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

Posted: 2:58 am EDT


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

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


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


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

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-05

(click on image for larger view)

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


State Dept Seeks Potential New Contractors for $234M Medical Service Support Iraq (MSSI) II Contract

Posted: 5:58 pm EDT


The State Department is seeking information for the availability of a new medical service provider for U.S. Mission Iraq.  There is an incumbent contractor,  CHS Middle East, LLC of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The total estimated contract value for the incumbent contractor is approximately $234M. According to the fedbiz announcement, the health units and diplomatic support hospitals will need to be mission capable by summer 2016. Below is an excerpt from the announcement:

Government is requesting information regarding the availability and feasibility of attracting new medical service providers to support the requirements of the U.S. Mission Iraq as described in this RFI. This notice is issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a commitment on the part of the Government to conduct a solicitation for the below-listed services in the future.
The DOS has a follow-on requirement for a Contractor to provide medical service support to U.S. Government (USG) personnel, USG third party contractors and authorized foreign nationals in Iraq. These medical services will be provided at USG facilities and include but are not limited to the following: general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, dental, behavioral health, public health, urgent and emergency care and mortuary affairs. In order to fulfill these requirements the Contractor is responsible for providing trained and certified health care professionals (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, surgeons, emergency medical technicians, etc…) and the administrative services and staff to equip and operate the USG contractor-operated health care facilities in Iraq.

The Contractor is responsible for performing random and non-random drug testing for other third party contractors operating in support of the DOS in Iraq. Additionally, because other third party contractors require Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in country, the Contractor is responsible for the medic validation and verification to ensure the verification of maintenance of credentials for EMTs.

Supported population is between 3500-5800

While the primary place of performance is throughout the country of Iraq, the Contractor may be tasked with providing temporary medical service support to other USG facilities located in the Near East Region (i.e., North Africa and the Middle East).

The BDSC Large Diplomatic Support Hospital not only provides primary care to personnel at BDSC, but also may serve as the secondary and trauma care center for the patient population within U.S. Mission Iraq (4300 – 5800 personnel). These services include evacuation management and mortuary affairs.

The Contractor shall provide on-site primary, urgent and initial emergency care for general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, and mental health conditions; triage, stabilize and evacuate patients to the next level of medical care; and keep up to two patients in the Health Unit (HU) for up to 24 hours until stabilized or medically evacuated. Staffing shall be continuous and uninterrupted; coverage for illness and vacations shall be the responsibility of the Contractor.

The Contractor is responsible for providing routine care during regular working hours and on an emergency basis after normal working hours based on Chief of Mission (COM) requirements. Medical Service Support Iraq (MSSI) II; Solicitation SAQMMA-15-SS-MSSI .




Was the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) the main target of the twin hackers?

Posted: 1:27 am EDT


In May 2015, a federal grand jury indicted twin brothers Muneeb and Sohaib Akhter, 23, of Springfield, Virginia, on charges of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, access of a protected computer without authorization, conspiracy to access a government computer without authorization, false statements, and obstruction of justice.  According to USDOJ, the brothers and coconspirators also devised a scheme to hack into computer systems at the U.S.  Department of State to access network traffic and to obtain passport information.  (See Twin Brothers and Co-Conspirators on Alleged Scheme to Hack State Dept to Obtain Passport Information).

The bothers pleaded guilty on June 26, 2015.   On October 2, the USDOJ announced that Muneeb Akhter was sentenced for accessing a protected computer without authorization, making a false statement and obstructing justice.  Muneeb Akhter was sentenced to 39 months in prison and Sohaib Akhter was sentenced to 24 months in prison.  Each man was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. Case title: USA v. Akhter et al.  Below is an excerpt from the announcement:

[T]he Akhter brothers and co-conspirators engaged in a series of computer intrusions and attempted computer intrusions against the U.S. Department of State to obtain sensitive passport and visa information and other related and valuable information about State Department computer systems.  In or around February 2015, Sohaib Akhter used his contract position at the State Department to access sensitive computer systems containing personally identifiable information belonging to dozens of co-workers, acquaintances, a former employer and a federal law enforcement agent investigating his crimes.

