– Domani Spero
“The man was arrested June 17 for investigation of second-degree assault. Deputies seized 15 guns from the home, including his duty weapon, according to a police affidavit filed in Everett District Court.
He told investigators that he is an agent with the U.S. Department of State in Seattle. His wife told authorities that he is a diplomatic security officer.”
The agent’s name was never publicly released.
But — there is a grievance case (names redacted, of course) that is identical in details and timing to the reported case. A Motion to Exclude order by the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) on the grievance filed by an unnamed FS-03 Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agent provides details about a 2010 disciplinary case for “notoriously disgraceful conduct.” While we cannot say with certainty that this is the exact same case, the 2010 news report made mention that the “woman complained of blurred vision and head pain” while the 2010 FSGB case mentions that the “Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain.”The news report and the grievance case both notes that the incident happened on June 17, 2010 and that the wife was taken to a hospital (location not unidentified in the grievance records).
Below are details extracted from the redacted FSGB 2012-045 ROI dated June 30, 2010, publicly available via FSGB.gov
Grievant is a married DS Special Agent with two children, aged approximately [REDACTED]. On June 17, 2010, while he was assigned to the Diplomatic Security Field Office, grievant was involved in a violent altercation with his wife in his home while his children were at home.
Grievant’s wife called the police who, after interviewing both adults, arrested grievant and charged him with assault in the fourth degree. In a statement provided to the Sheriff’s Office immediately following the incident, grievant reported that he and his wife had had an argument over the contents of messages on his government issued cell phone. Grievant reported that his wife grabbed his phone and when he grabbed it back, she slapped him in the face. Grievant claimed that he stood up from a seated position on the bed in the master bedroom and stretched out his arm to prevent his wife from striking him again, which resulted in her falling backwards and hitting her head on the floor.
Immediately following the incident, grievant’s wife provided a sworn statement to the law enforcement responders in which she claimed that after she slapped grievant, he picked her up and “body slammed” her to the floor, then grabbed her head striking it against the floor four to five times. Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain and was taken to the hospital. A CT scan of her head was taken that revealed a palm-sized “subarachnoid hemorrhage within the inter-hemispheric fissure and right cingulated sulcus,” which was described as a bleeding within the brain. Notes on her medical record indicated, “[H]ead slammed into floor repeatedly.” Grievant’s wife was transferred to a second hospital for further examination and evaluation by a neurologist. The neurologist ordered her hospitalized overnight for observation and assessed her condition as “traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage.”
In a follow up visit on June 19, the Sheriff’s Office took photographs of grievant’s wife, noting two bruises on the left side of her face, near her eye and cheek, that were approximately the size of a quarter. She then sought another CT scan to determine if her cheekbone was broken, but it was not.
As a result of the altercation with his wife, grievant was placed on limited duty status and was restricted from using his government-issued firearm and DS credentials. Grievant’s security clearance was suspended from September 10, 2010 until April 17, 2012. Reports of the incident appeared on a local television news program and three internet sites. In these media reports, grievant was identified as a DS Agent with the Department of State in [REDACTED]. The articles described the altercation and one mentioned the injuries sustained by grievant’s wife.
According to the Record of Proceeding (ROP), the grievant entered into an Order of Continuance of the assault charge that deferred all court proceedings arising from his arrest for twelve months on December 14, 2010. On May 4, 2011, after grievant fully complied with the terms and conditions of the continuance order, the case against him was dismissed.
On December 19, 2011, the Director of Employee Relations proposed to suspend grievant for five days without pay and place a letter of suspension in his official performance file for two years or until review by two promotion boards. Grievant appealed this decision and on March 4, 2012, the Department upheld the charge of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct, but reduced the suspension to three days.
The case is available on pdf file here.
Here is what 3 FAM 4139.14 says about Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct: “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor.”
It looks like the judgment of “notoriously disgraceful conduct” does not even require that one be publicly identified, just that the potential that the incident be widely known exist (note specific mention of media reports, one tv program and three Internet sites).
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– By Domani Spero
On December 16, 1998, a Peace Corps volunteer attended a swearing-in ceremony at a small city in Gabon, some 200 miles from the capital city of Libreville. Reports said she went with three friends to a small bar near her house to celebrate, left the bar around midnight and never made it back to her house. The next day, a young girl on her way to school found Karen Phillips body.
