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Counterterrorism funding

"Counterterrorism funding" Continued...

This internal tension has also played a role in the funding boom and bust for diplomatic security overseas. Indeed, DSS agents are convinced that the black dragons consistently attempt to cut security budgets during the lull periods. When career foreign service officers like Sheldon Krys and Anthony Quainton were appointed to serve as assistant secretaries for diplomatic security-and presided over large cuts in budgets and manpower-many DSS agents were convinced that Krys and Quainton had been placed in that position specifically to sabotage the agency.

DSS agents were suspicious of Quainton, in particular, because of his history. In February 1992, while Quainton was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Peru, the ambassador's residence in Lima was attacked by Shining Path guerrillas who detonated a large vehicular-borne improvised explosive device in the street next to it. A team sent by the DSS counterterrorism investigations division to investigate the attack concluded in its report that Quainton's refusal to follow the RSO's recommendation to alter his schedule was partially responsible for the attack. The report angered Quainton, who became the assistant secretary for diplomatic security seven months later. Shortly after assuming his post, Quainton proclaimed to his staff that "terrorism is dead" and ordered the abolishment of the DSS counterterrorism investigations division.

Using a little bureaucratic sleight of hand, then-DSS Director Clark Dittmer renamed the office the Protective Intelligence Investigations Division (PII) and allowed it to maintain its staff and function. Although Quainton had declared terrorism dead, special agents assigned to the PII office would be involved in the investigation of the first known al-Qaida attacks against U.S. interests in Aden and Sanaa,Yemen, in December 1992. They also played a significant role in the investigation of the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the investigation of the 1993 New York Landmarks Plot and many subsequent terrorism cases.

Boom-and-bust funding

One of the problems problem created by the feast-or-famine cycle of security funding is that during the boom times, when there is a sudden (and often huge) influx of cash, agencies sometimes have difficulty spending all the money allotted to them in a logical and productive manner. Congress, acting on strong public opinion, often will give an agency even more than it initially requested for a particular program-and then expect an immediate solution to the problem. Rather than risk losing these funds, the agencies scramble to find ways to spend them. Then, quite often, by the time the agency is able to get its act together and develop a system effectively to use the funds, the lull has set in and funding is cut. These cuts frequently are accompanied by criticism of how the agency spent the initial glut of funding.

Whether or not it was a conscious effort on the part of people like Quainton, funding for diplomatic security programs was greatly reduced during the lull period of the 1990s. In addition to a reduction in the funding provided to build new embassies or bring existing buildings up to Inman standards, RSOs were forced to make repeated cuts in budgets for items such as local guard forces, residential security and the maintenance of security equipment such as closed-circuit TV cameras and vehicular barriers.

These budget cuts were identified as a contributing factor in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The final report of the Crowe Commission, which was established to investigate the attacks, notes that its accountability review board members "were especially disturbed by the collective failure of the U.S. government over the past decade to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries around the world."

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was known to be vulnerable. Following the August 1997 raid on the Nairobi residence of Wadih el-Hage, U.S. officials learned that el-Hage and his confederates had conducted extensive pre-operational surveillance against the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, indicating that they planned to attack the facility. The U.S. ambassador in Nairobi, citing the embassy's vulnerability to car bomb attacks, asked the state department in December 1997 to authorize a relocation of the embassy to a safer place. In its January 1998 denial of the request, the state department said that, in spite of the threat and vulnerability, the post's "medium" terrorism threat level did not warrant the expenditure.

Old fears

The 1998 East Africa embassy bombings highlighted the consequences of the security budget cuts that came during the lull years. Clearly, terrorism was not dead then, nor is it dead today, in spite of the implications in the March 13 Washington Post article. Indeed, the current threat of attacks directed against U.S. diplomatic facilities is very real. Since January 2008, we have seen attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Sanaa, Yemen; Istanbul, Turkey; Kabul, Afghanistan; Belgrade, Serbia; and Monterrey, Mexico (as well as attacks against American diplomats in Pakistan, Sudan, and Lebanon). Since 2001, there have also been serious attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Karachi, Pakistan; Damascus, Syria; Athens, Greece; and Baghdad, Iraq.


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