Sohaib Akhter later devised a scheme to ensure that he could maintain perpetual access to desired State Department systems.  Sohaib Akhter, with the help of Muneeb Akhter and co-conspirators, attempted to secretly install an electronic collection device inside a State Department building.  Once installed, the device could have enabled Sohaib Akhter and co-conspirators to remotely access and collect data from State Department computer systems.  Sohaib Akhter was forced to abandon the plan during its execution when he broke the device while attempting to install it behind a wall at a State Department facility in Washington, D.C.

Furthermore, beginning in or about November 2013, Muneeb Akhter was performing contract work for a private data aggregation company located in Rockville, Maryland.  He hacked into the company’s database of federal contract information so that he and his brother could use the information to tailor successful bids to win contracts and clients for their own technology company.  Muneeb Akhter also inserted codes onto the victim company’s servers that caused them to vote for Akhter in an online contest and send more than 10,000 mass emails to students at George Mason University, also for the purpose of garnering contest votes.

In or about October 2014, Muneeb Akhter lied about his hacking activities and employment history on a government background investigation form while successfully obtaining a position with a defense contractor.  Furthermore, in or about March 2015, after his arrest and release pending trial, Muneeb Akhter obstructed justice by endeavoring to isolate a key co-conspirator from law enforcement officers investigating the conspirators’ crimes.  Among other acts, Muneeb Akhter drove the co-conspirator to the airport and purchased a boarding pass, which the co-conspirator used to travel out of the country to the Republic of Malta.  When the co-conspirator returned to the United States, Muneeb Akhter continued to encourage the co-conspirator to avoid law enforcement agents.

One of the brothers was profiled by WaPo in 2014. Both brothers started college at 16 and they were George Mason’s youngest graduates in 2011. In 2012, the brothers received a $200,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA.

The details of this case are even more disturbing.  Under Count Eight  (Conspiracy to Access a Government Computer without Authorization).

60. The Bureau of Consular Affairs (hereinafter “Bureau”) is a division of the State Department, which administers laws, formulates regulations, and implements policies relating to consular services and immigration. It has physical offices in Washington, DC.

61. Passport Lockbox (hereinafter “Lockbox”) is a Bureau program that performs payment processing, scarming of applications, and initial data entry for US. passport applications. Lockbox has a computer database containing imaged passport applications associated with real individuals. The imaged passport applications in Lockbox’s database contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant, as well as certain personal information including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse’s name, and emergency contact information.

62. ActioNet, Inc. (hereinafter “ActioNet”) is a contractor that provided information technology support to the State Department. It has physical offices in Falls Church, Virginia, located in the Eastern District of Virginia.

63. From in or about October 2014 to in or about February 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER was a contract employee at ActioNet assigned to a position at the State Department as a Tier II Application Support Resource in the Data Engineering and Data Management Program within the Bureau.

64. Prior to accessing the Lockbox database, and throughout his tenure as a contractor with the State Department, SOHAIB AKHTER was made aware of and indicated he understood: (a) the confidential nature of the Lockbox database and the confidential personal data contained therein; (b) the information contained in the passport records maintained by the State Department pursuant to Lockbox is protected from unauthorized disclosure by the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a; and (c) passport applications maintained by the State Department in the Lockbox database should be accessed only in connection with an employee’s official government duties and not the employee’s interest or curiosity.

69. MUNEEB AKHTER and SOHAIB AKHTER, UCC-l, and other coconspirators known and unknown to the Grand Jury, engaged in a series of computer intrusions and attempted computer intrusions against the State Department to obtain sensitive passport and visa information and other related and valuable information about State Department computer systems.

