USIS Washington File

14 August 1998


(Discuss security issues in August 12, 1998 briefing) (3000)

Washington -- State Department spokesman James Foley and Assistant
Secretary of State for Administration Patrick Kennedy briefed
reporters August 12 on security issues at US embassies, particularly
conditions at the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam,
Tanzania prior to the August 7 terrorist bombing attacks upon them.

Following is the transcript:

(begin transcript)


Office of the Spokesman



Washington, D.C.

August 12,1998

MR FOLEY: This will he an on-the-record briefing. With me is Patrick
Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for Administration, having relinquished
his acting capacity in Diplomatic Security, but nevertheless an
authoritative spokesman on issues related to security and the recent
bombings in East Africa.

We've been getting I can't tell you how many calls today on a subject
that will be the main focus of our briefing, having to do with the
security assessments -- particularly in Nairobi -- prior to the
bombing. We'll get to that, but I thought that we would begin just by
touching briefly on the question of so-called embassy suspensions;
because there's been, I think, some confusion and misunderstanding in
the press about what exactly is happening in our facilities around the

Mr. Kennedy yesterday spoke about the fact that our embassies have the
authority, indeed, the responsibility, in assessing on a daily basis
their security requirements to make tactical adjustments to their
postures in light of security requirements. It has been reported in
some quarters that what has happened is that embassies have closed or
that embassies have suspended operations tantamount to closing. That
is not true. I'm going ask Mr. Kennedy to shed some light on a few
embassies where we --

Q: Can I ask one very quick question of a timely nature? Did Bushnell
send a telegram saying that she felt that the embassy in Nairobi --

FOLEY: We'll get to that in a minute. We will be there in just five

Q:  A lot of us are on deadline and we know you have to --

FOLEY:  All right.

Q: Crowley himself used the word "suspension" himself today. So
semantics are exciting and interesting, but the Administration is
calling them suspensions. Please, let's deal with the news. The news
-- CNN has a report that Bushnell in April notified the State
Department she was lacking in security --

FOLEY: Barry, you're taking the very time that you're talking about.

Q:  All right, let's jump on that news thing, please.

FOLEY: Okay, we will. Just one second -- we want to discuss two-fold
how we're progressing in assessing the tragedy; second, what's the
process for dealing with building security issues.

I want to point out the Diplomatic Security Act -- and we'll get to
your question in one minute -- requires the convening of an
accountability review board in cases involving serious injury, loss of
life or significant destruction of property US Government mission
abroad. This involves two steps -- an interagency group that makes
recommendations to the Secretary. This meeting will occur on Friday.
The Secretary or Deputy Secretary then decides on the recommendation
and chooses board members. We anticipate that we will soon have in
place one or two boards to deal with these two tragedies.

The review board is in addition to the FBI and DS investigations. The
FBI, of course, is seeking to determine who was responsible for any
criminal act that contributed to the tragedy, and to gather evidence
to support a possible prosecution. In addition, Diplomatic Security
undertakes a rapid review to determine what happened, how it happened
and what can be done in the future to address any security problems.
The accountability review board independently considers similar issues
to the Diplomatic Security investigations, but from an independent
perspective with a longer-term horizon.

I'm going to turn to Pat Kennedy now for the subject you're interested

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNEDY: You want to talk about the process that
we use for addressing building security, and talk particularly about
Nairobi. We're compiling a historical review of Nairobi, and we're
doing the same thing for Dar Es Salaam.

I'm not going to talk about intelligence matters, and I'm not going to
talk about particular security steps that we might have taken, because
disclosure of those would be inappropriate.

Start in 1992. The Inspector General of the State Department has an
Office of Security Oversight, visited Nairobi, as they visit many
posts in the world, and they made physical security recommendations.
These recommendations were implemented. In 1994, a State Department
regional security officer also surveyed the post and made physical
security recommendations. They were all implemented.

In December 1997, Ambassador Bushnell expressed her concerns over the
vulnerability of the embassy, requested a security assessment team and
stated her desire to have a new building. In January of 1998, the
Department expressed its agreement and shared its understanding for
the Ambassador's concern and stated that the requested assessment team
would be sent in the near future.

Now, the Department has an annual process for discussing the priority
of new embassy building construction, and deciding how limited funds
are going to be allocated. As the devices of modern terrorism have
become more sophisticated, buildings built many years before are less
secure today than they were when they were built. Unfortunately, we
simply lack the money to respond immediately to all the needs for
embassy construction.

Just like, I guess, a family with limited resources, we need to have a
priority ranking of how to spend our money. That priority list takes
account of the level of protection for the existing buildings compared
to the threat; the level of protection it affords against fire and
other life safety conditions; the ability of the existing building to
support US Government functions; foreign policy needs; and then you
take into account the availability of land, contractors, material and
the Department's ability to fund the project given current resources.

Q:  Pat, you said she --

KENNEDY:  I'm not finished, Barry.

