State Department Appoints 3rd Special Envoy For Guantanamo Closure in Six Years

Posted: 1:35 am  EDT

 

On June 30, Secretary Kerry announced the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Wolosky, as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Lee will lead our ongoing diplomatic engagement to make possible the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility in a timely manner, consistent with American interests and the security of our people.

Lee Wolosky is a highly-skilled and experienced attorney who served as the National Security Council’s Director for Transnational Threats under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. He is ideally qualified to continue the hard diplomatic engagement that is required to close Guantanamo in accordance with President Obama’s directives. Lee will assume lead responsibility for arranging for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and for implementing transfer determinations, and overseeing the State Department’s participation in the periodic reviews of those detainees who are not approved for transfer.

In so doing, he will engage directly with America’s overseas friends and partners, while consulting closely with other interested U.S. agencies and with the appropriate committees of Congress.

I am very pleased at Lee’s decision to return to government service and look forward to working closely with him in his new position.

The State Department says that the incoming special envoy has not yet visited the detention facility at Guantanamo but that Mr. Wolosky, whose new appointment does not require Senate confirmation, “intends to visit the detention facility and meet with the detention facility leadership very soon.”

Mr. Wolosky is the third appointee to this position since it was created in 2009.

In January 2013, the NYT reported that Daniel Fried, the first special envoy for Gitmo closure was reassigned, his office closed, and his former responsibilities “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser.   Via NYT:

Mr. Fried’s special envoy post was created in 2009, shortly after Mr. Obama took office and promised to close the prison in his first year. A career diplomat, Mr. Fried traveled the world negotiating the repatriation of some 31 low-level detainees and persuading third-party countries to resettle about 40 who were cleared for release but could not be sent home because of fears of abuse.

But the outward flow of detainees slowed almost to a halt as Congress imposed restrictions on further transfers, leaving Mr. Fried with less to do. He was eventually assigned to work on resettling a group of Iranian exiles, known as the M.E.K., who were living in a refugee camp in Iraq, in addition to his Guantánamo duties.

But in June 2013, the AP reported that President Obama had chosen a high-powered Washington lawyer Clifford Sloan to reopen the State Department’s Office of Guantanamo Closure, shuttered since January 2013 and folded into the department’s legal adviser’s office “when the administration, in the face of congressional obstacles, effectively gave up its attempt to close the prison.”

Sixteen months later, Secretary Kerry announced the departure of Special Envoy Clifford Sloan on December 22, 2014:

I’d like to have about a hundred Cliff Sloans. He’s the real deal. He’s the model of someone very successful on the outside who comes in to the State Department and builds relationships instead of burning bridges, gets people on board with a tough assignment, masters the inter-agency process, and just keeps his head down and proves the doubters dead wrong.
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Now the results are clear. We’ve made huge progress thanks in large measure to Cliff. This guy promised me 18 months, and he delivered maximum effort for each of those 18 months. Cliff was very skillful negotiating with our foreign partners and allies, and it’s a big part of why we moved thirty-four detainees on his watch, with more on the way. Cliff also played a major role in our successful efforts to reform the Congressional restrictions on foreign transfers, and in launching the new Periodic Review Board process.

The NYT reported that the resignation of Mr. Sloan, apparently a close confidant of Secretary Kerry, came as officials at the State Department and the White House increasingly expressed frustration with the Defense Department’s slow pace of transferring approved prisoners. In an interview, Mr. Sloan denied that he was leaving because he was frustrated by foot-dragging at the Pentagon. He said he had always intended to stay a maximum of 18 months, noting that he was right on schedule.

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Washington and Havana Formally Restores Diplomatic Relations After 54 Years

Posted: 2:17 pm  EDT

 

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902 following the defeat of Spain in 1898.  On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba. Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba.  Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

Today, after over 50 years, a new day. For once, instead of boots on the ground, diplomatic negotiations and engagement made this day possible. It appears that we have rediscovered the non-coercive instruments of statecraft (as Ambassador Chas Freeman spoke about so eloquently), that persuaded the Cubans that they can benefit by working with us rather than against us. A big shout-out to our diplomats who labored so hard to get us here!