This December will the 15th death anniversary of Karen Phillips, the Peace Corps volunteer murdered in the African county of Gabon. She was there to help farmers to better market their produce and teach English at a local school.
On November 19, 2013, the Peace Corps announced that Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison. One individual was previously charged with murder and two others, including this “Rambo” were charged in connection with the killing. Below is the full text of the announcement:
Libreville, Gabon, Nov. 19, 2013 – Thierry “Rambo” Ntoutoume Nzue was convicted Tuesday for the 1998 murder of 37-year-old Peace Corps/Gabon Volunteer Karen Phillips. A Gabonese criminal court sentenced Ntoutoume Nzue to life in prison.
Phillips served in Oyem, an agricultural city of about 40,000 in the coastal African nation of Gabon. She worked as an agro-forestry volunteer, helping local farmers market their agricultural products.
“She just loved helping people,” said Richard Phillips, Karen’s father. “That’s the type of person she was. Karen was a doer and a giver.”
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Phillips worked in Atlanta as a fundraiser for the international development organization, CARE. A native of Delaware County, Pa., Karen received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Villanova University in 1982, and a master’s degree in business administration from Fordham University in 1989.
“There is nothing harder for this agency than losing a volunteer, and after many years, I wholeheartedly hope the Phillips family can now find a sense of comfort and closure,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “I am extremely grateful to those who have relentlessly sought justice for Karen Phillips and her family for more than a decade.”
Phillips was found stabbed to death on December 17, 1998. Since her death, an investigative team led by the Gabonese judicial police, with the assistance of the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville have worked to pursue justice for Phillips. In late 2012, the government of Gabon formally requested, through the international police organization INTERPOL, that U.S. federal law enforcement assist in the investigation of the murder. The team revisited all aspects of the crime. Subsequently, Ntoutoume Nuze was identified, brought to trial, and convicted by Gabonese authorities.
“Everyone who has worked on Karen’s case over the years has been deeply moved by both her life of commitment to service and her tragic death,” Peace Corps Inspector General Kathy A. Buller said. “I hope this verdict will bring a degree of peace to her family and friends.”
According to news reports, Karen Phillips had been a PCV for less than a year when she was killed.
“Karen and volunteers Stacy Jupiter and Lynne Kraskouskas had just been to the swearing-in party on Dec. 16 when they stopped at a small bar near Phillips’ house.
As the three sipped beer and ate Chips Ahoy! cookies, a drunken man approached the women saying he was Phillips’ neighbor. Phillips brushed off his advances, Kraskouskas and Jupiter later told police.
The volunteers left the bar and parted ways at a nearby corner about midnight. Jupiter planned to walk Kraskouskas, a new volunteer, back to a training center in town. Phillips assured the two that she would be fine going home alone.”
The initial investigation focused on a former rock star/son of a diplomat who had lived in Germany, Israel, Denmark and the U.S., his cousin, and one other individual:
“A man named Ndoutoume Nzue Thierry, nicknamed “Rambo,” told police that Ondo and his cousin, Jean ClŽment Mintsa, forced Phillips into a car. Police identified Thierry as the drunk man who approached Phillips and her friends in the bar the night she died.
But Thierry abruptly changed his story after demonstrators converged on the Oyem jail where Ondo and Mintsa were being questioned. On Dec. 24, two days after implicating Ondo in Phillips’ murder, Thierry said Phillips fell on a rock while they had consensual sex. On Dec. 30, Thierry told police he attacked and stabbed her with a nail clipper. In February 1999, Thierry accused Ondo again.”
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– Domani Spero
On November 14, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominations for the Department of State:
A/S Gregory Starr is not a stranger to Diplomatic Security, of course. From July 2004 through March 2007, Mr. Starr served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Countermeasures where he was responsible for “formulating security policy and plans for countermeasures in the areas of physical security, technical security, and Diplomatic Courier operations for the Department’s overseas and domestic operations and facilities.” He previously served as Director of the Diplomatic Security Service from April 2007 until his retirement in May 2009. From May 2009 until January 2013, Mr. Starr served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security. But he was soon back to the fold. On February 1, 2013, he was named acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security. Mr. Starr succeeds Eric J. Boswell who held the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security job from 2008 until 2012, when the later was snared by Benghazi. But it looks like not everyone is happy to welcome Mr. Starr back. In September, current and former State Department officials dished to The Cable’s John Hudson that “confirming Starr could be a mistake and raised a string of fresh allegations against him.“ (See Allegations Swirl Around Obama’s Pick for State Department Security Chief). That made a brief splash but State stood behind the nominee, including the State Department Chief of Staff David Wade. And Mr. Starr is now officially the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.
