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Watchdog: Accountability

The obvious problem American embassies overlooked in security

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Watchdog,National Security,Benghazi,Kelly Cohen,State Department,Accountability,Libya

Protecting embassies overseas is an important job — but apparently not important enough to properly vet those who are doing it.

An internal investigation done in the wake of the fatal 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has found that six government contractors who hire local guards at overseas embassies failed to fully vet the job candidates.

The contractors, who are supposed to hire local people to add to other forms of security at the embassies, are required to perform "a police check covering criminal and/or subversive activities, a credit check, proof of successful previous employment with supervisor recommendations, and a personal residence check," the State Department inspector general said -- but none of the contractors followed all of those steps.

A month after the Benghazi attack, it was found that the State Department had used a British security contractor to hire guards, which in turn hired local Libyan men to protect the Benghazi consulate, including "one guard who had been recently fired and another guard […] suspected of throwing a homemade bomb into the U.S. compound 6 months before the attacks," according to the IG.

Despite the four American deaths in Benghazi, embassies are still being lax on the vetting process, which undoubtedly puts "embassies and personnel at risk," the IG found.

Three of the six contractors did not complete any of the requirements, while five failed to document whether they did so and what results they found, the report IG's report revealed.

At two embassies that were not identified in the report, 173 and 100 local guards, respectively, were placed on duty before they had met all the vetting requirements, the IG found. At a third embassy, 18 guards were put on duty without being cleared.

At one unnamed embassy, one local guard was assigned to embassy security for months before "his criminal history and use of multiple false identities was discovered," the IG found.

At another, a contractor had kept as much as $1.48 million over a three-year period in wages meant to paid to the guards.

Though the specific embassies were not named, based on "the estimated number of local guards employed and the terrorist threat level as of March 20, 2013," they were in Africa, Europe and Latin America, according to the report.

The federal government spent $556 million hiring local guards in 2012, according to the IG.

The embassies were to have outlined in the IG's report what steps they would take to fix the problems, but those steps were completely blacked out in the copy of the report released to the public.

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