70. SOHAIB AKHTER used his contract position at the State Department to search for and access sensitive passport information belonging to coworkers, acquaintances, a former employer, and federal agents investigating him for crimes alleged in this Indictment. After accessing sensitive passport information from State Department computers, SOHAIB AKHTER copied, saved, and shared this information with coconspirators.

71. SOHAIB AKHTER also attempted to use his access to State Department computer systems to create an unauthorized account that would enable him to access State Department computer systems undetected. SOHAIB AKHTER surreptitiously installed malicious programs onto State Department computer systems in order to execute his plan to create the backdoor login account.

72. SOHAIB AKHTER orchestrated a scheme to secretly install a physical device at a State Department building known as SA-17. Once installed, the device would enable SOHAIB AKHTER and coconspirators to collect data from and remotely access State Department computer systems.

73. SOHAIB AKHTER led the conspiracy, organized the intrusion to install the physical device, recruited coconspirators to assist in execution of the intrusion, and managed the execution of the intrusion.

74. MUNEEB AKHTER provided technical assistance to SOHAIB AKHTER for the unauthorized access. MUNEEB AKHTER programmed the physical device, known as a “gumstix,” so that it would collect data from State Department computers and transmit it wirelessly to computers controlled by MUNEEB AKHTER and SOHAIB AKHTER and coconspirators.

75. On the day the scheme was executed, UCC-1 transported materials, including the gumstix, from MUNEEB AKHTER, located at the AKHTER residence, to SOHAIB AKHTER, located at SA-17.
78. In or about October 2014, SOHAIB AKHTER was hired by ActioNet to perform contract work for the State Department at both ActioNet offices in Falls Church, Virginia, and Bureau offices in Washington, DC.

79. Beginning on or about February 12, 2015, and continuing thereafter until on or about February 19, 2015, in Falls Church, Virginia, in the Eastern District of Virginia, and elsewhere, SOHAIB AKHTER, while employed at ActioNet, accessed the Lockbox database without authorization. .

80. Between on or about February 12, 2015, and on or about February 19, 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER conducted approximately 119 searches for U.S. passport records using the Passport Lockbox Lookup report. He accessed personal passport information for approximately 62 different individuals, including: G.R., a DHS special agent investigating the crimes alleged in this Indictment; UCC-1; A.I.; A.M., the CEO of Victim Company 2; and himself. In addition, SOHAIB AKHTER attempted to access passport information for S.T., a DHS special agent investigating the crimes alleged in this Indictment.

82. In or about February 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER viewed and copied from State Department computer systems the personal passport information associated with several individuals, including DHS Special Agent G.R.

83. In or about March 2015, MUNEEB AKHTER told UCC-1 that he and SOHAIB AKHTER stored the personal passport information that SOHIAB AKHTER removed from State Department systems on an external hard drive. MUNEEB AKHTER told UCC-1 that Special Agent G.R.’s information would be valuable to criminals on the “dark net” and that he was considering selling the information.

84. In or about February 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER downloaded several programs to a State Department computer. These programs included malicious software, or malware, which SOHAIB AKHTER hoped would enable him to access State Department computers remotely.

85. In or about February 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER told UCC-1 that if he was able to gain remote access to State Department computer systems, he could: access information on individuals’ passport applications; access and unilaterally approve visa applications without State Department authorization in exchange for payment; and create passports and visas and sell them on the “dark net.”

86. On or about February 15, 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER called UCC-1 and asked him to buy a drill. UCC-1 purchased the drill and then, pursuant to SOHAIB AKHTER’s request, drove to the AKHTER residence to pick up additional items from MUNEEB AKHTER. At the AKHTER residence, in Springfield, Virginia, in the Eastern District of Virginia, MUNEEB AKHTER told UCC-1 that he was programming a SD card, which was later to be inserted into the gumstix. MUNEEB AKHTER gave UCC-1 a bag containing a screwdriver, tape, glue, and the gumstix. Pursuant to SOHAIB AKHTER’s request, UCC—l drove to SA-17, in Washington, DC, and delivered the bag and items to SOHAIB AKHTER outside SA-17. Later that day, MUNEEB AKHTER drove separately to Washington, DC, and delivered the SD card to SOHAIB AKHTER.

