Posted: 12:24 am EDT
In December 2008, then Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a “political corruption crime spree” that included attempts to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. He was accused of talking on FBI recordings about plotting to extract a $1.5 million campaign contribution from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.—in exchange for appointing Jackson to Obama’s vacated seat. Via Politico:
A federal criminal complaint detailed Blagojevich’s attempt to cash in on his power to appoint Obama’s replacement by first attempting to arrange a presidential cabinet appointment. When that failed, Blagojevich hoped for an ambassadorship.
Specifically, India or South Africa …er, no, India.
Just to show how little Blago and his chief of staff knew about the diplomatic service. Blagojevich in one recording says, “How much would you think a position like that would pay? I mean, again, this requires a lot of travel, it’s a lot of work. A reasonable…” The chief of staff responds, “Well, I mean you’d get an expense account. So it’s not all in pay.”
In 2015, the caps for Senior Foreign Service pay is between $172,074 – $183,300. He would have received hardship and COLA differentials. They’re currently 20% + 10% respectively of basic pay for FS employees assigned in New Delhi. The ambassador’s expense account? Teh-heh! Best read Bloomberg’s The Economics of Being a U.S. Ambassador.
Poor sod probably did not realize that the Indian monsoon would also ruin his properly combed hat.
In any case, for those who were hoping that Blago’s case would temper similar arrangements in the future will be disappointed. On June 22, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed five of the 18 counts and ordered that the former governor be resentenced. Below is an excerpt from the Appeals Court ruling dated July 21, 2015.
Blagojevich now asks us to hold that the evidence is insufficient to convict him on any count. The argument is frivolous. The evidence, much of it from Blagojevich’s own mouth, is overwhelming. To the extent there are factual disputes, the jury was entitled to credit the prosecution’s evidence and to find that Blagojevich acted with the knowledge required for conviction.
But a problem in the way the instructions told the jury to consider the evidence requires us to vacate the convictions on counts that concern Blagojevich’s proposal to appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate in exchange for an appointment to the Cabinet. A jury could have found that Blagojevich asked the President-‐‑elect for a private-sector job, or for funds that he could control, but the instructions permitted the jury to convict even if it found that his only request of Sen. Obama was for a position in the Cabinet. The instructions treated all proposals alike. We conclude, however, that they are legally different: a proposal to trade one public act for another, a form of logrolling, is fundamentally unlike the swap of an official act for a private payment.
Because the instructions do not enable us to be sure that the jury found that Blagojevich offered to trade the appointment for a private salary after leaving the Governorship, these convictions cannot stand. Compare Yates v. United States, 354 U.S. 298 (1957), and United States v. Rivera Borrero, 771 F.3d 973 (7th Cir. 2014), with Griffin v. United States, 502 U.S. 46 (1991). (Perhaps because the jury deadlocked at the first trial, the United States does not seriously contend that any error was harmless; a one-line statement in the brief differs from an argument. Cf. Hedgpeth v. Pulido, 555 U.S. 57, 60–62 (2008) (an error of this kind is not “structural”).)
McCormick describes the offense as a quid pro quo: a public official performs an official act (or promises to do so) in exchange for a private benefit, such as money. See also United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers of California, 526 U.S. 398, 404– 05 (1999); United States v. McDonnell, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11889 (4th Cir. July 10, 2015). A political logroll, by contrast, is the swap of one official act for another. Representative A agrees with Representative B to vote for milk price supports, if B agrees to vote for tighter controls on air pollution. A President appoints C as an ambassador, which Senator D asked the President to do, in exchange for D’s promise to vote to confirm E as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. Governance would hardly be possible without these accommodations, which allow each public official to achieve more of his principal objective while surrendering something about which he cares less, but the other politician cares more strongly.
A proposal to appoint a particular person to one office (say, the Cabinet) in exchange for someone else’s promise to appoint a different person to a different office (say, the Senate), is a common exercise in logrolling. We asked the prosecutor at oral argument if, before this case, logrolling had been the basis of a criminal conviction in the history of the United States. Counsel was unaware of any earlier conviction for an exchange of political favors. Our own research did not turn one up. It would be more than a little surprising to Members of Congress if the judiciary found in the Hobbs Act, or the mail fraud statute, a rule making everyday politics criminal.