James Walter Brewster, Jr. was nominated by President Obama back in July. Officially In: James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. to the Dominican Republic, an Island of Grace and Tolerance. Lots of noise about this nominee. Religious groups in the Dominican Republic were reportedly outraged by the nomination of a gay ambassador to this conservative country. They even organized “Black Monday” protests. And then this happened: Dominican Republic: Cardinal uses the word “faggot” to refer to US ambassador nominee. And this: Diocese Of Catholic Cardinal Who Called Obama Ambassador Nominee ‘Faggot’ Has Pedophilia Scandal. The end. The former National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and Board Member of the Human Rights Campaign fund should soon be in Santo Domingo.
Philip S. Goldberg until recently was A/S to State/INR. He was previously ambassador to Bolivia in 2006 and in 2008, Evo Knievel’s government gave him 72 hours to leave the country, after declaring him persona non grata. He succeeds Ambassador Harry Thomas who departed the Philippines in October 2014. With the departure of Ambassador Thomas, Deputy Chief of Mission Brian L. Goldbeck assumed duties as the Chargé d’Affaires. US Embassy Manila’s presser says that “Chargé d’Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck led a joint U.S. government team to areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda to assess the damage and review relief operations with the Government of the Philippines.” Sorry, no photos or videos available.
Currently unfolding in Ambassador Goldberg’s new host country is Operation Damayan, the U.S. humanitarian aid and disaster relief effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Below is BGEN Paul Kennedy, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander, talking to a Rueters reporter about his mission in the Philipines with Operation Damayan.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and support vessels arrived in the Philippines Nov. 14, 2013, to aid assistance efforts. USNS Charles Drew, USS Emory S. Land, USS Bowditch, USS Lassen and USNS Yukon are now in the Philippines to provide relief efforts. The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on November 13 also directed the activation of USNS Mercy to prepare the hospital ship for possible deployment to the Philippines. If deployed, the ship currently berthed in San Diego will arrive in the island nation in December.
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– By Domani Spero
This is kind of old news since this award occurred back on April 2013, but we have only recently learned that the Government of Albania had bestowed on Diplomatic Security Special Agent Barry Hale its Medal of Honor for distinguished service in support of the Albanian State Police.
The award is the highest honor that the Albanian government can confer upon a foreign official, and it also marks the first time that the Albanian government has so honored a U.S. Embassy employee.
During the April 23, 2013 presentation at the Ministry of the Interior in the capital of Tirana, Albanian Minister of the Interior Flamur Noka praised Special Agent Hale for his contribution to strengthening the professional capacity of the Albanian State Police as well as cooperation between U.S. and Albanian law enforcement agencies.
During his 2010 to 2013 tenure as the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer in Tirana, Special Agent Hale was responsible for managing security for U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities in Albania. During his assignment in Tirana, Special Agent Hale managed nine extraditions, including that of Hektor Kelmendi, named as one of five most-wanted human trafficking suspects by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Special Agent Hale joined the U.S. Department of State in 1999 as a special agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Diplomatic Security Service. Prior to Special Agent Hales’ assignment in Tirana, he served in the Diplomatic Security Service offices in Denver and Los Angeles, and in the Regional Security Offices at U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Iraq and Bogotá, Columbia. He is currently serving in the Regional Security Office at Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan.
Read more here.
According to USDOJ, Hektor Kelmendi is one one of the various aliases used by Deme Nikqi, of Peje, Kosovo who was extradited to the United States from Albania in January 2012 to face charges related to his leadership of an international human smuggling network. ” The January 2012 indictment “allege that from at least January 2006 through February 2010, Nikqi was the leader and organizer of an international criminal network dedicated to smuggling Kosovars from the Balkans into the United States via Latin America. Nikqi, who resided in Brooklyn in the 1990s and was previously denied permanent residence status in the United States, allegedly operated this smuggling enterprise from his home in Peje, Kosovo. According to court documents, Nikqi and his co-conspirators are estimated to have smuggled hundreds of individuals across the Mexican border and into the United States each year. One of Nikqi’s smuggling operations allegedly resulted in the death of a Kosovar in Texas in 2010.”
