State Dept Terminates “Authorized Departure” Status of Embassy Ouagadougou

Posted: 2:40 am EDT


On September 21, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso went on “authorized departure” status for eligible family members and non-emergency personnel (see U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure).  On October 9, the State Department announced the termination of the “authorized departure” evac status of U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou. Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform U.S. citizens that the Department of State on October 9 terminated the “Authorized Departure” status which allowed eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou to voluntarily depart the country on September 21. As a result of the termination of “Authorized Departure,” eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burkina Faso may now return. The decision to allow the return of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel has been made because of improved civil conditions which include the reopening of the airport and the resumption of commercial flights to and from the country. The transnational military and police forces also appear to be, again, firmly in control; and the transitional Government President, Michel Kafando, has been reinstated. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on September 21, 2015.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the risks of travel to the countryand, if already in Burkina Faso, review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members should remain. There is still the potential for sporadic civil disruptions throughout the presidential and legislative elections period, including demonstrations, which can be spontaneous and occur with little-to-no advance warning throughout Burkina Faso. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices. Try to avoid political rallies, campaign events, polling stations, demonstrations, protests, and other large gatherings in the weeks before and after elections; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets. U.S. citizens should maintain adequate supplies of food, water, essential medicines, and other supplies to shelter in place for at least 72 hours should this become necessary.

Read more here.


Senate Confirmations: Tamlyn, Hawkins, Gilmour, Nolan, Alsup, Rubinstein, Amato, Mendelson

Posted: 2:12 am EDT


On October 8, 2015, the Senate confirmed the following nominations by voice vote:

U.S. Missions

PN317 Benin | Lucy Tamlyn, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Benin. –Tamlyn Lucy – Republic of Benin – April – 2015

PN372 Central African Republic | Jeffrey J. Hawkins, Jr., of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Central African Republic.
Hawkins, Jeffrey J., Jr. – Central African Republic – April 2015

PN459 Togo Republic | David R. Gilmour, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Togolese Republic.
Gilmour, David Roy – Togolese Republic – May 2015

PN462 Suriname | Edwin Richard Nolan, Jr., of Massachusetts, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Suriname.
Nolan, Jr., Edwin Richard – Republic of Suriname – May 2015

PN570 The Gambia | Carolyn Patricia Alsup, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of The Gambia.
Alsup Carolyn Patricia – Republic of The Gambia July 2015

PN572 Tunisia | Daniel H. Rubinstein, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Tunisia.
Rubinstein, Daniel H. – Republic of Tunisia – June 2015

State Department

PN670 Department of State | Susan Coppedge Amato, of Georgia, to be Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, with the rank of Ambassador at Large.
(no Certificate of Competency posted online)

United Nations

PN191 United Nations | Sarah Elizabeth Mendelson, of the District of Columbia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during her tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
(no Certificate of Competency posted online)

PN190 United Nations | Sarah Elizabeth Mendelson, of the District of Columbia, to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
(no Certificate of Competency posted online)


Senior FSO Solicits Favorable Comments From Subordinates, Wants GSO “To Grow a Pair”

Posted: 1:53 am EDT


An unnamed senior FSO solicited favorable statements about herself from her subordinates and in an email to her supervisor, the DCM, made disparaging remarks that the General Services office “needs to grow a pair.” Both made it to the FSO’s evaluation report which became the subject of a grievance case before the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB Case No. 2014-029).

The FSGB decision: Grievant, has failed to show by a preponderance of evidence pursuant to 22 C.F.R. §905.1 that her 2013 Amended EER documenting her performance while serving as Principal Officer/Consul in contained inaccuracies, omissions, errors, or falsely prejudicial information to such an extent that it must be expunged in its entirety. The appeal is denied in part and granted in part, but only for a remand with instructions to delete one phrase in the Amended EER. No other relief is granted.

Excerpt below:

Grievant is a Senior Foreign Service Officer, class of Counselor (FE-OC). She appeals the Department’s partial denial of her grievance in which she seeks the following relief: expunction from her Official Performance File (OPF) of her 2013 Amended Employee Evaluation Report (EER); extension of her time-in-class by one year; and a reconstituted 2014 SB to consider her file, if in fact she was low-ranked by the 2014 Promotion Board based upon her 2013 Amended EER.

