NEA and SPP Language Divisions Moving Out of the Foreign Service Institute?

Posted: 12:47 am EDT


The Foreign Service Institute is located at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center (NFATC) in Arlington, Virginia.  An expansion of facilities on FSI’s 72-acre campus in 2010 added 100 classrooms. About 2,000 students are on campus daily.


It looks like that expansion is not enough.  There is apparently a lot of rumors circulating that the SPP and NEA language divisions will be moving out of SA-42 (FSI) to “a new space somewhere along the Orange line.”  We understand that this topic has lighted up the Secretary’s Sounding Board, never mind that JK is traveling.

This rumored move, if true, would reportedly affect 1) the Division of Near East Central, and South Asian Languages (FSI/SLS/NEA) which directs, designs and conducts proficiency-based language training for Arabic, Near Eastern, Turkic, Central and South Asian languages; and 2) the Division of Slavic, Pashto, and Persian Languages (FSI/SLS/SPP) which directs, designs, and conducts proficiency-based language training for all Slavic languages including Bosnian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Ukrainian, Pashto and Persian languages including Dari, Tajiki, and Farsi.

People are apparently not happy about this rumored move. Some are posting questions on the Board, and hoping to find some clarity on what to expect next. Here are some of the employees’ concerns over the future of language training at FSI:

  • Looking for transparency:  “Given the massive number of employees this change will impact, both students and instructors, can we get a little transparency on what’s going on?”  One commenter writes that many find it “odd that language studies, arguably the priority purpose of FSI, would see such a huge change with little to no public discussion or outreach from FSI.”
  • Long-term vs. short-term: Why was the decision made to move long-term language studies (9-12 months in length in many cases) instead of short-term and intermittent courses (leadership, regional training, stability operations, area studies, world languages, etc.)?
  • Co-location: Will the new facilities be co-located with language division administration? This is a big deal in the event that a student has to make changes with class assignment).
  • Transportation/Commute/Parking : How will people commute to the new facilities? Is there a bus? Is there equally priced parking available nearby? Concerns that transportation issue affect not just students but also many of the language instructors and staff who live quite far from FSI and even further from Rosslyn, where there is a shuttle.
  • Language Lab/Tools: Are the language learning tools available at the new facilities? Language labs are a big part of reaching proficiency standards, will students have to go back to FSI in order to access labs?
  • Daycare: For personnel with kids, employees are interested whether they will have access to daycare. When transferring or rotating assignments, Foreign Service personnel with young kids rely heavily on the availability of reliable and accessible childcare at FSI. “The provision of childcare has always helped alleviate some of the stresses associated with the rigors of intensively learning a new language.” Depending on the new location, there is also the potential for disruption in the Oakwood housing program.
  • Town Hall: One requested a town hall meeting with the FSI administration for current and future students in the languages affected “so people can ask questions and get more information as they begin to plan for language training.”


We should note that both the NEA and SPP language divisions are part of FSI’s School of Language Studies (SLS). The School of Language Studies (SLS), with 684 staff members, 3 overseas schools, and 11 regional language programs, offers training and testing in more than 70 languages.   According to the OIG, SLS is the largest of FSI’s schools, with a base budget of $33.5 million in FY 2012 and a total budget of $46.7 million, which includes $5.5 million in reimbursements from other agencies.

In December 2012, SLS had 684 staff members: 374 direct-hire employees and 310 full-time equivalent contractors. SLS is managed by a dean and two associate deans and is composed of a testing division, five language divisions, a Curriculum and Staff Development division, and an administrative section. SLS trains employees of the Department, USAID, and other agencies in 70 languages ranging from Spanish to super hard languages such as Korean.

In any case, there is a slow train for consolidation humming in the State Department. One of Diplomatic Security’s arguments for building the FASTC in Virginia instead of Georgia is so all the training programs can be in one location.  Just recently, the IRM training located in Warrenton, VA had also been moved to the FSI campus. If the NEA/SPP move is true, is this SLS’ initial move at dispersing its divisions?

If true, the question then becomes “why”?

