Category Archives: 66

State/OIG Releases Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process

– By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released its Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process.  [See Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process (ISP-I-13-44A)  [491 Kb]  Posted on September 25, 2013].  The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between April 15 and August 13, 2013. The names of the inspectors have been redacted per [FOIA Exemption (b) (6)]  which “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (Argh!!!)

The OIG report in short form says “The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended—independently and without bias—to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State’s security programs.”

Among its key judgments are 1) the implementation of Accountability Review Board recommendations works best when the Secretary of State and other Department of State principals take full ownership and oversight of the implementation process; 2) per Benghazi ARB recommendation to enable future Boards to recommend that the Department of State take disciplinary action in cases of unsatisfactory leadership performance related to a security incident, State “plans to revise the Foreign Affairs Manual and request that Congress amend the applicable statute to incorporate this change.”

According to the report, the OIG team interviewed the four secretaries who held office between 1998 and 2012. “All stated that the ARB process was an effective tool that could provide the Department with important lessons for enhancing the security and safety of U.S. diplomatic facilities and employees. The interviews revealed that the secretaries had engaged actively in the ARB process and had taken the ARB and the resulting recommendations with utmost seriousness.”

The report does not include the names of the interviewees but the four SecState would have been Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), Colin Powell (2001-2005), Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009), and Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013)

The very same report notes that the “OIG team was not able to identify an institutionalized process by which the Secretary or Deputy Secretary engaged beyond the drafting and submission of the Secretary’s legislated report to Congress.”

Two former secretaries “raised questions as to whether the process is sufficiently robust for handling investigations of major, complex incidents, especially those in which the interests and actions of several agencies were involved.”

The report further noted that all four former secretaries described the inherent tug of war between risks and rewards as the Department conducts its business in dangerous places around the world:

Typically, the strong preference among those responsible for advancing U.S. policy objectives is to keep posts open whenever possible, even in dangerous places, while those officials responsible for security give priority to the risks and the possibilities for harm. Within the Department, these sometimes contradictory positions tend to be represented respectively by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of State for Management. For that reason, two former secretaries were strongly of the view that responsibility for reconciling these perspectives should be vested at the deputy secretary level. Indeed, one former Secretary told the OIG team that this concern was at the heart of the original proposal to create a second deputy secretary position, one that would have as a principal responsibility overseeing and reconciling these competing interests of policy and security on a daily basis.

The second deputy secretary position was first filled in 2009 during Secretary Clinton’s tenure.  The State Department describes the position as the Chief Operating Officer of the Department, but the official title is Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR).   The position “serves as principal adviser to the Secretary on overall supervision and direction of resource allocation and management activities of the Department.” The job summary posted online makes no special mention of this position as the arbiter when the competing interests between policy and security comes to the fore.

From 2009-2010, Jacob J. Lew was D/MR and oversaw the civilian surge in Afghanistan. From 2011-2013, Thomas R. Nides was D/MR and delivered State’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Most recently, President Obama announced the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, the new Counselor in the Office of the Secretary of State to be the third Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.

We hope to do a follow-up post on the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee and how come no ARB was convened following the attack at the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 despite “significant destruction of property.”


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Filed under 66, 67, Diplomatic Attacks, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Secretary of State, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

Social Media Schizophrenia Continues on Background, and Oh, Stuff That Loophole, Ey?

One of our readers from a post that will remain unnamed recently wrote a note with the following heads-up, “…our Front Office has gone on an anti-social media rampage of late.”

Something about slamming worker bees for not using Facebook or Twitter responsibly?  Apparently, using our universal idiotic translator, that means anyone at post using FB or Twitter was not/not using it responsibly.

These folks have been sequestered inside the mission (before sequestration was a DC rage) due to well, reasons and are not allowed to meet their contacts outside the embassy compound. But our diplomats can continue their host country engagement despite the security hindrances in country X or Y because there now are plenty of social media tools. Except that embassies are not democracies, and when the Front Office is of the opinion that staffers who use these tools are not using it responsibly – what do you get?  What kind of work can our diplomats realistically do when they cannot travel outside the embassy compound?  What kind of host country outreach can be expected of them  when even the mere use of social media tools is considered  irresponsible use by their bosses?