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– Domani Spero
John Norris, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at American Progress and former director of communications for U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott recently wrote an excellent piece in The Atlantic on balancing safety and openness for our diplomats overseas. He notes that foreign affairs professionals have faced disease, disaster, war, and terrorism over the last 234 years and asks, how secure should today’s officers be?
Mr. Norris piece takes readers behind the stories of long forgotten names reminding us of deaths, mayhem, losses, in our diplomatic service in the last couple hundred years. He writes about William Palfrey who Congress appointed as America’s first consul in 1780 and who later that year on his way to Bordeaux was lost at sea. He writes about American diplomats murdered in the 1800s, more lost at sea, others killed in a volcanic eruption and various diseases. And how the 20th century was marked as “the beginning of an era when U.S. diplomats were targeted directly because they were U.S. diplomats.”
Disease was the greatest threat to an American diplomat during the 1800s. The American Foreign Service memorial plaque in the lobby of the State Department that honors those Americans who lost their lives serving abroad reads like a journal of tropical disease. American diplomats were felled by Yellow Fever, Coast Fever, Tropical Fever, African Fever, cholera, smallpox, malaria, and unnamed epidemics. More than three-fifths of the U.S. diplomatic fatalities in the 19th century were caused by such illnesses.
State and USAID have done stellar job in protecting their work forces during this perilous period of American international engagement. But this increased security is expensive. In 1998, the diplomatic security budget was $200 million; by 2012 it had leapt to $2.6 billion. That is a more than 1,000 percent increase in 14 years.
The fact is, working and traveling abroad carries risk. Since 1999, the United States has suffered, on average, 1.5 fatalities a year among its foreign affairs workforce— and that is a period during two ground wars and a global offensive against al-Qaeda. That rate of fatalities is five times that faced by a normal desk worker in the United States today. It translates to almost exactly the same fatality rate as the domestic construction industry, an enterprise that we think of as routinely hazardous, but not on a catastrophic scale.
Since William Palfrey died 234 years ago, there have been 133 different years where there were no deaths of international workers cited on the wall of honor, including six years since 1990. These comparisons are not meant to either minimize or sensationalize the risks of being an American diplomat, but to put them in perspective.
But right now the greatest challenge is a Congress that whipsaws between ignoring the Foreign Service and scapegoating it after disasters, effectively pushing the State Department toward a zero risk approach that will trap American diplomacy in a hermetic bubble. As one former ambassador argued to me, “If the American public is willing to take a certain number of casualties to promote our interests overseas—and I believe the answer to that question is “yes”—that message needs to be conveyed to the State Department.”
William Palfrey knew full well that a sea voyage to France in 1780 was a hazardous affair. He still got on the ship.
Continue reading How to Balance Safety and Openness for America’s Diplomats.
Mr. Norris notes that we lost one diplomat to enemy action in World War I, two deaths related to World War II, and none during the Korean War. The author also writes about that deadly 11-year stretch when we lost ambassadors to assassinations, kidnappings, executions. Then we lost personnel to suicide bombings and in war zones.
And there was Vietnam where we lost over 40 U.S. diplomatic personnel and where according to the writer, “almost three times as many diplomatic personnel were killed in the broader Vietnam theater than in the rest of America’s wars combined.” Also this, “It wasn’t until 1972 that the State Department was willing to acknowledge to its own staff how many people had been killed in the field.”
The only thing missing in this historical mortality in the FS is the suicide numbers in the Foreign Service, which like the Vietnam numbers, will go unacknowledged for the foreseeable future, but that’s a separate story.
In his concluding paragraph, Mr. Norris quotes one former ambassador saying, “If the American public is willing to take a certain number of casualties to promote our interests overseas…”
According to the Pew Research, “no more than 6% of those surveyed in the final month of the 2012 presidential campaign, cited a foreign policy issue, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as the most important problem facing the country today.”
[M]ost have also taken the view that Americans should concentrate more on national problems, and building up strength and prosperity here at home. In 2011, 52% of Americans said that the U.S. “should deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their own problems as best they can.”