The most recent OIG inspection of FSI is dated March 2013. That report notes that “SLS needs organizational and programmatic changes to strengthen pedagogy, coordination, and strategic planning. Outside review of a portion of recorded language test samples and other steps are required to address the inherent conflict of interest of SLS instructors serving as testers.” The report made 79 recommendations and 23 informal recommendations, however, we could not locate one specifically related to NEA/SPP, or the school’s expansion or spin off location outside of FSI.

# More Spin on Clinton Emails


More Spin on Clinton Emails

— Eugene Kiely | A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
(republished with permission)


Hillary Clinton directly addressed questions in recent interviews about her exclusive use of a personal email account and server to conduct government business as secretary of state. But her answers only reveal part of the story:

  • Clinton said her personal email account was “allowed by the State Department.” It was permitted if work emails were preserved. Federal rules required Clinton to preserve work emails before she left office, but she did not turn over her emails until 21 months after she left office.
  • Clinton said “turning over my server” to the government shows “I have been as transparent as I could” about her emails. But she did so in August after the FBI opened an investigation. In March, she rejected calls to turn over the server to a neutral party, saying “the server will remain private.”
  • Clinton said “everybody in government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email.” But that ignores those — including President Obama — who did not know that she used it exclusively for government business.

The Democratic front-runner for her party’s presidential nomination addressed the email controversy in interviews on Sept. 4 with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and again on Sept. 7 with the Associated Press. The subject has been dogging Clinton ever since the New York Timesreported on March 2 that she exclusively used a personal email account and computer server to conduct official government business. The article also reported that, at the State Department’s request, Clinton on Dec. 5, 2014, gave the department just over 30,000 printed copies of work-related emails.

Clinton previously addressed the email issue in her first national interview with CNN in early July, but a lot has happened since then. The inspector general of the intelligence community said her emails contained classified information and made a “security referral” to the Justice Department in late July. Clinton directed her campaign in mid-August to turn over her computer server to the FBI, which is now investigating.

Mitchell told MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow that she believes she got the interview because the campaign needs to “reset” on the issue. “The campaign needed to do a serious interview on the subject,” Mitchell said.

‘Allowed by State Department’

Let’s look at some of the statements that Clinton made in her interviews, beginning with whether her unusual email arrangement was “allowed by the State Department.”

Clinton, Sept. 4: I know why the American people have questions about it. And I want to make sure I answer those questions, starting with the fact that my personal email use was fully above board. It was allowed by the State Department, as they have confirmed.

Clinton Sept. 7: I understand why people have questions and I’m trying to answer as many of those in as many different settings as I can. What I did was allowed by the State Department. It was fully above board.

The campaign cites a rule issued by the National Archives and Records Administration in October 2009 — eight months after Clinton became secretary of state — that said federal agencies may allow the use of personal emails under certain circumstances.

National Archives, Oct. 2, 2009: Agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.

At a March 3 press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also cited the 2009 NARA rule in saying Clinton apparently complied with the rules.

“As I said, there’s no prohibition on using this kind of email account as long as it’s preserved,” Harf said. “She has taken steps to preserve those records by providing the State Department with the 55,000 pages, so – I’m not a NARA expert, but certainly, it sounds to me like that has been completed.”

Harf is admittedly no NARA expert, but Jason R. Baron is.

Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and a former director of litigation at the National Archives, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in May that “any employee’s decision to conduct all e-mail correspondence through a private e-mail network, using a address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies.”

Also, as we have written, Clinton should have turned over her emails before she left office, but she didn’t.

NARA regulations require federal agencies to maintain an NARA-approved schedule for the disposition of federal records. The State Department Records Disposition Schedule says “incoming and outgoing correspondence and memorandums on substantive U.S. foreign policy issues” should be permanently retained “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary.”

Clinton left office Feb. 1, 2013. She did not turn over her emails to the State Department until Dec. 5, 2014, and only after the department in October of that year requested the emails in part to respond to the congressional requests for documents related to the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012.

The Clinton campaign has said that she complied with NARA regulations because “more than 90% of those emails should have already been captured in the State Department’s email system before she provided them with paper copies.”

