Friday, August 02, 2013

Here's That New State Department Travel Alert

The usual hysterics in the news media are in a frisson today over a grave wide-ranging travel alert for Muslim countries just issued by the State Department -- and we ought to be able to assess for ourselves what it actually says, rather than the interpretation of what it says from some chronically alarmed dope on an anchor desk. Alas, the media all allude to the alert, and some even provide a few excerpts from it, but almost none actually seem provide the actual text, in full.

Call me cranky, call me skeptical (or call me experienced), but I do not entirely depend on the media  to summarize a text that I should be able to read in full for myself, and which ought to be routinely linked to in any story.

[UPDATE: The New York Times has a heads-up story now saying that the alert came after officials intercepted Al Qaeda electronic communications -- "more than the usual chatter" -- discussing potential terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa during the final days of the Muslim holy period of Ramadan.]

As to that worldwide alert, on the regular State Department Web site, incidentally, the most current worldwide travel alert posted right now is from February. Today's alert wasn't even posted as of late afternoon. [UPDATE: They finally posted it on Saturday for the general public to see.]

Possibly, the State Department fed Washington journalist insiders with the actual text of today's new alert a lavish breakfast buffet/book fete in Washington at Al Neuharth's hilarious boondoggle/event-venue known as the Newseum. Who knows?

But thanks to a blog in the Wall Street Journal, here is the actual full text of the State Department's elusive new alert. After that, see the list (also published in full on a Journal blog, thank you, WSJ) of American embassies and consulates that are being closed for public business on Sunday in the Muslin world because of an unspecified threat.

As to the media who don't do their readers the favor of linking to the source texts (like the list of closed embassies): Hey, media, stop Bogarting that space, my friends! On the Internet, it's infinite.


The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.  Current information suggests that Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.  This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.  Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services.  U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

We continue to work closely with other nations on the threat from international terrorism, including from al Qaeda.  Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.

We recommend U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website.  We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment  gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency."

Embassies and consulates that will be closed on Sunday:

"The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis.  The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General will be closed on Sunday, August 4.  U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance in Abu Dhabi should contact the Embassy at (971) (2) 414-2200. Those in Dubai and the Northern Emirates may contact the Consulate General at (971) (4) 309-4000.
The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.  However, beyond this announcement we do not discuss specific threat information, security considerations or measures, or other steps we may be taking. 
For further information, we refer you to the Worldwide Caution put out by the Department dated February 19, 2013, repeated below:
The following posts normally open on Sunday will be closed on Sunday, August 4.  For further information, please click on the links below."
U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Embassy Algiers, Algeria
U.S. Embassy Amman, Jordan
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
U.S. Embassy Cairo, Egypt
U.S. Consulate Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Djibouti, Djibouti
U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh
U.S. Embassy Doha, Qatar
U.S. Consulate Dubai, United Arab Emirates
U.S. Consulate Erbil, Iraq
U.S. Consulate Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan
U.S. Embassy Khartoum, Sudan
U.S. Embassy Kuwait City, Kuwait
U.S. Embassy Manama, Bahrain
U.S. Embassy Muscat, Oman
U.S. Embassy Nouakchott, Mauritania
U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen
U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya


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