87. On or about the evening of February 15, 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER called MUNEEB AKHTER and told him that he attempted to install the gumstix behind a wall inside SA-17 but was ultimately unsuccessful.

88. On or about February 19, 2015, SOHAIB AKHTER sent an email from his State Department email account to the email address containing lines of code and headers for State Department servers.


We’re not sure reading this if the intrusion was done on the State Department’s Travel Document Issuance System (TDIS) which includes information from U.S. citizens and nationals applying for passports, other Department of State computer systems, passport acceptance agents, the Social Security Administration, the lockbox provider (CITIBANK), passport specialists, and fraud prevention managers, or, if the intrusion occurred on the Passport Information Electronic Records Systems (PIERS), or wait … the motherload, the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD) The Passport Lockbox program cited in the indictment is vague; it’s not a system of record according to the State Department’s System of Records Notices.  But the indictment identifies it as a State Department database. Could this be in reference to the Citibank® Lockbox Services? That is a high-speed processing environment and image-based platform for receivables management, advanced reporting and image inquiry used by the State Department to enable the scanning of applications, extraction of applicant photos received at lockbox locations and storing and batching of images.

Note that #69 of the indictment also alleges “a series of computer intrusions and attempted computer intrusions against the State Department to obtain sensitive passport and visa information;” does that mean the targeted system was the CCD?  The CCD provides access to passport data in Travel Document Issuance System (TDIS), Passport Lookout Tracking System (PLOTS), and Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS).  As of December 2009, the CCD also contains over 100 million visa cases and 75 million photographs, utilizing billions of rows of data, and has a current growth rate of approximately 35 thousand visa cases every day.

By the way, one of the brothers was a contract employee assigned to a position at the State Department as a Tier II Application Support Resource in the Data Engineering and Data Management Program within the CA Bureau from October 2014 to in or about February 2015 (#63).  In November 2014, the State Department suffered some “technical difficulties.” See State Dept Re-attached to the Internet, and About Those “Unrelated” Embassy Outages; State Department’s “Technical Difficulties” Continue Worldwide, So What About the CCD?

Was it just a coincidence that a master of the universe hacker was working at the State Department at the time when the agency’s systems were having technical difficulties?

Or were the Akhter twins the “technical difficulties”?





Alaina Teplitz Sworn In as Next U.S. Ambassador to Nepal

Posted: 12:49 am EDT



Certificate of Competency – Teplitz Alaina B – Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal – April 2015

The WH released the following brief bio when it announced the nomination  in March 2015:

Alaina B. Teplitz, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012.  Previously, Ms. Teplitz served as the Management Minister Counselor at the U.S. Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, Deputy Executive Director in the Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 2009 to 2011, and Director of Management Tradecraft Training at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2007 to 2009.  Prior to that, she was the Deputy Director of Joint Administrative Services at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, Belgium from 2004 to 2007, Management Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 2002 to 2004, and Program Analyst at the Center for Administrative Innovation at the Department from 2001 to 2002.  After joining the Foreign Service in 1991, she served in the State Department’s Bureau of Administration, as well as in posts in Australia, Albania, and Mongolia.

Ms. Teplitz received a B.A. from Georgetown University.


