Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere

Posted: 2:58 am EDT


In early August, Senator Chuck Grassley  (R-IA) placed a hold on the nomination of David Malcolm Robinson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who was nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for the floundering Conflict and Stabilization Operations bureau. He also placed a hold on 20 Foreign Service mid-level nominees, something we don’t often see (see Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold OnSenator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry).

On September 30, Senator Grassley added a hold on the nomination of Brian Egan, the nominee for Legal Adviser at the State Department. The previously confirmed Legal Adviser was Harold Hongju Koh who left the State Department in early 2013. Mr. Egan has now waited at least 636 days for his senate confirmation.


On October 5,  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) added to the confirmation logjam by placing a hold on three ambassadorial nominees, apparently until “the administration shows it is taking steps to punish Secret Service staff involved in leaking unflattering information about a lawmaker.” According to WaPo, Cotton also said he will consider blocking more nominees if the administration refuses to fully investigate and discipline the Secret Service staff.


You might wonder what do these ambassadorial nominations have to do with the Secret Service? Why, nothing at all.  The Secret Service is under the Department of Homeland Security and the subject of the Cotton hold are nominees for the State Department.  That distinction hardly matters in today’s Washington, D.C.. Remember in July last year when Senator Cruz deployed a blanket hold over the FAA’s prohibition of U.S. airlines flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport? (See The Fault in Our Skies: Senator to Deploy Blanket Senate Hold Over DOS Nominees Cuz FAA). Right.  The Cotton hold are on three political appointees who have been waiting for senate confirmation between 141 days to 836 days.

There apparently is also a secret hold for the USAID administrator nominee but no one has officially filed a notice of his/her intent to object to the Gayle Smith’s nomination. Devex reported back in July that her nomination has hit a snag. Below is a list of nominees who are subject to a hold.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05

(click on image for larger view)

Here is an updated list of nominees waiting for a full Senate vote as of October 1, 2015:


Federal Employees With Stolen Fingerprints From OPM Breach – Now Up to 5.6 Million

Posted: 12:05 pm EDT
Updated: 6:39 pm PDT



Here is the official statement from OPM dated September 23, 2015:

As part of the government’s ongoing work to notify individuals affected by the theft of background investigation records, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense have been analyzing impacted data to verify its quality and completeness.  During that process, OPM and DoD identified archived records containing additional fingerprint data not previously analyzed.  Of the 21.5 million individuals whose Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information were impacted by the breach, the subset of individuals whose fingerprints have been stolen has increased from a total of approximately 1.1 million to approximately 5.6 million.  This does not increase the overall estimate of 21.5 million individuals impacted by the incident.  An interagency team will continue to analyze and refine the data as it prepares to mail notification letters to impacted individuals.

Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited.  However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves.  Therefore, an interagency working group with expertise in this area – including the FBI, DHS, DOD, and other members of the Intelligence Community – will review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now and in the future.  This group will also seek to develop potential ways to prevent such misuse.  If, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.

As we have stated previously, all individuals impacted by this intrusion and their minor dependent children (as of July 1, 2015) are eligible for identify theft and fraud protection services, at no cost to them.  In conjunction with the Department of Defense, OPM is working to begin mailing notifications to impacted individuals, and these notifications will proceed on a rolling basis.

OPM and our partners across government are working to protect the safety and security of the information of Federal employees, service-members, contractors, and others who provide their information to us. Together with our interagency partners, OPM is committed to delivering high-quality identity protection services to impacted individuals. The interagency team will continue to review the impacted data to enhance its quality and completeness, and to monitor for any misuse of the data. The U.S. Government will continue to evaluate the coverage being provided and whether any adjustments are needed in association with this incident.

Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr. Sigh. Grrr.






Abolish the State Department? Really? Should we pretend to freak out now or later?

