Reassurances of security give few details
While U.S. military officials said Tuesday that they are addressing some of the security concerns raised by base residents in Europe, they are remaining tight-lipped about specific information leading to heightened terrorism alerts.
Public declarations of specific threats could compromise counterterrorism efforts and investigations, they say. However, a senior U.S. European Command leader said Tuesday that the U.S. military is working with German authorities to eliminate any potential threats to U.S. interests.
“We want to catch these guys. We want to make it as hard for them as we possibly can,” Maj. Gen. William Catto, chief of staff for the U.S. European Command, said during an interview with Stars and Stripes editors.
Catto declined to answer several questions on the record, including whether a specific threat to U.S. military bases in Germany exists. However, EUCOM announced Saturday that bases throughout Europe would be holding force-protection exercises to randomly test and evaluate force-protection procedures.
But some residents are asking for more action, such as increasing security at a military housing area in Wiesbaden where trucks, cars and pedestrians can travel unencumbered by gates or identification checkpoints.
Some current and former residents of the community describe security there as a joke. And the long-standing concern — an issue that’s been raised before at town hall meetings — only has intensified in light of the recently elevated threat condition.
“I lived there from 2005-2006 and couldn’t believe my eyes. These so-called leaders and force-protection plans are laughable. Let’s see who’s laughing when Americans are killed there,” said Stephanie, a former resident now living in Naples, who asked that her last name be withheld.
The Army’s response: “We’re aware of concerns expressed about the [Wiesbaden] housing area.”
“There are measures, both ongoing as well as planned, to provide the necessary security,” Bruce Anderson, U.S. Army Europe spokesman, said in a prepared statement. “We won’t discuss those measures because it would jeopardize their effectiveness and put our soldiers and their families at risk.”
Establishing a checkpoint at the Wiesbaden housing complex is what some residents want. The glitch, however, is that a public German road runs through the area. When gates to block the road were used in the past, the city administration protested, according to military officials.
During several meetings between Army and city authorities, an agreement was reached to guarantee access to the public road and use roadblocks only in cases of emergencies. All involved parties were convinced that security requirements for the U.S. population were met, Army officials said.
Not everyone agrees, though. Checkpoints could prevent some emergency situations from happening, some residents contend.
Meanwhile, questions about security at a military housing area in Baumholder soon will be resolved, officials said. Currently, the housing area and the facilities it is served by can be accessed by foot without passing through a checkpoint.
“There always has been a plan for fences there,” said Kelsy Hustead, a spokeswoman for the base in Baumholder. The fences should be installed in a matter of weeks if not days, she said.
The temporary security hole is the result of traffic pattern changes that went into effect about a week ago to accommodate the turnover of a portion of the housing area to German citizens, officials have said.
It’s understandable people would feel frustrated, Anderson said.
When people have concerns about security or want cryptic warnings clarified, the proper route for obtaining answers is through the chain of command, he said.
“That would be the way to go,” Anderson said. And if families aren’t satisfied with the first response, “go higher,” he said.
The warning last week from the U.S. Embassy in Germany gave no details of a specific threat.
Because of “a heightened threat situation” diplomatic facilities would be increasing their security posture and Americans in Germany were advised to take steps to “bolster their own personal security,” the embassy announced Friday.
Meanwhile, German media outlets have been reporting that the Islamic Jihad Union could be involved in a terror plot against U.S. bases in Germany. The Islamic Jihad Union has already committed numerous attacks in Pakistan, according to Der Spiegel.
U.S. officials would not comment on those reports.