Clinton Email Saga: How do you CTRL+F 55,000 pages of paper?

Posted: 12:43  am EDT

 

Marc Perkel who runs a spam filtering service has an interesting addition to the Clinton email saga, something to do with what happens to emails that go through a  spam filtering service.  But he also wrote this:

But – and this is a very important point – is HOW the emails were turned over. She printed each one out on paper one by one and handed over boxes of paper with the email printed. Thus those email can’t be searched electronically. So if someone wants all emails to some individual or emails about a subject then someone has to hand search these emails and they are likely to miss something.

It would have been far easier to copy all the emails onto a thumb drive and hand that over to the State Department where they could be electronically imported into the system and electronically searchable like all the other emails are. But she chose to go to great trouble to deliberately make things difficult for the State Department to process those emails.  And that indicates an act of bad faith. She’s just giving all of us the virtual finger.

This from a a guy who writes that if Clinton is the candidate,  he “would still vote for her in the general election over any Republican.”

Also see  Attn: Delivery Man Schlepping Boxes With 55,000 Pages of Emails to Foggy Bottom, You’re Wanted at the Podium! (Corrected)

When asked why these documents were not provided to State in electronic format for better searchability, the official spox said, “Well, there is some long precedent here for how this is done.”  I don’t know what kind of precedent she is talking about.  Has anyone ever had to produce  55,000 pages of emails before from a private email server? How do you search that? Control+D for smart not?

This is basically 110 reams of paper at 500 sheets per ream, or 11 bales of paper.  And if the Clinton folks instead used a thumb drive for these 55,000 pages of email, it probably could have spared a tree or two!

Reseed’s strategy is prevention and remediation — not only can we curb deforestation by encouraging consumers and retailers to adopt e-receipts, but we can also reverse some of the damage with the money saved. Forgoing 55,000 receipts can spare an entire tree, and it only takes a dollar in donations for Reseed to plant a tree.

Going Paperless: The Hidden Cost of a Receipt
Part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Clinton Global Initiative 

Oy! What’s that?

The ACLU writes that the politics swirling around the Clinton email scandal obscure real problems:

As the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has documented at length, various Bush White House officials used Republican National Committee accounts to communicate with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in what would become the scandal over the hiring and firing of United States attorneys that the Department of Justice later found to be the inappropriately politicized.

The decision by Secretary Clinton to use “clintonemail.com” exclusively for official business disregards these historical examples. Unfortunately, officials can face the strong temptation to hide official business out of the reach of Freedom of Information Act requests. And as the new retention rules recognize, that’s unacceptable for our democracy.

 

On March 17, twelve open government organizations also wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry and David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States asking that the Clinton emails containing federal records be transferred to the Department of State in their original electronic form:

Because it is of the utmost importance that all of former Secretary Clinton’s emails are properly preserved and transferred back to the State Department for accountability and historical record purposes, we are asking that you verify that Secretary Clinton’s emails containing federal records are transferred to the Department of State in their original electronic form, so that all such emails may be accessible pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. The Archivist and State Department are authorized by the Federal Records Act to seek the recovery of records that may have been improperly removed, and the task of determining which emails constitute federal records should not be left solely to Mrs. Clinton’s personal aides. Rather, the Archivist and State Department should oversee the process to ensure its independence and objectivity. To the extent that it is ascertained that any record emails were deleted, they should be retrieved if technically possible.

The letter available online here (pdf) was signed by Cause of Action, Defending Dissent Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, MuckRock, National Coalition for History, National Security Archive, National Security Counselors, OpenTheGovernment.org, Pirate Times, Project on Government Oversight (POGO),  Society of Professional Journalists and The Sunlight Foundation.

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Former Secretary Clinton talks about her state.gov private emails

Posted: 01:11 am  EDT

 

Excerpt from the transcript of Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the email controversy swirling about via Time’s @ZekeJMiller:

There are four things I want the public to know.

First, when I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.

Looking back, it would’ve been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.

Second, the vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department.

Third, after I left office, the State Department asked former secretaries of state for our assistance in providing copies of work- related emails from our personal accounts. I responded right away and provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related, which totalled roughly 55,000 printed pages, even though I knew that the State Department already had the vast majority of them. We went through a thorough process to identify all of my work- related emails and deliver them to the State Department. At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.

