The Great Firewall of State Bites, State/IRM Now Considers Diplopundit “Suspicious.” Humph!

Posted: 11:43 am EDT

 

The cornerstone of the 21st century statecraft policy agenda is Internet freedom. The policy contains three fundamental elements: the human rights of free speech, press, and assembly in cyberspace; open markets for digital goods and services to foster innovation, investment, and economic opportunity; and the freedom to connect—promoting access to connection technologies around the world. A third of the world’s population, even if they have access, live under governments that block content, censor speech, conduct invasive mass surveillance and curb the potential of the Internet as an engine of free speech and commerce.

— 21st Century Statecraft
U.S. Department of State

 

We’ve made references in this blog about the Great Firewall of State, most recently, when we blogged about the FS promotion stats on race and gender (see 2014 Foreign Service Promotion Results By Gender & Race Still Behind the Great Firewall of State),  What we did not realize is that there is an entire operation at the State Department running the firewall operations from Annex SA-9.  It is run by the Firewall Branch of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Operations,  Office of Enterprise Network Management, Perimeter Security Division (IRM/OPS/ENM/PSD/FWB).

Sometime this week, some folks apparently were no longer able to access this blog from the State Department’s OpenNet.  OpenNet is the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) network in the Department. It provides access to standard desktop applications, such as word processing, e-mail, and Internet browsing, and supports a battery of custom Department software solutions and database management systems.

At this time, we believe that the block is not agency-wide and appears to affect only certain bureaus.  Not sure how that works. We understand that some employees have submitted “unblock requests” to the State Department’s Firewall Operations Branch and were reportedly told that http://www.diplopundit.com/ has been categorized as “Suspicious.”

via giphy.com

Holy moly macaroni!

We don’t know what constitute “suspicious” but apparently, under State’s Internet policy, this gives the agency the right to block State Department readers from connecting to this blog and reading its content.

But … but … this is the blog’s 8th year of operation and State has now just decreed that this blog is “suspicious”? Just for the record, this blog is hosted by WordPress, and supported by the wonderful people of Automattic. Apparently, the State Department’s DipNote also uses WordPress. Well, now that’s a tad awkward, hey?

Unless …

Was it something we wrote? Was it about the journalists who ran out of undies? NSFW? Nah, that couldn’t be it.   Was it about the petty little beaver? Um, seriously? Maybe that nugget about the aerial eradication in Colombia was upsetting? Pardon me, it’s not like we’re asking folks to drink the herbicide. Come again? You have no expectation of privacy when using the OpenNet? Well, can you blink three times when we hit the right note?

What should we call our State Department that’s quick to criticize foreign governments for blocking internet content for their nationals then turns around and blocks internet content for its employees?

Wass that?  The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing? Blink. Blink. Blink.

We sent a couple emails to the IRM shop — cio@state.gov and Dr. Glen H. Johnson, the senior official in charge of IRM ops asking what’s going on.  It seems the emails were chewed to bits, and we haven’t heard anything back.  Looking for Vanguard contractors to blame? Blink.Blink.Blink.  We’ll update if we hear anything more.

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Happy Birthday To Me, or Why I’m Thrilled To Be 2,556 Days Old

Posted: 11:11 pm PST

 

I started this blog in Blogger (http://diplopundit.blogspot.com) exactly 2,556 days ago. I moved to http://diplopundit.net  on February 6, 2012. In blog years, I am officially old.

Yes, I’ve got stretch marks and all, and my eyes are growing bad, but I’m so thrilled to be here!

OneFSO, TwoFSO, and 373 blog angels made sure I made it to my 7th birthday.  FS blogs Diplo-DenizenSadieAbroad, @FS_ProblemsForeign Service Test, some affinity groups and pals on Twitter helped spread the word. Thank you all for helping save this one blog! Apologies if that sounds a tad dramatic but I would not be here now without the small village of people who care.


gifovea.tumblr.com via giphy.com

 

I must confess that it feels good to be back! Did I realize that doing something else just wasn’t as much fun? Of course!

A bit of housekeeping —

The GoFundMe folks informed me late last week that they’ve officially moved the funds and I should have it sometime this week. I’ve been called a worrywart and I supposed I am. So  I am especially grateful that I can devote time and energy here with one less thing to worry about this year.

I also want to thank Eric S. for helping me cross the T’s, and Michelle for her patience and assistance in helping me dot the I’s (get better soon!). Many thanks to the fantastic Abi Daker (http://www.abigaildaker.com) for the panoramic line drawing we have on the banner.   Appreciation also to Lloyd of Embassy Risk Management, and Philip and Kalina of Silver City Mountain Resort, our two main sponsors here.

