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Security and privacy information and advice at home and abroad.

Archive for February 2012

RQ: Spouse Employment

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A reader asks,

What opportunities are available for spouses to work while at an embassy?

Eligible Family Members often get preference for certain positions at an embassy or consulate.  Unfortunately they tend to be clerical or inherently unskilled, and the pay reflects this.  Some jobs that are common to many posts are security escorts, on-call roving assistants, community liaison officer (CLO), and consular assistant  positions.  Employment opportunities are more abundant at large posts.  Very few EFM positions are considered  “career enhancing.”  If your future EFM or current EFM is looking for a position that requires a college degree or advanced degree the odds are against them finding a desirable position with the embassy.

Spouse employment is a big issue in the Foreign Service, and things have improved a lot over my tenure with the Department.  Leave a question in the comments if you’d like more specific information on this issue.

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


Travel Warning: Colombia

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Consular Affairs issued a Travel Warning for Colombia on Monday.  It reads as follows:


February 21, 2012

The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Cartagena and Bogota, but violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas and large cities. This replaces the Travel Warning for Colombia issued July 22, 2011, to update information on recent security incidents and terrorist activity.

Terrorist activity remains a threat throughout the country. On June 16, 2011, a satchel bomb exploded at a local monument in uptown Bogota, resulting in some damage to adjoining buildings, but no fatalities or injuries. On October 5, 2011, a grenade was thrown at a cafe in the Chico neighborhood of Bogota, injuring four bystanders. Three members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) Jorge Briceño Suarez Bloc were later arrested for the incident. Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can still be extremely dangerous due to the presence of narco-terrorists. While the Embassy possesses no information concerning specific and credible threats against U.S. citizens in Colombia, we strongly encourage you to exercise caution and remain vigilant. Read the rest of this entry »

Save Money on Security Without Being Cheap

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Usually one of the first “casual conversation” questions I get at social functions is “How can I be safer?”  It’s a good question, and not one that most people give a lot of thought.  By the time I toss out a few ideas I get a perplexed look: “You mean I don’t need to get an [expensive] home alarm system?”  Nope.  Read on for seven simple, effective, and (where applicable) cheap tips for staying safe or enhancing your personal security posture. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by OSB

14/02/2012 at 13:18

Posted in Safety, Security

Tagged with , ,

Travel Warning: Mexico

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Consular Affairs issued a (rather lengthy!) Travel Warning for Mexico yesterday.  It reads as follows:


February 08, 2012

The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens about the security situation in Mexico.  General information on the overall security situation is provided immediately below.  For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below.

This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Mexico dated April 22, 2011 to consolidate and update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel. Read the rest of this entry »

US Embassy Damascus Closes

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The US Embassy in Damascus, Syria has closed due to the ongoing violence in Syria.  The decision to close an embassy is not taken lightly, but thankfully employees working in Embassy Damascus had several months to prepare for the event.  Contrast that to the few weeks Embassy Tripoli had to evacuate entirely before shutting down.


Written by OSB

07/02/2012 at 00:08

Travel Warning: Syria

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


February 06, 2012

The United States warns U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and recommends that U.S. citizens in Syria depart immediately. The United States advised the Government of Syria that it has suspended all embassy operations effective February 6, 2012, given ongoing violence and a deteriorating security situation. All official U.S. embassy personnel and their family members have departed. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated January 11, 2012.

The Department continues to reach out to U.S. citizens we believe remain in Syria. Please direct inquiries regarding U.S. citizens in Syria to Callers in the United States and Canada may dial the toll free number 1-888-407-4747. Callers outside the United States and Canada may dial 1-202-501-4444.

The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to remain in Syria despite this Travel Warning to enroll their stay in Syria through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at, and provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information.

Effective immediately, the United States and the Polish government have agreed that Poland will serve as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria. Neither U.S. passports nor visas to the United States are issued in Damascus. For emergency assistance, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Interests Section via telephone at 963 954 666 693 or e-mail

Travel Warning: Pakistan

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


February 02, 2012

The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Pakistan dated August 8, 2011, to update information on security incidents and remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

Following the deaths of twenty-four Pakistani military personnel on November 26, 2011, protests have taken place across Pakistan against the United States, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO. There have also been widespread demonstrations and large political rallies condemning drone strikes and Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis. These protests are likely to continue. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings. Read the rest of this entry »