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Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

Archive for October 2011

RQ: Unaccompanied Posts

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A reader asks,

What are the chances that I’m forced to serve in an unaccompanied post during my career?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?

Unaccompanied posts are posts in which there are certain restrictions on which family members, if any, are allowed to travel with the employee.  Some posts (like Afghanistan and Iraq) do not allow spouses to accompany the employee unless they arrange for employment at the Embassy prior to deployment.  Other unaccompanied posts allow the spouse, but no children. Read the rest of this entry »

Travel Warning: Iran

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Iran yesterday.  It reads as follows:


October 21, 2011

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Iran. Dual national Iranian-American citizens may encounter difficulty in departing Iran. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and carefully consider nonessential travel. The Travel Warning for Iran issued October 8, 2010 has been reviewed and reissued without change.

Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States. As a result, U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling or residing in Iran. Since 2009, Iranian authorities have prevented the departure, in some cases for several months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens, including journalists and academics, who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. Iranian authorities also have unjustly detained or imprisoned U.S. citizens on various charges, including espionage and posing a threat to national security. U.S. citizens of Iranian origin should consider the risk of being targeted by authorities before planning travel to Iran. Iranian authorities deny the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran access to imprisoned dual national Iranian-American citizens because Iranian authorities consider them to be solely Iranian citizens; access to U.S. citizens is often denied as well. Read the rest of this entry »

RQ: What Is Your Favorite Post?

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This week’s reader question is:

What is your favorite post you’ve served at?

While I’ve enjoyed every post I’ve served at, Vienna was my favorite.  Not because it was in a nicer city in a stable part of the world, but because I think the embassy there at the time had one of the best crews I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

People make a post good or bad, not the location.

Foreign Service people – what’s your favorite post?  I’m bidding soon :(

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.

Written by OSB

20/10/2011 at 06:31

Travel Warning: Nigeria

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Nigeria yesterday.  It reads as follows:


October 13, 2011

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Nigeria, and continues to recommend U.S. citizens avoid all but essential travel to the Niger Delta states of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers; the Southeastern states of Abia, Edo, Imo; the city of Jos in Plateau State, Bauchi and Borno States in the northeast; and the Gulf of Guinea because of the risks of kidnapping, robbery, and other armed attacks in these areas. Violent crime committed by individuals and gangs, as well as by persons wearing police and military uniforms, remains a problem throughout the country. This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Nigeria dated October 19, 2010, to update information on recent violent activity and crime in Nigeria.

On August 26, 2011, a suicide bombing at the UN Headquarters in Abuja killed 23 people and wounded more than 80 other individuals. This attack was the first against an international organization and the fourth bombing in Abuja during the past year. It followed a similar bombing against the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters ten weeks earlier that killed five individuals on June 16. These bombings were in addition to bombings elsewhere in Maiduguri, Suleja, and Jos throughout the last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

14/10/2011 at 16:27

RQ Addendum: How You Get Your Stuff At Post, Part II

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A few weeks ago I responded to a Reader Question about How You Get Your Stuff Overseas.  Many might wonder if all you are able to get overseas are your air and sea freight as well as your POV.  While these might be the only expenses paid for by the government, you’re certainly not prohibited from shipping things to post on your own dime.  There are several ways this can happen:

The diplomatic pouch is an address in Dulles, Virginia, that is forwarded to post either on a set schedule (i.e. all packages bound for Frankfurt go out on Tuesdays and Fridays) or when a certain amount of packages build up (i.e. 10 tons of material have accumulated for Tokyo).  The pouch is a slow, steady system subject to a myriad of regulations about batteries and hazardous materials (“hazmat”).  Since every modern piece of electronics has a battery in it these days, complaints arise around the holidays when people can’t get their Kindles, iPhones, or other battery-powered gifts through the pouch.

The Armed Services Post Office (APO) and/or Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) takes advantage of the partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of State.  Most embassies give their employees access to APO, DPO, or both.  Letters are free between APO addresses.  Heavy packages are discounted.  The mail comes in regularly.  The downside of APO/DPO addresses is that not all vendors will ship to such addresses.  You can sign up for ShipItAPO which, for a fee, will serve as a forwarding address in the US that will send it on to the APO address.

The local postal service may or may not be a good third option.  In developed countries you’ll be fine, keeping in mind that packages bound too and fro the diplomatic community often receive extra scrutiny in customs.  In underdeveloped countries you might get your package stolen outright.

Again depending on where you are, shipments can take between a usual minimum of 2 weeks to up to two months to arrive (although 2 months is rare these days).  It is most certainly a reminder that you’re not back in the United States, but it comes with the territory if you’re in the Foreign Service.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.

Travel Warning: Mauritania

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Mauritania yesterday.  It reads as follows:


October 12, 2011

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Mauritania, and urges extreme caution for those who chose to travel to Mauritania due to increased activities by the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM continues to demonstrate its intent and ability to conduct attacks against foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens. This replaces the Travel Warning for Mauritania, issued on March 11, 2011, to update information on security incidents and remind travelers of security concerns.

As noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution dated July 26, 2011, AQIM has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.

As a result of perceived Western involvement in counterterrorism efforts, AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets. It is possible that AQIM will attempt retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity. The Mauritanian military continues to engage in action against AQIM elements. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

13/10/2011 at 00:51

Travel Warning: Lebanon

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Lebanon on October 12, 2011.  It reads as follows:


October 12, 2011

The Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon due to current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 4, 2011, to update information on security and kidnapping threats, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains. Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly. Access to borders, airports, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning. Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent. Family or neighborhood disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning. The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may at times be severely limited. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

13/10/2011 at 00:50