But that assumes that the people receiving an email from Clinton properly preserved the record. Baron, the former director of litigation at NARA, told us for a previous story that Clinton “basically offloaded her burden to others” to preserve her emails. He told us Clinton was out of compliance with the regulations the day she left office.

One last point: The Washington Post Fact Checker wrote that when she was secretary in June 2011 “a cable went out under her signature warning employees to ‘avoid conducting official Department business from your personal e-mail accounts.’ ”

The Clinton campaign noted that that cable was sent after Google disclosed that the Gmail accounts of some government employees were being targeted by hackers originating in China — a situation Clinton described at the time as “very serious.” The cable did not say that the advice was limited to those with Gmail accounts. Asked if the campaign was suggesting that it applied only to Gmail users, Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin said he was offering “important context” given that the department has said personal email use was permitted under certain circumstances.

Transparency and Clinton’s Server

In her interview with Mitchell, Clinton took responsibility for her decision to use a private email account. She also took some credit for being “as transparent as I could” in handling the email controversy.

Clinton, Sept. 4: I take responsibility. I should’ve had two accounts — one for personal, one for work-related — and I’ve been as transparent as I could, asking all 55,000 pages be released to the public, turning over my server, looking for opportunities to testify before Congress. I’ve offered for nearly a year.

It’s true that she asked the State Department to release her emails on March 5, but the request came three months after she gave the emails to the department and three days after the New York Times broke the story that she exclusively used a personal email system to conduct official business.

As for her server, Clinton initially rejected suggestions that she turn it over to an independent third-party. At a March 10 press conference, Clinton said all personal emails were deleted from her server, and she rejected the suggestion that she turn her server over to an “independent arbiter” to prove that she did not destroy any work-related emails.

Clinton, March 10: The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private, and I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.

Five months later, on Aug. 11, Clinton directed her legal team to turn over her email server and a thumb drive containing copies of her emails to the Justice Department. “Clinton has pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry,” the campaign said.

The Justice Department review was triggered by I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general of the intelligence community, who made a “security referral” to the department for “potential compromises of national security” after a small sampling of Clinton’s emails found four that contained classified information. None of them had classification markings. Clinton has described the situation as a typical “disagreement among various parts of the government” over whether certain parts of her email correspondence material should or should not be made public.

The Clinton campaign told us there was no point in turning over the server earlier because there were no longer emails on it and the State Department had printed copies of all the work-related emails. The FBI security review is different, it said, because the review is a security issue. The campaign referred us to a Sept. 3 Bloomberg News story that said the FBI is examining the server for signs of security breaches.

There is a difference, but she cannot delete emails, refuse to allow her server to be examined by an independent third party, and then accurately claim she is being “as transparent as I could.”

‘Everybody’ Knew?

Clinton also told Mitchell and the Associated Press that her use of a personal email account was “fully above board,” because everyone who received an email from her knew that she was using a personal account.

Clinton, Sept. 4: The people in the government knew that I was using a personal account … the people I was emailing to on the dot gov system certainly knew and they would respond to me on my personal email.

Clinton, Sept. 7: It was fully above board. Everybody in the government with whom I emailed knew that I was using a personal email, and I have said it would have been a better choice to have had two separate email accounts.

What she says is accurate, but incomplete. Those who exchanged emails with Clinton undoubtedly knew she had a personal account, but how many knew that she used it exclusively for government business? President Obama, for one, did not.

On March 7, CBS reporter Bill Plante asked Obama when he first learned “that Hillary Clinton used an email system outside the U.S. government.” He replied, “The same time everybody else learned it through news reports.”

Two days later, White House spokesman Josh Earnest expanded on the president’s answer. He said of course he knew her email address. “But the president was not aware of the fact that this was a personal email server and that this was the email address that she was using exclusively for all her business,” he said.

In minimizing her unusual email arrangement, Clinton glosses over the big difference between those who knew she had a personal email account and those who knew she was using it exclusively for government business. She has used variations on this theme — claiming, for example, that previous “secretaries of state” did the “same thing,” but as we have written before only Colin Powell used personal email and he didn’t use it exclusively for government business.