No one wants their personal emails made public, and I think most people understand that and respect that privacy.

Fourth, I took the unprecedented step of asking that the State Department make all my work-related emails public for everyone to see.

I am very proud of the work that I and my colleagues and our public servants at the department did during my four years as secretary of state, and I look forward to people being able to see that for themselves.

Again, looking back, it would’ve been better for me to use two separate phones and two email accounts. I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way.

 

The Clinton folks have also released a Q&A on her email use:

 

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So if we tell over 70,000 employees that they should secure their email accounts and “avoid conducting official Department business from your personal email accounts,” then we go off and use our own private non-government email, what leadership message are we sending out to the troops?  Follow what I say not what I do?

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The secretary of state is the highest classifying authority at the State Department. Since she did not have a state.gov account, does this mean, she never sent/receive any classified material via email in the entirety of her tenure at the State Department? If so, was there a specific person who routinely checked classified email and cable traffic intended for the secretary of state?

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The podium heads insist that there is no restriction in use of private emails. Never mind that this is exclusive use of private emails. If a junior diplomat or IT specialist sets-up his/her own email server to conduct government business at the home backyard shed in Northern Virginia, do you think Diplomatic Security would not be after him or her? Would he/she even gets tenured by the Tenuring Board despite systems management practices contrary to published guidelines?  If the answer is “yes,” we’d really like to know how this works. For ordinary people.

And then there’s this — if there were a hundred people at State that the then secretary of state regularly sent emails to, was there not a single one who said, “wait a minute’ this might not be such a great idea?

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Bottomline despite this brouhaha? Her personal email server will remain private. She has full control over what the public get to see. End of story. Or maybe not.

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Oops, what’s this? Oh, dear.

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FOIA Access to Information Scorecard 2015: State Department Gets an “F”

Posted: 5:27 pm EDT
Updated: March 13, 8:54 pm EDT, WSJ video added

 

Yesterday, we did a snapshot of the FOIA operation in FY2014 based on the State Department’s annual reporting.

The following excerpt extracted from Making the Grade, Access to Information Scorecard 2015 (pdf)  originally published by the Center for Effective Government. To support their work, please check them out here.

A building block of American democracy is the idea that citizens have a right to information
about how their government works and what it does in their name. An informed citizenry is a key component of a healthy democracy. And without detailed information about what government does, citizens can’t hold their elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions.

These values were codified into law in 1966 with the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This law gives anyone a right to request information from government agencies
and requires agencies to promptly provide that information unless disclosure would harm a “specifically protected interest” established by law; protecting the personal privacy rights of individuals is one such interest. Over the years, millions of citizens have benefitted from the law’s disclosure of information about the safety of consumer products, environmental health risks in their communities, and public spending.

[…]

This is the second year the Center for Effective Government has conducted an in-depth analysis of FOIA implementation for the 15 federal agencies that together received over 90 percent of all the freedom of information requests in 2012 and 2013 (the most recent years for which data is available).

Image from Center for Effective Government

Image from Center for Effective Government

  • The Department of State score (37 percent) was particularly dismal. While its website is a bright spot for the agency (with a solid 80 percent on that sub-score), its 23 percent processing score is completely out of line with any other agency’s performance.
  • The State Department was the only agency in the scorecard whose rules do not require staff to notify requesters when processing is delayed, even though this is mandated by law.
  • While 65 percent of its requests were simple, only eight percent were processed within the required 20 days. The State Department had the second-largest request backlog and the third-lowest rate of fully-granted requests. Only 51 percent of requests were granted in full or in part at the State Department. The agency also had the longest average processing time for appeals – 540 days, or roughly a year and a half – and the second-largest backlog of appeals.

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ProPublica: State Department Finally Releases List of ‘Special Government Employees’

– by Justin Elliott and Liz Day ProPublica, Jan. 30, 2014, 1:22 p.m.

Last year, Politico reported that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had a special arrangement under which she simultaneously worked for the State Department and a corporate consulting firm.

Watchdogs and others raised questions about Abedin’s status blurring the line between private and public sector employment. She responded that the dual employment did not pose any conflict of interest, and there is no evidence Abedin used her public position to help private clients.

