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Why is embassy safety under State Department?

By From page A8 | December 24, 2012

Some of the U.S. officials involved in protecting our diplomats in Libya apparently believed that the United States was basking in the revolutionary glow of the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.

That glow turned into a raging inferno of violence Sept. 11 that claimed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Benghazi was a disaster under this president and secretary of state, who stalled the investigation beyond the public’s attention span. Months after the terrorist attack, an independent panel blamed the deaths on poor security preparations, a lack of trained personnel at the Benghazi consulate and a reliance on Libyan militias to provide security. Four State Department officials were removed or resigned, including the head of security.

The question now is whether the State Department, whose culture is one of openness and engagement, should even be responsible for protecting Americans abroad. Is the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, with 34,000 employees protecting 275 missions around the world, miscast in a role that could be led by the military?

For now, State Department officials want more money and promise to do a better job on security. The Pentagon is not likely to volunteer for a new mission of protecting embassies when it is trying to draw down forces from overseas.

The protection of American diplomats is only likely to become more difficult, however. Our diplomats should be focused on carrying out U.S. policy by being deeply engaged in the countries where they are based. Somebody has to have their backs.

Scripps Howard News Service

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