Posted: 12:17 am EDT


The GOP candidates have been trying to out-crazy each other under the shadow of the Trump circus canopy. Cruz would like to “abolish the IRS; take all 125,000 IRS agents, and put them on our southern border.” The same candidate would also like to get rid of the Department of Education.  Paul asks in a video on the website that supporters sign a petition to have Congress also eliminate the IRS. At least seven candidates want to end “birthright citizenship” under the 14th Amendment, which grants everyone born in the United States of America the right of citizenship. Jindal suggested abolishing the Supreme Court. Carson suggested eliminating the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before suspending his campaign, Walker proposed scrapping the National Labor Relations Board, eliminating public employee unions and making right-to-work the national standard for workplaces.

Last week, a former United States Senator representing Pennsylvania, the one with a Google problem, added his voice to the “abolish this or that” crowd. Mr. Santorum was a GOP presidential candidate in 2011; he suspended his campaign in April 2012. This past May, Mr. Santorum announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. Apparently, Mr. Santorum now has a two-campaign cycle dream of abolishing the U.S. Department of State.

Who knew?



What else did this smart potato say?



Can you hear him? No?

Apologies for the glitches, it sound like he does not like the State Department because employees there spend way too much time talking to foreigners?  Maybe they speak way too many foreign languages and not enough American?  American officials also wear strange shoes and un-American clothes, is that it? Ay, caramba! Oooh, do not/do not show him the fantastic headgears, you, internationalists, you!

Here are Santorum’s specific complaints according to BuzzFeed:

“I said that when I ran four years ago — the first thing I’d do is abolish the State Department and start all over.”

“I have to tell you, I dealt with them for 12 years, I was on the committees that had a lot of interaction with them, and, you know, not that there aren’t a few good people in there,” Santorum continued. “I’m sure there are really good, dedicated public — but look, it’s just, they are a bunch of internationalists who do not look after the interests of the United States. They don’t look at the world from the standpoint of the United States and our principles being the ones that are the best.”

“They’re relativists, they’re internationalists, and they are not serving the interests of the American people,” Santorum concluded.

“It’s like, if all the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” Santorum said. “Every problem that the State Department has, the answer is diplomacy. Why? Because if it’s not diplomacy, they don’t have a job.

“And so the answer is never to do anything, the answer is always to appease, to talk,” he continued. “I mean, I’m sure that they, that John Kerry, they’re just having the greatest love-fest over at the State Department right now, because they got a deal!

You guys are having a love-fest and you did not invite us … please send photos?!

Two candidates have already suspended their campaigns but Mr. Santorum’s campaign for some reason appears to still be chugging along. We imagine that his candidacy will fold sooner than later. But it looks like he is unable, as yet, to accept the unbearable inevitability of his short campaign life.

So okay, let’s see who else he plans to abolish with brain waves next week. Then we’ll pretend to freak out.


Congress Eyes @StateDept’s Special Envoys, Representatives, Advisors, and Coordinators

Posted: 2:27 am EDT


In June this year, Senator Bob Corker [R-TN] introduced Senate bill S. 1635: Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016.  On June 18, the SFRC issued a report to the full chamber and the bill was placed on Senate Legislative Calendar (Calendar No. 123). Only about 1 in 4 bills are reported out of committee. Govtrack also notes that only about 21% of bills that made it past committee in 2013–2015 were enacted. It gave this bill a 44% chance of being enacted.

While S.1635 may not be going anywhere right now, we know that Congress, at least, is eyeing with interest the mushrooming population of Foggy Bottom’s special reps, special envoy, advisors and coordinators. If this bill passes, the secretary of state will be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens. Here is the relevant section of the bill:

204. Special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators

Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees on special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators of the Department, which shall include—

(1) a tabulation of the current names, ranks, positions, and responsibilities of all special envoy, representative, advisor, and coordinator positions at the Department, with a separate accounting of all such positions at the level of Assistant Secretary (or equivalent) or above; and

(2) for each position identified pursuant to paragraph (1)—

(A) the date on which the position was created;

(B) the mechanism by which the position was created, including the authority under which the position was created;

(C) the positions authorized under section 1(d) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 2651a(d));

(D) a description of whether, and the extent to which, the responsibilities assigned to the position duplicate the responsibilities of other current officials within the Department, including other special envoys, representatives, and advisors;

(E) which current official within the Department would be assigned the responsibilities of the position in the absence of the position;

(F) to which current official within the Department the position directly reports;

(G) the total number of staff assigned to support the position; and

(H) with the exception of those created by statute, a detailed explanation of the necessity of the position to the effective conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.