Soon after, we asked the State Department for a list of any other such employees. Now, after a six-month delay, the department has given us the names.

The list suggests that the status is mostly used for its intended purpose: to allow outside experts to consult or work for the government on a temporary basis.

But at least one person on the list appears to have had an arrangement similar to Abedin’s.

Caitlin Klevorick received two one-year appointments as a special government employee beginning in January 2012.

During that time, online listings show she had a private consulting firm, CBK Strategies, which advises government and corporate clients on communication and policy:

Work with diverse range of clients from Government to Fortune 100 companies to high profile individuals advising them on a range of issues including: overall strategic vision, crisis management, policy and political advising, communications, corporate social responsibility and partnerships.

“There is a very high potential for actual conflicts of interest in this case, and there is certainly every appearance of conflicts of interest,” said Craig Holman of the ethics watchdog Public Citizen.

Klevorick did not respond to our requests for comment about what outside work she did during the period she was a special employee.

Asked about the case, a State Department official said: “All of our employees that are allowed to work for non-Department of State entities are doing so with permission of the bureaus they are working with and provided their outside work does not pose a conflict of interest.”

Before joining the State Department, Klevorick had worked as a consultant to former President Clinton and to the Clinton Foundation.

Klevorick joined the State Department in 2009, as “Special Assistant for the Counselor of the Department in the Office of the Secretary.”

When she became a special government employee three years later, she “provided expert knowledge and advice to the Counselor and Chief of Staff & other Department Officials on a variety of important foreign policy issues,” according to the State Department.

Klevorick’s boss was Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton adviser who was also a special government employee, reportedly working on Haiti issues.

The list of special government employees also includes many lifelong civil servants and the occasional celebrity, such as Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. She was appointed in 2012 a senior adviser for public diplomacy.

There are also scientists such as a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory who did not draw a salary for his work for the State Department.

Others on the list have ties to Democratic politics but their work did not appear to raise any potential conflict of interest.

Longtime pollster Jeremy Rosner, for example, was made a special government employee in 2011. He moved to Pakistan temporarily to serve as a public affairs consultant to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad providing “expert level advice to the Chief of Mission on how best to exploit new media tools by all agencies at Mission Pakistan,” according to the State Department.

Here is the full list from the State Department.

And here is a list of special government employees from other agencies.

Republished from ProPublica via
88x31CC

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Ding! Ding! Ding! We can use whatever definition of “transparent” we want? Please, nooooo….

– By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Daily Press Briefing remains the best reality show online, hands down.  Today, we bring you, Marie Harf, State’s Deputy Spokesperson and Matt Lee, the Associated Press correspondent at the State Department for over six years. The two sparred over the word “transparent.”  Ms. Harf says that “we” can use  “whatever definition of transparent we want.”  Mr. Lee disagreed pointing out that he thinks that word only has one definition. Reminds us of the utter confusion  and rhetorical gymnastics employed on whether or not there was a coup d’état in Egypt last July.  Sounds bad to our ears, you, too?

 

 

Below is an excerpt from the DPB transcript:

QUESTION: So then my last one is: When this current President came into office, he and his first Secretary of State spent a lot of time doing what they said was trying to repair what they said was damage done to the U.S. image and reputation abroad during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. Are you concerned at all that the weight of these revelations, coming as they are with increasing – seemingly increasing frequency, is negating the – that effort to improve your – the image of the United States abroad? Because it certainly appears that many countries, whether they’re warranted and are justified in feeling this or not, are looking at the United States now as some kind of Orwellian big brother-type outfit.

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. The first is that whether it’s on these alleged intelligence activities, on counterterrorism operations, on a number of issues, this Administration has taken steps to increase the transparency, not as much as I’m sure everybody would like in this room, but certainly whether it’s the President giving speeches about counterterrorism, giving speeches just recently about our intelligence gathering and how we’re reviewing that. We’ve actually taken steps to be more transparent, both to our people but to other countries around the world. So I think that people do look at that as a positive step in the right direction.

