Category Archives: Lessons

State Department Issues Nomination Call For First Golden Gooseberry Awards

– Domani Spero

Hollywood has the  Golden Raspberry Awards or Razzies for short, in recognition of the worst in film. The State Department now has the Golden Gooseberry Awards or the “Gozzies” in recognition of the worst performances of the year.  Below is the cable released to posts:

VZCZCXRO3921
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHC #8174/01 2922053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 012110Z APR 14
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0428
RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 0179
UNCLAS STATE 108174

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT, ABUD, AFIN, APER,
SUBJECT: CALL FOR NOMINATION- FIRST STATE DEPARTMENT ‘GOZZIES’ AWARDS

REF: STATE 015541

————–
Summary
————–

1. In response to a popular post on the Secretary’s Sounding Board, the State Department is pleased to announced the first call for the Golden Gooseberry Awards.  Nominations are due on the second week of November or the week immediately preceding the State Department’s Annual Awards (reftel), whichever is later.  Winners of the “Gozzies” Awards will be announced on or about April 1, 2015. End Summary.
—————–
Background
—————–
2.  On February 1, 2013, John F. Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, becoming the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century. Following the tenure of two female secretaries of state and a most immediate predecessor who was popular and well-liked inside the building, Secretary Kerry, himself admitted, “I have big heels to fill.” To that end, Secretary Kerry wanted to ensure that some of the more popular initiatives and innovation started under the Clinton tenure continue.  For instance, the Secretary continue the tradition of “Meet and Greet” with embassy/consulate employees and families when he travel overseas.  Efforts on public outreach and social media engagement were expanded.  State’s bicycle to work program which resulted in showers for those who bike to work, and a monthly stipend for bike repairs and maintenance in lieu of the Government Metro Check subsidy was also given the nod.

3.  The employee “Sounding Board,” another innovation of former Secretary Clinton, is a visible platform for employee ideas and management response that Secretary Kerry’s team was interested in supporting boldly. On Secretary Kerry’s first week in Foggy Bottom, a request that the State Department needs its own version of the “Razzies” to recognize the worst performances was upvoted on the Sounding Board.   We listened, we asked questions, and we consulted with all stakeholders within the seven floors, the annexes and with employees in over 280 missions overseas.  Today, thirteen months after Secretary Kerry’s arrival in Foggy Bottom, the ‘Goozies’ Awards are finally here.  The ‘Gozzies’ are intended to serve as a reminder that the Secretary is listening, and that the worst performances will be held up as a teachable lesson on how not to behave as public leaders and servants.
—————————————————————————
GOZZIES AWARDS: ELIGIBILITY, CRITERIA, EXAMPLES
—————————————————————————

4.  Most Memorable HHE Shipper of the Year Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are in the rotational system and had to ship household effects. Nominations are welcome from post management, regional bureaus and State Department offices.
Criteria:  Selection will be based on (1) the most outrageous item shipped on HHE, (2) apportionment of blame to the General Services Office, (3) evidence of the degree of ignorance and idiocy demonstrated.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: An FSO shipped and stored 44 boxes of tiles, weighing 5,871 pounds as part of his household effects (HHE). FSO was advised that he owed $14,804.01 for packing, shipping, storage and repacking the tiles.  After filing a grievance, the Department later waived over $9,000 of this debt because FSO had not been timely notified of the disallowed items.

5. The Fair Share Escapee Award
Eligibility: All chief of mission employees who are subject to “Fair Share” requirement and have successfully evaded the rule for at least two assignment cycles. Nominations are welcome from  all direct-hire employees who have successfully concluded a tour in differential pay posts.
Criteria:  Fair Share rules require employees who are completing assignments to bid on differential pay posts if they have not served at a differential post during the eight years prior to their transfer eligibility date.  DS-6699, statement from DGHR, LinkedIn profiles, or Facebook posting indicating absence of differential post assignments in at least 9 years or more is required.  Names and supporting documents must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: See LinkedIn profiles and State Department bios.

6. Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct of the Year Award
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees of agencies. NDC is “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, spousal harassment to facilitate a contested divorce, 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.”
Criteria: No formal nominations required.  Incident reports from Police Department, Diplomatic Security, indictment from the Department of Justice or a viral hit would suffice.  For consideration, names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.
Example: DS Agent Charged With “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct” Gets Three Days Suspension

7. ‘Old School’ Screamer of a Boss Award
The new consensus among leaders and managers is that screaming and yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspire them, and hurts the quality of their work. This award recognizes an individual in international affairs responsible for repeatedly throwing nuclear bombs and leaving officer’s blood and dreams all over the wall.
Eligibility:  All employees of the Foreign Service and the Civil Service including Senior Foreign Service and Senior Executive Service serving domestically or abroad, are eligible.
Criteria: An employee or group of employees familiar with the nominee’s performance, including direct reports, task forces, working groups and country desks, may nominate candidates. Nominations, not to exceed three typewritten pages are to be submitted online to state.gov/gozzies.  Nominees responsible for multiple curtailments from posts or early retirements/resignations of generalists/specialists from the Foreign Service will receive extra consideration.
Example: If your boss can scream like this, consider the submission of a nomination.

8.  The Consular Fraudster Award
This award recognizes criminal and unethical actions performed in conjunction with  consular work. It is inspired by the this consular officer jailed for visa fraud and bribery.
Eligibility: All domestic and chief of mission employees working in passport offices and consular sections
Criteria: No formal nominations required. Department of Justice indictment and plea agreement and/or jail term acceptable. Names and links must be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.

9.  Department appreciates your full cooperation. As always, thank you for all that you do and for being part of this extraordinary team.  Questions, clarifications, suggestions for additional awards may be submitted online at state.gov/gozzies.

BT

 

Amazing! Kudos to Secretary Kerry and his team. And here we thought bureaucratic life must be quiet boring.  An agency official speaking on background emphasized that the “Gozzies” are the first of its kind in the Federal government and that a half dozen additional awards will be rolled out after the summer rotation.