As of September 18, the State Department has officially listed 59 special advisors, envoys, and representatives. The list below is extracted from the list here but it’s not a complete list.  We’ve counted at least 69 appointees in this category.  We’ve added and highlighted in blue the appointments that had been announced but not added to the official list.  Entries without hyperlinks are copied as-is from the State Department list.  Hey, we’re still missing entries under FJ, K, U, V, W, X, Y, Z!


State Department’s Special Envoys, Representatives, Advisors, and Coordinators


Afghanistan and Pakistan, Special Representative
Arctic, Special Representive
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), U.S. Senior Official


Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Issues, Special Representative
Burma, Special Representative and Policy Coordinator


Center for Strategic Counterterrorism, Special Envoy and Coordinator
Central African Republic, Special Representative
Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, Senior Advisor
Climate Change, Special Envoy
Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility, Special Envoy
[Colombia Peace Process, Special Envoy]
Conference on Disarmament, Permanent Representative
Commercial and Business Affairs, Special Representative
[Counterterrorism, Coordinator]
Cyber Issues, Coordinator


Department Spokesperson


[Ebola Response, Special Coordinator]



Global Coalition against ISIL, Special Presidential Envoy
Global Food Security, Special Representative
Global Health Diplomacy, Special Representative
Global Intergovernmental Affairs, Special Representative
Global Partnerships, Special Representative
Global Women’s Issues, Ambassador-at-Large
Global Youth Issues, Special Advisor
Great Lakes Region and the D.R.C., Special Envoy


Haiti, Special Coordinator
Holocaust Issues, Special Adviser
Holocaust Issues, Special Envoy
[Hostage Affairs, Special Presidential Envoy]
[Human Rights of LGBT Persons, Special Envoy]


[International Civil Aviation Organization, U.S. Representative]
International Communications and Information Policy, Coordinator

International Disability Rights, Special Advisor
International Energy Affairs, Special Envoy and Coordinator
International Information Programs, Coordinator
International Information Technology Diplomacy, Senior Coordinator
International Labor Affairs, Special Representative
International Religious Freedom, Ambassador-at-Large
[Iran Nuclear Implementation, Lead Coordinator]
Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Security Coordinator
Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Special Envoy


[Libya, Special Envoy]


Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, Special Envoy
Mujahideen el Khalq Resettlement, Special Advisor
Muslim Communities, Special Representative
[Middle East Transitions, Special Coordinator]


Nonproliferation and Arms Control, Special Advisor 
Northern Ireland Issues, Personal Representative
North Korean Human Rights Issues, Special Envoy
North Korea Policy, Special Representative
Nuclear Nonproliferation, Special Representative of the President


Office of the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palistinian Negotiations
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Special Representative
Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Special Envoy


Partner Engagement on Syria Foreign Fighters, Senior Advisor
Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, Special Envoy

Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, Special Representative


Religion and Global Affairs, Special Representative


Sanctions Policy, Coordinator
Science and Technology, Special Advisor

Secretary Initiatives, Special Advisor
[Security Negotiations and Agreements, Senior Advisor
Senior Advisor to the Secretary
Six-Party Talks, Special Envoy
Somalia, Special Representative
Sudan and South Sudan, Special Envoy
Syria, Special Envoy


Threat Reduction Programs, Coordinator 
Tibetan Issues, Special Coordinator
Transparency Coordinator








Special suggestions to complete this list:

F – FOIA, Special Expert Advisor
J – Japan-U.S. Cyber Dialogue, Special Advisor
K –  Kenya and Djibouti Refugee Situation, Special Advisor
U –  University Youth Events (Domestic), Senior Advisor
V-  Venezuela-Colombia Border Dispute, Special Representative
W – Weapons, Autonomous, Presidential Special Envoy
X-  Xenon Gas Release, Special Advisor
Y – Yemen Stabilization After Saudi Coalition Bombings, Special Envoy 
Z – Zamunda, Special Envoy to the Royal Kingdom

Related post:
While You Were Sleeping, the State Dept’s Specials in This “Bureau” Proliferated Like Mushroom

AFSA Issues “Update on Danger Pay” to Members

Posted: 3:51 pm EDT


On September 14, we posted about the new State Department’s danger pay posts (New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status). Previously, we’ve written about these upcoming changes including potential fallout to bidding, student loan repayment, security funding allocation, EFM employment, and FAST officers onward assignments (see Danger Danger, Bang Bang — State Department Eyes Changes in Danger Pay).

Today, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) sent an update to its members on danger pay:

By now, most members have seen the Department’s cable (15 STATE 104596) announcing changes to Danger Pay and Hardship Differential for several posts. AFSA fought hard against the imposition of these changes, but by law, we were not allowed to negotiate the amounts adjusted or the posts affected.

Despite AFSA’s proposal to delay implementation until January 1, 2016, the Department chose to institute the changes last week. That said, we were able to bargain successfully regarding certain aspects of the impact of these changes.

The list below provides a more detailed summary of AFSA‘s proposals as well as the results of our bargaining efforts:

  • Fair Share Bidding: The Department accepted AFSA’s proposal that employees already assigned to a post which, as a result of the new designations, drops below the 15 percent threshold, will nonetheless be credited for their service at the post and not be considered Fair Share bidders when they bid on their next assignment.

  • 6/8 Eligibility: The Department has agreed to AFSA’s proposal that if the TOD for a post increases due to a change in allowances resulting from the new danger pay designations, employees will be allowed to serve the tour of duty that was in effect when they were assigned to that post and still meet the 6/8 eligibility requirements.

  • 2014 Bidders: The Department has agreed to AFSA’s proposal to extend Fair Share and 6/8 provisions to all employees assigned in 2014 who have not yet arrived at post (though they, like all others at post, would be subject to the updated danger and hardship rates).

  • Grandfathering Allowances: Because allowances are a component of the Standardized Regulations and cover all civilian employees overseas, the Department was precluded from accepting AFSA’s proposal to grandfather Foreign Service employees at their current rates of pay in cases where they are no longer able to receive Danger Pay.

  • Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP): The Department was not able to accept AFSA’s proposal to “grandfather” employees participating in this program since benefits are disbursed pursuant to a 12-month term and eligibility of positions is subject to change on a yearly basis. Therefore, current recipients will receive benefits under existing terms of the program and receive payment in the fall of 2015. Employees wishing to receive benefits should apply in the summer of 2016.

AFSA would like to thank all of the members who shared their concerns regarding how this proposed change would affect them, not only in financial terms, but also in terms of morale. We fully share the sentiment expressed by many serving at dangerous posts that this change has taken place at a time when it has never seemed more challenging to carry out our mission.

Please let us know if you have any questions on this issue. You may email us at, or call (202) 647-8160.


Dear AFSA, please check your mailbox. We’ve sent at least three emails in July and September inquiring about this and also about the applicability of the Foreign Affairs Manual to noncareer appointees. To-date, we haven’t heard from AFSA’s elected reps; we’re starting to think …. yeah? really? but … but …




Brown v. State Department: Another Day, Another FOIA Lawsuit

Posted: 2:01 am EDT


David W. Brown is coauthor of Deep State (John Wiley & Sons, 2013) and The Command (Wiley, 2012). He is a regular contributor to TheWeek.comVoxThe Atlantic, and mental_floss. On September 7, he filed the latest FOIA lawsuit against the State Department. He explains why:

If it is now policy to allow private lawyers to hoard potentially classified information, the public is entitled to know the authority by which such policies are maintained, and who is permitted such generous treatment. The public is owed an explanation for blind eyes turned, in the case of Kendall and Clinton, to the obvious dangers to national security. Did no one at State object to this? And if so, who overruled those objections?