Q: I know, but people have been going out to file, and I'm going, too.
So if you want to keep going, we'll pick up later.


FOLEY:  Do you want a break?

Q: No, I want to ask you if when you say -- forgive the interruption
-- but when you say Washington shared her concerns, did they share her
judgment that a new building was needed; or did you have to first do a

KENNEDY: I'm getting to that. In January of 1998, the Foreign
Buildings Office presented its annual priority list for embassy
construction for the review of Under Secretaries Pickering and Cohen
and the Assistant Secretaries of all the regional bureaus. This
discussion confirmed that other embassy projects had a higher priority
than Embassy Nairobi for our limited funds. We just did not have the
funds to meet all our needs.

Shortly thereafter, in February of 1998, the US military Central
Command expressed to the Department its concern over the vulnerability
of the Nairobi chancellery, noting that a planned renovation for later
in the year would not change the fact that the embassy was close to
the street at a busy intersection. The military also suggested that
they would do a survey of the embassy - embassy security, I guess. The
Department responded by expressing its appreciation for the military's
interest; the Department declined the offer of the military to send
one of their teams, because we had already scheduled a security
assessment team to visit the post in March of this year.

Two assessments took place in March of 1998. The regional security
officer at post completed an update of the 1994 survey and confirmed
that the recommendations had been completed and that the mission was
in compliance with the standards for the threat level at that post. A
week later, a Department team from Washington visited the post,
confirming again that the security standards for the threat level had
been met, and recommended two additional improvements.

Q:  A week later?

KENNEDY:  Yes, a week later.

Q:  In March of 1998?

KENNEDY:  March of 1998.

Q:  They came from Washington?


Q: So the security officer first, then a team from Washington
confirmed --

KENNEDY: -- that the security standards for the threat level had been
met. Although the money was obligated for these two additional
improvements, they had not been completed at this time. Neither
appears to have been completed then; however, as best as we can
assess, neither of these improvements would likely have had any affect
on preventing or mitigating the blast.

Q:  Can't say what they were?

KENNEDY:  I'll come back to that.

In April or in May of this year, Ambassador Bushnell communicated with
the Secretary and the Under Secretary for Management. She indicated
that resource constraints were endangering embassy personnel, offered
her support in seeking additional resources for the Department and
expressed concerns about crime, administrative matters and safety, and
cited the close cooperation she had been receiving from the Kenyan
Government on these matters.

On the 1st of June, Under Secretary Cohen responded for the Department
to these concerns. She indicated the Department was aware of the lack
of set-back and the pre-Inman nature of the embassy construction. She
further noted that in light of the threat level and the comparatively
recent construction of the building, a new building was ranked low in
relative priority, compared to the needs of other embassies.

Look, I've been a Foreign Service officer for 25 years, and if anybody
thinks that everyone in the Department isn't hurting about this,
they're just wrong. The fact is, however, we did the very best we
could, given what we had. All I can do is say that from the
description of the difficult choices we faced, we set priorities. New
embassies cost a whole hell of a lot of money and take time to build.
No one has all the money to meet all the needs all at the same time.

FOLEY: If I could define set-back also, because that's kind of a term
of art. It means, Pat, the space between the building and -

KENNEDY: Set-back is the technique we try to use. It's the distance
from the external wall of the embassy to the first place the public
can get in normal course of business.

Q: Was the communication in April a special communication from the
Ambassador to the Secretary?

KENNEDY:  No, she sent in a telegram reporting on her concerns.

Q: Was that a routine telegram, or was there something in particular
that had prompted it?

KENNEDY:  It was prompted by the Ambassador's concerns.

Q: But there was no threat or particular event that had once again -
since she had made the case, it bad been turned down; she makes it
again in April.

KENNEDY: I don't know if- in the historic review. I don't remember
seeing another issue. But, look, I know Prudence Bushnell; she is
absolutely rock solid. If she saw something that she thought she ought
to tell us, she'd tell us; and she told us.

Q: But was this a situation where she made her concerns known,
received the response she did, but really felt so strongly about these
concerns that she had to make a special communication with the

KENNEDY: I don't know how to interpret special communication with the
Secretary." I'm not trying to be coy; I can't inject myself into Pru's

Q:  I'm sure ambassadors do not write to the Secretary every day.

KENNEDY: Yes - ambassadors don't write to the Secretary every day, but
ambassadors send messages all the time; and on issues of concern, they
express themselves. Ambassadors are not shy.

FOLEY: These letters were written not far from each other, and they
were responded to by Under Secretary Cohen. It's perfectly normal in
the chain of command, if you will, for the Ambassador to write to both
on the same issue.

Q: Can you give us an example of a place that was deemed to have
higher priority when you were talking about building a new embassy -
aside from Germany, let's say?

KENNEDY: In the last 10 years, we've opened a lot of embassies; we've
opened 20 new embassies - I think - it's either 19 or 20.