Even on Benghazi, only a quarter of the American public was paying attention:
“Even when it came to the administration’s handling of the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012, which claimed the lives of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, the political furor in Washington was not matched by interest among the general public. A survey in May found that only 25% of Americans said they were following news of the Benghazi investigation very closely, even after new disclosures emerged about the issue.”
But given the new mantra of operating with “an abundance of caution,” it remains to be seen how this balancing act plays out in the post-Benghazi foreign service world.
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– Domani Spero
The 60Minutes’ Benghazi segment with Lara Logan aired on Oct. 27, 2013 and reignited the Benghazi controversy once again. It included interviews with former US Embassy Libya DCM Gregory Hicks, and Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood. We’ve heard from Mr. Hicks previously and blogged about it here: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” Features Former Embassy Tripoli DCM Gregory Hicks and Benghazi Hearing: No Kaboom as Promised, But More Details Fill Up the Dark Space of Sadness.
We’ve also heard from Colonel Wood once before: Benghazi Hearing: Looking for Truth Amidst a Partisan Divide, Outing OGA, Zingers
But we haven’t heard previously from this Morgan Jones fellow. That’s apparently a pseudonym used by a former British soldier who has been “helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade.” He was reportedly the “security chief for Blue Mountain Security” in charge of the Libyan guard force.
Shortly after the segment aired, Media Matters cited Fox News correspondent Adam Housley as having said that he had previously spoken to the man “a number of times and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money.”
The same day that the 60 Minutes segment aired, Los Angeles Times’ Richard A. Serrano reported that two of theDOJ’s key witnesses in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack were summoned to the Oversight Committee earlier in October and “grilled for hours in separate legal depositions” conducted in “a highly guarded and secret interviews.” The report identified the Diplomatic Security agents as Alec Henderson, who was stationed in Benghazi, and John Martinec, then based in Tripoli. Henderson was reportedly interviewed on Oct. 8 for eight hours and Martinec was interviewed for five hours on Oct. 10. The report further says that Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa earlier had also demanded access to a third agent, David Ubben, who was seriously injured in the Benghazi attack. According to LAT, Mr. Issa learned the identities of the three agents from Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, who testified before the committee in spring.
On a related note, did you hear that Senator Graham is exceptionally pissed about Benghazi and has promised to block “every appointment in the US Senate” until the Benghazi survivors are produced? Apparently, he did not know that two DS agents were right next door on October 8 for legal depos that lasted for altogether 13 hours. Pardon me? Is it purely coincidental that there are bad news in the polls, and that a primary is potentially a headache? Well, is it?
In any case, on October 28, Julia Frifield, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs responded to Senator Graham’s previous September 24 letter concerning the Benghazi survivors availability. Read the response here.
On October 29, Mr. Morgan’s book, The Embassy House published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster went on sale; available in hardcover, Kindle and Audible; the cheapest edition via Kindle currently selling at $10.99.
Previously, in September 2013, Deadline reported that Thunder Road has acquired The Embassy House to use as the basis for a feature about the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya,
“The film will be written by Taylor Sheridan, whose adaptation of Comancheria has Marc Forster attached. Thunder Road is producing Sheridan’s script Sicario, and they’ve set him to script a look at Benghazi that is one part Black Hawk Down and another Lawrence Of Arabia. //UK-based Luke Speed of the Marjacq Agency repped the book and Gersh’s Bob Hohman and Bayard Maybank and Elevate repped the scribe. Thunder Road used its own resources to buy the book and will fund development, and hasn’t yet enlisted a studio.”
Also in September, The Hollywood Reporter says that HBO has optioned another book, Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, with Jerry Weintraub on board to executive produce. Under Fire is authored by former DSS Agent and Stratfor VP Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz and is “Based on the exclusive cooperation of eyewitnesses and confidential sources within the intelligence, diplomatic, and military communities” according to the book’s Amazon page.
If they start filming soon, will the movies be ready in time for the 2nd anniversary of the attack or the 2014 election?
On October 31, WaPo’s Karen DeYoung threw some more fuel on the Benghazi fire:
“[I]n a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night.
In Davies’s 2 1 / 2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, “we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.”