To find out, Kel McClanahan and I have filed suit against the U.S. State Department. Our lawsuit is the result of a Freedom of Information Act request for records concerning State’s decision-making in this matter. The State Department first acknowledged our request, and agreed to expedite its processing. Then they ended all correspondence. Americans have the legal right to these records, and our goal is to compel State to hand them over.

This goes beyond politics. If the State Department wants to pick and choose which private citizens get to store classified material at their homes or offices, the public needs an explanation of how such decisions are made, and why. Once we know that, we might know just how poorly our secrets are really being kept.

Read in full here.

The lawsuit is available to read here.

# More Spin on Clinton Emails


More Spin on Clinton Emails

— Eugene Kiely | A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
(republished with permission)


Hillary Clinton directly addressed questions in recent interviews about her exclusive use of a personal email account and server to conduct government business as secretary of state. But her answers only reveal part of the story:

  • Clinton said her personal email account was “allowed by the State Department.” It was permitted if work emails were preserved. Federal rules required Clinton to preserve work emails before she left office, but she did not turn over her emails until 21 months after she left office.
  • Clinton said “turning over my server” to the government shows “I have been as transparent as I could” about her emails. But she did so in August after the FBI opened an investigation. In March, she rejected calls to turn over the server to a neutral party, saying “the server will remain private.”
  • Clinton said “everybody in government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email.” But that ignores those — including President Obama — who did not know that she used it exclusively for government business.

The Democratic front-runner for her party’s presidential nomination addressed the email controversy in interviews on Sept. 4 with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and again on Sept. 7 with the Associated Press. The subject has been dogging Clinton ever since the New York Timesreported on March 2 that she exclusively used a personal email account and computer server to conduct official government business. The article also reported that, at the State Department’s request, Clinton on Dec. 5, 2014, gave the department just over 30,000 printed copies of work-related emails.

Clinton previously addressed the email issue in her first national interview with CNN in early July, but a lot has happened since then. The inspector general of the intelligence community said her emails contained classified information and made a “security referral” to the Justice Department in late July. Clinton directed her campaign in mid-August to turn over her computer server to the FBI, which is now investigating.

Mitchell told MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow that she believes she got the interview because the campaign needs to “reset” on the issue. “The campaign needed to do a serious interview on the subject,” Mitchell said.

‘Allowed by State Department’

Let’s look at some of the statements that Clinton made in her interviews, beginning with whether her unusual email arrangement was “allowed by the State Department.”

Clinton, Sept. 4: I know why the American people have questions about it. And I want to make sure I answer those questions, starting with the fact that my personal email use was fully above board. It was allowed by the State Department, as they have confirmed.

Clinton Sept. 7: I understand why people have questions and I’m trying to answer as many of those in as many different settings as I can. What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above board.

The campaign cites a rule issued by the National Archives and Records Administration in October 2009 — eight months after Clinton became secretary of state — that said federal agencies may allow the use of personal emails under certain circumstances.

National Archives, Oct. 2, 2009: Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.

At a March 3 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also cited the 2009 NARA rule in saying Clinton apparently complied with the rules.

“As I said, there’s no prohibition on using this kind of email account as long as it’s preserved,” Harf said. “She has taken steps to preserve those records by providing the State Department with the 55,000 pages, so – I’m not a NARA expert, but certainly, it sounds to me like that has been completed.”

Harf is admittedly no NARA expert, but Jason R. Baron is.

Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and a former director of litigation at the National Archives, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May that “any employee’s decision to conduct all e-mail correspondence through a private e-mail network, using a address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies.”