But when it comes to specific intelligence matters, we also, I would underscore here, share intelligence with a number of our partners and allies. Intelligence is collected, broadly speaking, to protect our citizens, to protect their citizens as well. So people understand the value of intelligence gathering around the world, right? It’s where the balance lies between privacy and security, and those are the conversations we’re having right now.

QUESTION: Yeah, but people don’t like – when you say that you’re being more transparent, people don’t like what they see when they are being – so just being more – coming out and saying —

MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree a little bit with your notion there. I think people appreciate when the President or the Secretary or other folks come out and say: I know there have been a lot of allegations out there. Here’s what we can say we’re doing, here’s how we’re looking at it. And when we have a path forward, we’ll let you know that as well.

QUESTION: Okay. But you claim to be being more transparent, but in fact you’re not. You’re not at all being transparent. You’re saying that —

MS. HARF: Well, I would take issue with your characterization.

QUESTION: Oh, really? Well, you’re not confirming any of these reports, whether they’re true or not.

MS. HARF: That —

QUESTION: How is that transparent?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we can use whatever definition of transparent we want —

QUESTION: I think there’s only one definition.

MS. HARF: What I would say is that the President has gotten – has stood up. Whether it’s on counterterrorism, he stood at the National Defense University and said: I’m going to talk to you about how we make decisions on counterterrorism operations —

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MS. HARF: — for the first time.

QUESTION: — it’s either transparent or it’s not. It’s either transparent or it’s opaque.

MS. HARF: Matt, that’s —

QUESTION: Right?

MS. HARF: No, this isn’t a black-and-white issue.

QUESTION: You can’t have —

MS. HARF: That’s not – that’s absolutely not the case.

 

Perhaps Ms. Harf is referring to the use of “transparent” in computing, where it means  “(of a process or interface) functioning without the user being aware of its presence.” Which actually kind of fits given the subject of the tussle.

We’re filing this in our  “Huh? News” folder as It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Not Superman On a Nantucket Boat Or How to Make a Non-News Into Big News.

👀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear State Dept OIG – Please Stop Playing Hide and Seek with Your Reports!

Harold W. Geisel, Deputy Inspector General, Term of Appointment: 06/02/2008 to present

It used to be that we could check the “Featured Items” in the OIG website and get the newest reports straight from the oven.

Sometime back, we’ve noticed that the newest reports were no longer consistently popping up in that section, but are filed in the regional sections of the reports. Which ensures that the reader had to do some digging before they get to read what they’re looking for. Here is what the OIG says about its reports:

Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports are posted on OIG’s Web sites in accordance with section 8L of The Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), as amended. All reports are reviewed, and redacted when appropriate, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552), and related statues/regulations, plus the President’s memorandum on “Transparency and Open Government”, dated January 21, 2009, and the Attorney General’s FOIA guidelines dated March 19, 2009.

**NOTE: The dates on OIG reports represent the dates the publications were issued/published, not when they were posted to the Web site.

For example, and this is not the first one, we just don’t feel like digging around today — take its “latest” report of its inspection of the US Embassy in the Bahamas. The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 13 and 28, 2011; in Nassau,
The Bahamas, between September 29 and October 12, 2011; and in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, on October 2, 2011. The report is dated January 2012. And it is now posted in the OIG’s WHA section and the Featured Items section, but we have no idea when it actually went up online.

Here is the Featured Items section:

Well, I thought, I’d be damn, I am going blind! How could I have missed that report on The Bahamas when it is right there, there sandwiched between Algeria and the Bureau of Administration/GIS?

And then I saw this tweet from the State Department OIG on February 23, 2012 at 9:38 am.  Oooh, I am not going blind, after all!


I hate it when Transparency and Open Government plays tricks with me, I mean, don’t you?  So here is a quick note for the Inspector General of the Department of State:

Dear State Department OIG — Folks, you really need to indicate the dates when you put up your reports online, and stop making us play hide and seek with you. You have posted a note that says “The dates on OIG reports represent the dates the publications were issued/published, not when they were posted to the Web site.” Well, that’s no good, because you got redundant dates there that have no other function except potential confusion.

Let me help you, it’s really quick and easy. See the red circle below? That should be your posted date. Why? Because your OIG reports are only dated by month and year. The report on The Bahamas says: Inspection of Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas Report Number ISP-I-12-08A, January 2012. See? It did not/not say 1/31/12.  So where did that date come from, I’d like to know. And see the red rectangular-ish below? That’s the month and date indicated in the OIG reports.