Grievant joined the Foreign Service in 1987 as a Political Officer, and has had tours both overseas and in Washington. She has served in a variety of increasingly senior positions, including Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM)/Charge d’affaires in [REDACTED] Principal Officer in [REDACTED]  and Special Advisor to the Assistant Secretary in the [REDACTED] Bureau in Washington. The recipient of a number of awards throughout her career, she was also recommended for Performance Pay while serving as Principal Officer/Consul General in [REDACTED]. Grievant describes herself alternatively as “autistic” and a person who suffers from a disability known as Asperger’s Syndrome (a condition on what is known as the autism “spectrum”).

The contested statements concern two incidents, the basic facts of which are not in dispute and are summarized below. One incident involved grievant’s solicitation of favorable statements about herself from subordinates. The other incident arose from a remark grievant made to her rater, expressing grievant’s views of her own colleagues and using language that the rater deemed inappropriate.

The Solicitation of Statements from Subordinates. The first incident arose when grievant asked her locally-engaged (LE) assistant to gather from other LE staff written statements in which staff would describe what they liked about grievant, or how they viewed her as a boss. On December 15, 2012, grievant sent an email to her LE assistant asking that “each employee who is able or wants to do so” submit something written stating “if they liked working for me or something they liked about me as a boss.” Grievant asked her assistant (REDACTED) to compile such favorable comments for presentation to the grievant at the time of grievant’s upcoming birthday. In this email, grievant characterized the employee statements as “a gift I can keep with me always.”

When the DCM learned of grievant’s actions, she accused grievant of soliciting a gift from subordinates. The DCM issued a Letter of Admonishment to grievant, citing the email of December 15, 2012 to [REDACTED] asking for a “gift” from subordinates on the occasion of grievant’s birthday.2 In the Letter of Admonishment, the DCM instructed grievant to rescind that request. In an email of January 14, 2013, the DCM transmitted to grievant a copy of the Letter of Admonishment, directing grievant to comply with the instructions in the Letter, and to sign the Letter and return it to her. Grievant responded with a refusal to implement the instructions.

Grievant’s Remarks About Colleagues. The second incident concerns an email grievant sent to the DCM in preparation for a visit by the Secretary of State of [REDACTED]. Locally-engaged [REDACTED] staff would be coming to  [REDACTED] to support the visit. The scarcity of hotel rooms or accommodations for them became a pressing issue. In an email of August 6, 2012, to the DCM, grievant expressed her frustration that [REDACTED] American management staff, the Management Officer, and the General Services Officer (GSO), were not doing enough to secure such accommodations. Grievant wrote, in pertinent part:

For months and even during the current pre-advance, I have been trying to get the people to focus on finding hotel space or working with the government to find hotel space for the support staff. They refused to do so. Instead, they are living under the fantasy that they will be able to force the USG, with less than a month to go, to accredit FSNs as members of the US delegation and they will be able to stay with other members of the US delegation on .

Both you and I know that the USG is not going to accredit FSNs. If you are not accredited, you are not going to sleep on . Even if they want to continue to entertain this fantasy, check out hotels as a plan B. However, MGT says they have a plan B – staying in the Consulate’s non-existent TDY housing (LOL), bunking with Consulate officers (NO!), or sleeping through the night at the Consulate (H$*# to the No!).

One problem is that when the American officers broach the subject with FSNs, the FSNs refuse to look at hotel options, because the FSNs want to be accredited. GSO needs to grow a pair.

The appeal is granted in part and denied in part. Pursuant to the Board’s findings, the sole form of relief granted is that the case is remanded to the Department with instructions to make two modifications to the Amended EER. One, the Department is hereby ordered to delete the words “gift of” in every place in which the Amended EER contains the phrase “gift of positive statements from her direct reports.” Second, the Department is hereby ordered to delete from the section on “Interpersonal Skills” the phrase “and in doing so, did not set the standard for integrity.”