Also, as we have written, Clinton should have turned over her emails before she left office, but she didn’t.

NARA regulations require federal agencies to maintain an NARA-approved schedule for the disposition of federal records. The State Department Records Disposition Schedule says “incoming and outgoing correspondence and memorandums on substantive U.S. foreign policy issues” should be permanently retained “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary.”

Clinton left office Feb. 1, 2013. She did not turn over her emails to the State Department until Dec. 5, 2014, and only after the department in October of that year requested the emails in part to respond to the congressional requests for documents related to the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012.

The Clinton campaign has said that she complied with NARA regulations because “more than 90% of those emails should have already been captured in the State Department’s email system before she provided them with paper copies.”

But that assumes that the people receiving an email from Clinton properly preserved the record. Baron, the former director of litigation at NARA, told us for a previous story that Clinton “basically offloaded her burden to others” to preserve her emails. He told us Clinton was out of compliance with the regulations the day she left office.

One last point: The Washington Post Fact Checker wrote that when she was secretary in June 2011 “a cable went out under her signature warning employees to ‘avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts.’ ”

The Clinton campaign noted that that cable was sent after Google disclosed that the Gmail accounts of some government employees were being targeted by hackers originating in China — a situation Clinton described at the time as “very serious.” The cable did not say that the advice was limited to those with Gmail accounts. Asked if the campaign was suggesting that it applied only to Gmail users, Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin said he was offering “important context” given that the department has said personal email use was permitted under certain circumstances.

Transparency and Clinton’s Server

In her interview with Mitchell, Clinton took responsibility for her decision to use a private email account. She also took some credit for being “as transparent as I could” in handling the email controversy.

Clinton, Sept. 4: I take responsibility. I should’ve had two accounts — one for personal, one for work-related — and I’ve been as transparent as I could, asking all 55,000 pages be released to the public, turning over my server, looking for opportunities to testify before Congress. I’ve offered for nearly a year.

It’s true that she asked the State Department to release her emails on March 5, but the request came three months after she gave the emails to the department and three days after the New York Times broke the story that she exclusively used a personal email system to conduct official business.

As for her server, Clinton initially rejected suggestions that she turn it over to an independent third-party. At a March 10 press conference, Clinton said all personal emails were deleted from her server, and she rejected the suggestion that she turn her server over to an “independent arbiter” to prove that she did not destroy any work-related emails.

Clinton, March 10: The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private, and I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.

Five months later, on Aug. 11, Clinton directed her legal team to turn over her email server and a thumb drive containing copies of her emails to the Justice Department. “Clinton has pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry,” the campaign said.

The Justice Department review was triggered by I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general of the intelligence community, who made a “security referral” to the department for “potential compromises of national security” after a small sampling of Clinton’s emails found four that contained classified information. None of them had classification markings. Clinton has described the situation as a typical “disagreement among various parts of the government” over whether certain parts of her email correspondence material should or should not be made public.

The Clinton campaign told us there was no point in turning over the server earlier because there were no longer emails on it and the State Department had printed copies of all the work-related emails. The FBI security review is different, it said, because the review is a security issue. The campaign referred us to a Sept. 3 Bloomberg News story that said the FBI is examining the server for signs of security breaches.

There is a difference, but she cannot delete emails, refuse to allow her server to be examined by an independent third party, and then accurately claim she is being “as transparent as I could.”

‘Everybody’ Knew?

Clinton also told Mitchell and the Associated Press that her use of a personal email account was “fully above board,” because everyone who received an email from her knew that she was using a personal account.

Clinton, Sept. 4: The people in the government knew that I was using a personal account … the people I was emailing to on the dot gov system certainly knew and they would respond to me on my personal email.

Clinton, Sept. 7: It was fully above board. Everybody in the government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email, and I have said it would have been a better choice to have had two separate email accounts.

What she says is accurate, but incomplete. Those who exchanged emails with Clinton undoubtedly knew she had a personal account, but how many knew that she used it exclusively for government business? President Obama, for one, did not.