Do we really need two dates there to confused us?  And I really hate to think of the possibility that these reports are accidentally “slipped” quietly into the queue.

Yes, we really do want to know when these reports are posted for public consumption.  You are very welcome!
Domani Spero

On Performance Pay Awards and Why No HR Seniors to Rat-Tat-Tat-Kaboom Posts?

It’s not everyday that the State Department’s Human Resources Office is called “as opaque as the black hole of Calcutta on a moonless winter night.” Which sounds almost poetic and all, but not in any way something you want to brag about. Below is from this post at WhirledView by Patricia Kushlis. Excerpts below:   

As I noted in previous posts, ambassadorships have gone overwhelmingly to HR insiders over those who have put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest — and most appalling — examples? The most recent Director General and his Deputy — both having spent their two-year tenures pushing their State colleagues off to war zones — are going where? To Iraq or Afghanistan? Not a chance. They are both enjoying agreeable posts in the South Pacific.

Nor has the situation regarding bonus pay for senior foreign and civil service improved. HR insiders dot the lists as they have for years. As an example on the Civil Service side, a current senior HR official and a former senior HR official (now at the Department’s training institute) have received either SES (Senior Executive Service) Performance Awards or Presidential Rank Awards every year for at least the last five years — including 2009. Whether the awards lists are long or short — these two women are on them.


HR is a support function at the Department — not a line function. The several hundred SES employees in the State Department do complicated, high-profile work on the front lines of diplomacy; many of these people are ignored at awards time. It is difficult to imagine how these HR employees (who after all, have run a Bureau unable to put together six-person meetings on a regular basis) manage to snag the US government’s top honors year after year. It certainly calls into question the integrity of the awards process — from the selection of the boards that grant the awards — to the choice of award recipients themselves.

I repeat my suggestion to Hillary and her people — revise the regulations to bar any one senior employee (Civil or Foreign Service) from getting an award more than once in three years.

Not a new post but still relevant. Active links added above. Continue reading The Broom’s April Check Up.
 
OPM has an August 2010 order to freeze discretionary awards, bonuses, and similar payments for federal employees.  But wait – the directive has the following exception:

Although Foreign Service Officers and career members of the Senior Foreign Service (SFS) appointed under section 302(a)(1) of the Foreign Service Act receive PAS appointments, they are not political appointees and are not subject to the freeze.  Also, SFS members with PAS or PA appointments who elect to retain eligibility for SFS performance awards under section 302(b) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 are not political appointees and are not subject to the freeze.  

So – I guess you better be in the lookout for the next performance pay cable.  Unfortunately, none of those cables seem to be available anywhere in the public domain. Wonder why that is, ward off the evil eye?  But isn’t that taxpayer money?  You can look those up for comparison year to year if you are inside the firewall at State.  It now seems amusing to watch folks get all contorted over political ambassadorships when right in the front inside of the yard — well …

Anyhow, Patricia’s suggestion that the revised regs should only allow senior employees in the Civil or Foreign Service to receive performance pay awards once every three years sounds extremely reasonable given our current budget pains.   

In the same spirit, shouldn’t senior officials serving in the HR Bureau ought to have a “cooling off” period after serving in that bureau before being considered for career ambassadorships? I mean, if I’m the boss/next bosses of the bureau that puts together the names of the next ambassadors and my name is in it, too — well, wouldn’t you think that smells Epoisses cheesy? Unless, of course — I’m going to one of the two, wait three, no – five war zones, two of them undeclared.

I do think that the next Director General of the Foreign Service ought to have experience not just in hardship posts but real on the ground experience from one of our increasingly rat-tat-tat kaboom posts, that now includes Pakistan and Mexico (although they’re not listed as such anywhere).  Why? Because why not? The DG is the most senior HR person at the State Department. His/Her office is the arm twister, excuse me, the carrot dangler for all those folks who are volunteering to serve in the rat-tat-tat place.  One old friend could not get hold of anyone during the bidding season, that is, apparently, no one was reading the old friend’s multiple emails until there was nothing left on the bidlist. In this case, the carrot was hidden not dangled.  When the old friend finally got a response, well, all the options in that short list says Iraq.  But she’s the small fry!