The blog has an updated Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.  Please take a moment to check them out.

Finally, there’s a Diplopundit forum in the works. It needs a few more tweaks. Once ready, I will start sending out invitations to the blog’s supporters so you all can check it out and join if you want to.

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Crazy Little Thing Called Love — Send Us Your Valentines (Deadline February 11)

Posted: 18:53 PST

 

If you’d like to, you know, send a love note, to the next corridor, the one across town, or to the other side of the world, Diplopundit wants to help. This year, we will publish our readers’ valentines, so get cracking.

Submit your valentine (no more than 50 words) to diplopunditvalentines[at]nym.hush.com.  Deadline is Wednesday, February 11, 2015 (midnight).  If there is enough interest, the valentines received will go online on February 14.

For now, check out the Valentine’s Day candy conversation hearts. Made in Revere, Massachusetts, this classic candy has been around for almost 150 years!

Saw the “blog is dead” meme, and then, amazingly, you folks showed up to save this one!

 

OMG_yay reactiongifs

click image to visit theGFM campaign siteimage via reactiongifs.com

 

Thank you all and to the tireless volunteers who mounted an unbelievable campaign. Pardon the dust in the next few weeks as we go through a redesign. A new banner won’t be ready for a couple of weeks but some updates I want are now in the sandbox so we’ll get there in a bit. I’ll have have a longer post on this later.  Now, I need more Kleeeeenex! Oh, and then let’s go!

 

So hey, listen, the end is here … and I’m running out of Kleenex

Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan which started on October 7, 2001 officially ended its combat mission last Sunday, December 28, 2014, marking the formal end to our longest war in history.  In 2015, a follow-on mission, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, is set to begin, “to help secure and build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years.” According to the WSJ, some 18,000 foreign troops—about 10,600 of them American—are staying under the terms of two security pacts the Afghan government signed with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this year.

There goes the cue for our scheduled exit.

The clock is ticking but we’ve got a few hours for one more story. Did we ever tell you how this blog came to be? No?

Well, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …two things happened in unrelated order. One, there was a town hall meeting organized by DGHR to talk about Assignment Iraq with the press in attendance.

[Direct assignment] notices, which most diplomats first learned about from the news media as the e-mails sat in their office computers over the weekend, appeared to have catalyzed unease that has been swirling through the Foreign Service over issues that include Iraq, underfunding and inadequate recruitment, perceived disrespect from the U.S. military and the job performance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

What could go wrong? I watched the fallout of that and thought, holy gracious macaroni, the American public has no idea why FS personnel asked those questions.  And to this day, I still do not know know how many DGHRs went on to serve in war zones after twisting the arms of ordinary folks to do so.

Two, I was overseas. There was not much to do or see, and I was awful at quilting or painting. I was bored to death talking to two cats every day! Believing that an inactive brain accumulates rust and gradually is reduced to soft crumbling powder — well, I did not want any of that. It was a depressing time. I figured I could start a blog and try to learn something new everyday or I could make friends with Bourbon, Scotch and Rye.

I started Diplopundit and stuck with coffee.

My first blogpost went up on March 12, 2008. It was about prospective retirees and how to contact Congress about their unused sick leave.  To blog about the kind of topics I was interested in meant I had to do it anonymously to preclude subjecting loved ones and friends to potential pressure and blowback.  In practical terms, it also means I could not brag about the blog, could not put it on my resume, could not use it to gain favors in real life (don’t laugh! An FSO friend already called this ‘a first world problem’)…

Anyway, one time, I received a rant via email, and I blogged this: If You Can’t Walk Your Own Dog …Get a Fish.I could not tell who sent that rant, but I was at one post where the COM behaved in a similar fashion with similar reactions. It was good thing no one forced the mission to pick a motto or “follow the leader” would have been most laughable. At one post, during the embassy’s Christmas bazaar, the ambassador’s secretary and an official residence employee were tasked with selling crafts owned by the ambassador’s wife. During office hours. Nobody was nutty enough to say anything.

One day, the Office of Inspector General came for a routine inspection. The team had its own phone and email. I called for an appointment. I was told somebody would call me back. The next thing I knew, the team had left post.  I was to learn later that a friend on the Country Team who was juggling three jobs and had spent considerable time preparing files and folders for the inspection team barely was given time with the inspectors. No one was interested in his folders.

Months later, the OIG inspection report was released and post was mercifully declared perfect.

Those are a few of the things that shaped the formative period of this blog.

So that’s the story, no one went after me with an ax, not much of a thriller, huh?

Aaaand, the end of the blue line is here and dammit…I’m running out of Kleenex.