On November 1, The Cable’s John Hudson reported that Star Benghazi ‘Witness’ May Not Have Been an Actual Witness:
“In contrast with the 60 Minutes account, which saw him knocking out terrorists with the butt end of his rifle and scaling a 12-foot wall the night of the attack, the Blue Mountain report has Jones at his beach-side villa for the majority of the night. Despite an attempt to make it to the compound, Jones wrote that “we could not get anywhere near … as roadblocks had been set up.”
Further The Cable points out that “the book titled The Embassy House was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a part of CBS Corporation, which owns 60 Minutes — a fact not disclosed in the 60 Minutes story.
Oh, dear …. is that what’s called cross promotion or something?
On November 2, The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake reported that Dylan Davies, aka: Morgan Jones denied writing the incident report cited by Karen DeYoung’s report in WaPo. The Daily Beast had obtained a copy of the Blue Mountain Group 4-page incident report that lists Dylan Davies, “PM” as the “Name of Person Reporting.” The report is dated 13:00 hours, September 14, 2012, unsigned and the published copy does not include any indication whether the report was emailed or faxed to the Blue Mountain Group. See for yourself here via Josh Rogin/ScribD.
The Daily Beast report described Jones/Davies as a “Benghazi Whistleblower” and says that “Davies said he did not know who leaked the report to the Post but said he suspected it was the State Department, an allegation that could not be independently corroborated.” More below:
“A State Department official confirmed it matches the version sent to the U.S. government by Davies’s then-employer Blue Mountain Group, the private security company based in Britain, on Sept. 14, 2012, and subsequently provided to Congressional committees investigating the Benghazi attacks.
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview. Davies denied this charge. 60 Minutes has stood by its reporting.”
Continue reading Benghazi Whistleblower Says He Was Smeared.
Media Matters and Fox News in a coordinated smear campaign? If I were drunk at 10 o’clock in the morning, that still sounds crazy bad.
The Blue Mountain Group was snared early on in the Benghazi controversy. Remember that time when the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said this three days after the attack: “I can tell you that at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya – at no time.” That turned out to be false. This was covered by Danger Room in September 2012: Feds Hired British Security Firm to Protect Benghazi Consulate.
The contract is a curious one, of course, since security in the State Department falls under the Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) program which has core funding for the protection of life, property, and information of the agency. WSP funding supports not just domestic facilities but also worldwide guard force protecting overseas diplomatic missions and residences. Defense Industry Daily has a list of contractors for the 5-year $10 billion WPS security contract inked in 2010. The Blue Mountain Group is not on that list. One wonders, given the presence of OGA in Benghazi, if this was in fact an OGA contract, though the paperwork does say it is a State contract. Or it is possible that none of the WPS contractors are allowed to operate in Libya, so State had to procure services from another provider? But then, that does not explain why three days after the attack, the State spokesperson was adamant that “at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya.”
A redacted copy of the Blue Mountain Group contract has now been released after a FOIA by Judicial Watch and can be read/downloaded here.
One thing more. On October 14, 2012, UK’s The Telegraph reported about Blue Mountain, described as a small British firm based in south Wales:
“Blue Mountain, which is run by a former member of the SAS, received paper work to operate in Libya last year following the collapse of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. It worked on short term contacts to guard an expatriate housing compound and a five-star hotel in Tripoli before landing the prestigious US deal.
But Blue Mountain’s local woes appears to have hampered a coordinated response by the compound’s defenders when the late assault kicked off.
Darryl Davies, the manager of the Benghazi contract for Blue Mountain, flew out of the city hours before the attack was launched. The Daily Telegraph has learned that relations between the firm and its Libyan partner had broken down, leading to the withdrawal of Mr Davies.
Abdulaziz Majbiri, a Blue Mountain guard at the compound, told the Daily Telegraph that they were effectively abandoned and incapable of defending themselves on the night of the attack.”
So far, no one has gone back to clarify or straighten out that story.
And because the Benghazi controversy simply refuses to die, CNN is reporting that a CIA operatives will testify behind closed doors at a classified Benghazi hearing on the week of November 11.
Then yesterday, Politico reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz ”slammed the source behind a report that revealed the real name of a British security agent in Benghazi, which was published in The Washington Post.”
“I don’t know who did it, but to release a covert agent’s name to endanger his life should be an absolute outrage in this town,” Chaffetz said Monday on Fox New’s “Fox and Friends” when asked if he thought the White House was behind the leak.
