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State Dept Shows Weakness As It Warns of Credible Global AQ Threat, Shuts Embassies in 21 Countries (full story)
On August 2, the State Department announced that as a result of unspecified, but credible threats about potentially imminent al Qaeda attacks, diplomatic missions in 21 countries will be closed beginning Sunday, August 4 and will remain closed at least until the end of August. So non-specific were the apparent threats that the US response was equally non-specific, affecting US missions from the Sudan to Asia, without any indication as to whether any specific sites were identified as targets. The move was apparently prompted by credible intelligence pointing to an al-Qaida plot “against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries.”
The State Department warned American travelers to “take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.” It also warned travelers in the affected countries that consular services might not be available to them in an emergency and that they should take that into account when making their travel plans.
The consequences of such dramatic actions are far reaching and send a message, once again, that America is weak and would rather pull back from a confrontation than face it with appropriate strength and conviction. In deciding how to respond to the intelligence, the State Department had two choices – to enhance security around the affected missions and to protect the personnel and property there, or to back away from the threat with our proverbial tail between our legs. They chose the latter. It was the wrong choice, because by showing our unwillingness to stand up to the threat, we have empowered the enemy to be even more bold, knowing that, just as in Benghazi, America will not respond or retaliate, but rather we will retreat. It left Americans traveling or living in those countries more vulnerable and helpless in the face of terrorism than citizens of the world's most powerful nation should ever be.
If our government understood the psychological perspective of our enemies, in this case al Qaeda, our leaders would be able to develop appropriate responses to threats of this kind, rather than exercise the knee jerk reaction to either ignore (as in Benghazi) or flee from the threat. In the Middle East, the one who deals from a position of strength is the one who has the upper hand. Negotiating with terrorists is dooming your side to failure. Bowing to their power is admitting defeat, even before the confrontation begins.
The State Department's action was not unlike Governor Duval Patrick’s decision to close the city of Boston for several days, following the Boston Marathon bombing, and will no doubt have a similar effect. It was a case study in what not to do. It disempowered the people of Boston and made them afraid. Moreover, that decision will undoubtedly be studied by future terrorists and will be used to embolden them for a long time to come, unless we get smarter and change our basic approach to dealing with terrorism - both before an attack and afterwards.
Today's decision underscored the principle displayed in Boston. Prior to a terrorist attack, the goal should be to present the strongest position possible to create the strongest deterrent. After an attack, the aim should be to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. It is not possible to guarantee that an attack will never take place, but in both cases, a strong and determined face against terrorism is the only effective approach to deter or prevent most of them. It empowers the people, and defeats the enemy. It also discourages future attacks by presenting stronger, not weaker, barriers to success.
From the beginning of the Obama administration’s feckless five years in office, America’s influence has been dangerously weakened throughout the world. Obama’s policy of appeasement and apology, which began with his apology tour to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Germany at the beginning of his first term, has weakened America’s ability to make a positive difference in a world that is slowly falling into economic and social chaos.
The administration’s approach to Iran’s developing nuclear weapons program has been to engage in open-ended ‘negotiations’, while giving Teheran the time it needs to complete the job. In thet mean time, the US has been gun-running SAM missiles from Libya to the Syrian opposition (which includes forces from al Qaeda), and no one has been held accountable. It has been ten months since the Benghazi attack on 9/11/12; four men died and over 30 were injured, but no one has been held accountable.
It is no wonder that al Qaeda now feels emboldened. If the State Department’s intelligence is credible and an attack against Americans is imminent, it is our own foreign policy and lack of cross-cultural understanding over the last five years that history will ultimately blame. And it will be President Barack Obama's unwillingness to keep America strong in the face of our enemies who will be held most accountable.
The full State Department travel alert.
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.
Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.
We continue to work closely with other nations on the threat from international terrorism, including from al-Qa’ida. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.
We recommend U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website. We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Internet website at travel.state.gov where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes or Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips.
In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).
Other stories you may find interesting:
Another day, another scandal. CNN broke a story on Thursday regarding dozens of CIA agents who were in Benghazi at the time of the 9/11/12 attacks. According to the report, at least five of these agents have been subjected to monthly lie-detector tests and required to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to keep them from speaking to Congress or to the press. . . Read more here.
According to the following article which appeared in the Guardian on July 31, the NSA claims to be using a program called XKeyscore, which it says has nearly limitless access to Internet activity. In their own presentations, the NSA shows how the program enables them to collect data at a scale that goes far beyond anything that was considered either possible or legal. The Guardian shows slides from an NSA presentation that not only support the story, but show how the program actually works. Read more here.
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