Daily Archives: May 8, 2012

Barbara Robbins Memorialized in AFSA’s Plaque, Now Officially Claimed by the CIA

WaPo has an interesting piece on Barbara Robbins, a slain CIA secretary’s life and death.  She is listed in AFSA’s Memorial Plaque as a State Department employee killed in the line of duty.  Her name was apparently added in 1965.

Screen capture from AFSA’s Memorial Plaque

Last year, during the CIA’s annual memorial ceremony, then Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to Ms. Robbins, the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War, and the first Agency officer killed in Vietnam. Via YouTube/CIA: “CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed on March 30, 1965, in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Her name was added to the CIA’s Book of honor, which lists Agency officers who died while serving their country.”

After 46 years, the CIA has now publicly acknowledged her as one of their own.

Excerpt below from the WaPo article:

The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.
[...]
In 1961, Robbins headed off to a secretary’s school at Colorado State University and, after two years, somehow got recruited by the CIA. She wanted to combat the rise of communism. When she went to Washington in 1963, Warren said the family knew she was working for the agency. But they thought her Vietnam posting was with the State Department.
[...]
The car bomb killed Robbins, another American and several Vietnamese, and injured at least 100 more. The secretary’s name and photo were splashed across the country’s newspapers: the Washington Daily News, Stars and Stripes, the New York Daily News — all describing her as a State Department employee.

Her body was flown back to Denver, and a funeral was held April 3, 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk each sent sympathy telegrams to the Robbins family.

That year, the State Department held a ceremony honoring Robbins, placing her name on a plaque in its main lobby.

Continue reading, Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death.

Click here to view some 20 photos related to Barbara Robbins, including old State Department, US Army and family photographs.

There is another interesting item in the WaPo article.  In the late morning on March 30, 1965, the CIA secretaries inside the U.S. embassy heard loud pop-pop sounds outside. Four of them ran to the deputy chief of station’s office to peer out the windows. “The enormous thud propelled everyone backward. The iron grates and windows shot out into the office like knives. The boxy air-conditioning units blew into the offices like little bombs.”

Thirty-three years later, on August 7, 1998, in the aftermath of a truck bomb at US Embassy Nairobi, the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report cited a similar window scene: “In the several seconds time lapse* between the gunshots/grenade explosion and the detonation of the truck bomb, many embassy employees went to the windows to observe what was happening. Those who did were either killed or seriously injured.”

Domani Spero

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Filed under AFSA, Career Employees, CIA, State Department

Foreign Service Promotion Statistics: Numbers Now Protected by the Privacy Act of 1974

In March, a Foggy Bottom nightingale informed us that the State Department had released its promotion statistics internally. We have not seen a copy of the cable.  We were told that the promotion stats are now protected by the following authorities:

Privacy Act of 1974 – which is terribly funny because the Privacy Act of 1974 purposely has a line that says “(B) but does not include–    (i) matches performed to produce aggregate statistical data without any personal identifiers;”

So then, somebody wrote here and asked, “How does the Privacy Act apply to a bunch of numbers?” And we had to confess that we actually have no idea — unless — a bunch of numbers are now people?

The promotion stats apparently are also protected by ta-da –

Freedom of Information Act 2002
The new language in this act precluded any covered US intelligence agency from disclosing records in response to FOIA requests made by foreign governments or international governmental organizations.

“The agencies affected by this amendment are those that are part of, or contain “an element of,” the “intelligence community.” As defined in the National Security Act of 1947 (as amended), they consist of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office (and certain other reconnaissance offices within the Department of Defense), the intelligence elements of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Energy, and the Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the Department of State, and “such other elements of any other department or agency as may be designated by the President, or designated jointly by the Director of Central Intelligence and the head of the department or agency concerned, as an element of the intelligence community.”

As far as we are aware, the promotion statistics of the U.S. Foreign Service are nowhere done near any desks in the Bureau of Intel and Research (INR), so there’s no information contamination of any sort.

The promotion statistics are also protected by 12 FAM 540 SBU (sensitive but unclassified). When you look this up, the cite says:

a. Sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information is information that is not classified for national security reasons, but that warrants/requires administrative control and protection from public or other unauthorized disclosure for other reasons. SBU should meet one or more of the criteria for exemption from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (which also exempts information protected under other statutes), 5 U.S.C. 552, or should be protected by the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a.

b. Types of unclassified information to which SBU is typically applied include all FOIA exempt categories (ref. 5 U.S.C. 552b), for example:

(1) Personnel, payroll, medical, passport, adoption, and other personal information about individuals, including social security numbers and home addresses and including information about employees as well as members of the public;

Too funny, because the promotion statistics do not include any of the above, nor any personal identifiable information. But the important line is “warrants/requires administrative control and protection from public or other unauthorized disclosure for other reasons” — like we just don’t want you to see it, so?

It is also protected by 12 FAM 620 UNCLASSIFIED AUTOMATED INFORMATION SYSTEMS because obviously, the annual promotion statistics is an information system. And anyone who does not get that does not deserve a badge or something.

Finally, the statistics are protected by State 31.  The Googles says that State 31 is a wine company dedicated to crafting small lot wines sourced solely from prime California vineyards.

What? What? How did we end up with wine and vineyards here?

After much digging around the vineyard, we learned that State 31 is STATE-31, a system of human resource records within the State Department. But here is another weird part, it also says:

“System exempted from certain provisions of the Privacy Act: Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(k)(4), records contained within this system that are maintained solely for statistical purposes are exempted from 5 U.S.C. 552a (c)(3), (d), (e)(1), (e)(4)(G), (H) and (I), and (f).”

Now in the past, the Foreign Service Promotion Statistics are published by State Magazine either in its March or April issue. This year, none including the current May issue has anything on that.We’ll have to see if it shows up in the June issue, but then of course, with all those “protecting authorities” in place, State Magazine would be too crazy to print it!

Extract from State Magazine, March 2011
(click on image for larger view)

We have to say that the “protection” of the promotion statistics under the cited authorities above appears not only arbitrary but also capricious. Why do these numbers need protection, again?  In case Al Qaeda copies it for its own up or out system?  We get the feeling like all these various authorities were collected and dump over the hole for shock and awe.

We hope you are properly shocked and awed that numbers with no personally identifiable connection to specific or particular individuals are now protected information.

Silly folks, what’s next, the cafeteria menu?

So then a quick note to Promotion Statistics is called for:

Dear Mr. or Ms. Promotion Statistics -

Like me, you are now protected by the Privacy Act.  The FBI may now do a background check on you, and the IRS may collect taxes. You may now request correction or amendment of any record pertaining to you that may have been incorrectly done. And best of all, you now must sign a Privacy Act Waiver before anyone can officially talk about you.  This gift of genius cannot be overstated enough …

Domani Spero

 

 

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Filed under Functional Bureaus, Huh? News, Promotions, State Department

Photo of the Day: Lights, Camera, Action!

Below is one of four photos posted in Facebook by US Embassy Malta of Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley filming her video message for the Maltese public.

Photo from US Embassy Malta/FB

Interestingly enough, the video message is posted here in Facebook but not in the embassy’s YouTube channel, which has not been updated since Nov 10, 2011.

Domani Spero

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Facebook, Photo of the Day, Social Media