Report of the Accountability Review Boards

Bombings of the US Embassies in
Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
on August 7, 1998

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The near simultaneous vehicular bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998, were terrorist incidents costing the lives of over 220 persons and wounding more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed. Both chanceries withstood collapse from the bombings, but were rendered unusable, and several adjacent buildings were severely damaged or destroyed. In examining the circumstances of these two bombings, the Accountability Review Boards for Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam determined that:

1. The terrorists intended to destroy the chanceries; to kill or injure US Government employees and others in the chanceries; and to damage US prestige, morale, and diplomacy. Thus, according to P.L.99-399, the incidents were security related.

2. The security systems and procedures for physical security at the embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam as a general matter met and, in some cases, exceeded the systems and procedures prescribed by the Department of State for posts designated at the medium or low threat levels. However, these standard requirements had not sufficiently anticipated the threat of large vehicular bomb attacks and were inadequate to protect against such attacks.

The Department of State, in fact, does not apply its security standards fully. For far too many* of its overseas facilities it implements them only "to the maximum extent feasible," applying "risk management." For example, neither the chancery in Nairobi nor in Dar Es Salaam met the Department's standard for a 100 ft. (30m) setback/standoff zone. Both were "existing office buildings" occupied before this standard was adopted; so a general exception was made. The widespread use of such exceptions worldwide with respect to setback and other non-feasible security standards reflects the reality of not having adequate funds to replace all sub-standard buildings within a short period of time. Thus in the interim before Inman buildings could be constructed, exceptions were granted. In light of the August 7 bombings, these general exceptions to the setback requirement in particular mask a dangerous level of exposure to similar attacks elsewhere.

[* Note: Passages here and elsewhere in this document marked with an asterisk (*) indicate more details can be found in the classified version of the report.]

3. The security systems and procedures relating to actions taken at Embassies Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam were, for the most part, properly implemented. In Nairobi, the suicide bomber failed in his attempt to penetrate the embassy's outer perimeter, thanks to the refusal of local guards to open the gates. In Dar Es Salaam, the suicide bomber likewise failed to penetrate the perimeter, apparently stopped by guards and blocked by an embassy water truck.

However, neither post's Emergency Action Plan anticipated a car bomb scenario. Nor were there explicit Department requirements for dealing with such contingencies in EAP worldwide guidelines, despite clear Inman Report recommendations. While car bombs are often immediately preceded by some types of as was the case in Nairobi, personnel inside embassies are not trained to react properly, nor do perimeter guards have appropriate equipment.

4. There was no credible intelligence that provided immediate or tactical warning of the August 7 bombings.

5. The Boards found that both the intelligence and policy communities relied excessively on tactical intelligence to determine the level of potential terrorist threats to posts worldwide. The Inman Report noted and previous experience indicates that terrorist attacks are often not preceded by warning intelligence. The establishment of the Counter Terrorism Center with an inter-agency team of officers has produced tactical intelligence that has enabled the US to thwart a number of terrorist threats.* But we cannot count on having such intelligence to warn us of such attacks.

6. The Boards did not find reasonable cause to believe that any employee of the United States Government or member of the uniformed services was culpable of dereliction of his or her duties in connection with the August 7 bombings. The Boards did find, however, an institutional failure of the Department of State and embassies under its direction to recognize threats posed by transnational terrorism and vehicle bombs worldwide. Policy-makers and operational officers were remiss in not preparing more comprehensive procedures to guard against massive truck bombs. This combined with lack of resources for building more secure facilities created the ingredients for a deadly disaster. Responsibility for obtaining adequate resources for security programs is widely dispersed throughout the US government as is decision making for determining security policies and procedures. No one person or office is accountable for decisions on security policies, procedures and resources. Ambassadors who are specifically charged with responsibility for the security of US diplomatic personnel assigned to their posts lack adequate authority and resources to carry out this responsibility.

7. The Boards were especially disturbed by the collective failure of the US government over the past decade to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of US diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries around the world. Responsibility for this failure can be attributed to several Administrations and their agencies, including the Department of State, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the US Congress.

