Category Archives: Diplomatic Security

Snowden’s Shameful World Tour

Being a security person, and believing that extrodinary measures are required to keep us safe from
the increasing terrorist threat…   I maintain that Edward Snowden is a total coward, now that he has launched his travel from the US to China to Russia, and presumably, Cuba, Venezuela and Equador.

His judgement on many things is in question, especially in taking advice from another coward, Julian Assange, who’s been living in a small Embassy in the UK for a year.

Perhaps he could make a case that he thought US taxpayers had a right to more details about their tax dollars at work – the NSA’s surveillance programs, but he certainly DOES NOT have the right to disclose any classified program information to other nations, like China and Russia – just to name 2.

He DOES NOT have the right to stir up suspicions between nations, sort of a misguided meddler, basically selling out US secrets to a hostile world, and who knows who’s paying for all the international travel?  Is he handling out secrets for free, or is he selling out our country for financial gain?

His cowardice is illustrated by his total fall into the “What’s Good for Me” logic, which totally ignores issues of national security, destruction of trust between nations, and these actions compromise every statement he’s made so far.

He made himself into a 7-day media star.  He got his 15-plus minutes of fame, and now, he obviously has done a little more thinking about his choices, so he’s totally intent on protecting himself from any penalities, any recriminations, any dialogue with the US over the far-reaching implications of his bad choices.

For these reasons, and quite a few more, and mostly because I believe that he threatens our hope for a more peaceful world, I hope that other nations will grab him, return him to the US – to face the music he chose.

More distrust, more self-absorbed leakers, more lack of respect for the laws that govern civilized countries, is just not something we need right now.

Why the State Department Needs Better Threat-Risk Assessments

Obviously, the tragedy in Libya this week focused the world’s attention, not just on the bodies of our countrymen returning home, but made me wonder about the risk assessments and threat assessments that are routinely done in these extremely sensitive locations.

Unfortunately, the threat assessments tend to be more political forecasting and less about the reality of the situation on the ground.  One problem with these simple manual threat/risk assessments is that they take too long to complete.  Maybe they spend a few days looking at the physical controls, and then a week writing up a report, and much of it may rely on anecdotal incidents or reports of questionable value.

That’s why I am a believer in automating these threat/risk assessments, and in a potentially dangerous area like the whole country of Libya, they should be at least weekly, or bi-weekly, or even daily when tensions are running high.  It allows you to get a quick assessment in less than 30 minutes, and allows for quick updating, which is critical in situations like this week.

And no, I don’t believe a threat/risk assessment would necessarily PREVENT a terrible tragedy like the death of an American Ambassador, but I do think that having these updated assessments allows for safeguards to be continuously checked, measured and improved, and also may expose weaknesses that can be exploited by a terrorist group when the opportunity presents itself.

The practice of running continual assessments is not used very often, but when it is, it’s very effective because when the situation goes south, you already the blueprint of what to do right in front of you, and it allows better decision support under such stressful conditions.

The information-sharing done by different groups can be wrapped up in the risk assessment and combined, so that maybe a higher threat condition can be identified, in time to relocate, leave the country, or whatever else it takes to protect the lives of our diplomatic staff.