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U.S. embassies around the world shored up security in the wake of the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but policymakers have questioned whether security has been adequate at diplomatic compounds in the first place. Going forward, the security plan for the U.S. diplomatic presence abroad must include well-developed strategies to both detect and prevent an assault like the one in Libya before it occurs. Senior policy analyst William Young, a former senior officer with the Central Intelligence Agency who was directly involved with efforts to protect U.S. embassies, profiles some of these strategies and outlines their attendant goals, with a particular emphasis on increasing awareness and early warning, improving the deterrence posture of embassies and consulates abroad, and engaging with local communities and host-nation governments. Ultimately, however, it will be necessary to weigh the importance of the mission against the amount of risk that can be mitigated.

This Perspective was commissioned by the Intelligence Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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