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The Warnings the State Department Sent Its Own People, But Not You

Earlier this week Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that the State Department’s boast that terrorist attacks against America were down in 2003 was a fraud (it only looked at part of the year and in fact attacks were at a record high). Powell claimed that the earlier assertion that terrorism was down had been a mistake.

Some mistake.

In fact, way back on April 29, Powell’s State Department was quietly warning Americans abroad through its consulates and embassies, that things were getting worse, not better.

While average citizens in the U.S. didn’t see it, here’s the message that the State Department was having its embassy personnel relay to Fulbright scholars and American officials abroad more than a month ago:

SUBJECT: PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

WORLDWIDE CAUTION

This Public Announcement is being updated to remind U.S. citizens of the continuing threat of terrorist actions and anti-American violence against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated March 23, 2004 and expires on October 23, 2004.

The Department of State is deeply concerned about the heightened threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad. The Department is also concerned about the potential for demonstrations and violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

The Department of State remains concerned by indications that al-Qaida continues to prepare to strike U.S. interests abroad. Al-Qaida and its associated organizations have most recently struck in the Middle East and in Europe but other geographic locations could also be venues for attacks. Future al-Qaida attacks could possibly involve non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents as well as conventional weapons of terror. We also cannot rule out that al-Qaida will attempt a catastrophic attack within the U.S.

Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, hijackings, bombings or kidnappings. These may involve aviation and other transportation and maritime interests, and may also include conventional weapons, such as explosive devices. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, including residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels and public areas. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. Americans abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Next time the president or vice president—or our equally veracity-challenged secretary of state–claim that the War in Iraq has made America safer, Americans, and credulous American journalists, should go to the State Department’s website, and see what they’re telling their consular offices and Americans abroad.

DAVE LINDORFF is completing a book of Counterpunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press.


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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