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Embassies Fail Security Standards

August 8, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The bombed U.S. embassy in Kenya was much closer to city traffic than the government’s recommended standards, which made it vulnerable to the terrorist attack that caused more than 2,000 casualties and widespread destruction, a U.S. official said Saturday.

The embassy in Tanzania was too close to traffic as well, but a nine-foot-high perimeter wall had been constructed as a security shield. The official said the barrier helped limit the death and destruction resulting from Friday’s blast there that occurred almost simultaneously with the Nairobi bombing.

Because security specialists considered both Kenya and Tanzania low-risk posts, they were exempted from security upgrades after a 1986 law took effect setting standards for embassies, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another reason was that Congress never appropriated the funds necessary for the State Department to put all embassies and other official structures around the world in compliance with the law.

The Nairobi embassy was built in 1980, and the mission in Dar es Salaam was constructed years earlier.

The official said the bomb in Nairobi exploded in an alley between the embassy and another building. Ideally, the embassy structure would have been at least 100 feet away from traffic, consistent with standards, but the distance between the point of the explosion and the building was far less than 100 feet, the official said. He said investigators have not reported the exact measurement.

A panel headed by Adm. Bobby Inman was formed in 1985 to recommend security standards after a series of incidents showed that many U.S. facilities abroad were vulnerable to attack. One such was the bombing of the embassy in Beirut in 1984 that killed 16 people.

The 1986 law establishing security standards was based largely on recommendations of the Inman panel.

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