Q:  Yes, but some of the -

KENNEDY: If you start in the newly re-independent Baltics, sweep south
across the Balkans, go across the former Soviet Union and end up back
in Vietnam and Cambodia, we opened either 19 or 20 new embassies in
the course of this period of time. That all takes money. We have to
build those embassies.

There are also embassies that -- where there are places where our
embassy consists of a bunch of trailers hooked together. There are
places where there is a capital moving - that's Nigeria and that's
Germany. We have to prioritize all these things together, because our
people have to be safe, they have to be secure; but they also have to
have a place to work. So when a new country is born or a capital
moves, something, you have to open an embassy there.

Q: Can I ask my question again, because I'm puzzled by this? I mean,
she made her original request in December 1997 for a new building; it
was turned down because of resource constraints when?

KENNEDY: The next -- she actually sent the message right before
Christmas, and the answer went out in early January.

Q: Were the CENTCOM concerns similar to those of Ambassador Bushnell?

KENNEDY:  Set-back.

Q:  And they, again, suggested a new embassy?


Q:  When was CENTCOM?

KENNEDY:  CENTCOM was in February of 1998.

Q:  And what precipitated that?

KENNEDY: That's CENTCOM AOR. They have people who travel the region,
visiting embassies, visiting -- they are CENTCOM people assigned to
the American Embassy. They go visit their people; they engage in
business through the embassy with the Kenyan military.

Q:  And they recommended --

KENNEDY:  And they pointed out the same issue of set-back.

Q: We can all think of embassies, a lot of them, that have a set-back
problem -- Rome, Vietnam --

KENNEDY:  Absolutely.

Q: What was different about Nairobi that made that issue the focus

KENNEDY: Nothing; nothing. There was a set-back problem. We have
set-back problems lots of places in the world.

Q:  Dozens?

KENNEDY:  Yes, dozens.

Q:  What is the set-back in Nairobi?

KENNEDY:  30 feet.

Q:  What is recommended by Inman?

KENNEDY:  100 feet full setback.

Q: Did CENTCOM or Ambassador Bushnell disagree with the threat
assessment that the State Department had put on Nairobi?

KENNEDY: No. They said that they thought that this was worrisome --
this was of concern to have so little set-back.

Q: Didn't they offer to help fix it or something? Didn't you say that
they offered to do something?

KENNEDY: CENTCOM? CENTCOM said, would you like us to send a survey
team; and we said, we've got a survey team already scheduled to be

Q:  Was there any similar concern in the Embassy in Dar Es Salaam?

KENNEDY: We're still completing our historical review, but I, to date,
am unaware of any at least similar communications in Dar Es Salaam.

Dar Es Salaam had more set-back. It was not right in the middle of

Q: Right, but you're not aware of any request that embassy also be


Q: Pat, I know my network has reported, but I'm not sure anybody's
ever asked or it's been confirmed, that the Embassy in Dar was
previously an Israeli Embassy and might have been beefed-up, as it
were, under that. Is that your understanding?

KENNEDY: One of the buildings on that compound had once been the
Israeli Embassy, and had been, I think, constructed for the Israelis.

Q: Again, on the record, no specific -- you're saying she wrote again
in April and May; she wrote again twice; is that right?

KENNEDY:  Yes, as I said, she wrote the Secretary and the --

Q:  Who did she write when?

FOLEY:  We just gave the months.

KENNEDY:  April an May.

Q:  The Secretary was first and then --


Q: Okay, well, on the details -- she's concerned again about security
and about the set-back in April and May. Was there again -- on the
record -- was there any precipitating threat that caused her to write
again in April and May -- any threat received?

KENNEDY: Not that I'm aware of she was simply concerned about her
physical environment, and she was reporting it.

Q:  And it was just the setback?

Q:  Who's the Under Secretary?

KENNEDY: Bonnie Cohen, the Under Secretary for Management, who would
be the Under Secretary that an ambassador would communicate with on
something that involved security, logistics, construction, management.

Q: But you are saying she was simply concerned about the set-back in
May -- concerned about her security.


FOLEY:  No, he noted that there were other requests that were met.

KENNEDY: I said that when she wrote, she said that she was concerned
about crime, various administrative matters and safety; noted that she
was getting close cooperation from the Kenyan Government on these --
but expressed her concerns.

Q: By the way, that sort of what you just described -- she wrote that.

KENNEDY:  She communicated it.

Q:  She communicated it, but it wasn't by phone.

KENNEDY:  She communicated it.

FOLEY:  It was not by phone.

Q: But there was a need to sort of establish a paper trail, wasn't
there? Because if my car's not working, I'd -- why would this not be
communicated just by calling up Bonnie Cohen and saying, hey, look, we
need to get --

FOLEY:  That's not how embassies function.

KENNEDY:  That's not how embassies function.

FOLEY:  That's not how the State Department works.

(end transcript)