Some US diplomatic posts violating security standards: Report

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Some US diplomatic posts are violating security standards for overseas buildings and the State Department is not keeping track of the exemptions to the rules it does grant, the department's inspector general said in a review released after the attack on the US mission in Benghazi.

"Inspectors... found conditions of noncompliance with security standards for which posts had not sought exceptions or waivers," the report by Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel said.

In 2011, the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security had in its files over 1,000 waivers and exceptions, some quite old, granting exemptions to security standards at US diplomatic missions abroad, the report said.

But it was not clear which waivers were still active, and some waivers in the bureau's files were for buildings that no longer exist, the report found.

A copy of the two-page, redacted version of the report was obtained by Reuters. It is now on the inspector general's website and dated Jan 7.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the report.

The inspector general's review did not mention the Sept 11, 2012, attack on the diplomatic mission and a nearby CIA facility in Benghazi, where the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed. Nor did it describe any exceptions made to security standards there or at any other post.

But a separate review in December of the Benghazi assault described security precautions at the US mission in the eastern Libyan city as "grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place" there.

The December report by an Accountability Review Board appointed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that the US mission at Benghazi was a temporary residential facility that was exempted from diplomatic office security standards.

Militants attacked and overwhelmed the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi in a sustained assault. An FBI investigation is continuing.

Security standards for US diplomatic facilities around the world, such as the distance from the property's perimeter to the building, are set by law and by the Overseas Security Policy Board, an interagency body.

Mr Geisel's report reviewed physical security files and conditions at 27 overseas posts - about a tenth of the US diplomatic missions around the world - as well as the files at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The 27 posts were not identified in the brief unclassified excerpt of the report.

The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security "does not regularly review waiver approvals to determine whether they are still active", the report said.

"As of Aug 2011, (the Bureau of Diplomatic Security) had more than 1,000 exceptions and waivers (to physical security standards) on file dating back to 1987," Mr Geisel's review said.

"Inspectors found waivers for facilities that are no longer leased by the US government or no longer exist," said Mr Geisel's report. It was sent to Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management.

"The most common example was the use of warehouse space for offices," it said, adding that office space was required to meet greater physical security standards than warehouse space.

Mr Geisel's report said overseas posts should be required to certify every year that they have been given waivers or exceptions when they cannot meet security requirements, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security should annually update its files.

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