And so the State Department’s social media schizophrenia continues, on background in that region over there.

This gives us an excuse to revisit the social media hubbub from last year about the change in the clearance regs, also known as the 2-day clearance for tweets scandal that gave everyone  ants in their pants —

Screen Shot 2013-02-28

Anyway — rumor has it that when Condolezza Rice’s book was submitted for clearance at the State Department a year or so ago — the Executive Secretariat sent that around with very tight short fuze clearance taskers so that the 30 day timeline could be respected.   This is the book where she reportedly congratulated herself on forcing more State Department officials into the field.

Sometime last year year, we published in this blog a short piece on PTSD by an active FSO, and we understand that the clearance for that came through, shockingly enough within 24 hours.

So when the clearance system works, it rocks, but it does not always work as intended.

The current rules says that if the designated review period of 30 days run out without a response, that an employee may go ahead and publish the submitted material with a couple of caveats (no classified or protected info used).  Which is good because it makes the clearance office accountable; officials cannot just sit on the submitted material for no reason than to stall publication. There is the risk, of course, that the Dept will go after you when you take that option.  Prime example of this is retired FSO Peter Van Buren who wrote a comical and depressing account of reconstruction in Iraq in his book, We Meant Well.

That book was submitted for clearance, went beyond the 30 day timeframe and the author took the risk and published the book.  The State Dept did go after him for purported use of classified information in the book, which did not wash or perhaps more appropriately, washed with bad streaks all over it. After a lengthy semi-public battle, Mr. Van Buren retired from the State Department with full benefits.

We must note that the need to get a book cleared is not a laughing matter. The USG once purchased all copies of a book and had a book burning event (see Operation Dark Heart).  In spring last year, a US court ruled that a CIA-connected author may forfeit any future money he earns from a book (see “The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture”)

James Bruno, a retired FSO and author of political thrillers Permanent Interests, Chasm, Tribe and the latest, still waiting clearance, The Havana Queen, had to wait an average of six month for the State Department to review his books. Mr. Bruno  wrote about this in his blog:

“My book manuscripts must undergo government security review before I can even show them to a book agent or a publisher. Those I published before 2000 were cleared quickly and with little interference from the censors. The Bush-2 administration, however, tightened the process up greatly. It took almost six months to get clearance for my latest novel, “Tribe.” Upon completion of the manuscript, I phoned State to ask to whom I should send it. In return, they faxed me a letter stating, “Everything you write will be considered classified until cleared by this office.”

Ugh! In another blog post, Mr. Bruno wrote:

“This week, I shipped off to the U.S. State Department my fourth book for security review as required by nondisclosure rules binding on all active duty and retired government personnel who have held top secret security clearances. Taking an average of six months per review, my books will have sat a total of two years with the green eye-shaders in Washington. That’s two years of not being published. Two years of royalties not flowing into my bank account.”

If the 30-day timeline is to be respected for a former Secretary of State, it should be respected for all employees, active or retired, otherwise why have the rules in placed when there is selective application of the rules? Pardon me? That’s exactly why there are rules in place so exceptions can be made?

Well, dammit, that hurts our head!

Lost in noise of the 2-day clearance for tweets (which reportedly ain’t gonna happen!) is the central point that under the proposed rules, the State Dept endeavors to control much more firmly its employees speaking, writing, and media engagement, particularly on matters considered “of official concern,” that is, all matters of concern to the State Department.  To put it bluntly, the gag works but did not work as well as evidenced by the Van Buren case.  So an update is needed to make sure it works perfectly, silly.

While Alec Ross put his own spin on this, you might check out this flowchart on the review of State employees public communication whether done in their official or private capacity (h/t to John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review and We Meant Well.

