Diplomatic Security Locates 21 Year Fugitive Through Facebook

— Domani Spero



SAN FRANCISCO – Francisco R. Legaspi made his initial appearance in federal court yesterday morning for failing to appear for his sentencing on Jan. 28, 1993, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez, announced.

According to court documents, Legaspi, 61, of London, Ontario, Canada, formerly of Daly City, was indicted on Aug. 19, 1992 on three counts of aiding and filing false quarterly employment tax returns for Mission Childcare Consortium in violation of 26 U.S.C.§ 7206(2). He pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 1992 to one count of the Indictment. Legaspi was scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 28, 1993, but failed to appear in court. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest for his failure to appear. On Feb. 24, 1993, an Indictment was returned against him charging him with failure to appear in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146.

Legaspi was located in Canada in 2012, after the Bureau of Diplomatic Security researched social media websites and found Legaspi’s Facebook page. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used the information to apprehend Legaspi. Thereafter, he was extradited from Canada to the United States with the assistance of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

On July 1, 2014, Legaspi entered a not guilty plea to the Indictment charging him with failure to appear. Legaspi’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 8, 2014, before the Honorable Richard Seeborg, United States District Court Judge in San Francisco.

The maximum penalty for aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns, in violation of Title 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2), is three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for failure to appear, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 3146, is two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

  * * *

AAFSW: A Guide to Connecting Communities at Overseas Posts via Facebook and WordPress

— Domani Spero

There was a time when embassy newsletters were distributed only in printed format. Do you remember that?  Later they were distributed as Word documents, then eventually as PDF files. We know that some posts put the newsletters up on the Intranet, not sure if all posts do this now. But even if they do put it up on the Intranet, only a third of all FS spouses are working (some outside the mission), which means more than two-thirds do not have regular access to the Intranet. We would not be surprise if at some posts, spouses still have to go into the Community Liaison Office (CLO) to use dedicated terminals to do stuff on the Intranet.

Hey! Look at the bright side, at least they’re not making spouses use the Wang for what they need to do online.

Typically the newsletters are produced by the CLO or by a contractor. We learned that at the Tri-Mission in Vienna, the official weekly PDF newsletter couldn’t serve as an easily accessible timely resource for answers to all the nitty-gritty questions that new arrivals to post always seem to have, such as finding a good dentist or figuring out the public transport system. Tri-Mission Vienna is not alone on this, of course. Most embassies have CLOs but they do not serve as call centers. At the time when smartphones  are ubiquitous, when there are 1,310,000,000 users on Facebook with 54,200,000 pages, access to timely information is still a challenge for some, particularly overseas.

Enter a couple of Foreign Service spouses who wanted a way to share information quickly and efficiently.  Kelly Bembry Midura and Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel put together a Facebook group, “Vienna Vagabonds” to provide support and advice to the Tri-Mission community.  Later they developed “TriVienna” (using free WordPress) as an unofficial resource for the American community in Austria. The site includes information for newcomers as well resources for navigating the city, schools, services and travels to neighboring areas. There are a few other posts with similar unofficial sites but they are still in the minority.

The two spouses have now put together a guide, through the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) on how to set up similar online communities at posts overseas.  The guide which is pretty straight-forward includes setting up FB pages at post, setting up a community website using WordPress, and privacy and security.  CLOs everywhere should applaud this effort. Community members working together could only enhance the cohesion of the mission and this should make information and resources easily available and shareable.

Before anyone complains about this to Diplomatic Security, please read the material, okay?

Kelly Bembry Midura is a writer and the Content Manager for AAFSW (http://www.aafsw.org). She has for many years advocated for making information more accessible to Foreign Service family members.  She blogs at http://wellthatwasdifferent.wordpress.com. Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel worked as a research social scientist before her husband convinced her to try life in the Foreign Service. She blogs at http://kidswithdiplomaticimmunity.wordpress.com.

As an aside on Intranet access for spouses — the Defense Department has long provided online access and information to spouses of service members. For instance, Military OneSource offers 24/7/365 access to information on housing, schools, confidential counseling and referral services at no cost to Service members or their families.  Its Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program also offers spouses assistance with career exploration, education and training, career readiness, and career connections.

