- Revised Procedures for Responding to Acts of Terrorism Against Americans Abroad
- A-5660, July 3, 1973
These revised procedures are now to be followed in cases involving private as well as official Americans abroad. Washington guidelines have been refined and expanded and posts should continue to prepare contingency plans to dovetail with these. New emphasis has been placed on policy considerations, press guidance and possible stratagems. An extra dimension has been added in connection with possible psychological stress resulting from terrorism or the threat thereof.
- The Department has revised the procedures contained in A-5660. The
post should update its own contingency plan in accordance with the
enclosures to this airgram. The following primary elements should be
contained in each post’s plan for action following the commission of
an act of terrorism against an American citizen, official or
non-official. Other suggestions are included in the attachments:
- —A FLASH telegram is sent to the Department. Simultaneously a telephone call, if feasible, is made to the Department Operations Center, [less than 1 line not declassified].
- —Appropriate additional steps are taken for post security
- —The post task force, for which members and meeting place are named in the post contingency plan, is convened.
- —Consideration is given, in case of an act against a private American citizen, to the question of how far the United States Government should be involved.
- —Contact is made with the host government to (a) remind it of its responsibility to rescue hostages and protect other Americans who may be in danger; (b) request agreement on the primary objective—safe return of hostages—and collateral objective—apprehension of terrorists; (c) offer all appropriate assistance; and, (d) coordinate public statements in order to avoid jeopardizing rescue operations or increase risk to hostages.
- —A steady flow of information is sent to the Department by most expeditious means. This should include inter alia details of the local situation, post contacts with host government, public statements, names and telephone numbers of post action officers, and adequacy of the post’s staff to deal with the emergency, including needs for negotiators and security and medical/psychiatric personnel.
- —Periodic assessments are sent to the Department by most expeditious means, including options with pros and cons and recommendations for action. The Department should be consulted before any action or commitment is made on behalf of the United States Government.
- The enclosures are:
- Washington Task Force Guidelines for Dealing with Terrorist Acts Against Americans Abroad. This section outlines the organization in the Department which will support the post in its dealing with an incident.
- Policy Considerations. This is a compilation of principles and practices which motivate the US Government in terrorist situations and which supersedes A-2667 of April 1, 1974. It may be used in briefing personnel and dependents as the principal officer may see fit and, if deemed desirable, may be adapted to briefing of unofficial Americans.
- Press Guidance. Relations with the press during an incident are extremely important both in Washington and in the field. Washington and the field must speak with the same voice.
- Suggested Procedures for Posts in Dealing with Terrorist Acts Against Americans Abroad. This section contains suggested guidelines f or posts in anticipation of possible terrorist acts. Local peculiarities may call for modification of these suggestions, but in any case a post’s contingency plans should be compatible with those in the Department.
- Guidelines for Dealing with Terrorism with International Ramifications. This paper was approved November 6, 1974, by the Acting Secretary and was submitted to members of the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism as procedures to be followed in domestic cases with international ramifications. It will be noted that a task force may be set up in the Department to support the rescue mission and to deal with such foreign affairs aspects as may present themselves. Posts’ contingency plans should dovetail with these Washington procedures.
- Possible Stratagems. This is a resume of various tactics which have been used by some governments in hostage situations and which obviously must be adapted to wide variations in such situations. If the post is so inclined, it might war game local terrorist possibilities, setting up scenarios and applying various guidelines to them. Included in this section is “Psychological Guidelines for Hostage Situations”, which is a summary of FBI common sense as applied in circumstances where terrorists hold hostages.
- In order to help condition personnel, as well as private Americans, to a terrorist-prone environment, A-8515 (Terrorism: Advice to Businessmen) might be circulated within the post. Some posts in which terrorism prevails may have devised more precise security tips designed for local peculiarities. The Department would appreciate copies of these. (Please slug for S/CCT, A/SY, and the country desk.)
- Principal officers should be sensitive to the possibility that personnel and dependents living in fear of terrorists may develop anxieties which can have adverse psychological effects. Even though a post may not suffer active terrorism, the [Page 4]publicity surrounding attacks on colleagues or others elsewhere in the world may have adverse effects on personnel and their families. Should there be any signs of potential or actual psychological strain, the Regional Medical Officer or the Department’s Medical Office should be consulted.
- An important deterrent can be generated by the apprehension of terrorists and, if found guilty, by their detention for a full, fair sentence. The USG frequently makes representations, in a variety of circumstances, in implementation of this principle. It is important, therefore, that the Department be kept fully informed on the changing status and whereabouts of terrorists, even in cases where Americans may not be involved. Posts are therefore requested to advise the Department (Attention: S/CCT) on such matters as names and identities of terrorists (particularly those who are likely to be involved in international terrorism and in demands for their release by other terrorists), their location, their legal status (charges against them, “political prisoner” or otherwise, sentences, etc.), and the attitude of the governments involved regarding their status. Such information is imperative for legal pursuit of such individuals or if they flee to the international community, for alerting individuals and governments of a potential threat.
- Procedures and policies outlined herein will continue to evolve with further experience. Comments from the field are welcome on this subject, as they were in preparation of this revision.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750027–0570. Confidential. Drafted on January 24 by Hoffacker; cleared in ARA, SCA, EA, NEA, AF, SY, EB, AID, EUR, USIA, L, S/S–O, DG/MED, S/PRS, S/P, DG; and approved by Brown. Enclosure 5 is published as Document 218. In the wake of the kidnapping and death of Consular Agent John Patrick Egan in Cordoba, Argentina in late February, the State Department circulated further revisions to A–775 in Airgram A–4709, July 10, 1975. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P750113–1050)↩
- The Airgram circulated procedures for responding to acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens abroad.↩
- Some incidents do not require formal task forces with personnel sitting permanently in the Operations Center. The geographic bureau Assistant Secretary and S/CCT will sometimes determine that an incident can be handled adequately at the bureau-S/CCT level.↩
- If the Chairman is not S/CCT, S/CCT should assume these responsibilities.↩
- If other agencies are reporting on the incident from a post, their messages should be slugged for the Department to the maximum extent possible.↩