WASHINGTON — Diplomats at the US Embassy in Beirut have started to destroy classified material as a security precaution amid anti-American protests in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.
A State Department status report said the Beirut embassy had ‘‘reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings.’’ It also said that local Lebanese employees were sent home early due to protests by the militant Shi’ite group Hezbollah over an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States.
In Washington, a State Department official said Monday that there was no imminent threat to the heavily fortified Beirut embassy, which is about an hour away from where the nearest demonstration is planned.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security procedures, said the decision to ‘‘reduce classified holdings’’ was routine and made by embassy staff.
Since last Tuesday, protesters have breached the walls or compounds of several US diplomatic missions, including in Cairo, Tunis, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
After Tuesday’s violent protests, the State Department ordered all US embassies and consulates around the world to review their security postures. As a result, a number of missions decided to destroy classified material, the official said. It was not immediately clear which other missions besides the one in Beirut had done that.
The official stressed it was normal under circumstances such as those of last week for embassies to reduce the amount of classified material that they hold. Classified documents are also routinely culled as part of normal embassy operations.
The White House said President Obama called officials at US diplomatic facilities in North Africa and the Middle East over the weekend to reassure them that their security is a top priority for the US government.
Obama called officials working in Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen following violent protests that broke out in response to the anti-Islam film.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama called the missions to ‘‘let those diplomats know that he was thinking about them, that their safety remains a top priority’’ even as he continues campaigning for reelection.
Earlier Monday, the State Department renewed its warning to US citizens to ‘‘avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns.” It said US citizens ‘‘living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks.’’