WASHINGTON— Overseas employees of the U.S. Information Agency sometimes are not properly protected from terrorists because of insensitivity on the part of the State Department, a presidential commission said Sunday.

In a report, the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy also criticized the State Department’s lack of action in response to the special needs of the USA which is charged with bringing the U.S. message overseas. The State Department, which has begun a $4.2 billion, five-year program to beef up security around all U.S. overseas installation, has policy supervision over the information agency.

The report criticized some State Department rules for antiterrorist protection, including the suggestion that USIA libraries be moved to “hardened” embassy compounds, Such a move would make the libraries inaccessible, and therefore useless, the report said.

The commission concluded there is always some risk that USIA employees and installations a bred, “It is impossible to conduct public diplomacy from behind barred ‘doors.”

Especially in Eastern Europe, where foreign citizens take some risk to go to a U.S. library, the commission said the United States “should not increase that risk OF repel attendance” by the kind of heavy antiterrorist precautions re= commended by the State Department.

The USIA told the Commission that as U.S. embassies become better protected against terrorist attacks, it is possible that USIA libraries and other installations will be targeted more often but it is important that protection does not jeopardize the agency ability to fulfill its mission. The commission said, at the same time however, the State department has ordered some measures that would make the USIA libraries more likely to be attacked by terrorists.

One State Department directive told the USIA to find a secure, 10acre site in the suburbs of Bombay, India, for a new installation. A USIA officer said, however, that an isolated U.S. building is a perfect target for a mortar or rocket attack.

“I argue that the USIA is safer, that is, less likely to be targeted, when located as we are in a downtown, congested, people filled area,” the officer continued. ‘My underlying assumption is that terrorists do not want the resultant public reaction, and host government hostility, that bombing a diplomatic installation in downtown Bombay would cause.

“While maybe cynical, it may be that having crowds of people in and around… are a better deterrent than sitting, like the proverbial duck, in isolation.


The commission said reasonable protection for the USIA is complicated by a “bureaucratic dilemma, the tendency of a large and authoritative organization with political and budgetary clout, such as the Department of State, to ignore and 2’ second-guess a smaller and less potent partner when it comes to engaging in joint ventures.”

As another example, the commission said the State Department did not react to repeated suggestions from USIA officers that they would be safer in less conspicuous European style care with local no diplomatic license plates. The Commission report says “a full five frustrating years later,” the State Department permitted some USIA officers to buy locally made vehicles.

Article extracted from this publication >>  December 20, 1985