New State Dept travel guidance ranks countries by threat level

The State Department launched its new travel advisory system Wednesday in an effort to simplify the information it pr...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 5:29 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 5:29 PM

The State Department launched its new travel advisory system Wednesday in an effort to simplify the information it provides to American travelers about security threats abroad.

The system, announced last month, ranks countries into four security tiers based on a number of factors, including the risk of crime, terrorism, natural disaster, and civil unrest. Those tiers are:

The system, announced last month, ranks countries into four security tiers

There were some surprises in the new rankings

  • Tier 1 - Exercise normal precautions
  • Tier 2 - Exercise increased caution
  • Tier 3 - Reconsider travel
  • Tier 4 - Do not travel

Based on CNN's review of the published information eleven countries landed in Tier 4: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, the Central African Republic, Yemen.

"Basically, these are the countries where, under the previous travel warning, we already recommended people not to go to them," said Michelle Bernier-Toth, the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for overseas citizens services.

While the State Department is warning all US citizens not to travel to those countries, it cannot prohibit them from doing so. North Korea is the exception to that rule, since the United States banned travel on American passports to that country over the summer.

The State Department insists the rankings are based solely on security conditions in a country, but is aware of the possibility for pushback from governments that are unhappy with their ranking.

"We gave our embassies authority to provide their host governments with an advance of the final travel advisory for their country if they thought that was important to the host government," said Bernier-Toth on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, adding that "by and large, I think there have been no surprises."

"We do not give foreign governments the ability to change the language," she noted. "These are not political documents. These are simply based on our assessment of the security situation, and what we need to tell US citizens who might be traveling or living in that country."

There were, however, some surprises in the new rankings.

Cuba, for instance, where the State Department has previously advised against travel, was listed as a Tier 3, rather than Tier 4, country.

In September, the agency stated in a travel warning that, "numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks," suffering "significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks."

"Because our personnel's safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba," the travel warning noted.

"As we were putting all this together we did a very careful assessment," said Bernier-Toth, explaining the Tier 3 ranking, "we talked to all of our experts, and this is where we came out on Cuba."

The new page for Cuba on the State Department's travel website states that Americans should, "Reconsider travel to Cuba due to health attacks directed at U.S. Embassy Havana employees."

Several European countries that are popular with American tourists were put at the Tier 2 level due to risks related to terrorism. These include France and Belgium, where an ISIS cell conducted deadly attacks in 2015 and 2016, as well as Germany, where a truck plowed into a group of people at a Christmas market in December 2016.

Perennial US adversary Russia was listed as a Tier 3 country, due to the risk of "terrorism and harassment."

The Democratic Republic of Congo was ranked at Tier 2, despite what the State Department has flagged as "ongoing instability and sporadic violence in many parts of the country." An American UN monitor was found dead in the DRC's Central Kasai region last year along with a Swedish counterpart. At least 15 UN peacekeepers have also been killed in the country in recent weeks.

US citizens are advised not to travel to the eastern DRC and Kasai provinces under the new system, which sometimes has separate, higher tier rankings for particular regions within a country.

The changes are the result of a year-long review process, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch told reporters last month. That process found that members of the public were confused by the current system and unsure how to respond to the various alerts and warnings issued by the State Department.

"We wanted it to be an easier to understand system," Risch said.

That was a message echoed by Bernier-Toth on Wednesday. She noted that even some of her colleagues had difficulty understanding the difference between "travel alerts" and "travel warnings" under the previous system.

"We shouldn't need to spend more time explaining the difference between those two documents than we do explaining what the threat actually is," she said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26273

Reported Deaths: 1126
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8867641
Ramsey3252140
Stearns205014
Nobles15625
Anoka148878
Dakota141464
Washington68034
Olmsted67211
Kandiyohi5111
Rice4833
Scott4602
Clay44129
Mower4062
Wright3392
Todd3361
Sherburne2482
Carver2322
Benton1823
Steele1670
Blue Earth1480
Freeborn1420
Martin1325
St. Louis11814
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Lyon811
Winona8015
Cottonwood790
Watonwan780
Crow Wing774
Unassigned7511
Carlton750
Otter Tail730
Goodhue715
Chisago641
Polk612
Itasca5610
Dodge530
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur461
Meeker460
Douglas450
Becker430
Jackson420
Murray400
McLeod390
Isanti360
Waseca270
Pennington230
Rock230
Mille Lacs231
Faribault200
Swift190
Beltrami180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Norman150
Pipestone120
Marshall120
Kanabec121
Wilkin113
Cass112
Aitkin110
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Big Stone80
Redwood70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Yellow Medicine60
Grant40
Traverse40
Red Lake40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Roseau30
Hubbard30
Houston20
Kittson10
Lake10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 20767

Reported Deaths: 583
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4541137
Woodbury283737
Black Hawk177548
Buena Vista9971
Linn97179
Dallas94025
Marshall91218
Wapello62814
Johnson6189
Muscatine56541
Crawford5472
Tama41029
Scott38010
Dubuque35521
Louisa34911
Pottawattamie31110
Sioux2980
Jasper26917
Wright2120
Washington1958
Warren1661
Plymouth1462
Story1261
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9912
Poweshiek928
Henry722
Bremer706
Boone700
Des Moines671
Clarke660
Clinton651
Taylor640
Webster621
Hamilton610
Guthrie543
Cedar491
Benton431
Monroe415
Shelby370
Cherokee370
Jones370
Jefferson350
Marion350
Osceola340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Iowa330
Dickinson330
Buchanan330
Madison292
Lee290
Fayette280
Sac280
Davis280
Harrison260
Monona250
Clay250
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Emmet240
Lucas222
Hardin210
Grundy200
Mills200
Delaware191
Humboldt191
Floyd191
Franklin170
Appanoose173
Hancock160
Butler161
Ida150
Greene150
Pocahontas150
Page140
Kossuth140
Keokuk140
Audubon131
Jackson130
Carroll130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Cass120
Winnebago110
Montgomery91
Adair90
Union90
Van Buren90
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Calhoun60
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Fremont40
Worth30
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned00
Rochester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 72°
Charles City
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 68°
Another round of severe weather tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Pandemic food benefits available to families

Image

Sean Weather 6/5

Image

Covid-19 Cases on the Rise

Image

Becoming a better ally

Image

Giving your best

Image

Coronavirus attacking your blood vessels?

Image

Young Protester's impact on police reform

Image

How important are school resource officers?

Image

Graffiti on Rochester trail

Image

Expedited breast cancer treatment

Community Events