January 8, 1999
The Honorable Madeleine Albright
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
Pursuant to your mandate establishing Accountability Review Boards to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the August 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the two Boards herewith submit their combined report. The two terrorist bombings resulted in the deaths of over 220 persons and injuries to more than 4,000 people. Twelve American USG employees and family members and 40 Kenyan and Tanzanian USG employees were among those killed. Both chanceries and several other buildings were severely damaged or destroyed. The FBI investigation of criminal suspects in the attacks is ongoing.
Having completed an extensive review in Washington, Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, the Boards were most disturbed at two interconnected issues: first, the inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks and, second, the relative low priority accorded security concerns throughout the US government -- by the Department, other agencies in general, and on the part of many employees both in Washington and in the field. Saving lives and adequately addressing our security vulnerabilities on a sustained basis must be given a higher priority by all those involved if we are to prevent such tragedies in the future.
The Boards did not find reasonable cause to believe that any employee of the United States Government or member of the uniformed services breached his or her duty in connection with the August 7 bombings. However, we believe there was a collective failure by several Administrations and Congresses over the past decade to invest adequate efforts and resources to reduce the vulnerability of US diplomatic missions around the world to terrorist attacks.
We wish to commend the particular diligence and professionalism of the US Ambassador in Nairobi, Prudence Bushnell, in seeking security enhancements for the embassy long before the bombing, including efforts to relocate the post away from its vulnerable location. We also applaud the leadership of Dar Es Salaam’s Charge d’Affaires John Lange and the remarkable personal courage of the embassy staffs in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam for their response to the attacks, including countless hours spent in locating and rescuing victims, providing for emergency assistance, and managing to restore embassy operations under conditions of extreme crisis.
The Boards found that intelligence provided no immediate tactical warning of the August 7 attacks. We understand the difficulty of monitoring terrorist networks and concluded that vulnerable missions cannot rely upon such warning. We found, however, that both policy and intelligence officials have relied heavily on warning intelligence to measure threats, whereas experience has shown that transnational terrorists often strike without warning at vulnerable targets in areas where expectations of terrorist acts against the US are low.
The security systems and procedures at both posts at the time of the bombings were in general accord with Department policy. However, those systems and procedures followed by all the embassies under the Department’s direction did not speak to large vehicular bomb attacks or transnational terrorism nor the dire consequences that would result from them. Both embassies were located immediately adjacent or close to public streets and were especially vulnerable to large vehicular bombs. The Boards found that too many of our overseas missions are similarly situated. Unless these vulnerabilities are addressed on a sustained and realistic basis, the lives and safety of USG employees and the public in many of our facilities abroad will continue to be at risk from further terrorist bombings.
In our investigations of the bombings, the Boards were struck by how similar the lessons were to those drawn by the Inman Commission over 14 years ago. What is most troubling is the failure of the US government to take the necessary steps to prevent such tragedies through an unwillingness to give sustained priority and funding to security improvements.
We are advancing a number of recommendations that deal with the handling of terrorist threats and attacks, the review and revision of standards and procedures to improve security readiness and crisis management, the size and composition of our missions, and the need to have adequate and sustained funding for safe buildings and security programs in the future. We recognize that the Department of State and other U.S. government agencies are already making adjustments and taking measures to enhance the protection of our personnel and facilities abroad. It is clear, however, that much more needs to be done.
We viewed as our primary and overriding responsibility the submission of recommendations that will save lives of personnel serving at U.S. missions abroad in the future. We ask that you review the recommendations with that objective in mind.
It has been a distinct honor to serve on these Boards.
Adm. William J. Crowe, US Navy (Ret.)
Dar Es Salaam Board
Amb. Michael H. Armacost (Ret.)
Amb. Terence A. Todman (Ret.)
Amb. Philip C. Wilcox, Jr. (Ret.)
Mr. David Busby
Dr. Janne E. Nolan
Dr. Lynn E. Davis
Mr. Arthur W. Donahue
Mr. Montgomery L. Rogers
Amb. Richard C. Brown
Mr. Kenneth R. McKune
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