Excerpt from the Security Message issued by Embassy Dhaka on September 28:
There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh. Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including U.S. citizens.
In light of the increased threat, U.S. citizens should consider limiting their attendance at events where foreigners may gather, including events at international hotels. U.S. citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness and should exercise caution in public places including restaurants, hotels and other places frequented by foreigners.
The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests. Terrorists have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.
Until further notice, all official U.S. government personnel are prohibited from attending large gatherings in Bangladesh, including events at international hotels, unless they have obtained Regional Security Office permission.
The Embassy advises U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Bangladesh to remain vigilant regarding their personal security and to be alert to local security developments.
A follow-up message notes that following the fatal attack on an Italian national in Gulshan September 28, the U.S. Embassy instructed its personnel to shelter in place until Tuesday morning September 29. American International School in Dhaka (AISD) will be closed on September 29. The Embassy will be open on September 29, including providing consular services. U.S. government personnel and their families will be limiting their movements.
Violence and looting continued on September 27 and into September 28 in Bangui. We are receiving reports that many roads remain blocked, including the road to the airport; weapons continue to be discharged by armed persons; and large crowds are forming in several locations in the city of Bangui. U.S. citizens should continue to shelter in place and avoid any non-essential movements. The U.S. Embassy in Yaounde has been designated to provide consular services for U.S. citizens currently remaining in CAR. U.S. citizens who are in Bangui should contact Embassy Yaounde at (237) 22220-1500 to report their location. If you are working for an NGO or international organization, please include that information.
U.S. citizens who have decided to stay in CAR despite the travel warning should regularly review their personal security situation. Embassy Bangui cannot provide consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR at this time. U.S. citizens in need of assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Secretary Kerry announced the resumption of limited operations at the U.S. Embassy in Bangui on September 15, 2014. U.S. citizens in need of routine assistance are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon by email to YaoundeACS@state.gov.
Russian television network REN-TV reported yesterday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, attended a Moscow rally of opposition activists. It apparently included a photograph purporting to show Ambassador Tefft at the event. Below via RFE/RL:
But there was one major problem with the report by the Kremlin-loyal national television network REN-TV: Tefft was not at the protest in Moscow’s outer Marino district. And the image showing Tefft talking to reporters against the background of the September 20 demonstration was a fabrication.
Apparently, REN- TV first edited the report to state that it is “unknown whether these images are real or a common photo montage.” According to RFE/RL, later in the day, REN-TV followed up with an item conceding that the photograph was a fake circulated on Twitter and apologized. RFE/RL notes that the image of Ambassador Tefft used in the photo mashup was taken from an interview he gave on February 28 at the site near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shot dead the previous day:
RFE/RL says that REN-TV is majority-owned by National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin media conglomerate controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, one of numerous influential businessmen and officials sanctioned by the United States in response to Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict. Read more here.
A Travel Alert was issued for Burkina Faso in early September (see Travel Alert Burkina Faso (September 3, 2015). On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff amidst what appeared to be a military coup attempt less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power.
On Wednesday, September 16 the U.S. Embassy received reports that military elements are holding the President, Prime Minister, and other Cabinet Members hostage. Civil society organizations are calling for demonstrators to gather at the Place de la Nation (also known as the Place de la Revolution) and at the Presidential Palace. Road blocks near the Presidential Palace have been established. Gunshots have been fired in various locations in Ouagadougou. Embassy employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice.
Likewise, we urge U.S. citizens in Ouagadougou to shelter in place. U.S. citizens are urged to remain vigilant and to utilize appropriate personal security practices. The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. The U.S. Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment. Be alert and remain aware of your surroundings. Stay informed and abreast of local media reports.
The Embassy also released the following statement:
Recent Actions By Elements of the Presidential Guard in Burkina Faso
“The United States is deeply concerned about the unfolding events in Burkina Faso. We call for the immediate release of President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and all other officials being held.
The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force.
We call for an immediate end to violence, urge the military personnel involved to return to their primary mission, and reaffirm our steadfast support for the civilian transitional government to continue its work of preparing for free, fair, and credible elections on October 11.”