Let’s work this through statute by statute. Section 1951, the Hobbs Act, which underlies Counts 21 and 22, forbids interference with commerce by robbery or extortion. Blagojevich did not rob anyone, and extortion, a defined term, “means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right” (§1951(b)(2)). The indictment charged Blagojevich with the “color of official right” version of extortion, but none of the evidence suggests that Blagojevich claimed to have an “official right” to a job in the Cabinet. He did have an “official right” to appoint a new Senator, but unless a position in the Cabinet is “property” from the President’s perspective, then seeking it does not amount to extortion. Yet a political office belongs to the people, not to the incumbent (or to someone hankering after the position). Cleveland v. United States, 531 U.S. 12 (2000), holds that state and municipal licenses, and similar documents, are not “property” in the hands of a public agency. That’s equally true of public positions. The President-elect did not have a property interest in any Cabinet job, so an attempt to get him to appoint a particular person to the Cabinet is not an attempt to secure “property” from the President (or the citizenry at large).
Sekhar v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2720 (2013), shows that the phrase “obtaining of property” in the Hobbs Act must not be extended just to penalize shady dealings. Sekhar holds that a recommendation about investments is not “property” under §1951(b)(2) for two principal reasons: first, in the long history of extortion law it had never before been so understood (similarly, political logrolling has never before been condemned as extortion); second, the making of a recommendation is not transferrable. The Court restricted “property” to what one owner can transfer to another. By that standard a job in the Cabinet (or any other public job) is not “property” from the employer’s perspective. It is not owned by the person with appointing power, and it cannot be deeded over. The position may be filled by different people, but the position itself is not a transferrable property interest. A position is “held” or “occupied” but not “obtained,” and under Sekhar something that cannot be “obtained” also cannot be the subject of extortion.
Section 666, the basis (through a conspiracy charge) of Count 23, forbids theft or bribery in publicly funded programs (of which the State of Illinois is one). Count 23 relies on §666(a)(1)(B), which makes it a crime for an agent of a covered organization to solicit “corruptly … anything of value” in connection with a transaction worth $5,000 or more. “Corruptly” refers to the recipient’s state of mind and indicates that he understands the payment as a bribe or gratuity. United States v. Hawkins, 777 F.3d 880, 882 (7th Cir. 2015). It would not be plausible to describe a political trade of favors as an offer or attempt to bribe the other side.
So if a Governor appoints someone to a public commission and proclaims the appointee “the best person for the job,” while the real reason is that some state legislator had asked for a friend’s appointment as a favor, then the Governor has committed wire fraud because the Governor does not actually believe that the appointee is the best person for the job. That’s not a plausible understanding of §1346, even if (as is unlikely) it would be valid under the First Amendment as a criminal penalty for misleading political speech. And no matter what one makes of the subject, the holding of Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358 (2010), prevents resort to §1346 to penalize political horse-trading. Skilling holds that only bribery and kickbacks violate §1346. So unless political logrolling is a form of bribery, which it is not, §1346 drops out.
The prosecutor insists, however, that Blagojevich’s situation is different and uncommon because he sought a post in the Cabinet for himself. It isn’t clear to us that this is unusual. The current Secretary of State was appointed to that position from a seat in the Senate, and it wouldn’t surprise us if this happened at least in part because he had performed a political service for the President. Ambassadors, too, come from the House or Senate (or from state politics) as part of political deals.
Some historians say that this is how Earl Warren came to be Chief Justice of the United States: he delivered the California delegation at the 1952 Republican convention to Eisenhower (rather than Senator Taft) in exchange for a commitment to appoint him to the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.
If the prosecutor is right, and a swap of political favors involving a job for one of the politicians is a felony, then if the standard account is true both the President of the United States and the Chief Justice of the United States should have gone to prison. Yet although historians and political scientists have debated whether this deal was made, or whether if made was ethical (or politically unwise), no one to our knowledge has suggested that it violated the statutes involved in this case. (Whether it might have violated 18 U.S.C. §599, and whether that statute is compatible with the First Amendment, are issues we do not address.)
Read in full here (pdf).