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OPM Announces Temporary Suspension of the E-QIP System For Background Investigation

Posted: 12:19 am EDT

 

On June 29, OPM announced the temporary suspension of the online system used to submit background investigation forms.  The system could be offline from 4-6 weeks.  Below via opm.gov:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today announced the temporary suspension of the E-QIP system, a web-based platform used to complete and submit background investigation forms.

Director Katherine Archuleta recently ordered a comprehensive review of the security of OPM’s IT systems. During this ongoing review, OPM and its interagency partners identified a vulnerability in the e-QIP system. As a result, OPM has temporarily taken the E-QIP system offline for security enhancements. The actions OPM has taken are not the direct result of malicious activity on this network, and there is no evidence that the vulnerability in question has been exploited. Rather, OPM is taking this step proactively, as a result of its comprehensive security assessment, to ensure the ongoing security of its network.

OPM expects e-QIP could be offline for four to six weeks while these security enhancements are implemented. OPM recognizes and regrets the impact on both users and agencies and is committed to resuming this service as soon as it is safe to do so.  In the interim, OPM remains committed to working with its interagency partners on alternative approaches to address agencies’ requirements.

“The security of OPM’s networks remains my top priority as we continue the work outlined in my IT Strategic Plan, including the continuing implementation of modern security controls,” said OPM Director Archuleta. “This proactive, temporary suspension of the e-QIP system will ensure our network is as secure as possible for the sensitive data with which OPM is entrusted.”

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Meanwhile, on June 22, AFSA sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta with the following requests:

Screen Shot 2015-06-29

via afsa.org (click for larger view)

 

On June 25, AFSA is one of the 27 federal-postal employee coalition groups who urge President Obama to “immediately appoint a task force of leading agency, defense/intelligence, and private-sector IT experts, with a short deadline, to assist in the ongoing investigation, apply more forceful measures to protect federal personnel IT systems, and assure adequate notice to the federal workforce and the American public.”  (read letter here: AFSA Letter sent in conjunction with the Federal-Postal Coalition |June 25, 2015 | pdf)

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Gayle Smith For USAID Gets a Confirmation Hearing, a Protestor, an Open Letter to End Famine

Posted: 12:13 pm  PDT

 

On June 17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Gayle Smith as the next USAID Administrator:

Ms. Gayle Smith Of Ohio,
To Be Administrator Of The United States Agency For International Development
Download Testimony (pdf)

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Then this happened:

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Obama Officially Nominates WHA’s Roberta Jacobson as Next Ambassador to Mexico

Posted: 1:41 am EDT

 

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The WH has now officially announced President Obama’s intent to nominate Roberta S. Jacobson as the next Ambassador to the United Mexican States. The WH released the following brief bio:

Roberta S. Jacobson, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012.  From 2010 to 2012, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Previously, Ms. Jacobson served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico, and NAFTA issues from 2007 to 2010 and as Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs from 2003 to 2007.  She was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru from 2000 to 2002.  From 1989 to 2000, Ms. Jacobson held several roles in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, including Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination from 1996 to 2000.  She began her career at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern.

Ms. Jacobson received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would succeed career diplomat Tony Wayne who was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Obama in 2011. President Obama had previously nominated Maria Echaveste for the Mexican post in the fall of 2014. She withdrew her nomination after waiting four months for her confirmation. Her supporters blamed it on a “failed, politicized nomination process” according to NBCNews.

The Mexico Mission is one of our largest posts. We hope Ms. Jacobson gets a speedy confirmation but the SFRC is a perplexing place these days. We want to add that we’ve watched Ms. Jacobson stay cool and collected under congressional grilling over the Administration’s Cuba policy. She is probably one of the State Department’s better congressional witnesses — straight-forward, not antagonistic or evasive, and was engaging. She did not get flustered even when senators were in their scolding best for the cameras. She obviously knows her stuff, and she looks them in the eye when she talks. We’d like to suggest that the State Department clone her for its congressional witnesses prep.

Hey, did you know that Andrew Jackson was the first nominee for ambassador to Mexico? According to history.state.gov, he was appointed on January 27, 1823 but he declined the appointment. It looks like the second appointee in 1824 did not proceed to post either.  Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was then appointed in 1825 and he did present his credentials three months after his appointment.   If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would be the first female American ambassador appointed to Mexico. Ever.  Can we get a yay! for that?