Well, what are you waiting for?

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Filed under Awards, Diplomatic Life, Foreign Service, John F. Kerry, Lessons, Realities of the FS, Secretary of State, State Department

GIF of the Day: Just checking the Lessons Learned box?

– Domani Spero

Via Burn Bag:

“Wouldn’t the bureau with the most evacuations benefit from listening to evacuees instead of being so defensive and bristling at suggestions for improvement? Instead of checking the Lessons Learned box – try to actually DO something right after that colossal mistake called ordered departure!”

Image via Giphy

Image via Giphy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Evacuations, Foreign Service, Leadership and Management, Lessons, Photo of the Day, Realities of the FS, Regional Bureaus, State Department, U.S. Missions

Issa — Kerry Paper Shuffling Saga: What’s With the 7-Month Administrative Leave?

– By Domani Spero

On July 31, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa fired another letter to Secretary of State John Kerry inquiring about the status of the four State Department personnel officially assigned blame over the disaster in Benghazi.  Diplomatic Security officials, Eric Boswell, Charlene Lamb, Steve Bultrowicz and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell were placed on paid administrative leave following the release of the ARB Benghazi Report in December 2012.  To-date, these officials have been on bureaucratic limbo with an end promised; though the “when” does not appear to be in sight.

We’ve lost count how many Issa letters are fluttering around the hallways of Foggy Bottom. And we’ve lost count how many pages of paper reportedly have been provided by the State Department to Congress. We heard pages and pages and pages of papers.  We trust that the papers provided actually contained or will contain relevant information, and not the telephone directories or photocopies of the Foreign Affairs Manual or the Foreign Affairs Handbook.

Seriously, we are pissed at this paper shuffling saga playing out between the State Department and Congress.  In a perfect world, the Oversight Committee should focus on what went wrong, what can be done to prevent another Benghazi from happening and forget about 2016.  In a perfect world, the State Department and the CIA should acknowledge their faults and shortcomings in what happened and help the American public understand the human cost of doing work in the dark corners of the world.   That is a naive view, of course.  In the real world, these folks are playing a game of mud, assuring the public that one mud is clearer and cleaner than the other. Frankly, that’s all horseshit, with apology to the horse. And while this game is playing on, there are real life consequences.

The DS bureau has been described as in a “hell of hurt” these days.  Not only because it lost three of its top officials in one messy swoop, but also because one of those officials was an important cog in the assignment wheel of about 1,900 security officers.  If the assignments of DS agents overseas have been a great big mess for the last several months, you may account that to the fact that Ms. Lamb, the person responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies including personnel, had been put inside a deep freezer.  While planning has never been a State Department strength, succession planning is altogether a foreign object.  No nominee has been announced to succeed Ms. Lamb as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs.  Robert Hartung, the Assistant Director for Threat Investigation and Analysis Directorate has been appointed the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs according to the DS website.  The State Department telephone directory, however, has not even bothered  to list Mr. Hartung as acting DAS for International Programs.

Note and question of the day:  “Diplomatic Security is under intense pressure following Benghazi so now all resources are put towards “high threat” areas.  Nevertheless, experienced and well regarded DS officers at overseas posts are finding it impossible to stay out – even when they are the first choice for the receiving post.  When it gets to the panel – DS management declines to allow the agents to be paneled for the job.  I’ve known experienced agents being turned down for Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq because they’ve “been out too long.”  This is not an issue for other Foreign Service officers so why is it for Diplomatic Security?”

Got that in our inbox today.  Don’t know the answer except perhaps to point out that there is no/no email inside the freezer.

In any case, Mr. Issa’s July 31 letter to Secretary Kerry provides some interesting items.

1.  Apparently, the Committee has heard testimony from all four individuals faulted by the ARB, as well as their supervisors and colleagues. Witnesses reportedly testified that the Department offered “assurances” to Boswell, Bultrowicz, Lamb and Maxwell that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department.  Those assurances  seem to indicate that  the firing is part of a PR strategy more than accountability. Did State expect all four officials to just stay quiet as rocks until the political storm blows over?   A side note — Gregory Starr, recently nominated to succeed Boswell as top boss of Diplomatic Security praised these officers before Congress for giving “their careers to diplomatic security as well and the security of the Department of State.”  They are all praiseworthy enough that seven months on and the Secretary of State still has no idea what to do with them.

2.  And because Mr. Issa is still enamored with the Benghazi Talking Points, his letter brings up former spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s “promotion” to be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  He also brought up former NEA PDAS Elizabeth Dibble who was recently appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission to London.  And Greg Hicks, former DCM at US Embassy Tripoli who was apparently unable to find a “comparable overseas assignment” ten months after curtailing from Libya.

3. The only person from the NEA Bureau officially assigned blamed by the ARB was Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell.  He was apparently singled out because he stopped attending morning meetings held to read certain intelligence material, which, according to witnesses interviewed by the Committee, contained no information that would have caused Maxwell or anyone else to adjust the security posture at Special Mission Benghazi.  The Acting NEA boss, Ambassador Elizabeth Jones, who supervised Maxwell, reportedly agreed with the ARB’s conclusion that it was inappropriate for Mr. Maxwell to stop attending the daily intelligence read-book meetings. She testified, however, that Maxwell’s failure to read the daily intelligence had no connection to the inadequate security posture of the U.S. mission in Benghazi.  So, of all the people working in the NEA bureau, how did Mr. Maxwell become “it”?

4.  Apparently, neither Ambassador Jones nor Eric Boswell viewed “administrative leave” as a common practice, and according to Mr. Issa’s letter, neither was aware of any prior use of such an extended period of administrative leave.  Neither of them ever heard of Peter Van Buren who was locked out of Foggy Bottom and placed on paid administrative leave for about a year? Well, that is interesting.

5.  Eric Boswell reportedly testified that a State Department senior official told him the period of paid administrative leave would be brief. So, not only temporary but also brief.  Damn, what’s the world coming to … if you can’t even trust a senior State Department official’s words of reassurance.  Mr. Boswell should have had in writing the meaning of the word “brief.”  Just saying.

