Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered the devolution of the strategically important state of Yemen. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels evolved from regional threat to occupying force, taking control of the capital city of Sana’a as well as oil-rich lands well outside their original territory in the northern part of Yemen.
Soon after the Houthi made moves to control key areas of Sana’a and usurp the U.S.-backed government, State Department officials began to make plans to evacuate embassy and other official staff. The eventual evacuation drew the attention of the world as eventually-debunked reports of Marines being disarmed surfaced, and now, new information has come available that suggests that the State Department’s best laid plans for a safe evacuation weren’t just foiled—they were non-existent.
Unclassified e-mails reviewed by Fox News suggest that officials bypassed security measures intended to protect sensitive data in their scramble to formulate an evacuation plan. These measures were skipped with the permission of higher ups in Washington, and as a result, e-mails and day-to-day operations were left exposed for three days.
But one email reviewed by Fox News showed genuine concern — even panic — in Washington, that an unclassified system exposing emails and day-to-day operations was left up and running at the embassy in Sanaa.
“We need to quickly think about the plan for destroying/sanitizing the OpenNet data that is still in Sanaa,” the email from a supervisor said.
“I am a little worried it is still out there.”
That referred to a main communication link with Washington, known as OpenNet. The emails show that system — at what was one of the most heavily guarded U.S. embassies in the Middle East — was not shut down, in what was described to Fox News as a break in standard practice.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has repeatedly insisted that nothing too far out of the ordinary happened during the evacuation, but the unclassified e-mails tell a different story:
Tony Shaffer, a former military intelligence officer now with the London Center for Policy Research, explained how the information left unguarded at the compound could have posed problems.
“If they are able to exploit it, that is say break it open and potentially analyze it and categorize it this will give them a great deal of information about how U.S. embassies function,” he said.
Psaki, speaking with Fox News, acknowledged that not everything went as planned.
But, she said, “We’ve been planning these for weeks and everybody was following the proper protocol put in place for the advance.”
Psaki’s claim that there was a long-standing plan conflicts with email traffic, just days before the evacuation, requesting further guidance and instruction on closing the embassy.
Ambassador John Bolton took to the airwaves to draw attention to just how chaotic this evacuation was:
I don’t think any reasonable person would ever suggest that anything less than a flawless evacuation is an aberration; the problem here is that the threat of destabilization and rebel occupation didn’t just come out of thin air. Between the Houthi, and Yemen’s active al-Qaeda terror cell, the place has been a powder keg for years. This State Department has a history of glossing over major security issues (I don’t have to say it—you’re already thinking “Benghazi,”) and if these major issues have already surfaced via unclassified e-mails, I’m almost scared to see what will be uncovered next.DONATE
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