Mary Jeffers, a senior State Department officer specializing in public diplomacy currently detailed outside Foggy Bottom had a piece on this in the takefiveblog. She writes:

Right now, if you are an Ambassador or PAO (public affairs officer) overseas you are cleared to tweet or post to social media (as well as talk to local journalists, do interviews with local media, etc.) as you see fit — and it doesn’t look like these new rules would change that.  And if you are in Washington in an office that needs to communicate publicly about something, you can work with the PA staff in your own bureau to get near-instant clearance.

(Plus, employees can always use language that’s already been cleared, e.g. text from previous official speeches and statements — and frankly, a lot of language gets recycled this way because it’s efficient and ensures consistency, which is necessarily valued in this business).

And you can always pick up the phone to follow-up clearance requests to multiple offices, email them or if needed, walk your text to the clearance office.  So what’s the real hubbub here? Ms. Jeffers with her pulse on the ground writes:

  • … in situations where the reason people might read your blog article or listen to your speech is that you work for State, but you want to use your own words and speak your own thoughts.  And of course there’s a broad spectrum of such situations, ranging from invitational speaking that all State officers ought to do as part of their work (on one end) to whistle-blowing (at the other); and,
  • Close a loophole that indicated if State PA doesn’t respond to a request for clearance within a certain deadline, one is free to publish.

Those two items sit right at the heart of the matter.

The 3 FAM 4170 current rules applies to “all public speaking, writing and teaching materials of “official concern” whether done in official or private capacity.  We suspect that the greatest impact on the proposed rules would be felt by employees speaking, writing, teaching and doing any sort of public engagement in their private capacity.

So all FB, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, Ning, other social media platforms users who are State people, talking online about bidding, Iraq, assignments, promotions, housing, officially issued furniture, etc. etc. the proposed new rules are not going to be any better or easier despite official speechifying to the contrary.  So you better stick with toucans.  Look, the 30- day clearance will be shrunk to 2-5 days for social media posts.  Apparently, the public thinks that’s unacceptable for official communication. Does that mean it is also unacceptable for employees communicating in their private capacity? Stay tuned.

Also as we’ve have blogged previously, the catch all language of the proposed new rules is troubling particularly on not violating “standards of character, integrity, and conduct expected of all Department employees as defined in 3 FAM 1216” — those standards are not even spelled out in the cited regulation!  Oh, hey, did we hear right that this draft regulation was done by an intern?

In any case —  all that and the proposed closure of the loophole contained in 3 FAM 4172.1-7 makes us think that tighter control of employee speech, particularly those done in a private capacity, is the main goal of the proposed new rules. It does not matter that there is now a new secretary of state. The building marches at its own tune. If the FAM update is not yet out (it’s not), it’s only because too much public attention probably made it suddenly shy.

As to the complaint overheard down that corridor that we should not be commenting on a draft reg — sorry folks, we could not help it.  Once the regulation is finalized, it does not get any further hearing for a couple years or so.  That’s way too long.  This particular piece of the FAM has potentially significant repercussions to employees speaking in their private capacity. The mere fact that it leaked means others inside the building have significant concerns about it.  Had management posted it in the spirit of true collaboration on the Sounding Board for comments, we probably would not have heard about it.


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Filed under 66, Digital Diplomacy, Facebook, Foreign Service, Huh? News, Realities of the FS, Regulations, Secretary of State, Social Media, State Department, Technology and Work

Former Secretaries of State in the News: Book Signing, Benghazi, Endorsement

Madeleine Albright who was Secretary of State from January 23, 1997 – January 20, 2001 under Bill Clinton was in a verbal altercation with a group of pro-Serbian activists at a book signing in Prague. And of course, they had their camera rolling and it made the news and YouTube:

Condi Rice who was SoS from January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009 under George W. Bush was on Fox News about the Benghazi attack. She told Greta Van Susteren that “The Accountability Review Board… will indeed take a look at whether or not the preparations were adequate, given what was known about the intelligence picture. I myself have received reports from Accountability Review Boards.” And folks turned off their teevee.

