Category Archives: Bugs

Diplomat Drops “Fuck the EU” in Private Chat — Cover Your Ears, It Might Ruin You Forever!

– Domani Spero

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland was caught on tape with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine working the diplomatic sausage over the Ukraine crisis.  The private conversation was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by an anonymous user/s who made an effort to include a photo collage of the individuals referred to in the conversation. The leaked recording is available here and has been viewed 485,122.

The State Department spokeswoman was asked if this call is “an authentic recording of an authentic conversation between Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt?”  As can be expected, Ms. Psaki replied:

“Well, I’m not going to confirm or outline details. I understand there are a lot of reports out there and there’s a recording out there, but I’m not going to confirm private diplomatic conversations.”

Hilarious exchange followed:

QUESTION: As related to Assistant Secretary Nuland’s comments about the European Union, do – are the United States and the EU on the same page on what to deal – how to deal with the situation in Ukraine and how best to resolve the crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, we work incredibly closely with the EU and with representatives of the EU, and Assistant Secretary Nuland certainly does as it relates to Ukraine. And she’s been in close contact with EU High Representative Ashton. Also, let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course, has apologized. But –
QUESTION: What did she apologize for?
MS. PSAKI: For these reported comments, of course.
QUESTION: So you’re not confirming that the comments are accurate? She’s –
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to a private diplomatic conversation, Arshad, but I’m obviously speaking to the content of the reports.

Ukraine’s Security Service has reportedly declined to comment on a leaked recording of this telephone conversation.

The Guardian says that Germany condemns the comments made by Assistant Secretary Nuland:

The German spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Merkel appreciated the work of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who had tried to mediate between the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and protesters who have taken to the streets. “The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasise that Mrs Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Wirtz said.

Meanwhile, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski tweeted his support:

@sikorskiradek  Critics of @VictoriaNuland worldwide: let him who has never used strong language in private cast the first stone.

In Kiev, Assistant Secretary Nuland also refused to comment “on a private diplomatic conversation” except to say “It was pretty impressive tradecraft. [The] audio quality was very good.” And so here we are:

GIF_prettyimpressivetradecraft

Check out Bloomberg View’s James Gibney (@jamesgibney) with count your blessing, that’s not one of our bumbling hacks – but:

And as to those who are shocked, just shocked, by the U.S. attempt to manipulate Ukraine’s opposition, this is exactly what diplomats at higher levels try to do: All the foreign ambassadors in Washington worth their pensions have salty, Machiavellian conversations with their superiors and colleagues about how to shape votes of the U.S. Congress. If you’re an American, be glad that pros such as Nuland are on the job, and hope that your other diplomats aren’t sitting around munching cucumber sandwiches in between demarches.

That said, here is one scandal that this intercepted call does point to, however: Were Nuland and Pyatt speaking, as they should have been, on the kind of encrypted phone designed for such discussions? If not, that’s a major diplo-no-no. If they were, and some foreign power still managed to crack the code, then Uncle Sam needs to invest in some new phones ASAP.

Continue reading Sometimes Diplomacy Needs the F-Word.

This is a congressional hearing just waiting to happen.  Where did you learn such language?  Who did what, where, when with these phones and how come you did not know that you were bugged?  Congress is always curious about those things.

Now, please do us a favor and stop sending us hate mail for Ms. Nuland.

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Filed under Assistant Secretary, Bugs, EU, Foreign Service, FSOs, Leaks|Controversies, Media, Security, Social Media, State Department, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions

Soldiers Will Continue to Fight But Stop Getting Paid, Congress Will Continue to Play Chicken and Still Get Paid

Something very wrong with this picture

The Cable’s Josh Rogin points out that the government shutdown would mean soldiers stop getting paid:

In the event of a shutdown, all uniformed military personnel would continue to work but would stop receiving paychecks, an official familiar with the government’s planning told The Cable. As April 8 falls in the middle of the Defense Department’s two-week pay period, military personnel would actually receive a paycheck totaling half the normal amount. A large number of Pentagon civilians would be furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Support structures for military families, such as military schools, would remain open. When the shutdown ends, the soldiers would get their back pay but the civilians might not.

Most personnel at U.S. foreign missions would be retained, the official said, although about two-thirds of the State Department and USAID staff in Washington would be furloughed. Non-emergency passport services for Americans would also likely be suspended. Up to three-quarters of the staff at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative would be sent home without pay.

U.S. diplomats and military officials would still be able to travel for important meetings, but “it will be a much, much, much tougher standard,” the official said, explaining that travel would be approved only “if it is integral to the foreign relations and safety and security of the country.”