At the State Department on the other hand, spouses and family members do not even have access to feedback about life at post from other employees, unless they have logins to the Intranet.  Out of  11,528 spouses and adult family members, over 8,700 are not working or are not working at the mission and do not have regular Intranet access.  We suspect that funding the Intranet access for FS spouses and family members would cost less than a wink of what we’re spending at the Sinkhole of Afghanistan.

But — here we are in 2014 and the 21st century statecraft is still missing at home.

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U.S. Embassy Juba: 4 US Troops Wounded in South Sudan Evacuation

— Domani Spero

Following an outbreak of violence in South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy in Juba closed on December 16 and temporarily suspended routine American Citizen Services.  Within 24 hours, the State Department suspended normal operations at Embassy Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non-emergency staff. On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the world’s newest country.

On December 18,  DOD announced that at the request of the State Department, the Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate 120 personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. According to the DOD spokesman, the department also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint quick-response team formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation
Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

Later that day, the State Department confirmed the successful evacuation of three groups of U.S. citizens from South Sudan. “Two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft and a private charter flight departed Juba at 0530, 0535, and 0940 EST, respectively, carrying non-emergency Chief of Mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and third country nationals.”

Ambassador Susan D. Page said that “On the ground the violence appears to be taking on a very clear ethnic dimension.” On December 20, Secretary Kerry called for the violence to stop and sent U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth to travel to the region and “support regional efforts already underway.”

The US Embassy in Juba subsequently organized the evacuation flights of U.S. citizens from Juba in the last several days. As of today, the embassy has evacuated  at least 450 American citizens and other foreign nationals from the capital city.  It said that it had hoped to start evacuation from Bor, a town located some 200km north of the capital.  However, the evac flight came under fire, preventing the evacuation attempt. Four U.S. Service members were injured during the attack.


For an alternative map of Jonglei state in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, click here.


AFRICOM released the following statement:

Dec 21, 2013 — At the request of the Department of State, the United States Africa Command, utilizing forces from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), attempted to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town of Bor, South Sudan, today.  As the aircraft, three CV-22 Ospreys, were approaching the town they were fired on by small arms fire by unknown forces.  All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement.  Four service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.

The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment.

All four service members were treated and are in stable condition.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Army defectors had taken control of Bor earlier this week but that the spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA) reportedly said today that they had regained control of the town.

Evacuation on Social Media

This is the first embassy evacuation of Amcits that has fully utilized Facebook and Twitter, both in reaching out to Americans at post, and in providing as timely an information as possible.  When @modernemeid20 Dec  complained that “The U.S. embassy has been incredibly unhelpful. My cousin’s passport expired, they’re just leaving her hanging” @USMissionJuba was quick to respond. “@modernemeid please call us at 0912157323 for assistance.” When somebody tweeted “all evacuation planes diverted” following a plane crash on the Juba airport runway, @USMissionJuba responded swiftly, “not quite true. At least two evac flights departed after the runway cleared.”  We later asked for the number of evacuees, and the number shortly became available; tweeted, of course.  In addition to answering questions about evac flights procedures, @USMissionJuba also organize a texting campaign to alert American citizen friends and family about the emergency evac flights.

Here’s a shoutout to @USMissionJuba’s Twitter and evac ninjas for being timely and responsive and for their tireless work under very difficult circumstances.  Don’t ignore the fatigue factor and stay safe, folks!

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U.S. Embassy Juba Evacuates U.S. Citizens From South Sudan

–Domani Spero

On December 17, the State Department suspended normal operations at the U.S. Embassy in Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non emergency staff from post.  It also issued a new Travel Warning for South Sudan. (See U.S. Embassy Juba Suspends Operations, Now on Ordered Departure for Non-Emergency Staff).

On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the country.  The airport is reportedly open, with incoming sporadic flights.   Kenya Airways will resume flights to and from Juba’s airport on Thursday according to reports.

The embassy tweeted that its evac flight today was full but did not release the numbers of U.S. citizens who departed in the USG-chartered flight.  The embassy is now calling U.S. citizens in South Sudan to update them of evacuation options.  No announcement as yet on whether there will be another evacuation flight later.

