Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


11,12,13,14Inspections of posts/Assessment teams/Proposal to Congress/Operation status of embassies/Definition of "closed" and "adjusted" embassies/Rumors of incidents happening at many embassies (copy cats)/Situations that can lead to change of status at an embassy/Bonn embassy and movement to Berlin

DPB # 104
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 1998, 1:35 P.M.


QUESTION: Jamie, there was a report this morning about Diplomatic Security officials fanning out, looking at embassies which may or may not be having security problems. There was also, in the same report, a suggestion that the Administration has readied a proposal for Congress concerning construction or upgrading.

MR. RUBIN: Shortly after the bombings, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security began a worldwide review of security at US diplomatic missions overseas. This review is still ongoing. As part of the review, Diplomatic Security teams - six of them - were sent out to conduct firsthand security surveys of a number of posts. I'm not in a position to name them, but they involve a couple dozen posts around the world.

These assessment teams arrived back in Washington over the weekend and are in the process of finishing their security survey reports. Obviously, we're not going to comment on where they went and what problems they found that we want to work on; but that is what the status of their work is.

This kind of work, again, is an ongoing process. One is constantly updating and continuing an effort like this. Security reviews are only one phase of the comprehensive assessment.

With respect to a proposal for Congress, I do know the Secretary and senior officials of the Administration have been in close touch with Congress on different options. I think a final package may go as early as this week. But they've been briefing members of Congress and their staffs about the different needs that we have.

Obviously, we want to do all we can to take advantage of the climate that is very favorable for support for this important function.

QUESTION: How many embassies are closed today?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I asked that question because it has been a month and it's a little puzzling to me exactly how everything is worded. So I have a current list that I'd like to share with you as best as I can.

There are five posts that were closed for reasons unrelated to security - namely the terrorism security issue - namely posts like DROC, Kinshasa; Congo, Brazzaville; Guinea-Bissau; Somalia; and Sudan. Sudan, again, the reasons for that closing you're familiar with. But as far as current situation is concerned, in Eritrea, Ghana and Togo there were ordered departures in June in Eritrea; in late August in Ghana; and late August in Togo. This involved changes in the status, but still ensure that there are operating posts.

Let me emphasize, just because one shifts the exact mix of people and the pattern of operation doesn't mean we've closed embassies, and we have not. The word "closed" is a word that we regard as one you should only use if it's actually closed. You will make that decision, but the people who work in the State Department feel very strongly that if they're going to go through the effort of being open for emergency services, that that should be known. So emergency services are available in Eritrea, Ghana and Togo.

As far as I understand it, in Africa the rest of the missions are open and fully staffed. In Latin America all diplomatic missions are open and fully staffed. In East Asia the same applies. Albania - public operations were temporarily suspended and there was an ordered departure in August 1998. In Europe all other diplomatic missions are open. Newly Independent States - all missions open and fully staffed. Middle East - this list indicates all missions open and fully staffed. In South Asia, there were ordered departures from Embassy Islamabad, Consulates Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar - minimal consular services are available and emergency services are available. As you know, the Afghani embassy was closed in February 1989. That is the current list as I've been able to put it together. If there are some words a little wrong because I'm not using the latest lingo, please bear with me.

QUESTION: On that subject, has there been an incident at the embassy in South Africa today?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of one.

QUESTION: There were reports of maybe a device in the trash can or something.

MR. RUBIN: By the way, on that subject, as the people who have been briefing me indicate, there are regular things that are happening all over the world. A number of incidents occurred after the bombings of the embassy, where there were copy-catters and others trying to spook embassies. We have gone through numerous occasions where calls were made and people tried to determine and ascertain the seriousness of it. But I had the relevant people in my office just a short while ago and they didn't mention anything on South Africa.

QUESTION: On the rearrangements, if you don't want to call them closings, at the embassies in Africa --

MR. RUBIN: Go ahead, but the reason we don't call them closings is because there are people there.

QUESTION: Then what do we call them?

MR. RUBIN:We call them adjustments in --

QUESTION: Adjustments - all right, adjustments.

MR. RUBIN: -- adjustments in their posture, but it's a very important difference; if people are going to be there and are going to do their work and have a different status from a fully open and fully staffed embassy, it would be unfortunate if they were regarded as closed.

QUESTION: But these three embassies are rearranged - adjusted due to security threats?

MR. RUBIN: Their status have been adjusted, yes.

QUESTION: OK. Why - since there's a confrontation situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia - why did you shift Eritrea and nothing on Ethiopia?

MR. RUBIN: The exact reasons for some of these are not things we normally talk about publicly, and from the question you've asked it should be evident that the reason for our action wasn't just because there was a war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Georgian TV - the former Soviet Georgian TV is reporting today that a Pakistani national was arrested outside of the embassy in Tblisi. Can you comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that; I'll try to check for you. As you must've seen over the last month, a lot of this information can come in real time and it's often difficult to answer it.

QUESTION: The two dozen - or roughly two dozen embassies that were selected - or countries that were selected around the world - how did they get on that list? What was the criteria?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to get an expert to answer, but my understanding is you always have priorities; you have levels of concern that exist and in an era where you don't have total ability to do everything you want to do, you have to prioritize. That's based on threat assessments; based on what the facilities are that are there; based on direct threats that you might be aware of or reasons to believe that a particular location is more vulnerable than another. So there are a whole myriad of factors. Clearly these two dozen or so facilities were ones where, in the current environment in the aftermath of these bombings, we thought it was appropriate to do a very hard look. and that's what they're doing.

QUESTION: Is there a chance that these embassies after the reports are finished this week might be closed?

MR. RUBIN: Well again, closed is, as I've indicated, is a pretty dramatic step and we tried as best as we can to have embassies open in some form or another everywhere we can in the world. And so even where we had problems - security problems - in some of the places I've talked about, they weren't closed, and so with respect to what might happen with those two dozen or so embassies, I can't answer because it depends on the judgments. But what I could say is that that would be a last and extreme measure to close an embassy.

QUESTION: So in essence they might be moved - the people who were in the building might be moved --

MR. RUBIN: Adjustments - adjustments are made all the time; I've been at places where one thought that a particular location involved some risk, and the security officers adjusted their patterns so people came in from different entrances. So it's not a simple question of do you move the building; there are procedures that can be adjusted to avoid the need to move buildings. There can be adjustments of which type of services are in which type of buildings where you think that those places where Americans are would be more likely to be threatened, et cetera. So you make a whole series of judgments, and I just can't speculate as to what the final ones will be on that one.

QUESTION: One of your larger forthcoming building projects is moving the embassy that's in Bonn to Berlin. That's a fairly - you have a model of the proposed structure downstairs. What's the status of that project?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check; I don't have a --


(The briefing concluded at 2:30 P.M.)

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