Apparent coup attempt rocks Burkina Faso, less than a year after the last abrupt change in power. http://t.co/jTNTJTqa4M
The Office of Evaluations and Special Projects (ESP) in the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established in 2014 “to strengthen OIG’s oversight of the Department and BBG, and to improve OIG’s capabilities to meet statutory requirements of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.” ESP is also responsible for special evaluations and reviews, including responses to congressional inquiries. The work of this new office reportedly complements the work of OIG’s audits, investigations, and inspections by developing a capacity to focus on broader, systemic issues.
Note: We are correcting this post to indicate that the following reports are done by OIG’s Office of Inspection (ISP). That directorate is focused on three broad areas set forth in the Foreign Service Act of 1980: policy implementation, resource management and management controls. The following reports fall under OIG/ISP’s Special Projects and Areas of Emphasis.
With the end of the fiscal year just two weeks away, here is a recap of the scheduled evaluations by OIG’s Office of Inspection for FY2015 (pdf). The start date of these evaluations was this fiscal year but the final reports may not necessarily be released this month. We don’t know when these reports will be available and if all will be available publicly, but we’re on the lookout for them. State/OIG says that “our folks are committed to posting them and making them public as soon as we can.”
Cross-Functional: Program Evaluation | Inspectors will determine whether Department bureaus and missions have conducted program evaluations of foreign assistance programs, consistent with OMB Memorandum M-11-29 and the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), 18 FAM 300.
Executive: Annual Statement of Assurance on Management Controls | Inspectors will determine whether Chiefs of Mission and Assistant Secretaries understand statement-of-assurance guidance; conduct reviews consistent with guidance; and demonstrate their support for controls verbally and through other means, communicating the importance of ethical behavior and management controls.
Political/Economic: Foreign Assistance Oversight | Inspectors will determine whether oversight responsibilities are clearly reflected in the position descriptions, work requirement statements, and evaluations of grant officer representatives or contracting officer representatives that spend more than 25 percent of their time overseeing foreign assistance programs.
Public Diplomacy: Social Media Guidance and Clearances | Inspectors will determine whether missions have a strategic plan to guide missions’ use of various types of social media and the level of policy content in that media with respect to target audiences.
Consular: Eligible Family Member Employment in Consular Sections | Inspectors will examine the effectiveness of eligible family member employment in consular sections and its impact on mission morale.
Information Technology: Key-Loggers | Inspectors will determine if missions and bureaus have controls in place to detect the existence of key-loggers on mobile computing devices used with the fob.
Security: Regional Security Officer Access to Threat Information | Inspectors will determine whether Regional Security Officers have access to all required sources of threat information, as recommended in the classified Benghazi Accountability Review Board report.
Security: Department of Defense Support for Embassy Personnel Emergencies | Inspectors will determine whether DoD is complying with Benghazi Accountability Review Board recommendations related to supporting mission personnel in emergencies.
The US Consulate General Dubai and Ambassador Barbara Leaf opened the Consular Section on “a recent Saturday” to speed the visa process and clear the backlog from a systems crash this past June. The UAE Mission is normally open from Sundays through Thursdays. We’re pleased to see them do this especially with top embassy officials pitching in to help slay the visa backlog.
The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi provides nonimmigrant visa services to Emiratis residing anywhere in the UAE and to third-country nationals residing in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Embassy provides immigrant visa services to the entire United Arab Emirates and for persons residing in Iran. The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai provides nonimmigrant services to citizens and residents of Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman, and Umm al Quwain and certain citizens of Iran.
Post has previously made available another video on July 15, 2015 where postworked to get travelers their visas after the CCD meltdown in June.
If your front office did this at your post, send us a note and we’ll feature your video or FB post here.
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) is responsible for leading the counterintelligence and security mission across the USG. It is putting out the #RaiseYourShield campaign focusing on spear phishing. It will reportedly be targeting social media, human targeting, and travel awareness. You can learn more at http://www.ncsc.gov but fair warning, the website is slow and cumbersome, hard to navigate and not terribly user-friendly.