On March 7, CBS reporter Bill Plante asked Obama when he first learned “that Hillary Clinton used an email system outside the U.S. government.” He replied, “The same time everybody else learned it through news reports.”

Two days later, White House spokesman Josh Earnest expanded on the president’s answer. He said of course he knew her email address. “But the president was not aware of the fact that this was a personal email server and that this was the email address that she was using exclusively for all her business,” he said.

In minimizing her unusual email arrangement, Clinton glosses over the big difference between those who knew she had a personal email account and those who knew she was using it exclusively for government business. She has used variations on this theme — claiming, for example, that previous “secretaries of state” did the “same thing,” but as we have written before only Colin Powell used personal email and he didn’t use it exclusively for government business.


The Murky Robin Raphel Case 10 Months On, Remains Murky … Why?

Posted: 2:26  am EDT


On November 6, 2014, WaPo reported that Robin Raphel, a retired Foreign Service officer, former ambassador, and most recently, a senior coordinator at the State Department’s  Af/Pak shop was under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe. The report cited the FBI’s Washington Field Office as the entity running the investigation (see Former Ambassador and Pakistan Expert Under Federal Investigation as Part of CounterIntel Probe). In late November 2014, we blogged this: Robin Raphel, the Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials.

The Guardian reported in December 2014 that officials took “the extraordinary step in late October of searching Raphel’s house, finding classified documents that should not have left the State Department.” Raphel’s security clearance had reportedly been revoked and her job at the office of the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan terminated.

In January 2015, WaPo also reported that the FBI has been pushing to resolve several high-profile investigations that have lingered for months and in some cases years.

In addition to the case involving Petraeus and Broadwell, the bureau wants the Justice Department to decide whether to pursue charges against veteran State Department diplomat Robin Raphel and retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, who until 2011 was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright was the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leak of information about the Stuxnet cyberattack against Iran’s nuclear program. The details of Raphel’s case remain murky, but officials have said classified information was found at her home.

In her only public statement on the matter, Ambassador Raphel has expressed confidence that the affair will soon be resolved,  according to the Guardian in December 2014.

In late April 2015, General Petraeus was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine for sharing classified information with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. To-date, Ambassador Raphel has not been charged.  We have been unable to find any new development on this case and that is troubling. It appears that 34 years in government service does not afford one an opportunity to face charges beyond the court of public opinion. It does not even afford one the ability to defend oneself in a court of law. How did we come to this?

We’ve compiled a list of the things we still don’t know:

— According to WaPo, two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. We don’t know who were these officials or their motives for leaking a counter-intel probe to the news media.

— The investigation reportedly was ongoing when the story broke; didn’t the media spotlight jeopardize the investigation?

— Was somebody out to get Robin Raphel? Why?

— Does the classification controversy surrounding the Clinton emails complicate this case? How?

— Who was the  Pakistani official in this case? Was he/she aware that USG agents were eavesdropping? If he/she/they were not aware of the eavesdropping before this, didn’t they become aware of it when the story broke?  How was the leak helpful in the investigation? Have we kicked out any Pakistani diplomat for his/her alleged role in this case?

— We understand that by the time a case like this goes overt, the government has  all the information it needs.  It was not apparent if that was the case here. If we presumed that the USG went overt because it had all the evidence, how come there are no charges 10 months on?  If they could not sustain the charges, how come she has not been cleared?

— The government not only must charge an individual suspected of a crime, it also must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged. That has not happened here. Why?


Who signed off on Secretary Clinton having a private server? Over there – go fetch!

Posted: 1:19 am EDT

DPB, September 1, 2015

QUESTION: But do you know who signed off on her having a private server?

MR TONER: Who signed off on her? I don’t, no.

QUESTION: I mean —

QUESTION: Did anybody?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not going to answer that question. I’m not going to litigate that question from the podium.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that nobody signed off on her having a private server?