Colin Powell who was SecState from January 20, 2001  –  January 26, 2005 under George W. Bush endorsed President Obama for the second term made a smaller splash than his 2008 endorsement. But Mr. Sununu (of the Air Sununu fame) suggested that Secretary Powell endorsed President O because both men are African American, and the endorsement became bigger news.  But … but Mr. Sununu and Mr. Romney are both … does that mean …. ?  Mr. Sununu went soft and all and  said in statement from the campaign that“Colin Powell is a friend, and I respect the endorsement decision he made, and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President’s policies.”  I don’t think these guy are getting together for Thanksgiving this year.




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Filed under 66, Obama, Politics, Secretary of State, State Department, Video of the Week

Former SecState Condi Rice’s Comedy Hour – Everywhere Including The Daily Show

It’s been hard blogging the last couple of days.  There doesn’t seem to be any peace and quiet from the Greece debt crisis, the Herman Cain crisis, the defund UN crisis, the population crisis (there are now officially 7 billion of us, did you hear that?), less than 30-days Super Committee crisis, and all the other -isis. So I went and look up Jon Stewart for some laughs. And what do I get, Condi Rice at her finest! 

Yes, too bad, Jon Stewart did not invite Peter Van Buren for a tandem show on Iraq. That would have been spectacular.

More here:

I went to Foreign Policy for some serious reading and she’s there too! Heeeelp! She’s everywhere – saying things like “Leading from behind” is an oxymoron.  And that “We never expected to leave Iraq in 2011.

Can we please fast forward to Bob Gates future book already?  Why? Because at least, he doesn’t give me a WMD headache as much as this one.

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Filed under 66, Book Notes, Huh? News, State Department, War

Condi Congratulates Her Excellent Self in Her New Book, And Why Not?

Condoleezza Rice London, England March 1, 2005...                            Image via WikipediaVia WaPo – ‘No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington’ by Condoleezza Rice by Glenn Kessler:

“Rice is much more open detailing the administration’s struggle to deal with Iraq’s descent into violence during Bush’s second term. She congratulates herself on forcing more State Department officials into the field, but she might want to read “We Meant Well”— a hilarious and often depressing account by a foreign service officer of what really happened on the ground.”

Read in full here.

Oh, she congratulates herself – now, that’s a must read section.  Wonder if that infamous town hall made the cut in her book, complete with invited reporters at a ready to record those “whinny” diplomats who dared asked questions about what do you do after you get to Iraq.

Kessler writes that the former Secretary of State “congratulates” herself on “forcing more State Department officials into the field.” Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot! Why is she congratulating her own excellent self?  I bet she did not know that most Foreign Service folks were already serving in the field before she came to Foggy Bottom? Or that the civil servants were hired to man the fort on C. Street not the blackholes of  ….

Pardon me?  Oh, you mean, she “forced” them into the war zones in 2007? Must be it. Except wait a minute …. neither her then Director General of the Foreign Service or Deputy went over there to serve.  I heard they worked REALLY hard at HR to get people to go; remember the prime candidate exercise? So basically, some suckers went to the war zones and others got their ambassadorships to some pretty sweet island countries in the Pacific or elsewhere without ever having some Baghdad dust on their shoes. You say it’s unfair?  But who says bureaucratic life should be fair?

I’ll have to wait until my public library gets a copy of this book. Sorry, I can’t, I just can’t bear to part with my donated dollars for Dr. Ferragamo’s legacy shoring book.

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Condi vs. Rummy: Just be glad you don’t have to spend Thanksgiving with these two

During the former SecDef’s history setting lap dance (primed with the release of his memoir last February), Donald Rumsfeld gave an interview with verbal darts aimed at his fellow Bush administration officials, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In this piece, Rumsfeld was critical of Condoleezza Rice, for her lack of experience in government.

“She’d never served in a senior administration position,” he said. “She’d been an academic. And, you know, a lot of academics like to have meetings. And they like to bridge differences and get people all to be happy.”

