AP: U.S. destroying secret info amid Beirut unrest
Hezbollah supporters wave flags and hold up Arabic banners reading "At your service God's prophet, America equals terrorism, and America does not equal freedom" during a rally in Beirut Sept. 17, 2012, denouncing an anti-Islam film that has provoked a week of unrest in Muslim countries worldwide. / AP Photo
(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut have started to destroy classified material as a security precaution amid anti-American protests in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.
The leader of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah called for sustained protests in a rare public appearance at a rally in Beirut. Already Monday, rioting demonstrators battled with police outside a U.S. military base in Afghanistan and the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia as violent protests over an anti-Islam film spread to Asia after a week of unrest in Muslim countries worldwide.
A State Department status report obtained Monday by The Associated Press said the Beirut embassy had "reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings." It also said that local Lebanese employees were sent home early due to protests by the militant Shiite group Hezbollah over an anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S.
The turmoil surrounding the low-budget movie that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad shows no sign of ebbing nearly a week after protesters first swarmed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya in the eastern city of Benghazi. At least 10 protesters have died in the riots, and the targeting of American missions has forced Washington to ramp up security in several countries.
In Washington, a State Department official said there was no imminent threat to the heavily fortified Beirut embassy, which is about an hour away from where the nearest demonstration is planned.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security procedures, said the decision to "reduce classified holdings" was routine and made by embassy staff.
In Libya, the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi destroying classified documents with Sean Smith, the Foreign Service information management officer killed with Stevens in the attack Tuesday, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
After Tuesday's incidents, the State Department ordered all U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to review their security postures. As a result, a number of missions decided to destroy classified material, the official said. It was not immediately clear which other missions besides the one in Beirut had taken that step.
The official stressed it was normal under circumstances such as those of last week for embassies to reduce the amount of classified material that they hold. Classified documents are also routinely culled as part of normal embassy operations.
Earlier Monday, the State Department renewed its warning to U.S. citizens to "avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns." It said U.S. citizens "living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks."
The new alert, which superseded a May 8 warning, said the potential for a "spontaneous upsurge in violence remains" in Lebanon and that Lebanese authorities are not able to guarantee protection if violence erupts quickly.
The warning also noted that the Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that gave grants to American scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year have been suspended "because of the deteriorating security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon."
Protests against the movie turned violent for the first time in Afghanistan on Monday as hundreds of people burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base in the capital, Kabul. Many in the crowd shouted "Death to America!" and "Death to those people who have made a film and insulted our prophet." They also spiraled out of control in Indonesia and Pakistan, while several in the Middle East were calm.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group, has rarely been seen in public since his Shiite Muslim group battled Israel in a month-long war in 2006, fearing Israeli assassination. Since then, he has communicated with his followers and gives news conference mostly via satellite link.
On Monday, he spoke for about 15 minutes before tens of thousands of cheering supporters, many of them with green and yellow headbands around their foreheads -- the colors of Hezbollah -- and the words "at your service God's prophet" written on them.
Nasrallah, who last appeared in public in December 2011 to mark the Shiite holy day of Ashoura, said the U.S. must ban the movie and have it removed from the Internet and called for his followers to maintain pressure on the world to act.
"This is the start of a serious movement that must continue all over the Muslim world in defense of the prophet of God," he said to roars of support. "As long as there's blood in us, we will not remain silent over insults against our prophet."
He called for a series of demonstrations this week to denounce the video.
- no previous page
Popular on CBSNews.com
- Photos of the Week 21 Photos
- U.K. police announce new leads in missing girl case
- U.N. panel: Sanctions delaying NKorea nuke program
- Drone technology myths, facts and future feats
- Canadian earthquake jolts cities, felt in U.S.
- Russia strikes back after expelling alleged U.S. spy
- At least 12 killed in blasts targeting Iraq's Shiites
- $1 million in jewelry stolen near Cannes film festival