Mr. Issa’s letter requires answers to the following 10 questions for Secretary Kerry; well he’s the Secretary of State, his staff or those same senior officials will obviously task worker bees to work on an acceptable response to Congress.

  • Who made the decision to place the four individuals named in the ARB report on paid administrative leave?
  • For each of the four individuals on paid administrative leave, when was the decision made and what were the specific reasons for the decision?
  • What is the State Department’s internal definition of paid administrative leave?
  • Please describe any steps the Department has taken to evaluate the respective performances of the individuals who were placed on paid administrative leave.
  • Besides the findings of the ARB, what information is being considered as part of the performance evaluation process?
  • Who is conducting the performance evaluation(s)? Who will make a recommendation regarding how the administrative leave status should be resolved?
  • Is the Department delaying a final determination due to the ongoing congressional investigation or any other ongoing review, including, but not limited to a review being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General? If yes, please identify the investigation or review that is delaying the final determination.
  • Does the Department intend to offer individuals placed on paid leave a formal opportunity to respond to the ARB’s criticisms of their conduct before making final decisions? Will their responses be made public?
  • How many times have you been briefed on the status of each of the four individuals placed on paid administrative leave?
  • Explain why you have been unwilling or unable to reach decisions on these important personnel matters.

Unfortunately, Mr. Issa did not ask the more important questions. What actions did these four individuals take that made them blamable for Benghazi?   What evidence did the ARB have against these individuals and why are those kept classified?  Was any one of them directly responsible for opening up the Special Mission in Benghazi? Was anyone of them directly responsible for whatever agreement the State Department-CIA had on the security and operation of the temporary mission?  Was anyone of them directly responsible for turning down the request for more security? Why were they given assurances that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department if an investigation was ongoing?  These assurances — do these assurances  show the predetermined  nature of whatever investigation? Because if there is an investigation, and no one as yet know how it will turn out, how can anyone make stupid promises like these?

Were these promises to the four individuals routinely made to FSOs in trouble like Peter Van Buren?  Peter — yohoo! Did anyone ever tell you  your admin leave status would be temporary and that you would return to a new assignment within the Department at the conclusion of your investigation? What? They padlocked the door after you?

Oh hey, is it true that folks in the upper echelons of the State Department — those who are looked up as leaders and as models of behavior by the rank and file — no longer even look in the mirror afraid of what they’ll see there? Ay madre de dios!

Below is Mr. Issa’s letter in full.  Click on the lower right hand corner of the Scribd screen to display the letter in full screen.   WARNING: Reading may put you on full jaded and sour mood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Assistant Secretary, Congress, DCM, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, FSOs, Functional Bureaus, Govt Reports/Documents, Hall of Shame, John F. Kerry, Leaks|Controversies, Lessons, Org Culture, Org Life, Politics, Realities of the FS, Security, Staffing the FS, State Department

$630K To Buy Facebook Fans — Is That Really Such a Sin? Only If There’s Nothin’ But Strategery

◉  By Domani Spero

 

We blogged last month about the OIG report on the State Department’s IIP Bureau (See State Dept’s $630,000 Social Media “Buying Fans” Campaign,  a Success — But Where’s the Love?). At one point, we Googled $630,000 and we got 6,260 results in 10 seconds. Few of them complimentary for blowing that much dough to buy “friends.” The Daily Beast asks, “Oh, State Department, didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t buy your friends?”

C’mon folks, the USG buy friends all the time. It even buy frienemies, who occasionally bites it behind and in front of cameras.

Anyway, today, The Cable’s John Hudson has  this: Unfriend: State Dept’s Social Media Shop Is DC’s “Red-Headed Stepchild” where a former congressional staffer with knowledge of the bureau calls IIP or the Bureau of International Information Programs “the the redheaded stepchild of public diplomacy.”  An unnamed source also told The Cable that its main problem was finding something it actually does well. “It has an ill-defined mandate and no flagship product that anyone outside of Foggy Bottom has ever heard of.”

Actually, it used to run america.gov, an easily recognizable product created under the previous administration. But some bright bulbs decided to reinvent it into something easily memorable; you think  IIP Digital and you think, of course,  America. (see Foggy Bottom’s “Secret” Blog, Wild Geese – Oh, It’s Pretty Wild!).

The Cables’s piece has a quote from Tom Nides, the State Department’s former deputy secretary for management and resources who defended IIP in the wake of the OIG report:

“We have to allow our departments to be innovators and take risks. And if you’re an innovator, some things just aren’t going to work… The bureau does some really innovative and interesting stuff.” 

Like the e-reader debacle.  When somebody run something by the seat of their pants .. well, okay we’ll agree to call it interesting but please, let’s not/not call this innovative.  See What Sunk the State Dept’s $16.5 Million Kindle Acquisition? A Complaint. Plus Missing Overall Goals

Tara Sonenshine, until recently the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who oversees IIP also spoke to The Cable:

“OK, they spent time acquiring too many followers. They built up the traffic to their site. Is that really such a sin?” she asked in an interview with The Cable. “They moved quickly into social media at a time when Secretary of State Clinton said we should have 21st century statecraft. I don’t know why that’s such a bad thing.”

Is that really such a sin? Here is the problem that the OIG inspectors were not happy with:

“The absence of a Department-wide PD strategy tying resources to priorities directly affects IIP’s work. Fundamental questions remain unresolved. What is the proper balance between engaging young people and marginalized groups versus elites and opinion leaders? Which programs and delivery mechanisms work best with which audiences? What proportion of PD resources should support policy goals, and what proportion should go to providing the context of American society and values? How much should PD products be tailored for regions and individual countries, and how much should be directed to a global audience? What kinds of materials should IIP translate and into which languages? Absent a Department wide strategy, IIP decisions and priorities can be ad hoc, arbitrary, and lack a frame of reference to evaluate the bureau’s effectiveness. The 2004 OIG IIP inspection report recommended that the Department conduct a management review of PD. The Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs created an Office of Policy and Outreach but did not carry out the management review. A strategy that ties resources to priorities is essential to resolving questions of mission and organization for IIP in general and for the PD function in particular.”