Read in full: 2014-029 06-11-2015 – B – Decision_Redacted (pdf).


Spying Case Against Robin Raphel Fizzles; AG Lynch’s “Houston, We Have a Problem” Moment

Posted: 2:05 am EDT


We blogged about the Robin Raphel case in September (see The Murky Robin Raphel Case 10 Months On, Remains Murky … Why?.

In November 2014, we also blogged this: Robin Raphel, Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials.

On October 10, the NYTimes reported that officials apparently now say that the spying investigation has all but fizzled. This leaves the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute Ms. Raphel for the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home.

The fallout from the investigation has in the meantime seriously damaged Ms. Raphel’s reputation, built over decades in some of the world’s most volatile countries.

If the Justice Department declines to file spying charges, as several officials said they expected, it will be the latest example of American law enforcement agencies bringing an espionage investigation into the public eye, only to see it dissipate under further scrutiny. Last month, the Justice Department dropped charges against a Temple University physicist who had been accused of sharing sensitive information with China. In May, prosecutors dropped all charges against a government hydrologist who had been under investigation for espionage.
Some American investigators remain suspicious of Ms. Raphel and are loath to abandon the case entirely. Even if the government cannot mount a case for outright spying, they are pushing for a felony charge related to the classified information in her home.







In the case of Xiaoxing Xi, the Temple university professor and head of the school’s physics department, federal authorities handling the case were said to have misunderstood key parts of the science behind the professor’s work.  Mr. Xi’s lawyer said, “We found what appeared to be some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology involved here.” The federal officials handling the Xi case did not know the science but went ahead and indicted him anyway.

Are we going to hear soon that the federal officials handling the Raphel case also made some fundamental mistakes and misunderstanding of the diplomatic tradecraft?  At least two of these officials leaked the probe to the news media even if no charges were filed against Ambassador Raphel.

This  was not a harmless leak. She lost her security clearance, and her job at the State Department without ever being charged of any crime. And in the court of social media, just the news that she is reportedly the subject of a spying investigation is enough to get her attacked and pilloried for treason. Perhaps, the most disturbing part in the report is that the authorities appear to have no case against her for spying, so now they’re considering slapping her with a felony charge under the Espionage Act.

Now, why would they do that?

Perhaps to save face and never having to admit that federal authorities made a mistake or lack an understanding of international statecraft? They could say —  see, we got something out of a year’s worth of investigation, so it was not completely useless.

Or perhaps because American investigators still viewed Ambassador Raphel’s relationships with deep suspicion?

Because, obviously, “deep suspicion” is now the bar for an espionage charge?

We should note that the hydrologist, Sherry Chen was cleared of spying charges but was notified in September that she will be fired by the National Weather Service for many of the same reasons the USG originally prosecuted her. Xiaoxing Xi of Temple University had been charged with “four counts of wire fraud in the case involving the development of a pocket heater for magnesium diboride thin films.” The USG asked to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning it could be revived, according to

Unlike the Chen and Xi cases, Raphel was never charged and was not afforded the right to defend herself in the court of law.  What we have in one case may have been a misunderstanding, a second case, may well have been a mistake, but a third case is certainly, a trend.

This is AG Loretta Lynch’s  “Houston, we have a problem” moment.


US Embassy Denmark: A Wedding in Copenhagen

Posted: 1:52 am EDT


Congratulations and best wishes to U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford and Dr. Stephen DeVincent on their wedding at Copenhagen City Hall on October 10. A collection of tweets below with some photos:






US Embassy Libya: Ambassador Deborah Jones Moves On, Ambassador Peter Bodde Waits

Posted: 1:33 am EDT



In July, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Peter William Bodde to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Tripoli.

Ambassador Peter William Bodde, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, a position he has held since 2012.  Ambassador Bodde served as Assistant Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2010 to 2012 and as U.S. Ambassador to Malawi from 2008 to 2010.  He served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan from 2006 to 2008.  From 2002 to 2006, Ambassador Bodde was Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany.  Prior to this, he served as Director of the State Department’s Office of Management Policy from 2000 to 2002 and as Administrative Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India from 1997 to 2000.  Ambassador Bodde served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 1994 to 1997.  His earlier assignments include postings in Denmark, Bulgaria, and Guyana.  Ambassador Bodde received a B.A. from the University of Maryland.