Posted: 1:36 am PDT
Excerpt via opm.gov:
OPM announced the results of the interagency forensic investigation into the second incident. As previously announced, in late-May 2015, as a result of ongoing efforts to secure its systems, OPM discovered an incident affecting background investigation records of current, former, and prospective Federal employees and contractors. Following the conclusion of the forensics investigation, OPM has determined that the types of information in these records include identification details such as Social Security Numbers; residency and educational history; employment history; information about immediate family and other personal and business acquaintances; health, criminal and financial history; and other details. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and fingerprints. Usernames and passwords that background investigation applicants used to fill out their background investigation forms were also stolen.
While background investigation records do contain some information regarding mental health and financial history provided by those that have applied for a security clearance and by individuals contacted during the background investigation, there is no evidence that separate systems that store information regarding the health, financial, payroll and retirement records of Federal personnel were impacted by this incident (for example, annuity rolls, retirement records, USA JOBS, Employee Express).
This incident is separate but related to a previous incident, discovered in April 2015, affecting personnel data for current and former Federal employees. OPM and its interagency partners concluded with a high degree of confidence that personnel data for 4.2 million individuals had been stolen. This number has not changed since it was announced by OPM in early June, and OPM has worked to notify all of these individuals and ensure that they are provided with the appropriate support and tools to protect their personal information.
Analysis of background investigation incident. Since learning of the incident affecting background investigation records, OPM and the interagency incident response team have moved swiftly and thoroughly to assess the breach, analyze what data may have been stolen, and identify those individuals who may be affected. The team has now concluded with high confidence that sensitive information, including the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of 21.5 million individuals, was stolen from the background investigation databases. This includes 19.7 million individuals that applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or co-habitants of applicants. As noted above, some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and approximately 1.1 million include fingerprints. There is no information at this time to suggest any misuse or further dissemination of the information that was stolen from OPM’s systems.
If an individual underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterwards (which occurs through the submission of forms SF 86, SF 85, or SF 85P for a new investigation or periodic reinvestigation), it is highly likely that the individual is impacted by this cyber breach. If an individual underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, that individual still may be impacted, but it is less likely.
So, are we supposed to wait for another credit monitoring offer from OPM’s partners for this BI hack, after already being offered credit monitoring for the personnel data compromised in an earlier breach?
Ms. Archuleta should do the right thing and resign.
Part of OPM’s public response to these breaches has been to protect the director’s record at the agency. While she remains in charge, I suspect that the fixes at OPM will also include shielding the director from further damage. News reports already talk about OPM’s push back. Next thing you know we’ll have “setting the record straight” newsbots all over the place.
While it is true that Ms. Archuleta arrived at OPM with legacy systems still in operation, these breaches happened under her watch. Despite her protestation that no one is personally responsible (except the hackers), she is the highest accountable official at OPM. Part and parcel of being in a leadership position is to own up to the disasters under your wings. Ms. Archuleta should resign and give somebody else a chance to lead the fixes at OPM.
— Dave (@empiricalerror) July 9, 2015
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 9, 2015
— Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) July 9, 2015
— 11mark (@11markagency) July 9, 2015
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.
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.
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!
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 1, 2015
Look forward to traveling to #Cuba later this summer to re-open US Embassy in Havana after 54 years.
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) July 1, 2015
July 20th is the official date on which diplomatic relations between the US & #Cuba will be restored – Sr. State Dept official
— margaret brennan (@margbrennan) July 1, 2015
When Kerry goes to #Cuba he will be 1st Secretary of State to go to Havana since U.S broke relations in 61
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) July 1, 2015
— Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) July 1, 2015
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) July 1, 2015
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) July 1, 2015
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.”
Meanwhile, on June 22, AFSA sent a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta with the following requests:
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)
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)
- Howard W. French on Gayle Smith’s Appointment as USAID Administrator
- Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator
— John Shinkle (@jnshinkle) June 17, 2015
Then this happened:
— John Shinkle (@jnshinkle) June 17, 2015
— Jeffrey Smith (@Smith_RFKennedy) June 17, 2015
— ℳo Keita (@mohkeit) June 17, 2015
— Tarikua Getachew (@TarikawiPeace) June 17, 2015
— Mohammed Ademo (@OPride) June 18, 2015
Posted: 1:41 am EDT
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) June 1, 2015
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?
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?
The Gayle Smith appointment and America’s intellectual bankruptcy on Africa policy. With China angle, by me (FP): http://t.co/9wcLSXt6Rc
— Howard French (@hofrench) May 20, 2015
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.
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.
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.