As far as we are aware, one senior official at State went directly from an HR tour to a warzone tour.  That’s Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, now of the US Embassy in Slovenia. He was the Director of Human Resources/Entry-Level CDA at the U.S. Department of State for a year prior to deploying to the US Embassy in Kabul as Assistant Chief of Mission, then went on become ambassador to Ljubljana.  Yay for Ambassador Mussomeli!

But other senior HR folks seems to have skipped the warzone tours before proceeding to ambassadorial appointments.  HR’s top recruitment guy went on to an ambassadorship in Europe. Another director of HR’s Entry-Level Career Development and Assignments went on to an ambassadorship in Europe. Two former top HR officials, went on to ambassadorships in Asia. And one senior advisor to the Office of Performance Evaluation went on to a lovely island in the South Pacific.  

But if these are important enough foreign policy engagements that the HR bureau cajole colleagues every year to volunteer to go, shouldn’t the HR seniors’ names be on that volunteer list, too?  Because that’s probably the best recruitment tool for the warzones …

Everybody would finally come around to thinking — hey, things must be really serious … the boss who’s asking me to go to the rat-tat-tat kaboom place, is also going to the rat-tat-tat kaboom place…

Note: The term “rat-tat-tat kaboom” to describe posts in war zones was absolutely originally coined by one of our favorite bloggers, Dakota of The Afghan Plan.
The rat-tat-tat-kaboom posts in our book includes all posts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan and Mexico.
 

Related item:
3 FAM 2870 | Senior Foreign Service Performance Pay and Presidential Awards 

 

Web abuzz with possible nightmare at C Street

Not good news — 260,000 classified diplomaticc cables allegedly sent to Wikileaks.

In case you’ve missed this troubling news.  Yep, that’s 260,000 classified cables the news outlets are reporting and buzzing the internets in the last few days.

Here is CNN blog’s take: Dept. of State, embassies anxious about cable link claims

Officials at Foggy Bottom and diplomats at U.S. embassies around the world are biting their nails as they await an investigation into claims by an Army intelligence analyst that he downloaded 260,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables and gave them to the whistleblower site Wikileaks.
[…]
“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public, he reportedly told Lamo, who then turned Manning into authorities. He is currently under arrest in Kuwait.
[…]
If posted online, the cables could also reveal details about State Department operations, according to the department’s spokesman.

“It has particular impact in terms of potentially revealing what we call ‘sources and methods,’  you know, compromising our ability to, you know, provide government leaders with the kind of analysis that they need to make informed decisions,” a State Department spokesman said last week.

Because the documents pertain more to human intelligence, rather than intelligence systems, there is more angst at State and among embassies about the potential diplomatic fallout than there is serious concern that major intelligence was compromised. But the bottom lineis, out of 260,000 documents, officials recognize there is bound to be something with a decent degree of sensitivity in some of them.

One silver lining for officials  is that because there is an investigation which could lead to possible criminal prosecution, the State Department doesn’t expect the documents will be posted.

For its part, Wikileaks said on its Twitter page that it had not been sent the cables.

“Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect,” Wikileaks posted on its Twitter page earlier this week.

The Daily Beast’s Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at The New York Times, writes about The State Department’s Worst Nightmare last week:

The State Department and American embassies around the world are bracing for what officials fear could be the massive, unauthorized release of secret diplomatic cables in which U.S. diplomats harshly evaluate foreign leaders and reveal the inner-workings of American foreign policy.
[…]
“If he really had access to these cables, we’ve got a terrible situation on our hands,” said an American diplomat. “We’re still trying to figure out what he had access to. A lot of my colleagues overseas are sweating this out, given what those cables may contain.”

He said Manning apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders.

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.

He added that the State Department and law-enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether, and how, to approach Wikileaks to urge the site not to publish the cables, given the damage they could do to diplomatic efforts involving the United States and its allies.

On June 10th, Shenon had a follow up post entitled, Pentagon Manhunt.  Excerpt:

Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast. The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.

