I’m apparently NOT a threat to American Security…

Because I’ve been invited to come and get a tour of the Embassy.

Considering the email notes at the end that it’s “unclassified” I figure I can share it with you guys…

Thank you for your letter of September 20 to Ambassador Adelman and to the American Citizens Services Section at the US Embassy regarding the experience you had in attempting to photograph the exterior of the US Embassy building in Singapore recently.  We very much regret the discourteous  treatment you received, particularly as there were no signs indicating that photographing the exterior of the Embassy is prohibited.  You make some very good points regarding what is available on Google (or Google Earth for that matter), but the prohibition against photographing US Embassy compounds is a worldwide policy that we are required to follow.

As you are probably aware, this policy is an outgrowth of the 1998 bombings of our Embassies in Nairobi Kenya and Dar es Salaam Tanzania, as well as attempted attacks on a number of our diplomatic facilities in the Middle East.  We have significantly tightened security at all of our Embassy facilities worldwide, an unfortunate consequence of the world we now live in. (Our Embassy Security Officer will be writing to you separately to explain a bit more about our security procedures.)

While we work behind heavy walls, we still try to be good citizens. In Singapore we have a very proactive, engaged diplomatic team as we support US foreign policy and commercial interests in Singapore and the wider ASEAN region.  Our Embassy officers speak at local secondary schools and universities; we have an Embassy social responsibility group that gets involved in local events including fundraising races, Ramadan-on-Wheels programs, and local environmental awareness and clean-up campaigns.  We also try to engage with the wider American community through a range of social events and programs sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce, the American Women’s Association, and the American Association of Singapore.

While you had an unfortunate experience outside the Embassy I’d like to invite you inside for a tour of the Embassy and a short briefing on what the US Embassy does here in Singapore.  Please let me know if you will be available for a visit.

(By the way, I used to live in both Cambridge and Arlington, Massachusetts and I worked on Ed Markey’s first campaign for Congress.  I miss that area now, especially as we move into fall.)

I hope to hear from you soon and hope you will accept this offer to come visit us inside the Embassy.

–         Louis Mazel

Louis Mazel

Deputy Chief of Mission

American Embassy Singapore

This email is UNCLASSIFIED.

I still feel that a sign saying No Photography Please would solve a lot of their problems.  I’m going exercise my right to critique my own government and say that perhaps it’s an outdated policy given current technology as opposed to when the policy was put in place in 1998 following some bombing in August and Google wasn’t invented until September of 1998 (with the IPO in 2004), much less Google Earth, which dates to 2005.  Perhaps tourists taking pictures isn’t such a big deal and the policy might be worth eliminating or altering when it comes to Embassies in friendly nations?

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7 Responses to I’m apparently NOT a threat to American Security…

  1. Wow, that was a QUICK reply, I’m impressed. I do think their policy is a little silly in today’s technological world, and agree that posting some “no photography” signs would be appropriate. How else are you supposed to know?

    Please give us an AAR after your visit, I’d be really interested in hearing about it.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Nothing creates progress (and chaos) like the squeaky wheel of a hard-working Mother!

  3. bookjunkie says:

    Wow that’s impressive. eager to read about your tour of the embassy when it happens.

  4. musns says:

    I hate to be the devil’s advocate, but policy is still policy and we’ve had American’s doing terrorist things, in OUR backyard. So who’s to say you weren’t trying to take pictures to plan for something bad. (hands up, I know, I know – you wouldn’t do that) but a good bad guy would get first hand pictures rather than look at ones on the net for the sole purpose of planning evil.

    Are you going? And I’m very glad that you received such a quick reply.

    The embassy in Italy is beautiful with lots of historic items on display (historic to Italy).

    Hugs & Misses to you and the family!

    • Crystal says:

      @Musns-I doubt a good bad guy would pose as an overweight white American mom with cranky 2 year old (attracting plenty of attention). Additionally, I refer us all back to “a sign would have saved everyone some trouble.” The policies were put into place long before we knew what Google would be like, or Google Earth. An update of the policy with an eye towards understanding current technological advances might be in place. Additionally, I don’t know the history of DSLR’s, but I doubt that in 1998 someone could stand on the opposite side of the street, slap a telephoto lens on their DSLR, zoom in and click away (which I bet huge money if I had done, no one would have said anything because I highly doubt they’re policing that side of the street). Finally, yes there have been attempts…and at least what has been revealed on the news, all of those attacks were in unstable regions. Singapore is not unstable. Britain…no so unstable. I think the culture of fear, and the encouragement of people to do anything the government says “in the name of safety” is waaaaaay overdone. I’m not safer because I can’t take a soda beyond security in an airport. I’m not safer by limited liquids to 3oz. I’m not safer for them doing special additional tests on the bottles of breastmilk I carted through airport security when E was still drinking expressed milk. I’m not safer because I didn’t take a picture of an Embassy in Singapore. All any of it does is make people “feel” safer without actually increasing their relative safety. Americans have overreacted, and begun a mass panic over their new enemy “terror”…and since “terror” doesn’t have a home, or a flag, or a president or a country to go bomb into oblivion (which wouldn’t actually make terror go away even if Terror did have one) they can invoke this spectre of Terror whenever they want.

      It’s trickled down into everyday life…Look at the sprint (?verizon?) commerical that’s all “you’re letting your daughter meet her friends on her own in the mall for the first time….aren’t you glad you have a GPS app to keep track of her. Look at all the fear of predators that keeps parents from letting their kids go outside alone, ride their bike to school, walk to school alone, etc…even though crime is at a lower rate than we were growing up. There’s no common sense being applied.

      As a people, we’ve seriously lost our ability to do risk/benefit analysis. Would my child be safer if hauled a hardcore deluxe carseat around Singapore with me and I installed it in every taxi? Possibly, marginally. But what are the odds that I’ll get into a car accident? What are the odds that she would be injured? What are the odds that anyone would be going fast enough (limits are pretty low here) to do any real damage? What are the odds I’ll end up getting back surgery again from carrying around a 30 lbs car seat? What are the odds that I would never the house if I had to? Risk/benefit…it’s far more beneficial to not drag a carseat and to just buckle her in when in a cab. Sure, it might make us 1% safer even with all the negatives thrown into the calculation, but that 1% isn’t a good enough increase to go through the hassle. But as a people, there are moms on the mom boards who say that leaving your child alone in your car for the 3 seconds it takes to return the Target cart to the cart thingy is too risky.

      But again…as I will say until I am blue in the face…a $5 sign that says “no photography” attached to the iron bars outside the embassy grounds would have saved us all some time and effort. Why would people “just know” that it’s the policy? No one is shouting it over a loudspeaker, you don’t get a welcome package from the Embassy that’s all “hey we’re, we’re active, but no pictures!”…it seems silly to expect people to know about it, without the help of….a sign.

  5. Flora says:

    Wow this is awesome! Did you write them a letter or did they find your blog (sorry if I missed a post if you explained this)?

    I agree, a big sign would save them a lot of trouble.

    • Crystal says:

      @Flora…I wrote a letter to the ambassador and cc’d via email my two Senators and my Congressperson.

      And as I will say until I’m blue in the face…a sign would be helpful.

      I’m reminded of a West Wing episode where two characters are talking about the space race. One character (leo?) says that the US poured thousands and thousands of dollars into creating a pen that could write in space. What did the Russians do? he asks. The other character (toby?) says “they used a pencil.” Leo-They used a pencil. I feel like the sign is the pencil in this particular scenario.

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