On August 26, an illegitimate “consular message”
circulated through unidentified channels, stating with some urgency that the
U.S. Embassy in Beirut was alerting U.S. citizens and inviting them to contact
the Embassy as soon as possible. The Embassy received numerous calls from
concerned U.S. citizens, citing their interpretation of the urgent alert as
indicative of an emergency. One caller provided the Embassy with the text of
the message, which read: “URGENT: The U.S. embassy sends the red degree of its
citizens in Lebanon and invites its citizens to contact the embassy as soon as
possible.” The Regional Security Office (RSO) assured callers that neither the
State Department nor Embassy had issued any such alert.
In addition, the Embassy released a notice to its
website in response:
U.S. Embassy did not send an urgent message to U.S. citizens on August
26. Official information is posted on this website, the Embassy Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sent by email to U.S. citizens who
have registered in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Citizens
may enroll in this program at STEP.
The fake alert may have stirred concerns
amongst recipients due to recent concerns about the possibility of
Israeli-Lebanese escalation following two separate incidents of Israeli drone
strikes in Lebanese territory (in the Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut and an
Iran-allied target in the Beqaa Valley). OSAC and RSO Beirut have received
inquiries from various private-sector operators in the region, and reiterate
that there has been no official consular messaging or a change to the Lebanese
security environment at the time of publication.
MORE ON EMBASSY ALERTS
Security managers familiar with embassy
messaging will recognize that the faux message contained several errors
inconsistent with U.S. embassy messaging. Among these are the following:
embassies release “Alerts,” and label messaging as such. More specifically,
these may be Security Alerts, Demonstration Alerts, Weather/Natural Disaster
Alerts, or Health Alerts. The message in question did not contain any of this
embassies do not send their Alerts marked as “urgent” or any other measure of
timeliness. Nor do U.S. embassies mark Alerts as “red degree” or any other
color. Some U.S. embassies do have color-coded geographic notices for certain
areas that may be more deserving of caution; a map will accompany nearly any
mention of these in an Alert.
is highly unlikely that any U.S. embassy would ask U.S. citizens to call the
embassy en masse for any reason. Much more likely would be wording directing
travelers to take a certain action, and to call a specific given telephone
number (or visit a specific given website) for more information.
with many faux messages, such as internet scams or poison-pen letters, this
message contained poor grammar. U.S. citizens should assume proper messaging
from one of their embassies would be grammatically correct.
OSAC reiterates that all legitimate alerts are
located on individual embassy websites. U.S. embassies also
send newly issued alerts via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to all enrollees. In
addition, OSAC posts all alerts to its website, viewable without a
password. OSAC maintains the entire archival database of messaging dating back more
than a decade. Finally, those subscribed to OSAC newsletters will receive word of
any newly-issued alerts in the newsletter distributed immediately following
As always, representatives of U.S.
private-sector organizations may contact OSAC directly to assess the potential
impact of security issues abroad on their organization and its interests
abroad. OSAC constituents and those eligible for constituency can find contact
information on OSAC’s Contact Us
For additional information on this situation and
other developments in Lebanon, contact OSAC’s
Middle East & North Africa Team.
Lebanon 2019 Crime & Safety Report
Department Country Information: Lebanon
Embassy Beirut Security
Alert: Heightened Regional Tensions (May 15, 2019)