Makes one wonder why not.

The recommended management review in 2004 did not happen under Margaret D. Tutwiler (2003-2004) not under Karen Hughes (2005-2007) not under James K. Glassman (2008-2009) or Judith McHale (2009-2011).  And it did not happen under Tara D. Sonenshine (2012-2013).

Which is how you end up with State Dept’s Winning Hearts and Minds One Kindle at a Time Collapses …. Presently Dead.

Or how you get an odd Facebook campaigns on intellectual property theft and the importance of IP rights led by US embassies in Canada, Spain, Estonia, Uruguay, Suriname, Guyana, and Chile. (via Ars Technica). You’d think that if you do an embassy FB campaign on IP rights, you should at least target the 39 countries in USTR’s Watch List. Suriname, Guyana and Estonia did not even make that Watch List.

Or how tweets can get “bungled” and no one has the @embassyhandler’s back, not even the State Department Spokesperson.

Or how embassies create “fun” videos that cost time and money that does not fit/poorly fit an occasion or serve any real purpose (See employees around the U.S. Embassy in Manila sing and dance to the Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe” in December 2012, the Harlem Shake by U.S. Embassy Algiers in February 2013, or the U.S. Embassy Tashkent Navruz dance celebration in Uzbek Gangnam style in March 2013!

Look, we are not averse to seeing videos from our diplomatic posts, but they do require time and money.  Rehearsals, anyone?  We’d like to see some purpose put into them beyond just being the “in” thing to do.  (see some good ones US Embassy Bangkok’s Irrestibly Charming Happy 2013 GreetingUS Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You, and US Embassy Costa Rica: La Visa Americana, Gangnam Style).
In December 2012, Ms. Soneshine gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation, touting  “real success” with IIP’s FB properties:

IIP, the Bureau of International Information Programs, has had real success with its four major Facebook properties, which engage foreign audiences on issues related to innovation, democracy, conservation, and the USA.

Our metrics help us refine our understanding of the hopes and aspirations of young people in key countries, allowing us to explain our goals, policies and values in particular and responsive ways. In just 15 months, our Facebook following has expanded from 800,000 to more than 8 million, as they like, share, and retweet in their communities. And that includes young people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and Venezuela.

Ms. Soneshine did not mention how much money the USG spent to expand the number of those Facebook followers or the rate of the engagement.

In the same speech, she touted the use of “rigorous, evidence-based” work that “demonstrate the effectiveness” of the State Department programs:

[O]ur in-house staff – Statewide – includes Ph.D. social scientists, program evaluators who have worked all over the world, pollsters who left successful careers in the private sector to work for us, and other communications experts.

Our rigorous, evidence-based, social scientific work now allows us to go beyond anecdote and demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs and work in increasing foreign public understanding of U.S. society, government, culture, our values and the democratic process.

Here is what the OIG says:

The Office of Audience Research and Evaluation is charged with assessing bureau programs and conducting audience research for PD work. It is not performing either duty adequately. The coordinator brought a former colleague from the private sector into the bureau to oversee the operation, which is attached to the front office. However, that employee had no U.S. Government experience with the issues surrounding PD research or familiarity with the programs, products, and services IIP offers. At about the same time, the Office of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs transferred to IIP the responsibility for managing a PD database for tracking embassies’ work, along with the responsibility for preparing a report assessing the global impact of PD. Since the 2011 reorganization that put these changes in place, the office has accomplished little.

Zing!

In the aftermath of the release of the IIP report, Ms. Soneshine reportedly sent out a lengthy email offering to connect recipients “directly with the bureau’s leadership so that you can learn more about IIP and its great work, in addition to hearing how the bureau is proactively implementing the report’s recommendations.”

She reportedly also touted the bureau’s accomplishments and writes that “IIP is now positioned firmly in the 21st Century and will innovate constantly to stay at the forefront of modern Public Diplomacy.”

That must be why the fishes are leaping out the barrel; fishes to refer to multiple species of fish in that specific barrel.

👀

Related item:

-05/31/13   Inspection of the Bureau of International Information Programs  [975 Kb]

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Filed under Counting Beans, Digital Diplomacy, Facebook, Follow the Money, Functional Bureaus, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Lessons, Political Appointees, Social Media, State Department, Technology and Work, Trends

US Embassy Jamaica: Ex-ARSO David J. Rainsberger Gets One Year In Prison for Accepting Gifts

– By Domani Spero

 

In February 2013, USDOJ announced that David J. Rainsberger, 32, a law enforcement officer with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, pleaded guilty to receiving unlawful gratuities while stationed at the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, and making false statements to the United States government on a national security questionnaire required to maintain his security clearance.

Today, July 9, the AP reported that the former Assistant Regional Security Officer (ARSO) has been sentenced to a year in prison for accepting gifts in exchange for helping a Jamaican musician gain a U.S. visa.

The unlawful gratuities include two luxury watches worth approximately $2,500 plus backstage access, free admission to nightclubs and a party hosted by an unnamed Jamaican musician.

We previously blogged about this here – see DS Agent David J. Rainsberger Pleads Guilty to Receiving Unlawful Gratuities, False Statements.

Originally scheduled to be sentenced on April 19, 2013, Rainsberger did face a maximum penalty of two years in prison on the gratuities charge and five years in prison on the false statements charge.  It looks like the false statements charge was dropped and he got one year instead of the maximum two year penalty for the gratuities charge. The prosecutors reportedly sought a sentence of about two years while the defense sought home detention.

Here is a recap from the February announcement:

According to court records, Rainsberger served as an assistant regional security officer for investigations at the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, from 2009 to 2011.  While there, Rainsberger befriended a well-known Jamaican musician whose entry to the U.S. had been barred because of allegations of criminal conduct.  Rainsberger’s investigation of this individual resulted in the reinstatement of his visa, which allowed the individual to travel to the U.S. to take advantage of performance and recording opportunities.  On account of the assistance Rainsberger provided him with respect to his U.S. visa, the musician purchased for Rainsberger two luxury watches worth approximately $2,500.  In addition, Rainsberger received free admission to nightclubs, backstage access to concerts, and a birthday party hosted by the musician.

