American Embassies At Risk

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings gestures while addressing a conference on school safety, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006 in Chevy Chase, Md. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

CBS News has learned intelligence analysts believe the clock is ticking down again for an attack similar to the one two years ago on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports the assessment comes even as one expert warns the United States still isn't doing enough to protect its remaining overseas facilities.

"The threat is not dying. The threat everyday is becoming more sophisticated, if not more pervasive," said retired Admiral William Crowe, who headed up a study on embassy security after the blasts.

In January 1999, that study reported that the African embassy bombings revealed "the inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks and…the relative low priority accorded security concerns throughout the U.S. government."

"Saving lives and adequately addressing our security vulnerabilities on a sustained basis must be given a higher priority by all those involved if we are to prevent such tragedies in the future," the study found.

Crowe's report estimated that closing the State Department's security gaps would require "appropriations of approximately $1.4 billion per year maintained over an approximate ten-year period."

Yet while Congress acknowledged that Crowe's findings echoed those of the the Inman Commission 14 years earlier, in 1999 it allocated only $600 million a year for 2000-2004.

In the appropriations bill working its way through Congress this year, the amount for fiscal 2001 has been increased to $648 million.

Still, Crowe says Congress is now up to a half a billion dollars short of what is needed to upgrade security overseas, where many facilities are close to the street and have only rudimentary security measures.

Fear of a possible attack prompted the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan to cancel a planned July 4th party last month.

To compensate for the funding shortfall, the State Department is rushing to upgrade training at the outposts.

"We have conducted security awareness briefings for 7,000 employees in the past two and a half months alone and are making annual refresher training mandatory," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said recently.

However, some experts worry that as embassies become more secure, other targets become more appealing.

Terrorists in Russia have begun targeting civilians instead of government sites, as during the attack last week on a Moscow pedestrian passageway.

U.S. analysts believe, however, that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, the man held responsible for the East African bombings, is more interested in targets that make a political statement.

"His preferred targets are high profile U.S. official government installations and people," said Crowe.

hat in turn has made bin Laden a pretty high profile target himself. Next week the U.S. will flood African newspapers with ads, again reminding people that there is still a $5 million reward on bin Laden's head.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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