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November 05, 2007


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Doug, your post made me sad—I don't know why. But it's hard not to feel uneasy or offended when somebody acts like you're a demented villain.

The American embassy in Bucharest is pretty decent (except the "walk on the other sidewalk" sign that nobody gives a damn about). The UK embassy, though, managed to close down its whole little street and barred it with a roadblock. The weirdest of the bunch is the German embassy—a fortress defended by a tall, solid fence with long metal spikes, dark-ages style.

It feels like we're living in a conflict zone, only we're not.

All this in a Bucharest where the last bomb went off in '944 and the most frightening contemporary menace is bad driving and/or honking.


The embassy in Budapest was the last one I've been in. They've also managed to block off their entire street, which just makes America look like the pathetic weasels we've become. (Not that I'm bitter or anything.)

We were there ... I don't actually remember. Perhaps to extend the kids' passports or something in the summer of 2005. Must have been -- I remember paying about that fee.

We couldn't take any electronics in, or our umbrellas. We got the phone back on the way out, but the security post had "lost" our umbrella.

The deputy ambassador, a young woman, asked me relatively pointedly why I was in Budapest (I felt like going to Budapest) and whether I intended to return to the US (I didn't know at the time -- in the meantime, yes, we're back, in Puerto Rico anyway). She was friendly enough, mind you. But clearly didn't comprehend someone who might travel just because the rest of the world was out there. Doubtlessly a Bush appointee from Bob Jones U or something.

Anyway, thanks for the depressing post. I really needed it.

Jussi Jalonen

When it comes to Helsinki, upgrading to the NEC status just don't seem feasible. Can't see it happening, frankly.

There just isn't any room for any expansion in the surrounding diplomatic quartier. And with the city planning of our capital being what it is, where exactly would they relocate the embassy?

So, the U.S. embassy continues to stay the same. A normal, old, dull-looking building in a very pictoresque coastal part of the city. The security has increased, but that just basically means that you have to show your passport and walk through a metal detector, with the same escort drill that was already described.

Compared to the British embassy - which is just too honking big, modern and obnoxious even for a former imperial power - or the Russian embassy - which still resembles the Malebolge - the local U.S. embassy is really just a small, nice-looking cozy place.

The security is visible, but it's still nowhere near an armed bunker, and is not likely to become such.


J. J.


Fourth photo down, Michael: http://www.huembwas.org/News2/56Emb2005.htm

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs. They're not all Bob Jones grads.


I can't find any real logical reason why the US chose to build its second largest embassy in Armenia of all places (it was the first until the embassy in Iraq was constructed months later). It seemed to me at least that the one they had in downtown Yerevan was sufficient enough serving its purpose adequately, and after all, I would argue that there are next to zero threats of bomb attacks in this country.

However you can speculate why they chose to build such a grand compound just like everyone else who lives in this country. Some have presumed that it probably serves as some kind of secret intelligence observational center for the entire Caucasus region, even for Turkey and Iran. Quite honestly, I don't know what goes on in there and I don't want to find out. I actually dread the coming of the day when I will be compelled to enter for whatever pressing issue comes my way.

Syd Webb

Doug is describing an interesting three-way tension here. It's probably best to imagine a triangle with three vertices.

Vertice 1: There are people who hate America so much they will attack her embassies, even at risk of the attacker's life.

Vertice 2: State Department employees need free and open access to the citizenry of other countries in order to perform their mission.

Vertice 3: State Department employees, and their visitors, are entitled to a safe workplace.

It seems that if you could reduce the level of US-hatred world-wide (Vertice 1) then you wouldn't need such secure embassies and the diplomats could more freely carry out their mission. Or if you put the mission first (Vertice 2) then the perception of the US in the world will rise, reducing Vertice 1.

As Vanity Fair notes, "Ask a security question and you'll get a security answer:" So Vertice 3 was chosen. It's a valid choice - respecting the sanctity of human life and all that. And building safer embassies is an easier problem to solve that reducing the levels of world-wide hatred. But was it the best choice?

Firstly, was there an increasing threat that justified the introduction of NECs?

Vanity Fair says:

"During the 10 years following the loss of Saigon, in 1975, there had been by some estimates nearly 240 attacks or attempted attacks against U.S. diplomats and their facilities worldwide."

Yet in the ten years to the present we are presented with the atrocities at Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and nothing else. These atrocities are broadly comparable with the twin attacks on Beirut in the '80s. Seen in isolation it would almost seem that US embassies are safer now that a generation ago. [In fairness, this safety may be in part due to the post-1985 measures.]

Secondly, even if the risk hasn't increased, isn't what risk there is worth a $14 billion NEC construction programme? Is there a cost:benefit argument for NECs.

I'm not so sure. In 1992 Wendy Watson and Joan Ozanne-Smith assessed the value of a human life at A$616,000. Say US$1,000,000 today. So to represent good value the NECs would have to potentially save 14,000 lives. Actually it might have to be more lives than that if the $14 billion price tag is increased by the cost of the mission degradation for the US embassies.



Carlos -- it's been two years, but that ain't her. That's at the Hungarian Embassy in DC, not the American Embassy in Budapest.


Michael, I figured it was a longshot, but she was so strikingly unlike anything Bob Jones would ever claim as one of their own. Actually, they would probably associate her with select verses from the Book of Revelations.

Cagan is rather far up in the current admin. Kind of terrifying. Do we have a bald man with a monocle and a white cat as Assistant Secretary for One Trillion Dollars somewhere?


The US (and some other) embassies here in Stockholm have recently been criticised in the Swedish press for illegal camera surveillance of people passing on the streets outside the embassy without the necessary license from the Swedish authorities, including how such material can be used and archived.

Given that the the US government in Sweden is known for putting Swedish nationals on various types of 'black lists' without explanation or judicial process, It certainly did not make the embassy seem like a welcoming place.


I have to admit I really like her jacket.


i am one of the sun employee of American embassy in somlia Mogadishu and till now i am missing my father since that day .
that means American Government not take care his staff

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