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Howard W. French on Gayle Smith’s Appointment as USAID Administrator

Posted: 1:29 am EDT

 

We’ve previously posted about the nomination of Gayle Smith as the next USAID administrator on May 5 (see Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator.  What if every nominee gets a thorough treatment like this?

Excerpt from Mr. French’s piece over at FP:

When President Obama recently nominated Gayle Smith to be the next administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, many members of the country’s small Africa-related foreign policy community howled.
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Smith’s critics, myself included, have objected to the fact that over the years, this former journalist has been a conspicuous backer of authoritarian regimes in places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda. When I first made this point publicly, a former White House staffer offered a disconcertingly ambivalent response: “I’m not sure if there were more compelling candidates out there,” he said.

He may well be right – and the reason for the lack of qualified personnel is a direct consequence of Washington’s long failure to devise a coherent policy toward Africa.
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Gayle Smith should certainly not stand alone to answer for this horrible record, for which the American foreign policy establishment has never given anything like a proper reckoning. One of the reasons for that, though, is the persistence of people like Smith, and her patron, Susan Rice, in positions of high authority. Another, equally pernicious, is the general disinterest that Africa receives from the foreign policy thinkers.

As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. Top Africa jobs have often become a kind of sop for African Americans within the bureaucracy. Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world.

Read in full via FP, From Quarantine to Appeasement (registration may be required).

Ms. Smith’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. It is currently pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Howard W. French journalist, author, and photographer, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously a Senior Writer for The New York Times, where he spent most of a nearly 23 year career as a foreign correspondent, working in and traveling to over 100 countries on five continents.  From 1979 to 1986, he lived in West Africa, where he worked as a translator, taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast, and lived as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and other publications. From 1994 to 1998, he covered West and Central Africa for the NYT, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.

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Ann Calvaresi Barr: USAID Gets a New Inspector General Nominee After Vacancy of 1,310 Days

Posted: 12:15 am EDT

 

On May 8, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ann Calvaresi Barr, as the next Inspector General for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The WH released the following brief bio:

Ann Calvaresi Barr is the Deputy Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, a position she has held since 2010.  Ms. Calvaresi Barr joined the Department of Transportation as Principal Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations in 2009.  She served at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management from 2004 to 2009, Assistant Director for Strategic Issues from 2002 to 2004, and Assistant Director for Health Care Issues from 1998 to 2002.  Ms. Calvaresi Barr held several roles as an analyst and senior analyst at GAO from 1984 to 1998, including a five year tour in GAO’s former European Office.

Ms. Calvaresi Barr received a B.A. from Dickinson College and an M.P.A. from American University.

Screen capture from c-span

Screen capture from c-span

Click here for a video of Ms. Calvaresi Barr during a congressional hearing on Amtrak in 2012. If confirmed, she would succeed Donald A. Gambatesa who resigned three and a half years ago after a five year tenure. The OIG position at USAID has been vacant for 1,310 days according to the OIG Tracker put together by POGO (see Where Are All the Watchdogs?)

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Related posts:

 

Obama Nominates Minnesota Donor Samuel D. Heins as Next Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 2:41 am EDT
Updated: 2:28 pm PDT

 

On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Minnesota lawyer Samuel D. Heins, as the next Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Samuel D. Heins most recently served as a Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 to 2013.  Mr. Heins was a Partner at Opperman Heins and Paquin from 1989 to 1994, a Partner at Tanick and Heins from 1976 to 1989, and an Associate Attorney at the Firestone Law Firm from 1973 to 1976.  In 1983, Mr. Heins founded Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, where he served as First Chair and continues to serve as a member.  He is a Board Member of the Ploughshares Fund, Trustee of the PEN American Center, and Board Member and Vice Chair of the Center for Victims of Torture, which he co-founded.  He previously served as a Board Member and Vice President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.  Mr. Heins received a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Mr. Heins (and his wife Stacy) are listed by the NYT as one of President Obama’s top fund-raisers in 2011/2012. Also click here to see additional data from  LittleSis.

