Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US' Baghdad embassy plans appear briefly on Web

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON

It was a short-lived but spectacular breach of security at the new US embassy in Baghdad.

The embassy, to be opened in September, is the most heavily fortified in the world, built to the highest security specifications possible. Access to the site is restricted to those with difficult-to-obtain security passes.

It has to be: the embassy, inside the Green Zone, is the No 1 target for insurgents seeking to infiltrate or land a mortar. But the seemingly impregnable fortress has been breached even before it has opened, to the rage and embarrassment of US officials.

The master plan of the embassy was posted for all to see on the Web site of the architectural company that designed it, Berger Devine Yaeger, based in Kansas, Missouri.

Computer-generated color images provided an overview of the whole complex, the embassy building itself, ambassador's residence, his deputy's, a Marine Corps guard post, swimming pool, as well as volleyball and basketball courts.

The company removed the images from its Web site on Thursday after the state department, which is responsible for the embassy, complained. But the damage had already been done: the images have been picked up and are available on a variety of sites round the world.

The US senate foreign affairs committee last year predicted security at the embassy would be extraordinary.

Hidden behind high blast walls, it is not visible from the ground. The embassy, which cost an estimated US$592 million, will house 27 buildings. Access will be through five heavily guarded entrances.

The Web site images are labelled "Baghdad US Embassy Compound Master Plan." Among them is one showing the "US embassy deputy chief mission residence" with a Marine outside a half-open steel gate. Another shows the palm-fringed embassy pool house.

The state department acknowledged that the Web site posting posed problems but a spokesman from Berger Devine Yaeger played it down, saying that better images of the embassy would be available on Google Earth.

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