Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities andPersonnel Abroad: Background and Policy

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities andPersonnel Abroad: Background and Policy

Alex Tiersky, Analyst in Foreign Affairs

Susan B. Epstein, Specialist in Foreign Policy

November 26, 2012

On the night of the attack, the Benghazi facilities were reportedly protected by an unarmed, contracted local guard force; a local militia; and armed DS agents. A U.S. Marine detachment had not been posted there, a situation that is not unusual for smaller posts at which classified information is not produced. The compound’s security posture included:

locally hired unarmed guards were provided under contract with a British private security firm named Blue Mountain. The contract, which took effect in March, reportedly was worth $387,413 over one year. Among the tasks of the guards were the operation of a metal detector and inspection of visitors’ bags. While armed security contractors protect many State Department facilities in high-threat locations, Libyan political sensitivities ruled out the use of private security companies; the local contracted guard force was therefore unarmed. There were reportedly four unarmed Blue Mountain guards at the facilities on the night of the attack.

• armed members of the February 17 Brigade, a local militia that participated in the anti-Qaddafi

The bureau is staffed by more than 34,000 employees worldwide—with roughly 90% of them contractors. Out of a total force of special agents of approximately 2,000, DS has nearly 800 special agents posted in regional security offices at over 250 posts worldwide. Its reach to diplomatic missions in 157 countries makes it the most widely represented American security and law enforcement organization around the world, according to its website.

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