Fast forward to April 26, in the Sunday Mag of NYT (h/t to Laura Rozen of The Envoy)
Rumsfeld also implied that you were unfit for office. He wrote that you had “modest experience in the federal government and management.”

First of all, I didn’t have modest experience in management. Managing Stanford University is not so easy. But I don’t know what Don was trying to say, and it really doesn’t matter. Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.

There are a lot of people with strongly negative opinions of George Bush. Have you ever tried to dissuade anybody from hating him?

Well, no. But I think people caricatured the president, and the only thing that I couldn’t understand is why this man with such a curious mind, who in briefings always asked the question you wish you thought of, why that quality didn’t come across. And I fully admit that it didn’t come across. I think part of it is he has such a self-deprecating way about him that people tend to underestimate him. But he read five books for every one I read. He read something like 12 biographies of Lincoln in office.

I’ve read that people consider you almost incapable of admitting a mistake. What do you consider to be the biggest of your career?

You know, I’ve done pretty well. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past that way.

In 2005 you went to see “Spamalot,” and the audience booed you. Does that happen a lot?

It happens on occasion and, you know what, I don’t care. I don’t care, because I did what I thought I could do in service of the country. I did some things well and some things not so well. The overwhelming majority of people come up to me and say, “Thank you for your service.” If you’re a public figure, there are always going to be a few people who don’t like what you did. I’m just really glad I don’t have to listen to them.

I read that interview and discovered the secret of a good life.  My first thought — well, so that’s how she sleeps well at night. No second guessing, and she does not have to listen to “them” or anyone she does not want to. Sweet. 

On second thought – thank god we’re not related and I don’t have to spend Thanksgiving with these two!

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Any future SECDEF who advises POTUS to again send a big American land army to XYZ should “have his head examined”

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gives a g...Image via Wikipedia

Did not make that up. Defense Secretary Robert Gates actually said:  “[In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”

Well, Bob Gates … he was always a quotable one and I can’t help but like the guy.

During Secretary Rice’s tenure at the State Department, the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. launched its Dean Acheson Lecture in 2008.  It’s first ever lecture speaker was no other than — Secretary Gates. I probably was not the only one who thought it weird that a  Secretary of Defense delivered the first lecture named after a Secretary of State. In 2009, Secretary Clinton was invited to deliver the second lecture, I don’t remember it as an exceptionally memorable speech, tell you the truth. But a sitting secretary of the State Department did deliver that lecture.

Last week, Secretary Gates delivered a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point.  As we have come to expect, it was down to earth, straight-shooting and always touching and inspiring. He says, “We have never once gotten it right” on predicting the next military engagements from the Mayaguez to Iraq.  I’m struck at how his speeches often looks inward, backward, and to the future and the next generation of soldiers.  He talks of entrepreneurial leaders who are “full-spectrum in their thinking.” He says, “The military will not be able to train or educate you to have all the right answers – as you might find in a manual – but you should look for those experiences and pursuits in your career that will help you at least ask the right questions.” He asks how to keep experienced soldiers in the Army after troop deployments end in 2014, and how it terrifies him that junior leaders and men and women in the prime of their professional lives may get stuck in cubicles. (I wished he talked about how to bring troops home from Asia and Europe but one can’t have everything).  

Anyway, you don’t hear that kind of talk in the State Department, which has never been particularly good about talking about its past or future, only of what is now.  Not enough money is often the excuse. Not in its institutional DNA is more like it.    

Here is Secretary Gates, still my favorite ultimate insider/outsider bureaucrat in all of DC:  