The shutdown would also impact government organizations that help American companies do business abroad. For example, the Export-Import Bank would stop approving new loan guarantees or insurance policies, the official said, which could cost American exporters $2 billion to $4 billion each month in income and jeopardize deals already in progress.

Read more here:

Also from The Cable guy, about that bit on Congressmen still getting paid during the shutdown:

A senior administration official confirmed to The Cable that even if the taps are shut off, all Congressmen will later be reinbursed their entire salaries no matter how long the shutdown lasts. Staffers who are deemed essential enough to keep working through the crisis could also get paid, but most will be sent home, without pay for the forced leave.

On the conference call, the officials confirmed The Cable’s report that uniformed members of the military will not get paid during the shutdown, although they will get the money back later (not with interest). The officials also confirmed that the vast majority of Defense Department, State Department, and USAID civilians would be furloughed, as well as most White House staff.

“We expect that a significant number of DOD employees, unfortunately, would be furloughed during this shutdown,” the official said.

Read in full here.  


LA Times reported on what happens to law enforcement folks and the military and who gets paid when:

Federal law enforcement agencies would be up and running, and many in the military would still be working. Those employees, however, wouldn’t be paid for their work until a bill is passed.

“They will be paid once we have money again to pay them,” the first senior administration official said.

If a shutdown lasts only a few days, most in the military would receive their full paycheck April 15, officials said. But if a shutdown lasts beyond the mid-April pay period, they would get about half of their check on April 15 and have to wait until the next pay period for the rest.

The burden on military families, at a time when troops are deployed on three fronts, was a pointed reminder of how a 2011 shutdown could be markedly different from its infamous predecessors in 1995 and 1996.

Read in full here.

The Senate had passed a stand alone bill that precludes paychecks and retroactive pay  to lawmakers and the President in the event of a shutdown but the House of Reps has continued to danced around this paycheck issue and has refused to even consider a stand alone bill.    
Voters elect politicians who appears to be uncompromising. But what get things done is when our elected representatives actually do the hard work of hammering out a compromise that is acceptable to most of their constituents, not just to a tiny, loud, fraction of ideologues.

So if politicians are actually conducting negotiation in honest to goodness effort beyond old politics and ideology, then let’s follow the money.  If they don’t get paid, we’d know that they won’t be able to pay their bills like regular people working for Uncle Sam. We know that they are doing their darn best otherwise they, too, won’t get paid.

Lets call their congressional paychecks innocent hostages of our times. But they’d have more credibility when they talk about sacrifices and all. 

But if our representatives get their paychecks while 800,000 feds and I don’t know how many soldiers suffers the consequences of their juvenile antics, what does that tell us about our elected representatives?

Simply that they can’t do their jobs. And that they are frankly, incompetent at what they were elected to do but most competent at looking after their own self interest.   


In any functioning democracies, elected representatives have to learn to compromise. Only dictators get 101% of what they want. Haven’t they learned that in their basic civics class?

And here’s the other thing that is just supremely poor taste –not only are members of Congress exempted from the furloughs and continue to earn their paychecks during a shutdown, they also get to designate their staffers as essential employees.

Politico reported that about 800,000 federal employees will have to stay home if the government shuts down, but Rep. Darrell Issa’s staff won’t be among them.

The California Republican said he’ll use his congressional prerogative to keep his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff at work. Congressional offices can declare that their employees are necessary to fulfill constitutional responsibilities — which can cover pretty much anything under the sun — and that’s what Issa (@DarrellIssa) tweeted that he’ll do.

“If gov’t shuts down, we won’t. I believe those who choose to come into work fall under my Constitutional arm. Accountability must continue.”

Okay so — they’ll be holding hearings while their witnesses are in furloughs? Just swell!


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Filed under Budget, Bugs, Congress, Politics, Rants

Afghanistan: Ticks with CCHF Virus?

Sara Carter of The Washington Times has an exclusive on a rare virus found in Afghanistan (Rare virus poses new threat to troops | Nov 6, 2009):


“U.S. military officials sent a medical team to a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan this week to take blood samples from members of an Army unit after a soldier in the unit died from an Ebola-like virus.”

The report says that Sgt. Robert David Gordon, 22, from River Falls, Ala., died Sept. 16 from what turned out to be Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever after he was bitten by a tick. Read the whole thing here.


According to the CDC, the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is caused by infection with a tick-borne virus (Nairovirus) in the family Bunyaviridae. The disease was first characterized in the Crimea in 1944 and given the name Crimean hemorrhagic fever. It was then later recognized in 1969 as the cause of illness in the Congo, thus resulting in the current name of the disease.