I was seriously looking for something like this to pop up because … hey, it’s too attractive to pass up if you want some screen time. But now Morgan Jones/Dylan Davies is not only a “whistleblower” he is also a “covert agent”?
Well, I’ll be …. the Oversight Committee hearing is coming soon.
Have you noticed that Benghazi is not only a popular subject with politicians, it has also gained popularity in the Amazon marketplace? The Benghazi tragedy has spawned not just books but also bumper stickers, a Benghazi album from Moon Records, Cover Up (The Benghazi Song), a Benghazi Memorandum Book,a Benghazi Record Book, whatevs. There are also Benghazi cartoons, mousepads, coffee mugs, coasters, bottles, tshirts, a pinback button, and a Benghazi memorial license plate. There are more Benghazi-branded products available via Cafepress.com including Benghazi underwear and panties; don’t miss the Benghazi Blame and Good Riddance classic thongs. Benghazi products are also available at Zazzle.com; don’t miss the doggie clothing line.
If you’re renovating, there is even a Benghazi light switch cover for a 2 plug outlet.
And now my grey matter is seriously hyperventilating and need to drown itself in sorrow.
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– By Domani Spero
On September 30, President Obama proclaimed October 2013 as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. In light of that proclamation, we’re highlighting a grievance case by a Foreign Service officer who downloaded and installed the Mozilla Firefox browser which potentially cost him a promotion. The State Department proposed to issue him a Letter of Reprimand. The officer filed a grievance challenging the issuance of a Letter of Reprimand. For relief, he asks that the decision to impose discipline be rescinded and the discipline letter be removed from his Official Personnel File (OPF). In addition, he requests that the 2011 Selection Board’s decision to promote him be given immediate effect, and that he be reimbursed for attorney’s fees. The Department denied his grievance on March 13, 2012. He appealed that decision to the Foreign Service Grievance Board on May 14, 2012. On December 2012, the Board found that grievant’s argument was without merit and sustained the proposed discipline.
This case is available publicly (pdf) from the newly relaunched fsgb.gov. (BTW, the site is now searchable, yay!) As far as we are aware, the State Department still only allows two browsers for official use — Internet Explorer and more recently during Secretary Clinton’s tenure, Google Chrome was approved for department-wide use. According to the browser stats maintained by w3schools.com, Internet Explorer’s downward use continues to hover around 12% in 2013, while Chrome continues to climb above 50 percent. Firefox’s usage remains at around the 27% mark.
Now some details on this case extracted from the record of proceeding:
Grievant, an FS-03 Officer, installed a software application, Mozilla Firefox Browser, on his workstation in August 2010. Grievant admitted that he installed the software because he was concerned that his savings accounts may have been the subject of identity theft and he wanted to check his credit union account on-line with what he thought was a safer web browser. The Mozilla software was found to be an executable application so that by downloading it grievant violated the Department’s Cyber Security Policy, and such action could have led to disruption of the Department’s cyber infrastructure. Grievant argued that he was unaware that the Mozilla Browser was an executable file when he installed it, and therefore, did not have the intent to violate the policy. The Board found that grievant’s argument was without merit and sustained the proposed discipline.
Anyone with questions about executable files should check the list here and best consult post’s information systems security officer (ISSO).
Also it might not be bad to get acquainted with 12 FAM 590 CYBER SECURITY INCIDENT PROGRAM if you haven’t already.
The government’s charge:
The Department charged the grievant with violating the directives and procedures for Cyber Security contained in 12 FAM 592.2b 8. The charge is based on grievant’s action in downloading the Mozilla Browser on his workstation on August 9, 2010. A revised cyber security program was implemented in 2007 throughout the Department. The Department asserts that grievant’s failure to comply with the cyber security policy could have resulted in damage or risk to the Department’s cyber infrastructure. The Mozilla Browser could compromise the integrity of the system and introduce a virus or malicious code.
Grievant was informed on December 22, 2010 by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that the installation of the Mozilla Browser by him was a violation of the regulation. Grievant was further advised that the violation determination would be forwarded to the Bureau of Human Resources. Grievant was advised of his right to appeal the finding of a violation by the Bureau of Security, but chose not to do so. He did submit a Statement of Understanding acknowledging receipt of the December 22, 2010 letter and the Department’s security policies.