[W]hen it comes to predicting the nature and location of our next military engagements, since Vietnam, our record has been perfect.  We have never once gotten it right, from the Mayaguez to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, the Balkans, Haiti, Kuwait, Iraq, and more – we had no idea a year before any of these missions that we would be so engaged.
The need for heavy armor and firepower to survive, close with, and destroy the enemy will always be there, as veterans of Sadr City and Fallujah can no doubt attest.  And one of the benefits of the drawdown in Iraq is the opportunity to conduct the kind of full-spectrum training – including mechanized combined arms exercises – that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars.  Looking ahead, though, in the competition for tight defense dollars within and between the services, the Army also must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf, or elsewhere.  The strategic rationale for swift-moving expeditionary forces, be they Army or Marines, airborne infantry or special operations, is self-evident given the likelihood of counterterrorism, rapid reaction, disaster response, or stability or security force assistance missions.  But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.
I hope you take some instruction and inspiration from the career of Russell Volckmann, Class of 1934.  At the outbreak of World War II Volckmann was serving as a full-time embed in the Philippine army.  After the Japanese invasion, Volckmann fought alongside his Philippine unit, and rather than surrender, he disappeared into the jungles and raised a guerrilla army of more than 22,000 men that fought the Japanese for the next three years.  When the Japanese commander finally decided to surrender, he made the initial overtures not to General MacArthur, but to Volckmann, who went on after the war to help create the Green Berets.  My point: if you chart a different path, there’s no telling the impact you could have – on the Army, and on history.

Indeed, the Army has always needed entrepreneurial leaders with a broad perspective and a diverse range of skills.  As President Kennedy put it, speaking on these grounds half a century ago, “your military responsibilities will require a versatility and an adaptability never before required in war or in peace.”  And for an era of full spectrum conflict, when we confront security dilemmas that Kennedy called “new in intensity, ancient in origin,” America can succeed only with leaders who are themselves full-spectrum in their thinking.  The military will not be able to train or educate you to have all the right answers – as you might find in a manual – but you should look for those experiences and pursuits in your career that will help you at least ask the right questions.
Which brings me to the third and greatest challenge facing your Army, and frankly, my main worry.  How can the Army can break-up the institutional concrete, its bureaucratic rigidity in its assignments and promotion processes, in order to retain, challenge, and inspire its best, brightest, and most-battled tested young officers to lead the service in the future?  After the major Afghan troop deployments end in 2014, how do we keep you and those 5 or 10 years older than you in our Army?
Consider that, in theater, junior leaders are given extraordinary opportunities to be innovative, take risks, and be responsible and recognized for the consequences.  The opposite is too often true in the rear-echelon headquarters and stateside bureaucracies in which so many of our mid-level officers are warehoused.  Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes, they may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting power point slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever expanding array of clerical duties.  The consequences of this terrify me.
One thing I have learned from decades of leading large public organizations is that it is important to really focus on the top 20 percent of your people and, though it may be politically incorrect to say so, the bottom 20 percent as well.  The former to elevate and give more responsibility and opportunity, the latter to transition out, albeit with consideration and respect for the service they have rendered.  Failure to do this risks frustrating, demoralizing and ultimately losing the leaders we will most need for the future.

Read his entire speech here.

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Filed under 66, 67, Defense Department, Leadership and Management, Learning, People, Secretary of State, State Department

Video of the Week: Condi not going to chirp at the people inside

The former Secretary of State, Condi Rice is still doing the rounds plugging in her new family memoir and end up of all places — with Jon Stewart in The Daily Show!   It’s quite fun to watch… but of course, you’ll have to wait for that other future book in this series that will “talk” about her other gigs as controversial national security adviser and later as USG’s top diplomat. 

But — you’ll be pleased to know that she is not/not going to “chirp at the people inside.” Watch:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Condoleezza Rice Pt. 2
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

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NYT Review on Condi’s book: "rarely a hair out of place"

Condoleezza Rice - World Economic Forum Annual...Image by World Economic Forum via FlickrYou know, of course, that the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also known as 66th  has written a memoir, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People A Memoir of Family” (342 pages. Illustrated. Crown Archetype. $27), right?   NYT’s Dwight Garner has written a review of the book in its Books of The Times. Excerpt below:

For all this, “Extraordinary, Ordinary People” is often aloof. There are few unguarded moments, little humor. There’s rarely a hair out of place. (She does talk about several of her boyfriends over the years, including, in the mid-1970s, the Denver Broncos kick returner Rick Upchurch.) Like so many public figures and those in government and politics especially, Ms. Rice is not especially reflective. Her energy is directed out, not in.

