Commission criticizes embassy security efforts

Commission criticizes embassy security efforts

The executive and legislative branches have failed to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. embassies to terrorist attacks, according to a special commission appointed to investigate last year's African embassy bombings.

"Responsibility for this failure can be attributed to several administrations and their agencies, including the Department of State, National Security Council and Office of Management and Budget, as well as the U.S. Congress," according to the report of the panel, chaired by retired Adm. William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at a press conference Friday that she accepts responsibility for the failure to improve security at American diplomatic missions. "It reminds us all that no matter how much we care, no matter how much we do, we can always do more when the lives of our people are on the line," she said.

Last August, terrorist bombers killed 224 people and injured more than 5,000 in and around U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. After the bombings, Albright appointed two review boards to investigate the bombings and recommend improved security systems and procedures.

The report released Friday concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies detected threats of terrorist strikes against the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in the two years before last year's bombings, but intelligence was too vague. The commission said U.S. officials relied too much on this "warning intelligence," and were too relaxed in their efforts to safeguard the buildings.

The report did, however, cite steps the State Department has taken since August to strengthen perimeter defense at overseas facilities, increase security personnel and speed up necessary construction and repair efforts.

Albright and the board agreed that the measures are only the first steps toward what is required to ensure embassy security.

"We must undertake a comprehensive and long-term strategy, including sustained funding for enhanced security measures; for long-term costs for increased security personnel; and for a capital building program based on an assessment of requirements to meet the new range of global terrorist threats," the report said.