Black Dragon

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As referred to by DS personnel, "Black Dragons" are senior Department of State personnel with the ability to influence Diplomatic Security programs and personnel. Black Dragons view security as the antithesis of diplomacy. In the history of Diplomatic Security, Black Dragons have reduced personnel ranks whenever possible, gave away protective responsibilities for Heads of State/Heads of Government to the USSS in 1971[1] and formally considered shutting down DS field offices and giving the investigative role of DS to the FBI.[2][3][4]

The largest series of reductions to DS were shepherded by Ambassador Anthony C. E. Quainton, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security - 1992-1995, as part of Al Gore's plan on “Reinventing Government.” Quainton ensured that DS lost resources and personnel both domestically and abroad. Used to the boon and bust cycle of security funding, the changes were tolerated within DS until DS management found out about Quainton's proposal to transfer the domestic investigative role of DS to the FBI. He became unpopular within the bureau. Qainton himself later admitted that the proposal "ruined him within DS."[5] A 1979 profile of Quainton in People magazine years before he was appointed to head DS, highlighted his attitude towards security. Quainton said, "The risk is there, and the reality is that you can't have everybody going about in bulletproof cars with personal bodyguards. Embassies aren't armed camps, and they shouldn't be." [6]

Quainton (aka: ACEQ) also attempted to give the DS Rewards for Justice Program to the FBI and would not support the special agents obtaining LEAP. ACEQ also believed terrorism was over and forced the Counterterrorism Division of the DSS to change their name.

The investigation into the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens during the 2013 Benghazi attack highlights the negative effects of the black dragons on security. Security support was minimized or eliminated in Libya despite repeated requests from the US Mission to maintain additional security personnel.[7]

An independent panel of security professionals comprised of former high-ranking agents from the DSS, US Secret Service and FBI, strongly recommended post-Benghazi that the State Department create a position of Under-Secretary for Security, however, the Black Dragons will not support the issue. Congress will need to mandate the creation of an Under-Secretary position for DS, because the Black Dragons will continue to obstruct the efforts.

Popular Culture

Retired Diplomatic Security Special Agent George Larsen fictionalized the conflict between Diplomatic Security and the Black Dragons in the fourth book of the Avery Dick Adventure series Dick Slays The Dragon published October 15, 2009. Larsen writes under the pen name of Avery Dick, the protagonist in his novels.

Fred Burton also discusses the Black Dragons in his 2008 memoir Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent (Random House.)


  5. History of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the United States Department of State, Chapter 9 pages 334-335