Via the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:
Here’s the Don’t Be THIS Guy: Spear Phishing video:
The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a security message today alerting American citizens of a terrorist threat to United States interests in South Africa. Note that the message provides the contact information for the U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban for American citizens requiring assistance. The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria does not have a consular section and does not provide consular services. The U.S. Mission to South Africa is currently headed by Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, a political appointee who previously served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee.
The US Mission in South Africa is the second largest in the Bureau of African Affairs in total staff, and the third largest in terms of Department staffing, behind Nigeria and Kenya. With consulates general in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, it is apparently, the only mission in Africa with three constituent posts. Twenty-eight offices from 12 independent agencies maintain a presence at the mission, the largest being the Department, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2011 OIG report recommended that USCG Durban “be significantly downsized or closed.”
South Africa serves as an important transit and facilitation point for global extremists. Though there has been no indication that operational cells are present, a nexus for recruiting, funding, and safe haven for international terrorists does exist.
The last significant domestic terror campaign occurred in the Western Cape. The Western Cape-based group “People against Gangsters and Drugs” (PAGAD) conducted an urban terror campaign of bombings, assassinations, and vigilante murders from 1997 to November 2001. These activities targeted government facilities and personnel, moderate Muslims identified as threats to the radical Islamic movement, and Western-themed businesses (Planet Hollywood, Hooters, and Hard Rock Cafe) seen by PAGAD as symbols of the anti-Islamic West. The successful investigation and subsequent prosecution of PAGAD members by the government was credited with the suspension of further violence. No significant anti-Western attacks have occurred since 2001.
The smallest post in the mission is USCG Durban. It is located in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s largest container port (Durban) and commodity port (Richards Bay), making the province one of the prime commercial centers on the continent. According to the latest crime/safety report, KZN is also a frequent host to ANC political rallies and large gatherings that sometimes disrupt the city. Most protests, marches, and rallies pass in front of the building housing the U.S. Consulate General and end across the street in front of Durban’s City Hall, preventing Consulate staff and visitors from accessing or departing from the building.
The report also notes that while the SA police forces are well intentioned, they have limited effectiveness due to a lack of equipment, resources, training, and personnel to respond to calls for assistance or other emergencies.
As an side, this is one more example where post’s social media arms are not integrated into a whole-mission approach. Its Facebook page features a job vacancy and “20 years after the Beijing Declaration.” On Twitter, @USEmbassySA makes no mention of the security message and has the following instead:
The UNCHR in Budapest, Hungary writes that — an angry confrontation between police and refugees on a blocked train just outside Budapest; a makeshift camp of stranded Syrians, Afghans and others at the capital’s main railway station; more than 2,000 refugees crossing into the country from Serbia each day –the contours of Europe’s refugee and migration crisis are growing and shifting. It describes the concourse in front of the main Keleti train station in Budapest as resembling a sad, makeshift campsite. “More than 2,000 people slept there overnight, a few in small tents, some with blankets and air mattresses, many on the cement floor covered in nothing but their clothes.”
On September 3, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary issued an alert concerning the migrants at the the Keleti Railway Station. This is about the only statement we could locate concerning the refugee crisis in its host country:
The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens in Hungary to be alert when traveling through the Keleti Railway Station (Palyaudvar). Increasing numbers of migrants in and around the station have resulted in large crowds in public spaces. Although these crowds have occasionally confronted police, demonstrations have been peaceful, and the presence of migrants has not led to a rise in crime, violent or otherwise. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Rail passengers should be prepared to show their passports to be admitted to the trains and platforms. Rail traffic to and from the station has been subject to significant delays. In some cases, departures have been cancelled.
On the same day when Hungary was accused of inhumane treatment of refugees, Embassy Budapest tweeted this:
Ambassador Bell, by not speaking against Hungary’s regressive and inhuman actions on refugees you are proving all the charges that you are an ineffective diplomat and mere window dressing. Perhaps you should join Donald Trump’s campaign. Hungary needs to become the great country she could be, not revert to her infamous policies of the 20th Century.