Eyes Watching: Real Foreign Service Officers and Puzzle Pieces

Posted: 2:09 am EDT


Jonathan Haslam is the author of “Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence,” which was just published.He is the George F. Kennan Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He was a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale and Stanford, and is a member of the society of scholars at the Johns Hopkins University. He pens the following piece via Salon:


Other indicators of a more trivial nature could be detected in the field by a vigilant foreign counterintelligence operative but not uniformly so: the fact that CIA officers replacing one another tended to take on the same post within the embassy hierarchy, drive the same make of vehicle, rent the same apartment and so on. Why? Because the personnel office in Langley shuffled and dealt overseas postings with as little effort as required. The invariable indicators took further research, however, based on U.S. government practices long established as a result of the ambivalence with which the State Department treated its cousins in intelligence.

Thus one productive line of inquiry quickly yielded evidence: the differences in the way agency officers undercover as diplomats were treated from genuine foreign service officers (FSOs). The pay scale at entry was much higher for a CIA officer; after three to four years abroad a genuine FSO could return home, whereas an agency employee could not; real FSOs had to be recruited between the ages of 21 and 31, whereas this did not apply to an agency officer; only real FSOs had to attend the Institute of Foreign Service for three months before entering the service; naturalized Americans could not become FSOs for at least nine years but they could become agency employees; when agency officers returned home, they did not normally appear in State Department listings; should they appear they were classified as research and planning, research and intelligence, consular or chancery for security affairs; unlike FSOs, agency officers could change their place of work for no apparent reason; their published biographies contained obvious gaps; agency officers could be relocated within the country to which they were posted, FSOs were not; agency officers usually had more than one working foreign language; their cover was usually as a “political” or “consular” official (often vice-consul); internal embassy reorganizations usually left agency personnel untouched, whether their rank, their office space or their telephones; their offices were located in restricted zones within the embassy; they would appear on the streets during the working day using public telephone boxes; they would arrange meetings for the evening, out of town, usually around 7.30 p.m. or 8.00 p.m.; and whereas FSOs had to observe strict rules about attending dinner, agency officers could come and go as they pleased.

Read in full here. Sounds like his book is an excellent addition to a gift list for OGA friends.


Burn Bag: Get a Portable Career, Bake Cupcakes! Geez Louise!

Via Burn Bag:

Quote from FLO at spouse orientation: “You should consider a portable career – you could bake cupcakes and sell them to the embassy staff”. I am a C-suite executive. Cupcakes.


FLO -Family Liaison Office. FLO’s mission is “to improve the quality of life of all demographics we serve by identifying issues and advocating for programs and solutions, providing a variety of client services, and extending services to overseas communities through the management of the worldwide Community Liaison Office (CLO) program.”

On Family Member Employment, says: “The Family Liaison Office understands that when most family members join the Foreign Service community, they have already established personal and professional lives. Finding meaningful employment overseas is challenging given limited positions inside U.S. missions, language requirements, lower salaries, and work permit barriers on the local economy. The Family Liaison Office (FLO) has a dedicated team of professionals working to expand employment options and information resources to internationally mobile family members, both at home and abroad. FLO’s employment program team will advise individual family members on overseas employment issues, either in person, via email or phone.”


Secretary Kerry Swears-in Hans Klemm as U.S. Ambassador to Romania

Posted: 10:58 am EDT


Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Congratulates Ambassador Klemm After Swearing Him in as the Next U.S. Ambassador to Romania
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry congratulates the next U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Hans Klemm, after swearing him in during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 16, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Certificate of Competency – Klemm, Hans – Romania – April 2015

The WH release the following brief bio when it announced the nomination on March 24, 2015

Hans G. Klemm, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Management at the Department of State, a position he has held since January 2015.  Previously, Ambassador Klemm served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department’s Bureau of Human Resources from 2012 to 2015.  Before that, he was Senior Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2012, and Senior Coordinator for Rule of Law and Law Enforcement at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012.  He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste from 2007 to 2010.  Prior to that, Ambassador Klemm served as Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 2006 to 2007, and as Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Career Development in the Bureau of Human Resources from 2004 to 2006.  He was a participant in the Senior Seminar at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute from 2003 to 2004, Director of the Office of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Textile Trade Affairs in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs from 2001 to 2003, and Deputy Director of the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 2000 to 2001.  Ambassador Klemm’s earlier assignments with the Department of State included postings in Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Ambassador Klemm received a B.A. from Indiana University and an M.A. from Stanford University.