Bodde, Peter W. – Libya – August 2015

Ambassador Bodde’s nomination was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 8, 2015. It looks like the senate panel has yet to hold a confirmation hearing on his nomination.

The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was evacuated in 2011 during civil unrest to remove then-President Muammar al-Qadhafi. In September 11, 2012, Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi killing four Americans.  In early 2013, U.S. personnel returned to Libya.  The  embassy was moved closer to the Tripoli International Airport. In July 2014, two major militias fought for control of Tripoli International Airport. As the fighting drew closer to Embassy Tripoli, the security environment for conducting embassy operations deteriorated. On July 26, 2014, more than 100 U.S. personnel were evacuated by land to Tunisia (see State Dept Suspends All Embassy Operations in Libya, Relocates Staff Under Armed Escorts).

According to a May 2015 State/OIG report, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (State/NEA) and Embassy Tripoli were working on an arrangement to allow the Embassy Tripoli External Office located at the U.S. Embassy in Malta to transfer operations to Embassy Tunis. This would include the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and as many as 9 American staff members and 13 locally employed staff members.



Ex-Staffer Pours Fuel to the Benghazi Select Committee House Fire

Posted: 5:18 pm EDT
Updated: October 11, 3:26 pm EDT





Several days ago, before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the speaker’s race, he did this:


CNN reports that Major Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Podliska served nearly 10 months on the committee before he was fired in late June.  According to CNN, Podliska plans to file the lawsuit next month after a 30-day mediation phase required under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act passes. The spokesperson for the House Select Committee for Benghazi has released a 5-paragaraph statement in response to the ex-staffer’s allegation.

Major Bradley Podliska’s exclusive TV interview with CNN will air Sunday at 9 a.m. on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Updated, PowerPoint as obsession:


#WorldMentalHealthDay: Living with a Black Dog

Posted: 1:25 pm PDT


Saturday 10 October is World Mental Health Day, hosted by the World Federation of Mental Health.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 800,000 deaths by suicide each year – more than 41,000 of them in the United States.  To help mark WMHD2015, we’re sharing a collection of links below; by understanding the illness, we can help erode the stigma and relate to those who suffer with understanding, and compassion.








We also did one forum in June on PTSD, check it out here.


@StateDept’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs: Doug Frantz Out, John Kirby In

Posted: 12:28  pm PDT


In our Burn Bag mail today:

“Kirby in as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Will that most bureaucratic of bureaus finally be fixed?”


State Department Spokesperson John Kirby watches as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters on August 6, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during a news conference following two days of meetings at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Douglas Frantz was a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 35 years before joining the State Department in September 2013 as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He previously worked for then-Senator John Kerry as deputy staff director and chief investigator of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  We understand that Frantz is slated to move to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

John Kirby was appointed as the Spokesperson for the Department of State on May 12, 2015. Kirby previously served as Pentagon Press Secretary, serving for more than a year as the chief spokesman for the Department of Defense and for former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He retired from the Navy in May 2015 with the rank of Rear Admiral.


FASTC Fort Pickett v. FLETC Glynco: GA Senator to Hold Hearing on Diplomatic Security Training Center

Posted: 2:09  pm EDT


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its review of the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) project (see this) last month.  This project has been  a subject of contention in Congress; the VA delegation is supportive, of course, of its site location in Fort Pickett, Virginia and the Georgia and Texas representatives are pushing for the site to be built in the FLETC facility in Glynco, Georgia. The FASTC project has been on a long battle to get done since 2011, see the details and updates here, but it really has been on the planning stage for more than a decade.

Tomorrow, October 8, Senator David Perdue, Jr. , the junior Senator from Georgia and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees budget and operations for the State Department will chair another hearing on the FASTC project. The witnesses include representatives from DS, GAO and FLETC:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07

We expect that the prepared statements and a video of the hearing will be posted here when available.


Related posts: