Responding to undisclosed security threats, the State Department has directed at least 21 U.S. embassies, primarily in the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe, to close or remain closed on Sunday, August 4. This is just one of many cautionary measures that the State Department has issued over the past few days in attempts to protect U.S. citizens abroad from what has been noticed as “more than the usual chatter” from terrorist organizations.
Global terrorist threats directed at the United States and its allies are unfortunately daily occurrences, and the State Department renewed a proclamation in February that suggests all Americans travelling overseas exercise particular caution. The statement of “Worldwide Caution,” which functions as the official State Department policy for travellers, hopes to keep citizens “reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.”
Furthermore, in light of escalated threats, no details of which have been released, the State Department has looked to ensure maximum global alertness, seemingly attempting to fix flaws that were all too gravely revealed during the September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
In the State Department’s daily press briefing, Deputy Spokesman Marie Harf attempted to assuage rumors and respond to reporters’ questions that indirectly alluded to the circumstances of the Benghazi tragedy by insisting, “The department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. The department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.”
Ms. Harf pivoted on many further related questions and refused to specify whether or not the State Department is responding to specific threats, or just an increase in the general mass of threats.
Regardless of the specific provocations, though, it is clear that the State Department is earnestly attempting to rectify its grave mistakes from last September.
One of these glaring errors was the government’s inability to effectively mobilize troops in time to squelch the attacks. In a direct answer to this previous shortcoming, the U.S. has stationed three Navy warships in the Red Sea, equipped with 2,000 Marines, who are ready to intervene should turbulence threat American lives in the region.
It should be noted that the State Department has also issued a worldwide travel alert, reinforcing its February cautionary policy that recommends all travelling Americans register online with the embassies in the countries that they are visiting. Moreover, Americans are encouraged to observe measures outlined for specific countries on the State Department website and to always err on the side of caution.
Although many Republican lawmakers and their constituents remain discontent with the details that have emerged from the Benghazi attacks, it is clear that the lessons learned from the tragedy have materialized into active improvement. It is undeniable that threats to U.S. embassies immediately evoke the terror of last September 11, and that the State Department is responding aggressively, rather than with the complacency in Benghazi that resulted in four American deaths.