U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure

Posted: 11:51 pm EDT


On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff during a military coup that occurred less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power (see US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt).

On September 21, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Burkina Faso recommending that U.S. citizens in the country depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” It also notified the public that the State Department has authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burkina Faso depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This Travel Warning is being issued to notify U.S. citizens that on September 21, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.  U.S. citizens are urged to carefully consider the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and, if already in Burkina Faso, encouraged to review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members, should depart.  U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.  Citizens who decide to remain in Burkina Faso despite this travel warning should maintain situational awareness at all times and register their presence within Burkina Faso with the Embassy by enrolling in STEP.  This Travel Warning supersedes and replaces the Travel Alert issued on September 4, 2015.

Embassy staff remaining in Burkina Faso continues to shelter in place.  The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou will operate at reduced staffing levels and will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) took control of the presidential palace during the weekly council of ministers meeting the afternoon of September 16, detaining President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two additional members of the cabinet of ministers.  President Kafando and others have since been released, but Kafando remains under house arrest.  Prime Minister Zida remains in detention.  Former special chief of staff responsible for the RSP General Gilbert Diendere was declared to be in charge of Burkina Faso following the establishment of a “Conseil national pour la democratie” (CND, the National Council for Democracy).

The security environment in Ouagadougou remains fluid.  Gunfire continues to be reported in locations throughout Ouagadougou.  Elements of the RSP have set road blocks and have engaged in crowd control measures. Civilians have also established roadblocks around the city.  The level of activity on the street has diminished, and many businesses providing essential services—including food, gasoline and cooking fuel—remain closed.  Local electricity and water utility providers have declared a strike, which could further decrease the level of services provided to residents.  A nationwide curfew remains in place from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Outside of Ouagadougou, the security situation varies, but remains dynamic and susceptible to change at any moment.  There have been reports of demonstrations in Bobo-Dioulasso, Gaoua, Fada N’Gourma, and Ouahigouya.  Due to reports that roadways between major cities may be impassable, U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

Read in full here.


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

Posted: 2:27 am EDT


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

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

204. Special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Department Spokesperson


[Ebola Response, Special Coordinator]



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


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


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

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


[Libya, Special Envoy]


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


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


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


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

Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, Special Representative


Religion and Global Affairs, Special Representative


Sanctions Policy, Coordinator
Science and Technology, Special Advisor

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


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








Special suggestions to complete this list:

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

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

Obama Nominates FSO Thomas A. Shannon as Foggy Bottom’s New “P”

Posted: 2:13 a m EDT


Last week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon as Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the State Department. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Career Ambassador, currently serves as Counselor of the Department of State, a position he has held since 2013.  Ambassador Shannon also served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary in 2013, U.S. Ambassador to Brazil from 2010 to 2013, and Acting Under Secretary for Political Affairs in 2011.  Prior to that, Ambassador Shannon served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2005 to 2009.  From 2003 to 2005, he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the National Security Council staff.  Ambassador Shannon served in the Department’s Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs as Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2002 to 2003 and as Director of Andean Affairs from 2001 to 2002.  From 2000 to 2001, he served as the United States Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States and from 1999 to 2000, he was the Director for Inter-American Affairs on the National Security Council staff.  His career as a Foreign Service Officer has also included service in Brazil, Gabon, Guatemala, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, and Venezuela.  Ambassador Shannon received a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.Phil. and D.Phil. from Oxford University.

Here is Secretary Kerry’s statement on the Appointment of Ambassador Tom Shannon to serve as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

If confirmed, Ambassador Shannon would succeed Wendy Sherman as “P.” He will also be the highest ranking career Foreign Service officer at the State Department. Here are his predecessors via