At the same time, Rainsberger, who was already married, became engaged to a Jamaican national and intentionally withheld disclosure of the relationship from the U.S. government on Office of Personnel Management Standard Form 86, a national security questionnaire that requires disclosure of close and continuing contact with foreign nationals.  Rainsberger also repeatedly accessed, without authority, Department of State visa and passport databases for personal purposes.

While this individual only got one year in prison,  his career with the State Department or with any law enforcement agency is definitely over.   But there is an upside to being in prison according to Bloomberg Businessweek — “prison is a wonderful place to catch up on your reading.”    Bloomberg offers a survival guide here put together with the help of three “experts.”

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Court Cases, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, Hall of Shame, Lessons, State Department, U.S. Missions, Visas

What’s Missing From the Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 1768)

As we have blogged here previously, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), introduced legislation on April 26, 2013, to increase the independence and transparency of future Accountability Review Boards (ARB). (See HFAC Chairman Ed Royce Introduces “Accountability Review Board Reform Act of 2013” (H.R. 1768)).

The bill currently has 22 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The current regs gave the Secretary of State the authority to appoint four out of five members of the ARB.  Under the proposed legislation, the Secretary of State may now only appoint two members of the Board:

“A Board shall consist of five members, two appointed by the Secretary of State, two appointed by the Chairperson of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (the CIGIE Chairperson), and one appointed by the Director of National Intelligence.”

On the ARB Staff:

“(2) Staff.–

“(A) In general.–A Board may hire staff to assist the Board, and may have any Federal Government employee assigned or detailed to such Board, with or without reimbursement, to assist such Board. Any such assignee or detailee shall retain without interruption the rights, status, and privileges of his or her regular employment.

“(B) Special rule.–Any individual who is hired, assigned, or detailed to assist a Board under subparagraph (A) shall be subject to the rule relating to the avoidance of conflicts of interest under subsection (a) in the same manner and to the same extent as a Member of such a Board is subject to such avoidance under such subsection.

“(C) Office of the Inspector General.–To the maximum extent practicable, individuals assisting the Board shall be employees of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of State.”.

Here are the ARB staff that may potentially be affected if the ARB Reform Act is passed by the House, the Senate and signed into law:

  • Under current ARB regs, the ARB Staff Officer is a member of the M/PRI staff appointed by the Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI), an office that reports directly to the Under Secretary for Management
  • An ARB Executive Secretary is also appointed by M/PRI when an ARB is convened.  The Executive Secretary coordinates and facilitates the work of that Board. The Executive Secretary will normally be a senior Foreign Service officer or a retired senior Foreign Service officer who is recommended by DGHR/CDA.  DGHR is an office an office that reports directly to the Under Secretary for Management.
  • Experts, consultants and support staff: As determined by the Board the Department will provide the necessary experts, consultants and support staff to enable the Board to carry out its duties effectively and efficiently.
  • S/ES-EX will provide a full-time dedicated administrative support coordinator (detailee or WAE) to assist the Executive Secretary of the ARB, as formalized in Administrative Notice No.05-02, dated February 22, 2005.

H.R. 1768 also addresses conflicts of interest and recusals:

(c) Conflicts of Interest.–Section 302 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act is amended by adding at the end the following new subsections

 “(c) Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest.–

“(1) In general.–The Secretary of State, the CIGIE Chairperson, and the Director of National Intelligence may not appoint any individual as a member of a Board if the Secretary, the CIGIE Chairperson, or the Director, as the case may be, determines that such individual has a conflict of interest concerning a person whose performance such Board reasonably could be expected to review.

   “(2) Declining appointment.–An individual shall decline appointment to membership on a Board if such individual has actual knowledge of a conflict of interest concerning a person whose performance such Board could reasonably be expected to review.

  “(3) Recusal from particular activities.–A member of a Board shall recuse him or herself from any Board activity, interview, deposition, or recommendation concerning a person with whom such member has a conflict of interest. Such member shall promptly notify the other members of such Board of any such recusal, but need not state the basis therefor.

The current regs specifies that the ARB report on its findings and program recommendations to the Secretary of State.  To those who are repeatedly harping why the Benghazi ARB did not interview Secretary Clinton, this might be the best answer.  The ARB is supposed to submit its report to the Secretary of State. Does it make sense for the ARB to interview the Secretary when the report is to be submitted to the same Secretary that convenes the Board?

12 FAM 036.3 also specifies that “The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation. Note that the regs did not say the Secretary must provide the ARB report to Congress, only that he/she must report to Congress on the recommendations and the actions taken. There is nothing on the regs that precludes the Secretary of State from sharing the ARB report with Congress, but she is not required to do so under current laws.

On its program specification,  H.R. 1768 changes that and mandates that the ARB submits its findings and recommendations to the Secretary of State and Congress.

“(1) In general.–Except as provided in paragraph (2), not later than 90 days after a Board is convened in a case, such Board shall submit to the Secretary of State and Congress its findings (which may be classified to the extent determined necessary by the Board), together with recommendations as appropriate to improve the security and efficiency of any program or operation which such Board has reviewed.

And that’s all good improvement, but here is what’s missing –

A standing committee within the State Department actually assesses whether an ARB should be convened or not.  Whether the Secretary of State convenes an ARB or not depends on the  the recommendation of this standing committee.  Per 12 FAM 032.1, “the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee (ARB/PCC) will, as quickly as possible after an incident occurs, review the available facts and recommend to the Secretary to convene or not convene a Board.”

The ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee (ARB/PCC) according to the FAM is composed of the following members:

(1) The Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI), who will chair the Committee; [M/PRI reports to the Under Secretary for Management]

(2) The Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security or the Principal Deputy; [Diplomatic Security reports to the Under Secretary for Management]

(3) The Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research; [INR reports directly to the Secretary]

(4) The Coordinator for Counterterrorism [reports to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights]

(5) The senior deputy assistant secretary (or secretaries, as appropriate) of the relevant regional bureau(s); (regional bureaus report to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs]

(6) One representative designated by and representing the DNI; and

(7) The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services [Consular Affairs reports to the Under Secretary for Management]

The FAM is clear that the  ARB process is “a mechanism to foster more effective security of U.S. missions and personnel abroad by ensuring a thorough and independent review of security-related incidents. Through its investigations and recommendations, the Board seeks to determine accountability and promote and encourage improved security programs and practices.”

An ARB is convened when there is serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at, or related to, a United States Government mission abroad, and in any case of a serious breach of security involving intelligence activities of a foreign government directed at a United States Government mission abroad.

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US Embassy, Tunisia

And yet in the aftermath of the 2012 mob attacks of U.S. embassies particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan and Yemen where there were significant destruction of USG properties, no ARB was convened.

Why?

The destruction of property was not just the embassy buildings and facilities but also includes a number of  torched armored vehicles. We don’t know what type of armored vehicles were lost during last year’s attacks, but armored vehicles used in Iraq in 2005 cost at least $205,742 each.

Some of these attacks went on for hours with no help from the host country government.  Some embassy employees thought they were going to die and called loved ones to say their goodbyes.

So it makes us wonder — was the ARB/PCC  blind to what happened at these posts, and thus did not make a recommendation to convene a Board?

Or did the the ARB/PCC thought convening an ARB amidst the Benghazi debacle and the Benghazi ARB was a tad too much for the agency to handle that no ARB was recommended?

If Congress must reform the Accountability Review Board to improve its effectiveness and independence, it ought to start with a look  at the Permanent Coordinating Committee, its composition and recommendation process on whether an ARB is to be convened or not.
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New Word of the Day: Nordstrom, \nord-struhm\, verb

Via blog pal, Kolbi:

Nordstrom, \nord-struhm\, verb;

1.)  To document your position so effectively and completely that, in the event of a very public Congressional hearing, if there are rear ends left flapping about in the breeze at the end of it, yours sure isn’t one of them.

Examples of Usage:

- “…So I made sure I Nordstromed the hell out of it…”

- “…And I told them that I would be Nordstroming that up one side and down the other, just so we were all clear on where I stood…”

Also -

- “The country is falling apart and if you have not Nordstromed your requests yet, better start before it’s too late.”

After Eric A. Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the US Embassy in Tripoli.  Reposting this as a reminder to our friends in the region over there.

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Name That Embassy: Where The DCM Has Two Official Residences (the Second, For DCM Junior’s Playdates)

Most of this blog’s readers are already familiar with the term DCM.  For those who aren’t, a DCM or a Deputy Chief of Mission is like the chief executive officer or chief operating officer of the embassy. He/She is a career diplomat and acts as Charge d’Affaires (person in charge) whenever the Ambassador is absent from the host country or when the position is vacant. The DCM is responsible for the day to day management of the embassy, ensuring the mission can operate with allocated resources and together with the Ambassador runs the Embassy “front office.”  He/She oversees the heads of sections (Political, Economic, Public Affairs, Management, Consular and the Regional Security Office) at the Embassy and has overall responsibility for mentoring and professional development of the entry-level professionals.

All that serves as a preamble to this:

The Deputy Chief of Mission in Country X has an official residence in the downtown area of the capital city; the location is not too far from the embassy.

The second residence, an apartment is allegedly in the suburbs, in one of the U.S. government compounds in the capital city. The ostensible reason for the second residence is reportedly so the DCM’s spouse would have a place to arrange playdates near the international school where DCM junior is enrolled.

Imagine if you’re overseas and you demand a second USG-owned or USG-leased residence for your kid’s playdates.  Do you know what would happen?  They’d pack you up on a medical evacuation so quickly before you can even say BOO!

But when you’re a DCM, apparently they don’t do that, which we must admit is a nice perk.

Poor contract guards.

They wanted to know what sort of special protection they should be giving to the DCM and his/her visitors when he/she is using the second residence.

As you might imagine, the  security office was not happy about this.

And the housing office was pretty steam up about it.  The Housing GSO reportedly refused to have anything to do with this … um, unusual arrangement.

Luckily, the Housing GSO’s supervising officer …. no, not the GSO but the Management Counselor is said to have arranged the details so the DCM gets the second USG housing. This is the part where we need to point out that the Management Counselor’s Employee Evaluation Report rater is no other than the DCM.

So –

If you were the Management Counselor at this post, would you have “arranged the details” so the DCM gets a second residence?

Or would you have taken out the Foreign Affairs Manual  and  said, “No your excellency, you may not have a second residence.”

Perhaps this should cover as our ethical dilemma exercise for the day.

According to FAM  15 FAM 211.1, the objective of the housing program is “to provide safe and secure housing that is adequate to meet the personal and professional requirements of employees at a cost most advantageous to the U.S. Government. For the purposes of this policy, adequate housing is defined as that comparable to what an employee would occupy in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, with adjustments for family size and locality abroad.”  The housing provided to employees is based on position rank and family size:  “Where an employee’s position rank is greater or less than his or her personal rank, the position rank determines the employee’s maximum authorization.”  

We have been unable to locate regulations in the FAM that allows an employee to occupy two USG-owned or USG leased housing overseas.  It might be that the FAM in a parallel universe does not specifically prohibit the allocation of two residences to a DCM, especially if one needs an apartment for the officer’s kid’s playdates. But — even if we grant that this is not illegal — holy mother of goat! How can a senior official even think this is not waste and misused of U.S. government property?

In any case, we understand that several mission staffers thought this was just plain wrong and appropriately filed complaints at the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

We heard that State/OIG “passed it on” to the regional bureau which then had a “conversation” of some sort. Subsequent to the conversation with the regional bureau, the keys to the second residence were returned.

