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State Department sets up 24-hour monitoring team for embassy crisis

The State Department has gone into full-blown crisis mode, organizing a round-the-clock effort to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to the expanding attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa. "The State Department has stood up a 24-hr monitoring team to insure appropriate coordination of information and our response. In addition, our consular ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

The State Department has gone into full-blown crisis mode, organizing a round-the-clock effort to coordinate the U.S. government's response to the expanding attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The State Department has stood up a 24-hr monitoring team to insure appropriate coordination of information and our response. In addition, our consular team is working with missions around the world to protect American citizens and issue appropriate public warden information," a senior State Department official told reporters Friday afternoon.

The State Department has gone into full-blown crisis mode, organizing a round-the-clock effort to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to the expanding attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The State Department has stood up a 24-hr monitoring team to insure appropriate coordination of information and our response. In addition, our consular team is working with missions around the world to protect American citizens and issue appropriate public warden information," a senior State Department official told reporters Friday afternoon.

"We have been monitoring events in the Middle East and North Africa intensively today, and working with our personnel and missions overseas and host governments to strengthen security in all locations and to respond effectively where protests have turned violent," the official said.

The official noted that U.S. embassies in Libya and Yemen have been reinforced with Marine FAST teams and noted that other unspecified measures are being taken to strengthen embassy security around the region. The State Department is working with the governments in Tunisia and Sudan to increase security at the U.S. embassies there as well, the official said.

The U.S. Embassy in Tunis was breached by rioters who replaced the American flag with the black banner of al Qaeda. According to Tunisian state television, at least three Tunisians died when security forces open fire in an effort to disperse the crowd; another rioter was killed in Sudan, Reuters reported.

"The secretary, other department principals, and our ambassadors and charges in the field have been in constant contact with regional leaders, and we appreciate the many public statements that leaders have made in recent days condemning the attack in Benghazi, denouncing violence and calling for calm," the official said.

The White House said in a memorandum to Congress Friday that the Marine FAST teams will be there are long as they are needed but will be limited to the mission of protecting U.S. assets and personnel.

"Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property. These security forces will remain in Libya and in Yemen until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed," the White House memorandum stated.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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