8. The US response to the August bombings was resourceful and often heroic. However, in the absence of significant training and contingency planning to deal with mass casualties and major destruction from terrorist bombs, the response was occasionally chaotic and marred by a host of planning and logistical failures, especially in the area of military transportation. The Foreign Emergency Support Teams (FESTs) arrived in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam about 40 hours after the bombings, having experienced delays of 13 hours. There was disjointed liaison between the State Department, as the lead agency, and the Defense Department, FBI and other agencies. The personnel selection of the FESTs was ad hoc and not ideal. Medical and other emergency equipment was not always ready and available for shipment.

9. In the wake of these two terrorist acts, the Department of State and other US government organizations focused quickly on the lessons learned. They immediately reviewed the vulnerabilities of our embassies and missions abroad and took steps to strengthen perimeter security at all posts, to re-prioritize the construction and upgrades necessary to bring our overseas US facilities up to what are referred to as "Inman standards," and Congress appropriated over $1 billion in supplemental funds.

10. This is only the first step in what is required to provide for the security of Americans in embassies overseas. We must undertake a comprehensive and long-term strategy for protecting American officials overseas, 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. This must include substantial budgetary appropriations of approximately $1.4 billion per year maintained over an approximate ten-year period, in addition to savings from the closure of overseas installations where increased capital and security costs outweigh the magnitude of overall US interests. Additional funds for security must be obtained without diverting funds from our major foreign affairs programs.

Key Recommendations

The 1986 Omnibus Diplomatic and Anti-Terrorism Act established the legal basis for the Accountability Review Board and specifically requires that acts of terrorism against US diplomatic installations abroad, wherein the loss of life or significant property damage occurs, be investigated with a view, among other factors, toward determining whether security systems and procedures were adequate and were implemented. After addressing these issues in this report, the Boards will propose and elaborate on a number of recommendations aimed at improving security systems and procedures. We provide a listing of the recommendations below.* The bulk of them are necessitated by the use of large vehicular bombs, a threat that has not been fully appreciated in recent years. The first 15 recommendations deal with adjustments in systems and procedures to enhance security of the work place. The final six recommendations address how to improve crisis management systems and procedures. All are directed toward achieving the objective of saving lives. They are urgent and need to be acted upon immediately. No single measure will accomplish the objective but, taken together, they should substantially improve the security for US personnel serving abroad.

Three additional recommendations deal with intelligence and information availability, matters the Boards are also enjoined to address under the law.* (Details and rationale for all of the recommendations are contained in the classified version of the report.)

I. Improving Security Systems and Procedures

A. Work Place Security Enhancements

1. Emergency Action Plans for all posts should be revised to provide a "special alarm signal" for large exterior bombs and duck-and-cover practice drills in order to reduce casualties from vehicular bombs. Special equipment should be provided to perimeter guards.*

2. Given the worldwide threat of transnational terrorism which uses a wide range of lethal weapons, including vehicle bombs, every post should be treated as a potential target and the Department of State's Physical Security Standards and policies should be revised to reflect this new reality.

3. For those US diplomatic buildings abroad not meeting Inman standards, essential physical security upgrades should be made immediately and should include a number of specific measures involving perimeters and counter-surveillance.*

4. The Secretary of State should personally review the security situation of embassy chanceries and other official premises, closing those which are highly vulnerable and threatened but for which adequate security enhancements cannot be provided, and seek new secure premises for permanent use, or temporary occupancy, pending construction of new buildings.

5. Demarches to all governments with whom we have relations should be made regularly to remind them of their obligation to provide security support for our embassies. For those governments whose police forces need additional training to enable them to provide more adequate protection, the Department should provide training under the Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program. The Department should also explore ways to provide any necessary equipment to host governments to upgrade their ability to provide adequate protection. Failure by a host government to honor its obligations should trigger an immediate review of whether a post should be closed.

6. The Department of State should radically reformulate and revise the "Composite Threat List" and, as a part of this effort, should create a category exclusively for terrorism with criteria that places more weight on transnational terrorism. Rating the vulnerability of facilities must include factors relating to the physical security environment, as well as certain host governmental and cultural realities.* These criteria need to be reviewed frequently and all elements of the intelligence community should play an active role in formulating the list. The list's name should be changed to reflect its dual purpose of prioritizing resource allocation and establishing security readiness postures.

7. The Department of State should increase the number of posts with full time Regional Security Officers, seeking coverage of as many chanceries as possible. The Department should also work with the Marine Corps to augment the number of Marine Security Guard Detachments to provide coverage to a larger number of US diplomatic missions.