We checked with the OIG and this is what we’re told by its spokesman, Douglas Welty:

[I]t is OIG policy not to comment on complaints submitted to our Hotline, nor do we comment on any possible, pending or on-going investigations.

It is also OIG policy to refer  non-criminal, but inappropriate activities to the Department (or bureau) for administrative action - with a request for a response and report of remedial actions taken.

So unless you don’t return the keys … then it becomes a big deal. But if you do return the keys, then things can be forgotten and forgiven? Did the bureau even charged the DCM rental for the use of the second residence? Was any administrative action ever issued? No one knows since that’s all done behind doors because hey, privacy!

In what ethical landscape would anyone consider this appropriate behavior for any public servant, particularly one who is a senior official with mentoring responsibility for our next generation of diplomats?

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Updated May 16@8:37 am to include RSOs under the responsibility of the DCMs.

 

 

 

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Silenced: Civic Courage on Film, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

“Allowing ourselves to become a nation of silent, secretive, timid citizens is likely to result in a system of democracy and justice that is neither very democratic nor very just.” 
― Dahlia Lithwick

James Spione’s new film SILENCED follows a group of high-profile former feds who questioned official national security policy in post 9-11 America, and have endured harsh consequences. It features former NSA senior executive Tom Drake, former CIA officer John Kiriakou, former Justice Department lawyer Jesselyn Radack and former State Department diplomat Peter Van Buren.

John Kiriakou is currently serving a 30 month prison term at a  Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

Here is a short blurb:

Over the past several years, an arcane WWI era law called The Espionage Act has been used six times to bring charges against whistleblowers, not for revealing information to a foreign government, but for talking to the press. In fact, the current administration invoked this law more times than all previous administrations combined.
[snip]
The targeting of whistleblowers raises profound questions that have implications far beyond the fates of the individuals profiled in this film. In an age where the spectre of terrorism is deemed an appropriate reason for the Executive branch to claim greater and greater powers, can the United States government maintain a commitment to the rule of law? How can a democracy that purports to champion human rights simultaneously attempt to quash criticism from within its ranks? What is the effect on our First Amendment right to dissent–and on the whole idea of a free press–when those in power single out whistleblowers for prosecution?

More on The Espionage Act here.

James Spione  teamed up with producer Daniel Chalfen and executive producer Jim Butterworth of Naked Edge Films to make this new documentary.  The group has reached their funding goal of $35,000 with 300 funders via Kickstarter.  The funds will be used for post production and  the film is expected to be finished by end of the year.

From now until March 14th, you can still support them on Kickstarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1…. The group states that additional Kickstarter funds raised in the final days will be put to good use– “some critical upgrades to editing equipment, beginning work with composer Emile Menasché, and spending more time in the edit room assembling all of these individual stories into a powerful narrative about the importance of whistleblowers to American democracy.”

Read more here.

Peter Van Buren wrote:

While all of us in this important film have given interviews before, none of us has opened up, in depth, the way we did with Jim. It is also important to note that none of us are profiting from this film or the Kickstarter campaign, unless you consider the telling of truth on a large and public scale to be our reward.

Mission accomplished “M”!  If you have not done it yet, you may now give meritorious and superior awards to the Van Buren Project hounders from DS and DGHR.
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Buzkashi Boys: When U.S. Taxpayers Almost Won an Oscar (Or Smartifying Capacity Building)

The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film (Live Action) category but lost to Curfew.  A couple says ago, the State Department announced a big do in WashDC, a Panel With Stars and Producer of Oscar-Nominated Afghan Short Film “Buzkashi Boys.”

The U.S. Department of State will host a screening and roundtable discussion with the producer and stars of the Oscar-nominated short film Buzkashi Boys on February 28 at 12:30 p.m. in the Marshall Center Auditorium.

The making of Buzkashi Boys was supported through a grant from U.S. Embassy Kabul to the Afghan Film Project. The goal of this project is to help revitalize the Afghan film industry, which was once a vibrant part of Afghanistan’s cultural life.

During the filming of Buzkashi Boys thirteen Afghan interns were trained in all aspects of film production. Afghan media organizations, which until recently were forced to rely on foreign expertise, will benefit from this training for years to come. Almost all of the trainees continue to work in the local media or television industry. Some are making their own films, strengthening national identity by telling their own stories.

Here are some photos of the stars of Buzkashi Boys during their visit to Foggy Bottom for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013.

The stars and producer of the Oscar-nominated film Buzkashi Boys visit the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The stars and producer of the Oscar-nominated film Buzkashi Boys visit the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., for a screening and Q and A on February 28, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] (click image to view a slideshow)

 

What was not included in the announcement is the 29-minute film’s unusual distinction.  According to the WSJ, the film was “funded almost entirely out of a $150 million State Department campaign to combat extremism, support Afghan media and burnish the U.S. image in Afghanistan.”

As part of the public-diplomacy project, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul gave Mr. French and his Afghan Film Project more than $220,000 in 2010 to make “Buzkashi Boys” and use the production to train aspiring Afghan filmmakers.

Tara Sonenshine who currently serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for State recently blogged about the BB in DipNote touting this as one of the “innovative examples of our many public diplomacy programs in support of a peaceful, prosperous, stable Afghanistan”:

In the case of “Buzkashi Boys,” we supported the Afghan Film Project — the non-profit NGO whose creation was integral to the movie. A grant from the State Department funded the training of 13 Afghan interns in all aspects of film production. Those graduates are now among the best-trained filmmakers in Afghanistan. Most of them have gone on to work in the local media or television industry, or have begun to make their own films.

While the movie didn’t win an Oscar, it sent out powerful messages about a future we can all support: an Afghanistan where ethnic and linguistic divisions can be transcended through a common love of culture, where aspirations are possible, and where the playing fields are level for everyone. On the economic side, it showed foreign movie and television investors and artists that Afghanistan is open for business and growing its people’s capacity to become a vibrant center of national self expression.