The Department dismisses grievant’s argument that his action in downloading the Mozilla browser required “mens rea” or a ”deliberate” act on his part to download an application that he knew was not authorized for installation. In his view, the Department has failed to prove that he made such a deliberate decision. He asserts that he did not actually know that the software was not authorized, and that his actions were inadvertent. He explains that he was ignorant that the software was an executable application that was not authorized. He states that he “lacked the knowledge of the difference between a search engine website and web browsing software.” He contends that the Department’s decision to not charge him with the downloading of the Shockwave program demonstrates that his action was not deliberate.
The FSO’s defense and argument:
Grievant has admitted that he installed Mozilla to assist himself with issues concerning his personal savings accounts. He could have used his personal computer to deal with the “spoofing” problems he was having with the possible identity theft matters. Finally, grievant should have reported the “spoofing” problems to the ISSO and checked with that office to determine if he could download Mozilla.
Grievant asserts that the proposed Letter of Reprimand should be rescinded because he lacked the intent necessary to violate the regulation. In 2009 – 2010, grievant was the victim of identity theft. He lost several thousand dollars to the thief, had to cancel his credit cards on two occasions, and was informed that his medical records were among those stolen from an Office of Medical Services database. On August 9, 2010, he received on his agency email four “spoofing” messages purporting to be from his credit union and his retirement fund.
Grievant was concerned that his savings accounts might have been stolen and his Department computer may have been compromised. He installed the Mozilla Firefox browser on his workstation instead of other browsers, such as Google, because he thought that Mozilla was a safer web browser. He was quickly informed by ISSO that Mozilla was not allowed to be downloaded on the Department’s system since it was an executable file. Grievant explained his concerns about his savings accounts and the reason that he downloaded the browser. He stated on several occasions that he did not know Mozilla was an executable file in violation of the regulation, and believed it to be a secure web-based browser. Grievant apologized and accepted responsibility for what he believed was an “inadvertent download of an executable file”.
Grievant argues that he should not be disciplined for downloading the Mozilla browser. In his view, the Department must show that it was his conscious object to download an executable file on to the Department’s network. He admits that his action was prohibited by the FAM, and that he exposed the Department to serious risk by downloading the browser on his workstation. However, he argues that the FAM requires specific intent to violate the regulation, which he did not have when the downloading took place. Grievant argues only deliberate acts, not negligent ones, are punishable under the regulation. He believes it is unjust to punish “a deliberate act that was believed would cause only a permissible result.” His action was negligent and he acted out of ignorance believing Mozilla to be a web based application rather than an executable file. In essence, he states that he believed that he was doing nothing more than accessing a website and that he lacked the knowledge required to make his action of downloading a deliberate violation of the regulation.
Grievant is remorseful and admits that he is fully responsible for his action. He did not know that he was downloading an executable file, and lacking that knowledge he did not have the mental state required by the regulation. Among other things, grievant asks that the decision to impose discipline be rescinded and the Letter of Reprimand be removed from his OPF. In addition, he asks that the Department give immediate effect to the 2011 Selection Board’s decision to promote him.
The FSGB was not persuaded:
Grievant intended to install Mozilla on his workstation. He engaged in a deliberate act. The fact that he was ignorant that it was an executable file in violation of the regulation does not obviate or lessen his culpability. As the Department points out, his action could have resulted in damage or significant risk to the Department’s cyber infrastructure, which could have caused major disruptions and loss of sensitive information. His admitted ignorance or lack of knowledge about Mozilla being an executable file does not excuse his action or his culpability for that action.
This is grievant’s first incident of any kind that caused him to be disciplined. As noted, his record is one of success and accomplishment. Grievant believes that discipline in this case is unjust. However, the proposed Letter of Reprimand is consistent with the penalties imposed in prior cases, and is reasonable under the facts of this case.
One related item, the agency’s cybersecurity was most recently in the news with a BuzzFeed exclusive report that the State Department Lacks Basic Cybersecurity. The report alleges that ”the State Department cable and messaging system, built and maintained — like the troubled ObamaCare system — mainly by large IT contractors, has routinely failed to meet basic security standards.” It further alleges that “There is hackable backdoor access to servers and the potential for spillage of classified information in the unclassified enclave.” BuzzFeed says that it has internal docs although those do not appear to be posted online at this time. Read more here.
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