U.S. Embassy Juba released the following information:

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens:  Assisting the Departure of U.S. Citizens | December 18, 2013

On December 17, 2013, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel from Juba, Republic of South Sudan. The U.S. Embassy will be assisting U.S. citizens who wish to depart Juba. U.S. citizens should review their personal security situation and consider taking advantage of planned flights arranged by the Department of State, as the embassy is able to provide only limited emergency consular services. Citizens who wish to take advantage of flights arranged by the Department of State should arrive at the Juba Airport no later than 10:30 this morning, December 18. Private U.S. citizens will need to arrange their own transport to the airport and should consider personal safety of that travel in doing so. Assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible U.S. citizens. Please note that the U.S. Department of State will arrange for additional transportation as necessary to accommodate demand, and taking into account security conditions. Please be aware that each traveler is limited to one suitcase, and pets cannot be accommodated. All travelers must have travel documentation. Further updates will be provided as information becomes available.

Departure assistance is provided on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable. This means that you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option, and you will be required to sign a promissory note for this amount and to pay this fare at a later date. You will be taken to a safe haven country, from which the traveler will need to make his or her own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance. Please also be aware that there is a limit of one suitcase per person.

During a crisis, our priority is assisting U.S. citizens. You should not expect to bring friends or relatives who are not U.S. citizens on U.S. government chartered or non-commercial transportation. Exceptions may be made to accommodate special family circumstances, such as when the spouse of a U.S. citizen is a legal permanent resident, or “green card” holder; however, it is the non-U.S. citizen’s responsibility to be sure he or she has appropriate travel documentation for the destination location. Any services provided to non-U.S. citizens are on a space-available basis after U.S. citizens are accommodated.

If you are able, please print and complete a form for each adult traveler, found at this link: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/211837.pdf.

Read in full here.









State Dept Introduces More New Ambassadors: Gaspard, Hackett, Ayalde, Costos, Yun, Berry

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s foreign-facing bureau, the  Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) released a few more videos for its ambassador introduction series.  They obviously come from one script — say a greeting in the foreign language, include spouse, kids (or other relevant relatives) and/or pets, visit some Washington memorials, and say you look forward to meeting everyone in your host country.  We have to say that these videos are getting better, but they also come across as somewhat artificial at times, particularly when they get the ambassador and spouse do a duet in their greetings. Some of the ambassadors in this series, not just the ones below are naturally telegenic and excellent in delivery, of course, but others are less so.

One of our readers inquired who watches these videos.  These are  IIP products so the intended audience are presumably foreign publics.  Although, there doesn’t seem to be standard on how these videos are “push” to their intended audience abroad.  Some videos are posted across the missions’ multiple social media platforms with negligible results while others are posted only on the mission’s YouTube channels with better though uneven results. These videos are created by professionals (PR, video, digital?) at the IIP bureau, but just because you can, does it mean you should?  Does it make sense to make these videos for all chiefs of mission regardless of the Internet penetration rates in their host countries?  For instance, in Burkina Faso, the Internet penetration rate is only 3% of the population and in Chad that rate is 1.9%. Radio isn’t sexy, but wouldn’t it have more reach in those cases?  I supposed the answer whether it makes sense depends on what kind of return IIP is looking for in its investment of time and effort. For the chiefs of mission, it’s a question of whether they should get on this hot train because everybody’s doing it or if they should find an alternative outreach method more appropriate to their host countries’ infrastructures.

We have two previously related posts on this:

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard

This video was posted by State/IIP on YouTube, and separately on US Embassy Pretoria’s website and Facebook page. The video was also plugged by the embassy’s Twitter account but the total eyeball count could not get above 400 views.

Ken Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
(with Italian subtitle)

This video was posted by State/IIP and linked to by US Embassy to the Holy See’s website and Facebook page.  Total views of about 1023 as of this writing.

U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde

Published in English and Portuguese by State/IIP on YouTube in mid September, we could not locate this video on the embassy’s website, Facebook page or a mention even on Twitter. It currently has 243 views.

James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra
(Spanish subtitle)

This video was posted by State/IIP in English and with Spanish subtitle with a total views of about 3,000. We have not been able to find this video on the embassy’s website or Facebook page, however, it was reposted by the embassy’s YouTube channel where it registered approximately 6,300 eyeballs.