Okay, now that you’ve read that, let’s take a look at this item from El Snarkistani of the Republic of Snarkistan, who probably won’t get any invite to embassy events anytime soon:

So to review:

- US government funded film
- Filmed in Afghanistan
- Afghan streetkid star

- Total funding: around $260,000

I say again: that’s a pretty big shoestring.

By way of comparison, remember Clerks? That cost $27,000. And the first Paranormal Activity? $15,000. So why was it so expensive to make this film in a country where median monthly incomes are a few hundred dollars? Your main star’s a street kid who sells maps and “bodyguard services” to foreigners on Kabul’s Chicken Street, so I’m guessing he wasn’t that expensive. Must have been all that capacity building.

Which is what’s missing from the narrative surrounding this film: at no point are we hearing how that money went to help the Afghan film industry. In fact, in a story for the National, Lianne Gutcher reports that French and his team made choices that would virtually ensure that whatever skills were learned would not translate to the Afghan film scene once the movie was completed.

French also insisted on shooting with RED cinema cameras – an American brand that is expensive to hire and insure. That offered little benefit to Afghan filmmakers, who cannot afford RED. Afghanistan’s film and TV industry mainly uses MiniDV, a far lower standard.

Completely absent from the photos taken of the cast and crew by the media during this Oscar season are the filmcrew that French and his team were supposed to train in the first place. Any publicity photos feature French (prominently, and why not, with those eyes, that hair, and that beard?) and the two co-stars, but noticeably absent are any other Afghans. Based on how much the US Embassy in Kabul has been falling all over itself on social media to promote this thing, one would think that the goal of telling the “good news” about Afghanistan has been achieved. With…buzkashi.

[...]

No, what you need is a story that’s going to make foreigners feel good about Afghanistan. And if, along the way, you hire an Afghan as your “Assistant Chef,” well, that’s all to the good, isn’t it?

Make no mistake: this film isn’t directed at Afghans. I don’t think it’s even been screened for an Afghan audience at this point, as the only publicity here in Afghanistan around the film has focused on showings at foreign embassies. When the Soviets used to do this, we called it propaganda. Since it’s the 21st century, and we’re Americans, somehow this is…capacity building. Or, as David Ensor, who headed up the US public diplomacy effort in Kabul at the time, told the Wall Street Journal, 

“I was in the hope business, and we were making investments in Afghanistan and its people that were designed to make life better and create a perception of change in the right direction,” he said.

“Create a perception of change”? Perish the thought that we’d create any actual change. Whether you’re calling it public diplomacy, public affairs, information operations, or propaganda, it all boils down to the same thing: creating the perception that things are going to be just fine. What’s troubling is that telling the real stories of average Afghans would do just that. For a quarter of a million dollars, you could find a whole lot of Afghans whose lives have been directly and positively changed by the US presence here.

Coming from me that may be a surprising statement, but it hasn’t all been bad here. The problem is that the Department of State and other government organizations here are so focused on making sure everyone knows that the billions they’re dumping here is doing some good, that they forget that it’s really not that complicated, after all. Instead of making a film about how American dollars have made real change in the lives of actual Afghans, the State Department would rather dump even more money into things that “create a perception of change.”

So we funded a film that’s disconnected by and large from the country in which it’s filmed. We didn’t really build the capacity of the Afghan film industry, unless you count beefing up the resume of an American director and his non-Afghan crew. And we just cross our fingers and hope that somehow people think we’re doing some good here. Marvelous.

Read in full here: Buzkashi Boys: When Propaganda Becomes Capacity Building.

Photo via US Embassy Kabul/FB

Buzkashi Boys actors under the Great Seal at the US Embassy Kabul with Ambassador James Cunningham.
Photo via US Embassy Kabul/FB (click on image for a slideshow)

On a related note, we saw this tweet from US Embassy Kabul and we could not walk away:

U.S. Embassy Kabul ‏@USEmbassyKabul

In the 1940s, the Office of War Information & @StateDept worked w/Hollywood to produce films to aid the war effort.

@USEmbassyKabul @StateDept Which ones?

U.S. Embassy Kabul ‏@USEmbassyKabul

@diplopundit One infamous film that comes to mind is ‘Mission to Moscow’ (1943). The War Dept during WWII had a number of others.

Which led us to dig up ‘Mission to Moscow’, a film directed by Michael Curtiz in 1943 based on a book by former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies.  According to Wikipedia, this film has also been called  “unquestionably the most blatant piece of pro-Stalinist propaganda ever offered by the American mass media”.

Oh, dear!

Once you start digging into the Office of War Information (OWI), it’s almost impossible to stop – there’s an ‘um, richness of material there just so hard to ignore. Several OWI-connected films got nominated for Academy Awards and one even starred an actor who later became a U.S. president:

Some other USG-connected movies received nominations and won some awards:

A longer list of Allied propaganda films for World War II is available here.

About the OWI:

“The Office of War Information (OWI) was a U.S. government agency created during World War II to consolidate government information services.   [...] In 1943, the OWI’s appropriations were cut out of the fiscal year 1944 budget and only restored with strict restrictions on what OWI could do domestically. Many branch offices were closed and the Motion Picture Bureau was closed down. By 1944 the OWI operated mostly in the foreign field, contributing to undermining enemy morale. The agency was abolished in 1945, and its foreign functions were transferred to the Department of State.  The OWI was terminated, effective September 15, 1945, by an executive order of August 31, 1945.”

Perhaps the most instructive item we found rummaging around is from Elmer Davis, the director of OWI in 1942 who said: “The easiest way to inject a propaganda idea into most people’s minds is to let it go through the medium of an entertainment picture when they do not realize that they are being propagandized.”

There. Got that?

Now given all that history with Hollywood, should we really call this ‘innovative?”  In the meantime, since the stated goal of the Buzkashi Boys project is “to help revitalize the Afghan film industry,” we asked over in the Twitters the following question:

@USEmbassyKabul @TOLO_TV Curious – how many of the 13 AFG interns fm BB are currently wrking in AFG film industry?

That’s not really an unreasonable question to ask, is it?
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