Above the Tearline: U.S. Embassy Security

3 MINS READNov 16, 2010 | 21:39 GMT
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the recent controversy over U.S. surveillance-detection programs at U.S. embassies in Nordic countries. Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. Hi I'm Fred Burton with Stratfor, in this weeks Above the Tearline we're going to examine the allegations of illegal intelligence collection activities by several U.S. embassies in Nordic countries. Norway, Sweden and Iceland have raised concerns over U.S. embassy surveillance detection teams operating out of US embassies in their countries. The embassy surveillance detection teams are placed in around the US embassy looking for suspicious behavior with a laser focus on terrorist pre-operational surveillance. And their whole desire is to look at that behavior early enough in the attack cycle so the local authorities can be brought in the loop to investigate what the surveillance detection teams see. As I read through the materials behind the scenes here it appears that the countries are concerned that these U.S. surveillance teams are collecting intelligence on local nationals, nationals of that country and in essence conducting follow-up investigation in country as to what these individuals are doing. The surveillance detection teams take place with the full knowledge and consent of the host government. Remember it is the host governments responsibility to protect that resident diplomatic official or building, in this case the U.S. Embassy. It's been my experience when you see these kinds of media flaps over events such as this, there's probably a high degree of politics behind-the-scenes or turf issues meaning the national services know what the U.S. Embassy is doing but perhaps a local prosecutor doesn't. So in essence this entire flap may be the root cause of turf or politics. The State Department has stated that the program became global in nature after the East African embassy bombings in 1998. In essence we started using the program before that at high threat posts that were always under terror threat and the mission became one of looking for the pre-operational terrorist behavior before the terrorist were allowed to strike. The Above the Tearline issue surrounding this is here is that this program is global in nature, it's just not restricted to Scandinavian countries. And it's a very effective tool in the counterterrorism toolkit to help prevent a terrorist attack on a U.S. embassy abroad.

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