Maybe it's none of my business, but, if I were a State Department spokesman I'd be working up a reply to some recent news reports about presumed waivers of security standards and legal requirements for the mission facilities in Benghazi.
To cite only two examples, both CNN and Fox News are quoting unnamed officials who sound to my bureaucrat ear to be somewhat confused about what those requirements actually are.
CNN tells us that Benghazi had "less than standard security" when it was attacked:
The U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was operating under a lower security standard than a typical consulate when it was attacked this month, according to State Department officials.
The mission was a rented villa and considered a temporary facility by the agency, which allowed a waiver that permitted fewer guards and security measures than a standard embassy or consulate, according to the officials.
There was talk about constructing a permanent facility, which would require a building that met U.S. security and legal standards, the officials said.
Fox News interviewed an unnamed former Regional Security Officer who gave some specific details about what security measures he believed were unmet:
There had been four attacks or attempted attacks on diplomatic and western targets leading up to the Sept. 11 strike on the U.S. Consulate.
Based on that information, a former regional security officer for diplomatic security told Fox News, the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had to have been classified or assessed by the State Department as a "critical threat terrorism or civil unrest posting."
Fox News was told that State Department standards for diplomatic missions overseas dictate physical security standards for this classification. There are two sets -- classified and unclassified requirements. The unclassified standards include a 100-foot setback for the buildings from the exterior walls which should be three meters high, in addition to reinforced ballistic doors and windows which can withstand an hour of sustained assault.
Based on the video and photos, none appear present at the consulate.
The former regional security officer, who has worked in the Middle East, told Fox News that the standards are designed to give an ambassador, his or her team and diplomatic security that "golden hour" to burn classified dockets [sic] and call in military help for an emergency evacuation.
Those news reports ought to be answered, especially now that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have called on the Secretary for more details about the security measures taken or not taken in Benghazi.
The news media is doing a lot of heavy breathing about its unnamed sources, but I haven't seen any of them cite that publicly available source of information known as 12 FAM-300 which definitively spells out the requirements for the Department's overseas physical security program, including when waivers must be obtained.
That's a pity, because if you go through enough of that dry FAM language you could find out that the legal requirements of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act might not have applied to Benghazi in the first place:
U.S. diplomatic facilities are defined for purposes of the SECCA [Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act] to include any chancery, consulate, or other office notified to the host government as diplomatic or consular premises in accordance with the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. It also includes offices subject to a publicly available bilateral agreement with the host government that recognizes the official status of the U.S. Government personnel present in the facility. [12 FAM-313, b.]
That makes it quite simple. Were the facilities in Benghazi declared diplomatic or consular premises, or were they not? I don't know. But, if the State spokesman would answer that one question, it would clarify whether or not there was any legal requirement for a waiver of security standards in the first place.
On a related matter, I've seen some good and some bad discussions this past week about what kinds of physical security countermeasures are achievable for leased buildings of typical residential-type construction. I plan to comment on them in a later post, after I can carefully cite the publicly available sources of information - and there are many - whose existence permit me to discuss this stuff in a blog.