8. The Department of State should provide all Regional Security Officers comprehensive training on terrorism, terrorist methods of operation, explosive devices, explosive effects, and other terrorist weapons to include weapons of mass destruction such as truck bombs, nuclear devices and chemical/biological weapons.*

9. The Department of State should define the role and functions of each of the US embassies abroad for the coming decade with a view toward exploiting technology more fully, improving their efficiency, ensuring their security, and reducing their overall cost. The Department should look specifically at reducing the number of diplomatic missions by establishing regional embassies located in less threatened and vulnerable countries with Ambassadors accredited to several governments.

10. The physical security standards specified in the State Department's Security Standards and Policy Handbook should be reviewed on a priority basis and revised as necessary in light of the August 7 and other large bombings against US installations.

11. When building new chanceries abroad, all US government agencies, with rare exceptions, should be located in the same compound.

12. The Department of State should work within the Administration and with Congress to obtain sufficient funding for capital building programs and for security operations and personnel over the coming decade (estimated at $1.4 billion per year for the next 10 years), while ensuring that this funding should not come at the expense of other critical foreign affairs programs and operations. A failure to do so will jeopardize the security of US personnel abroad and inhibit America's ability to protect and promote its interests around the world.

13. First and foremost, the Secretary of State should take a personal and active role in carrying out the responsibility of ensuring the security of US diplomatic personnel abroad. It is essential to convey to the entire Department that security is one of the highest priorities. In the process, the Secretary should reexamine the present organizational structure with the objective of clarifying responsibilities, encouraging better coordination, and assuring that a single high-ranking officer is accountable for all protective security matters and has the authority necessary to coordinate on the Secretary's behalf such activities within the Department of State and with all foreign affairs USG agencies.

14. The Department of State should expand its effort to build public support for increased resources for foreign affairs, and to add emphasis on the need to protect US representatives abroad from terrorism, without sacrificing other important foreign policy programs.

15. The Department of State, in coordination with the intelligence community, should advise all posts concerning potential threats of terrorist attacks from the use of chemical, biological or nuclear materials, should establish means of defending against and minimizing the effect of such attacks through security measures and the revision of EAP procedures and exercises, and should provide appropriate equipment, medical supplies, and first responder training.

B. Better Crisis Management Systems and Procedures

1. Crisis management training for mass casualty and mass destruction incidents should be provided to Department of State personnel in Washington to improve Task Force operations to assure a cadre of crisis managers.

2. A revitalized program for on-site crisis management training at posts abroad should be funded, developed, expanded, and maintained.

3. The FEST should create and exercise a team and equipment package configured to assist in post blast crises involving major casualties and physical damage (while maintaining the package now deployed for differing counter terrorism missions). Such a new configuration should include personnel to assist in medical relief, public affairs, engineering and building safety.

4. A modern, reliable, air-refuelable FEST aircraft with enhanced seating and cargo capacity to respond to a variety of counter terrorism and emergency missions should be acquired urgently for the Department of State. Clearly defined arrangements for a backup aircraft are also needed.

5. The Department of State should work closely with the Department of Defense to improve procedures in mobilizing aircraft and adequate crews to provide more rapid, effective assistance in times of emergency, especially in medical evacuations resulting from mass casualty situations. The Department of State should explore as well, chartering commercial aircraft to transport personnel and equipment to emergency sites, if necessary to supplement Department of Defense aircraft.

6. The Department of State should ensure that all posts have emergency communications equipment, basic excavation tools, medical supplies, emergency documents, next of kin records, and other safety equipment stored at secure off-site locations in anticipation of mass destruction of embassy facilities and heavy US casualties.

II. Intelligence and Information

1. In order to enhance the flow of intelligence that relates to terrorism and security, all such intelligence should normally be disseminated to concerned levels of the policy and analytic community; compartmentalization of such information should be limited to extraordinary situations where there is a clear national security need for limited dissemination.

2. The Department of State should assign a qualified official to the DCI's Counter Terrorism Center; and

3. The FBI and the Department of State should consult on ways to improve information sharing on international terrorism to ensure that all relevant information that might have some bearing on threats against or security for US missions or personnel abroad is made available.*

[End of Document]

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