Kerry Appoints Retired Diplomat Janice Jacobs as @StateDept’s “Email Czar”

Posted: 1:44 pm EDT
Updated: 7:08 pm EDT
Updated: Sept 9, 6:07 pm EDT

Via CNN:

Secretary of State John Kerry has tapped a former career diplomat as an “email czar” to coordinate the State Department response to the myriad of document requests mostly related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which have strained the department’s resources, officials familiar with the appointment tell CNN.

Janice Jacobs will serve as Kerry’s State Department’s Transparency Coordinator, charged with responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently and improving the State Department systems for keeping records.



A career diplomat, Janice Jacobs previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs from June 2008 to April 2014. She retired from the Foreign Service in April 2014 (see Asst Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs to Retire Effective April 3). According to the State Department spokesperson, Ambassador Jacobs will will report directly to the Secretary and to Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, the deputy for management and resources. She won’t be embedded in a bureau but the State Department will “make sure that she has the administrative support that she needs to do her job.”  According to the spox, the plan going forward is that Ambassador Jacobs will have “regular meetings with both Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and the Secretary on a consistent, frequent basis to talk about what she’s learning, recommendations she wants to make. And then as the IG comes back with recommendations it intends to make, she will be responsible for helping the Department implement those. “

Secretary Kerry released the following statement on Ambassador Jacobs’ appointment:

Today, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador Janice Jacobs as the State Department’s Transparency Coordinator, charged with improving document preservation and transparency systems.

Ambassador Jacobs will lead Departmental efforts to meet the President’s Managing Government Records Directive, to respond to recommendations from the review I asked the Department’s Inspector General to launch earlier this year, and to work with other agencies and the private sector to explore best practices and new technologies. I have also asked her to focus on improving our systems for responding to Freedom of Information Act and congressional requests faster and more efficiently.

As I have repeatedly made clear, we have a fundamental obligation to document the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and to produce our records in response to requests from the public and Congress. Our records, and our ability to share them, serve as testament to our commitment to transparency and open government. I take very seriously that responsibility, and so does everyone else at the State Department.

I am grateful for the work being done by scores of people across the Department who continue to support the unprecedented number of requests we are facing — a three-fold increase in Freedom of Information requests alone since 2008 or the numerous requests for information from members of Congress.

However, it is clear that our systems and our resources are straining to keep pace with the growing number of records we create and the expanding demand for access to them. It is time to take further action. I want the Department to lead on these issues, to set and achieve a new standard for our efforts, and harness new technological tools in order to meet our commitments. To reach that goal, we must think boldly and creatively. As we enhance our records management system, we also intend to fundamentally improve our ability to respond to requests for our records.

Ambassador Jacobs is exactly the right person for this job. She not only has a distinguished record of service in the State Department, but she also has a track record of successfully leading critical reform efforts: she reorganized the Visa Office after 9/11 and reformed how the Department engages with law enforcement and intelligence communities to share information. As my Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, she also led efforts to meet the Administration’s new visa issuance goals. She is a proven leader who knows how to run large organizations and produce results.

I am grateful she has agreed to take this on. She will have not only my full support, but that of the Department as well.


September 9, 2015


According to Politico, the State Department spokesperson, John Kirby expressed some indignance that Jacobs — a career foreign service officer — was being faulted for a political donation she made, especially after leaving the government.

“This is the United States of America. It’s a democracy. People are allowed to do these kinds of things,” Kirby said. “That’s a very bad place to be if we’re going to start criticizing people for campaign contributions that they make in their private time, in retirement no less. I just don’t think that’s the place we want to be as a country.”

Read more of that here.


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 “” 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,, Pirate Times, Project on Government Oversight (POGO),  Society of Professional Journalists and The Sunlight Foundation.


Former Secretary Clinton talks about her 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:




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?


The secretary of state is the highest classifying authority at the State Department. Since she did not have a 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?


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?


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.


Oops, what’s this? Oh, dear.



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.

[grabpress_video guid=”374496bf6029a53445c667a400b368f57886f9d4″]


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

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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 —


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