MR TONER: No. I’m saying – look, everyone – there were – people understood that she had a private server. I think we’ve talked about that in the past.

QUESTION: What level was that knowledge? How high did that go up in this building?

MR TONER: I mean, you’ve seen from the emails. You have an understanding of people who were communicating with her, at what level they were communicating at, so —

QUESTION: Was there anybody in this building who was against the Secretary having her own private server?

MR TONER: I can’t answer that. I can’t.

QUESTION: And just —

MR TONER: I mean, I don’t have the history, but I also don’t have – I don’t have the authority to speak definitively to that.


MR TONER: Again, these are questions that are appropriate, but appropriate for other processes and reviews.

QUESTION: But not the State Department? She was the Secretary of State and —

MR TONER: No, I understand what you’re asking. But frankly, it’s perfectly plausible – and I talked a little bit with Arshad about this yesterday – is for example, we know that the State IG is – at the Secretary’s request – is looking at the processes and how we can do better and improve our processes. And whether they’ll look at these broader questions, that’s a question for them.
QUESTION: So last opportunity here: You don’t know who signed off on Secretary Clinton having her own server?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t personally, but I don’t think it’s our – necessarily our responsibility to say that. I think that that’s for other entities to look at.


Holy Molly Guacamole!

See here? I don’t have enough fingers to count the verbal calisthenics the public is subjected to these days from the official podium of the oldest executive agency in the union.

He’s just doing his job, like … what would you do?

Pardon me? You’re embarrassed, too? Well, I suggest wearing a brown paper bag when watching the Daily Press Briefing from now on.

Are we ever going to reach a point when the career folks at the State Department will say “Enough, I’m not doing this anymore?

Hard to say. Hard to say. Although that did happen in Season 1, Episode 15 of Madam Secretary, so there is a clear precedent.


US Embassy Budapest Issues Alert on Railway Station, Silent on Refugee/Migration Crisis on Doorstep

Posted: 6:37 pm EDT


The UNCHR in Budapest, Hungary writes that — an angry confrontation between police and refugees on a blocked train just outside Budapest; a makeshift camp of stranded Syrians, Afghans and others at the capital’s main railway station; more than 2,000 refugees crossing into the country from Serbia each day the contours of Europe’s refugee and migration crisis are growing and shifting.  It describes the concourse in front of the main Keleti train station in Budapest as resembling a sad, makeshift campsite. “More than 2,000 people slept there overnight, a few in small tents, some with blankets and air mattresses, many on the cement floor covered in nothing but their clothes.”







On September 3, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary issued an alert concerning the migrants at the the Keleti Railway Station. This is about the only statement we could locate concerning the refugee crisis in its host country:

The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Hungary to be alert when traveling through the Keleti Railway Station (Palyaudvar).  Increasing numbers of migrants in and around the station have resulted in large crowds in public spaces.  Although these crowds have occasionally confronted police, demonstrations have been peaceful, and the presence of migrants has not led to a rise in crime, violent or otherwise.  However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Rail passengers should be prepared to show their passports to be admitted to the trains and platforms.  Rail traffic to and from the station has been subject to significant delays.  In some cases, departures have been cancelled.

On the same day when Hungary was accused of inhumane treatment of refugees, Embassy Budapest tweeted this:


A couple of weeks earlier, the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell toured Hungary’s majestic caves:


An FB commenter writes to Embassy Budapest:

Ambassador Bell, by not speaking against Hungary’s regressive and inhuman actions on refugees you are proving all the charges that you are an ineffective diplomat and mere window dressing. Perhaps you should join Donald Trump’s campaign. Hungary needs to become the great country she could be, not revert to her infamous policies of the 20th Century.

Two days ago, this photo shocked the world:

On September 3, the State Department spox tweeted this:

The latest from Embassy Budapest today is learning more about programs that support the conservation of culture, urging,  “Follow !”

On Facebook, there is a ‪#‎USAfridayQUIZ‬.

That’s all.