The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 2, 2012

Minn. judge who visited Libya: Ambassador felt risks at U.S. consulate were worth it

(Continued)

ST. PAUL —

The American Bar Association, sponsor of the courts-building initiative Anderson was there to work on, had a representative meet the judge at the airport and take him to a compound where American oil workers had lived during Gadhafi’s era. Anderson said there was no security, save for some coils of razor wire and a front gate.

Security wasn’t much more advanced at the U.S. embassy, which Anderson entered after driving down an alley and through a gate. It was a far cry from the layers of security checks he’d encountered while working on similar legal initiatives in El Salvador and the Philippines. Anderson said he’d shrugged off the embassy’s vulnerability as “a work in progress.”

“I’m not critical of it. My impression was, ‘I’ve seen better,’ but, gosh, they’d only been there a short time,” he said. “We’re trying to win the hearts and minds of these people. Is it worth the risk? Yeah. We’re not selling our military power.”

Anderson was supposed to spend half an hour with the ambassador, but it stretched to double the allotted time as the two talked law, security and Middle Eastern politics. He said Stevens was worried about the struggle to build a police force. The ambassador didn’t like that so much of the policing was falling to the militias, former rebels who’d refused to disband and disarm after Gadhafi’s fall. Anderson said Stevens described tribalism and the proliferation of loose weapons as other threats to democracy building.

Anderson said he’d asked Stevens directly whether he was safe as an American visitor to Libya.

“He said, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty safe if you exercise caution, don’t go out at night and avoid certain neighborhoods,’” Anderson recalled. “He said, ‘It’s dangerous, no question. But use common sense and you’ll be OK.’”

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