Symptoms according to the CDC factsheet:

The onset of CCHF is sudden, with initial signs and symptoms including headache, high fever, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain, and vomiting. Red eyes, a flushed face, a red throat, and petechiae (red spots) on the palate are common. Symptoms may also include jaundice, and in severe cases, changes in mood and sensory perception. As the illness progresses, large areas of severe bruising, severe nosebleeds, and uncontrolled bleeding at injection sites can be seen, beginning on about the fourth day of illness and lasting for about two weeks.


The CDC also says:

  • There is no safe and effective vaccine widely available for human use.
  • Fatality rates in hospitalized patients have ranged from 9% to as high as 50%.
  • Insect repellants containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are the most effective in warding off ticks.


The WHO info on CCHF indicates that the length of the incubation period for the illness appears to depend on the mode of acquisition of the virus. Following infection via tick bite, the incubation period is usually one to three days, with a maximum of nine days. The incubation period following contact with infected blood or tissues is usually five to six days, with a documented maximum of 13 days.


This is actually not the first time that CCHF was found in Afghanistan. According to the Federation of American Scientists, 41 deaths
from “a form of hemorrhagic fever”were reported in eastern Afghanistan in 2002. In August 2008, the WHO reported a total of 19 CCHF cases with 5 deaths in the Herat region. Click here for info on previous CCHF outbreaks in the area from the International Society for Infectious Disease.


If you’re heading out that way, don’t forget to pack some DEET insect repellants.


Related Items:



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Filed under Afghanistan, Bugs, Defense Department

H1N1 Vaccine for Foreign Service Personnel

H1N1 VaccineImage by ghinson via Flickr

At the DPB yesterday, a reporter inquired about provisions for Foreign Service personnel in the H1N1 outbreak:


QUESTION:
In regard to the H1N1 outbreak, what provisions are being made by the State Department on behalf of Foreign Service Officers serving at posts overseas? Are vaccines being made available to those serving overseas?


ANSWER: The Office of Medical Services expects the H1N1 vaccine will be available to most of our overseas missions sometime in December.

Because of the extremely limited amounts of vaccine available to the Department of State through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of Medical Services is purchasing additional H1N1 vaccine doses from the Department of Defense for shipment overseas to try to address our needs.

The Office of Medical Services already has shipped its initial allotments of the vaccine to Baghdad and Kabul where employees live in barrack-like conditions. The next distribution priority is to hardship posts where local medical care is inadequate, and these shipments have begun.

H1N1 remains sensitive to Tamiflu and Relenza, therefore all posts overseas have been stocked with enough of these anti-viral drugs to treat all individuals at post.

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Would you zap me an email if you don’t get it by December? Excerpt below from U.S. Government Pandemic Policy for Americans Abroad, in case you have not seen it:

It is U.S. Government policy for all overseas employees under Chief of Mission authority and their accompanying dependents to plan for the possibility that they will remain abroad during a severe pandemic. Information for both official and private Americans on how to prepare for this possibility is contained in the flyer “ Options During a Pandemic ,” which urges Americans to maintain adequate provisions for a pandemic wave or waves that could last from two to twelve weeks.

Once the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms a severe pandemic, American citizens (including non-emergency government personnel and their dependents, as well as private citizens) who are residing or traveling overseas should consider returning to the United States while commercial travel options are still available. Americans will be permitted to re-enter the United States, although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS/CDC) may quarantine or isolate incoming travelers, depending on their health status and whether they are traveling from or through an area affected by pandemic influenza.

In the event of a severe pandemic, non-emergency U.S. Government employees and all dependents in affected areas will be encouraged to return to the United States while commercial transportation is still available. U.S. Government employees who return to the United States will be expected to work there during the pandemic unless they take leave. Private American citizens should make an informed decision: either remain abroad to wait out the pandemic, as noted above, or return to the United States while this option still exists. Any American (whether overseas in a private capacity or a U.S. Government employee or dependent) who chooses not to return to the United States via commercial means might have to remain abroad for the duration of the pandemic if transportation is disrupted or borders close. Americans should be aware that only in cases of a complete breakdown in civil order within a country will the U.S. Government consider a U.S. Government-sponsored evacuation operation.

Continue reading here:

Related Item:
Fact Sheet: 2009-H1N1, Pandemic Influenza, and H5N1 | HTML
The Atlantic: Does the Vaccine Matter | November 2009

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Bugs, Evacuations, Foreign Service, Pandemic