Active links added above. Raffi Khatchadourian also has an interesting profile of Julian Assange in a recent issue of The New Yorker (read No Secrets |Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency).

We noted that Wikileak posted the following in Twitter, “Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”  However, over in the wikileaks website are two items reportedly from US Embassy Iceland — a classified cable with a declassification date of 01/13/2020 and a confidential/noforn profiles of Icelandic government officials.

Does that mean something’s up or just mere coincidence?

It does look like there’s a lot of headline baiting going around right now ….   


New Visa Fees Take Effect Today

The new visa fees take effect today, June 4, according to the interim final rule published in the Federal Register.

(22 CFR Part 22 | [Public Notice: 7018] RIN 1400–AC57
Schedule of Fees for Consular Services Department of State and Overseas Embassies and Consulates
AGENCY: Bureau of Consular Affairs, State.
ACTION: Interim final rule.

To summarize quickly:

  • Most NIVs and adult BCCs: $140
  • Petition-based NIVs (H,L,O,P,Q,R): $150
  • K category: $350
  • E category: $390

Read more below, it’s quite interesting for nerdy bits like me:

According to the published rule, the Department contracted for an independent cost of service study (CoSS), which used an activity-based costing model from August 2007 through June 2009 to provide the basis for updating the Schedule. The results of that study are the foundation of the current changes to the Schedule. The CoSS concluded that the average cost to the U.S. Government of accepting, processing, adjudicating, and
issuing a non-petition-based MRV application, including an application for a BCC, is approximately $136.93 for Fiscal Year 2010.

I understand that interested folks are still looking for that Cost of Service Study (CoSS) document which has not been released publicly. I think this is exactly the kind of stuff that means something in terms of transparency when shared with the public, especially during the public comment period.

Check out the official Fees for Visa page at travel.state.gov at
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1263.html


Were there complaints about those publicly available OIG reports?

Just curious.  One day, not too long ago this popped up in the OIG website:

“NOTE: The dates on OIG reports represent the dates the publications were issued/published, not when they were posted to the Web site.”

More recently, the following notation has been added:

Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports are posted on OIG’s Web sites in accordance with section 8L of The Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), as amended. All reports are reviewed, and redacted when appropriate, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552), and related statues/regulations, plus the President’s memorandum on “Transparency and Open Government”, dated January 21, 2009, and the Attorney General’s FOIA guidelines dated March 19, 2009.

If you have time in your hands and are looking for a report on your post or prospective post that is unavailable or has yet to be released publicly, you can file a FOIA request: 

The OIG Library contains reports and publications that have been determined to be publicly releasable. Unclassified summaries of OIG reports are presented in the Inspector General’s Semiannual Report to the Congress, as well as Report Highlights. Classified reports are distributed on a strict need to know basis. Many unclassified audit reports are available in .pdf format. Unclassified audit reports that are not yet available online may be requested by submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to:

FOIA Office
Department of State
Office of Inspector General
Office of Counsel
2121 Virginia Ave, Room 8100 (SA-3)
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 663-0390
Phone: (202) 663-0389 or (202) 663-0383
E-mail: oigfoia@state.gov
All requests should be sent by mail or fax.

On a related note – is your spouse holding three jobs, in danger of a burnout and you barely get to see him although he’s not in a warzone? Are you conducting 200 interviews a day with no relief in sight?  Are you being sent to do public outreach without training that you have nightmares about it?  Is the CLO doing only morale stuff but has not covered employment support for spouses? Are you absolutely not tickled with eServices? Is your housing board functioning kind of hinky? Does your local HR’s hiring policy make language an unnecessary hurdle for spouses who need to work?  Does your boss need one of Bob Sutton’s books?  Does your Front Office have a deputy challenge?  Make a note.
When your post gets an IG visit, do make time to talk to the inspectors. They look at waste, fraud and mismanagement.  I heard that in some posts, overburdened officers in places in the far orbit of the galaxy are actually praying for the OIG to show up at their doorsteps.  If you can’t wait for that visit and must talk to the OIG, here is the hotline email:oighotline@state.gov; hotline numbers: Washington D.C., Metropolitan Area: (202)-647-3320; Elsewhere, Toll Free: 1-800-409-9926. See more here: http://oig.state.gov/contact/index.htm.