Protect the nation's diplomats

Crowe report: Terror bombings of embassies were preventable, but cost had seemed too high.

January 25, 1999

THE UNITED STATES owes its public servants protection against the nation's enemies. The commission investigating the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reported a persistent failure to meet that obligation.

This panel, chaired by Adm. William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spread the blame. What happened was the fault of the State Department but also the CIA and FBI, the White House and its budget office and Congress. It was the fault of the Clinton, Reagan and Bush administrations.

A study by a similar panel during the latter stages of the Cold War recommended specific design features to fortify embassies against terrorism. Fifteen embassies were renovated or rebuilt to meet "Inman standards," named for Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, former director of the CIA, who chaired that commission. The Office of Management and Budget and Congress refused more. Such improvements could have lowered the death toll from the Aug. 7 truck bombs at the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 persons and wounded 5,000.

Secure embassies have drawbacks. They are impersonal and arrogant, the opposite of the image sought by that U.S. diplomacy. Neither can Inman standards be created everywhere overnight.

But for starters, the administration and Congress should adopt the $1.4 billion increase in spending on embassy security over 10 years recommended by the Crowe commission, doubling the amount added last summer.

Congress has repeatedly cut the State Department's budget along with foreign aid and foreign policy spending. Loss of influence abroad is one result. Vulnerability is another. It is time to reverse course.

Pub Date: 1/25/99

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