It’s frustrating. Here’s a woman, you think, who has been secretary of state and provost of Stanford University. During the fall of the Berlin Wall, she was George H. W. Bush’s adviser on Soviet policy. Her doctoral dissertation was published by Princeton University Press. Surely there’s a keen and kaleidoscopic mind in there. But that mind is rarely apparent in this softly flowing book. Reading it, from the perspective of ideas and intellect, is like watching a Toyota Prius compete in the Indianapolis 500.
“Extraordinary, Ordinary People” follows Ms. Rice to the University of Denver, where she studied international politics with the former Czech diplomat Josef Korbel, the father of Madeleine Albright. Korbel would become the first of her many influential mentors, who would come to include Brent Scowcroft, George H. W. Bush’s national security adviser, and George Shultz, secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

This book takes us through her years at the National Security Council under Mr. Scowcroft and her disputatious tenure as the Stanford provost, where she slashed budgets and alienated much of the faculty. Ms. Rice skims quickly over both of these periods. Much fuller accounts can be found in the New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller’s comprehensive biography, “Condoleezza Rice: An American Life” (2007).
The most ringing line here may belong to Barbara Bush, then first lady, who said to Ms. Rice as she was preparing to leave the White House to return to Stanford: “You are such a good friend of the Bushes. This won’t be the last we see of you.”

Active links added above.  Read the whole thing here.


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Robert Young Pelton: The chatter behind the scenes is that Baghdad is not the place you want to be posted to next year

Cover via AmazonVia David Isenberg at HuffPo on the DOD to State transition in Iraq:

“We may be waiting a long time before security conditions allow what Mr. Bowen recommends. At my request I asked Robert Young Pelton, author of Licensed To Kill, one of the better books on security contracting in Iraq, his thoughts. He emailed me back that:”

The chatter behind the scenes is that Baghdad is not the place you want to be posted to next year. Triple Canopy is allegedly 30 percent undermanned and DynCorp according to scuttlebutt has yet to get anything in the air. The current push to double hired guns also comes after Blackwater was dropped and others were asked to fill the gap. The turmoil in protection services began not because Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqis, but because the State Dept was frozen by the Iraqi government. Condi thought it would be cute to flush BW down the drain but was wise enough to keep them in place under different names. But Hillary nuked them ten days after the inauguration.

The irony in all this is that HIllary Clinton who once sponsored legislation to ban PMC’s and specifically Blackwater finds herself at the head of the largest mercenary army in America’s history. We have yet to actually see if the U.S. government can operate in Baghdad without Erik Prince and Blackwater. Triple Canopy tried and failed before, resulting in a massive influx of BW in April of 2005 until 2009. We know from Leon Panetta the CIA can’t operate without Blackwater, I doubt the State Department is going to magically double their protection overnight without some serious teething problems.

Now that Erik has packed up and taken his toys with him. My advice to Hillary….don’t go to Baghdad.

It’s rough out there these days.  Read the whole thing here.  (active links added above).

We have previously posted a piece by RYP on Afghanistan here.  

On RYP:  “Author and filmmaker, Robert Young Pelton has made a career of bypassing the media, border guards and the military in his goal of getting to the heart of the story.  In his travels to and through the world’s most dangerous places, Pelton has shared risks with his hosts and often has become the sole surviving witness to history-shaping events. His recent journeys have taken him inside the siege of Grozny in Chechnya, the battle of Qala-I-Jangi in Afghanistan, the rebel campaign to take Monrovia in Liberia, inside the hunt for Bin Laden in the Tribal Areas with the CIA, with insurgents during the war in Iraq and running RPG Alley every day for four weeks with Blackwater in Baghdad.”

Check out his official website, where he also has a Dangerpedia.

Related post:
Our Shooty-Shooty and Talky-Talky Teams in Afghanistan | Diplopundit | January 23, 2009

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Filed under 66, 67, Iraq, State Department, US Embassy Baghdad, War