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Anti-terrorism expert says security at U.S. embassies and consulates not equal

6:12 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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Largo, Florida - Officials in Libya say four people have been arrested in connection to the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Since Stevens' death, protesters have attacked the U.S. embassy in Yemen and unrest continues to grow outside the U.S. embassy in Egypt.

The president has ordered all U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions to increase security measures.

Before Ambassador Stevens' death, five American ambassadors have been killed by terrorists -- the last was the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan in 1979.

Security between a U.S. embassy and a consulate is not the same.

"Generally speaking, consulates have a lesser degree of security than embassies do," says Craig Gundry, anti-terrorism expert and vice-president of Critical Intervention Services, Inc. in Largo.

That lower level of security is why Gundry says terrorists easily carried out a swift attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya on September 11.

Gundry says, "They probably had a smaller security contingent there. They probably also had lighter security measures in place. Obviously it created a vulnerability that could have been exploited."

In the end, four Americans, including Ambassador Stevens, are dead and the consulate is burned down.  

The protests in Libya, Yemen and Egypt are in response to an anti-Muslim movie that makes fun of the Prophet Mohammad. The movie is U.S. made and was recently posted on YouTube.

The actual attackers on the Libyan consulate may not have been part of those protests, however.

Gundry says, "In Benghazi, [evidence] tends to suggest this was a planned operation. These guys were no amateurs, it did not spontaneously form from a group of individuals. They showed they were equipped for the occasion and knew pretty much what they were doing."

The Libya attack, Gundry says, would be difficult to carry out at a U.S. embassy, such as the recent assaults on the embassies in Yemen and Egypt. Gundry says embassies have layers of security, starting with local police protecting the outer perimeter as best as possible.

"It's not surprising to see a situation where a crowd spontaneously evolves, overwhelms the outer perimeter security, compromising a compound and stealing a U.S. flag," says Gundry.

The tougher security, he says, comes on the other side of the fence, although in Egypt protesters managed to climb the embassy walls.

Gundry says, "You have the actual physical security of the facility itself -- various barriers, protective measures, intrusion protector systems, and of course, the response force."

While embassy personnel have an action plan, Gundry says Americans abroad -- especially in the Middle East -- need a plan, too.

"Anyone with a U.S. passport can be perceived as a symbol of the U.S. Right now, the U.S. is the focal point of the anger for the Islamist outraged over this particular film."

Isabel Mascarenas

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