ECON officers can say that?

      And yeah, it pisses me off when people say Counselor. Some have even called me The Consular, not understanding the adjective. But I suspect it was our host's auto-correct feature. He knows what's what.

      A Current Consular Officer (ACCO)

    5. I know where you're coming from, ACCO. I get your point. I won't use auto-correct myself.

  9. Really, Obama's agenda of damaging or destroying the US is furthered perfectly by these actions. First, he ensures America looks like weak kneed cowards throughout as wide a region as possible, to the dismay of our friends and allies, and second, he sends a warning message to our enemies that we know what they are doing, and point to who and how we know that.

    For an American hating Alinskyite, it's a plan neatly executed!

  10. what scared me was GOP calling the "threats" very specific. I think the Obama and clown co. are just jerking us around. they want us to ....oooh look a squirrel.

    and the GOP are aiding and abetting the enemy. and the enemy is in the white home.

  11. Are the politicians in DC playing games with the information? Are they steering us to keep a place open by downplaying the threat, e.g., Benghazi, or are they fostering a sense of crisis to distract from something else, perhaps the case these last few days? I don't know.

    I don't either. (The McCain/Graham/Egyptian contretemps timing... at [apparently] Obama's request).

    Good, heck excellent, article/comment-train here - long ... but worth it:


  12. Obama let slip what has been overlooked. On the Leno show Obama said more people are killed in car accidents than by terrorists. Well its ALOT fewer. So why has our freedom to be private from prying eyes been sold for nothing? Because of relatively rare killings by terrorists, the federal govt has become Big Brother. TSA has become another oppressive Federal police force. The US Constitution is becoming irrelevant by the day has the Feds usurp whatever powers they want and the courts take scissors to cut out the pesky restrictions from the US Constitution.

    If these trends don't change, the next Obama will actually imprison political opponents and never allow a free and fair election again.

  13. I worked several times with AFP types in Columbia back in the 80s. Probably the most talented, fun guys I ever worked with. Australia has always been there for the US.

  14. Dip,

    I have a question. I was sent a very graphic picture the other day that was supposed to be a bloody Christopher Stephens being tortured, sodomized by a big group of men. Me being a skeptic, am not sure if it is indeed him. I have a feeling it is. The caption said he was tortured for 7 hours. Could a human actually endure that for that length of time? It appeared he was still alive.
    If it's true, it is appalling that the pres and Hillary would pull the crap they did to cover it up.


  15. V,

    I wasn't out of the States at the time - meaning ... I was nowhere near Benghazi and so can't/wont presume but:

    If the timeline between the hastening to the safe-room and the Ambassador's arrival at the medical facility is "approximately close to correct" - the "7 hours" is impossible.

    I'm assuming of course the guys who were in the vicinity (and appeared before the House Committee replied truthfully) the interval between when the assault began then when Chris' death was confirmed was 'most probably' something like 4 hours. Figure 1 hour given the tumult "after-action" between (crudely & apologies) death and confirmation.

    "Could a human endure that?


    Appalling regardless.


    1. Thanks for your perspective, Arkie. It was definitely a shocking photo. Perhaps the news folks should b more truthful when reporting Benghazi. Chris Stevens was tortured and murdered, rather than killed.


  16. Dip, here's a question about evacuating non-official US citizens.

    I've met Carl Wilkens (The Last American in Rwanda)and heard him speak. One element in his story that doesn't get any play in the Wikipedia article is that some officer from the embassy, upon hearing Wilkens did not plan to evacuate as ordered, sent him an irate-sounding note demanding that he sign something holding the US government harmless if something bad happened to him. Now if I were in that situation, I'd be strongly tempted to reply by signing my alternate initials ("F.O.A.D.") After all, what authority really does the USG have to order me around when I'm in a foreign country? But the reason I'm bringing it up is that I'm interested in your take on the matter.

    [Word verification: "urpostin 2". And indeed, it is attempt #2 to get this particular comment past the verification. Hope the NSA has that noted correctly.]

  17. McClatchy is writing that a senior Yemeni official is claiming that the embassy closings had no basis in fact and was actually an attempt to deflect criticism for the number of drone attacks that had occured in Yemen. I'm reluctant to accept his on face value, but even more so to accept the word of the Obama administration.