The attempt to save this blog is ongoing, and the friends of the blog who have been working mighty hard remain hopeful. But I’ve got to get off this train for now. I’ve made a promise to brush up the old resume and pound the sidewalk somewhere. If things work out, I hope to relaunch this site. If they don’t, I may need to buy more shoes!

In either case, I’ve enjoyed being your opinionated blogger and monitor of things, um …undiplomatic.  To those who patiently answered my questions, and to those who were kind enough to share their experience and perspective, my grateful appreciation. To all, thank you sincerely for your interest and support over the years.   Domani spero. Mwah!

 

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The Year In Review — 2014

— Domani Spero

 

Top Most Visited Posts of 2014:

 

 

The following posts are our additional picks for the year, just because:

A special note — Drowning in Smoggy Delhi: There’s No Blue Sky, So Where’s Blueair? (Updated) (1/29/2014), we just heard that Mission India has now distributed Blueair air purifiers to embassy employees, and that the lungs are grateful!

 

 

 

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Where One FSO, Two FSO, Red FSO, Blue FSO — Bravely Attempts to Save the Blog

Some readers have written us in the last couple of weeks offering to help keep the blog online.  I have told them as I’ve told you that we will not go the route of crowdfunding again. I suck at raising funds, I do not want to disappoint the blog’s core supporters and it would make walking away harder. See  4,000th! And now, the end is near …

A blog pal who is funny,and brave, also known as OneFSO has decided to set up a fundraising page via the GoFundMe website: http://www.gofundme.com/savediplopundit. AnotherFSO who is thoughtful, and persistent is  working to “bundle” pledges on the blog’s behalf.  These friends are working together in an attempt to keep the blog alive.  And yes, I know them but for prudent reasons we’ll go by their campaign nicknames.  I’m letting them run with it with one request that they do an “All or Nothing” campaign. It would help keep the peace in my house.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15

If you have sent donations to this blog via PayPal in the last couple of weeks, I have not accepted and will decline those funds.  However, if you are still thinking of helping the blog, you may support OneFSO’s Keep Diplopundit Alive campaign instead of using PayPal. If the campaign does not reach its funding goal, it will not collect any funds.

Okay, that’s it for housekeeping updates. Hey, look — catzilla!  — Domani Spero 

Updated: Thanks for the shoutout James Bruno of Diplo-Denizen and Sadie Abroad!  I want that water cooler convo included in my obit , Jim.

Updated: Thanks @FS_Problems!

Updated: Thanks Shawn of Foreign Service Test!

From prguitarman.tumblr.com via Giphy

Fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa strategery?  Sheesh! Am I the only one who agrees with everything she writes all the time? From prguitarman.tumblr.com via Giphy

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4,000th! And now, the end is near …

— Domani Spero

 

This is our 4,000th blogpost. A prodigious ‘bloggers in pajama’ project, huh?  These posts accounted for tons of words over the the last seven years, and if this were a printed journal, it would require a wheelbarrow. We wish we could  stay and dance but we have some sad news (or happy news depending on your perspective). We’re sorry to report that it looks like the blog won’t get to its 5,000th post.

We’ve worked hard the last several months,with only minor success, to find grants, direct ads, and/or sponsors for Diplopundit . A couple of commercial entities pledged to sponsor us for 2015. And, a prospective private donor, who certainly does not agree with all our viewpoints but thinks our absence would eliminate a much needed voice for Foreign Service accountability, has committed to supporting the blog (Thanks!). Those contributions would total approximately $10K,  but that is far short of the amount we need to stay online.

Truth to tell, we  kind of suck at raising money, so political bundling definitely will not/not be in our future. We’re also apparently, not very good at making friends with the “right” people. Just for the record, we’re actually quite nice and do not bite. The blog sometimes gets bitey though, but always within reason, and never with viral polioencephalitis, but … can you blame folks for slamming their doors on the “darn blog?”

Is this the end?  Perhaps this is just the universe telling your blogger to go take a hike because there’s something just as interesting down the road!  To blog pals and supporters offering to contribute to a crowdfunding, thank you all. It probably will not be surprising to you that the number of our blog supporters and funders is a distinct minority in the universe of this blog’s total readers. We tried crowdfunding for 2014 but we’re not looking at doing it again; it would make walking away simply harder.  For those who send donations every month, kindly please make arrangements to cancel your automated contributions.  To the blog angels who are still trying to locate funding for this blog even at this late hour, we are grateful for your tireless efforts. Thank you.

Not sure yet when will be our last blog post but it will be later this month. If anything dramatic changes, we will post an update. If we win the lottery, and are able to save the blog, you’ll be the first to know!

Please enjoy the fantastic Ed Sheeran and the blog’s remaining days.

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