Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Foreign Service Oral Histories On-Line

I've just discovered that the U.S. Library of Congress makes its Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training available for browsing online. You can search the collection by subject or author.

It's great stuff! I've been browsing it by looking up interviews with those Ambassadors I had some interaction with over the years, such as the late Charles Anthony Gillespie Jr . His interview really brought back into vivid relief for me the wild late-1980s in Colombia, when the U.S. Embassy and its officers, no less than the host government authorities, were under severe threat of attack from narco cartels. (I'm starting to feel like an historical artifact myself at this point, having first gone to work for the State Department in 1986.)

Amid all the important foreign policy and national security stuff that was going on then, Bogota was also the scene of my minor masterpeice of protective ingenuity. In response to Ambassador Gillespie's special request, I figured out a way to have operable (opening) ballistic windows made and installed in one of our facilities. He wanted fresh air, plus he needed a way to get out through the windows in case of a fire, so I came up with an unconventional solution that actually worked pretty well. I would never get away with that sort of thing today, but back in the Miami Vice era everything was more laid-back.


Anonymous said...

"He wanted fresh air..." - Fresh air????? In Bogota??? Surely you jest!

TSB said...

No, I'm serious (also, he needed a fire exit, which is a more legitimate reason). Due to terrain and elevation changes, the only lines-of-sight into that particular building were from certain angles, so the windows were made to open only in those directions from which there was no threat.

I was sure those openings wouldn't create a vulnerability, so I had no qualms about doing it. So far as I know, no other State property ever had operable ballistic-resistant windows.