The State Department announced that it will will host, GLACIER, “an important conference in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30-31 that will focus the world’s attention on the most urgent issues facing the Arctic today.”
GLACIER stands for Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, & Resilience and “will be a global conversation” convened by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It will reportedly include senior U.S. Government officials and representatives from seven other Arctic nations as well as Arctic experts from the global scientific and policy communities, public and private sector representatives, and Alaskan State, local and indigenous leadership. The conference expects delegations from around 20 countries and about 450 participants.
As a prelude to the event starting Sunday, the State Department held a Special Briefing via teleconference with a senior State Department official. It also issued an “important reminder” that this was an “on-background call, so [Senior State Department Official] should be referred to as a senior State Department official going forward” and asked attendees to “appreciate that courtesy professionally.” “On background” usually means that a reporter can use the information you give them, but cannot name or quote you directly.
Excerpt below from the Senior State Department Official.:
The excitement and momentum are building here in Anchorage as we approach the GLACIER conference. I’ve been here, I think, as I said, since Monday, and have been involved with one other conference, the Alaskan Arctic Conference, which was organized by former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, who is currently the president of Pt Capital, and Alice Rogoff, who owns the Alaska Dispatch News. I spoke at that conference on Tuesday to wrap that up. And over the intervening days, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with the mayor, the governor, and other senior officials here in Alaska. I visited the University of Alaska; I traveled down to Seward, Alaska to the Alaska SeaLife Center; and also took a walk out to, most appropriately, the Exit Glacier since we’re here for the GLACIER conference. It was a special treat to go out there not just to see the glacier and the beauty of the Alaska countryside, but also to see the dramatic changes that have occurred over the years, particularly looking at pictures and the geography out there on how that particular glacier has receded, and particularly over the last couple of decades.
Senior State Department official hikes Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska, August 2015 (Photo via DipNote)
So it’s a great scene setter for me. I returned to Anchorage yesterday after the seward trip. I met with a series of people, including students at the University of Alaska. Today, I’ll be going out to Alaska Command to talk about our U.S. leadership efforts in the Arctic Council, doing a couple of interviews both on TV and with the press, and most importantly, speaking to all of you today.
GLACIER is going to be a historic event. The media outlets up here have been promoting not just the conference, but in particular, the fact that our final speaker on Monday will be the President of the United States. Even beyond that, he is coming in for the GLACIER conference, but I think as everybody knows now, he’s going to spend some time in Alaska and he will be the first president – the first sitting president to visit the American Arctic, going above the Arctic Circle here in Alaska.
We have a jam-packed day on Monday. There’ll be an opening plenary session with senior officials, leadership from Alaska and Alaska native groups speaking to the entire session. Secretary Kerry, Dr. John Holdren, the science advisor to the President will speak, and then the ministers will be involved in a track for the remainder of the day covering various topics, talking about the challenges in the Arctic. And the other participants – the 300 or so other participants in addition to the delegations will be broken down into two separate tracks which will cover various issues throughout the day as well. Everybody’s brought back together at the end of the day for the final plenary session, at which time we’ll have the President speak to us and we’re all, as I said, very excited about that.
This is obviously a very significant event for Alaska, but I think it’s also a significant event for the world. Whenever the United States gets involved in a project, whenever the United States puts its focus on problems or issues, there is usually action that occurs. And as an individual, as an American, as a retired Coast Guardsman, an employee of the State Department, I could not be more excited that we are now gaining this focus on our Arctic challenges all brought together here in this wonderful conference that’s going to occur on Monday.
According to his brief bio, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., USCG (Ret.) became the U.S. State Department’s special representative for the Arctic in July of 2014. Prior to his appointment, Papp served as the 24th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and led the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security. We are aware of no other Senior State Department official who also previously served as a retired Coast Guardsman.
Why the State Department find it necessary to have a special briefing on background with its special representative for the Arctic is perplexing. We’ve come up with zero bucket for reasons. Anybody out there understand the why here, please share.