If confirmed, Mr. Heins would succeed Boston lawyer Barry B. White who was Ambassador to Norway from 2009-2013.  Career diplomat Julie Furuta-Toy has served as chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Oslo since Ambassador White’s departure in September 2013.

As of this writing, the nominees for ambassadors to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Finland and Sweden, all political appointees, have waited between 200-450 days for their confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Career diplomats nominated as ambassadors to South Sudan, Mali,  Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Guyana have waited between 229-282 days.  It does not look like the SFRC is in any hurry to confirm anyone clear anyone’s nomination. Next week, eight nominees are scheduled to appear before the panel for their confirmation hearings. 

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Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as Next Ambassador to Nicaragua

Posted: 1:57 am EDT

 

On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Laura Farnsworth Dogu as the next  Ambassador to the Republic of Nicaragua. The WH released the following brief bio:

Laura Farnsworth Dogu, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico, a position she has held since 2012.  Prior to that, Ms. Dogu was Deputy Executive Director in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State from 2010 to 2012.  She served as a Consular Section Chief and Consular Officer in Mexico, Turkey, and Egypt from 1999 to 2010.  Ms. Dogu was a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 1997 to 1998 and Watch Officer in the State Department Operations Center from 1996 to 1997.  She also served as Consular and Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey from 1994 to 1996 and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1991 to 1993.  Ms. Dogu received a B.A., B.B.A., and M.B.A. from Southern Methodist University and an M.S. from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Photo by US Embassy Mexico/Flickr

Additional bio details from US Embassy Mexico:

Ms. Dogu received the 2006 Department of State Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence for her efforts to protect children through the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction.  She has also received several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Following her personal interest in financial planning, in 2009 Ms. Dogu co-authored a book on retirement planning and is a published financial columnist.

Ms. Dogu is a 2007 graduate from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University with a Masters Degree in National Resource Strategy. She also holds a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Southern Methodist University.  Before joining the U.S. Government, Ms. Dogu worked as a Marketing Representative for International Business Machines (IBM) serving customers in the distribution and services industries. Ms. Dogu is married, and she and her husband have two sons.

If confirmed, this would be Ms. Dogu’s first ambassadorial appointment.   She would succeed career diplomat Phyllis M. Powers who was appointed to Nicaragua by President Obama in 2012.

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President Obama Withdraws Nomination of FSO Katherine Dhanani as Ambassador to Somalia

Posted: 11:08 am EDT

 

On May 11, the WH posted a notice of a withdrawal sent to the Senate on the nomination of Katherine Dhanani, President Obama’s nominee as the first U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in 24 years. An administration official reportedly told Voice of America that Katherine Dhanani, a career diplomat with experience serving across Africa, “turned down the nomination for personal reasons and that Obama will have to find another candidate.”  “She is withdrawing for personal reasons,” an unnamed administration official told AFP.  Could be the same administration official, telling reporters the same talking point.

WITHDRAWAL SENT TO THE SENATE:

Katherine Simonds Dhanani, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Somalia, which was sent to the Senate on February 25, 2015.

Ms. Dhanani was officially nominated by President Obama on February 24, 2015. (See President Obama Nominates FSO Katherine S. Dhanani as First Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991).  A month later, she had her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  See her prepared testimony here (pdf).  As of the withdrawal date of her nomination, she has been waiting a total of 46 days for confirmation.

We don’t know what’s going on here but if you have to turn down the president for “personal reasons,” that typically happens before the nomination is announced and certainly before the confirmation process starts rolling.  What makes this even odd is this would have been the diplomat’s first ambassadorial appointment, the culminating point of a diplomatic career.

When Secretary Kerry made a surprise visit to Somalia recently, there was no indication that the then nominee was in his party.  What would have made sense was a quick confirmation so the nominee could have accompanied the secretary on his first ever trip to Mogadishu.  After all, she already had her confirmation hearing.  But that did not happen, why?

When asked about congressional and SFRC reaction to the Somalia trip, a Senior Administration Official told the traveling press corps, “I think it’ll be very positive.”

It’s so very positive that here we are barely a week after that Somalia trip and the White House has now withdrawn the nominee for the first ambassador to Somalia in two decades.

Was the SFRC upset enough to refused endorsement of this nomination that the WH has little recourse but to withdraw the nomination and start over?

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