Joe Yun, U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
(Malay subtitle)

This video released by State/IIP in English and with Malay subtitle currently has about 320 views. It does not look like it’s posted on the embassy’s website but it was  reposted on the embassy’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel where it has about 755 views.

John Berry, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia

Posted by State/IIP in September, it has about 1030 views. Reposted by US Embassy Canberra on the embassy’s YouTube channel, it currently has 25,791 views


$630K To Buy Facebook Fans — Is That Really Such a Sin? Only If There’s Nothin’ But Strategery

◉  By Domani Spero


We blogged last month about the OIG report on the State Department’s IIP Bureau (See State Dept’s $630,000 Social Media “Buying Fans” Campaign,  a Success — But Where’s the Love?). At one point, we Googled $630,000 and we got 6,260 results in 10 seconds. Few of them complimentary for blowing that much dough to buy “friends.” The Daily Beast asks, “Oh, State Department, didn’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t buy your friends?”

C’mon folks, the USG buy friends all the time. It even buy frienemies, who occasionally bites it behind and in front of cameras.

Anyway, today, The Cable’s John Hudson has  this: Unfriend: State Dept’s Social Media Shop Is DC’s “Red-Headed Stepchild” where a former congressional staffer with knowledge of the bureau calls IIP or the Bureau of International Information Programs “the the redheaded stepchild of public diplomacy.”  An unnamed source also told The Cable that its main problem was finding something it actually does well. “It has an ill-defined mandate and no flagship product that anyone outside of Foggy Bottom has ever heard of.”

Actually, it used to run america.gov, an easily recognizable product created under the previous administration. But some bright bulbs decided to reinvent it into something easily memorable; you think  IIP Digital and you think, of course,  America. (see Foggy Bottom’s “Secret” Blog, Wild Geese – Oh, It’s Pretty Wild!).

The Cables’s piece has a quote from Tom Nides, the State Department’s former deputy secretary for management and resources who defended IIP in the wake of the OIG report:

“We have to allow our departments to be innovators and take risks. And if you’re an innovator, some things just aren’t going to work… The bureau does some really innovative and interesting stuff.” 

Like the e-reader debacle.  When somebody run something by the seat of their pants .. well, okay we’ll agree to call it interesting but please, let’s not/not call this innovative.  See What Sunk the State Dept’s $16.5 Million Kindle Acquisition? A Complaint. Plus Missing Overall Goals

Tara Sonenshine, until recently the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who oversees IIP also spoke to The Cable:

“OK, they spent time acquiring too many followers. They built up the traffic to their site. Is that really such a sin?” she asked in an interview with The Cable. “They moved quickly into social media at a time when Secretary of State Clinton said we should have 21st century statecraft. I don’t know why that’s such a bad thing.”

Is that really such a sin? Here is the problem that the OIG inspectors were not happy with:

“The absence of a Department-wide PD strategy tying resources to priorities directly affects IIP’s work. Fundamental questions remain unresolved. What is the proper balance between engaging young people and marginalized groups versus elites and opinion leaders? Which programs and delivery mechanisms work best with which audiences? What proportion of PD resources should support policy goals, and what proportion should go to providing the context of American society and values? How much should PD products be tailored for regions and individual countries, and how much should be directed to a global audience? What kinds of materials should IIP translate and into which languages? Absent a Department wide strategy, IIP decisions and priorities can be ad hoc, arbitrary, and lack a frame of reference to evaluate the bureau’s effectiveness. The 2004 OIG IIP inspection report recommended that the Department conduct a management review of PD. The Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs created an Office of Policy and Outreach but did not carry out the management review. A strategy that ties resources to priorities is essential to resolving questions of mission and organization for IIP in general and for the PD function in particular.”

Makes one wonder why not.

The recommended management review in 2004 did not happen under Margaret D. Tutwiler (2003-2004) not under Karen Hughes (2005-2007) not under James K. Glassman (2008-2009) or Judith McHale (2009-2011).  And it did not happen under Tara D. Sonenshine (2012-2013).

Which is how you end up with State Dept’s Winning Hearts and Minds One Kindle at a Time Collapses …. Presently Dead.

Or how you get an odd Facebook campaigns on intellectual property theft and the importance of IP rights led by US embassies in Canada, Spain, Estonia, Uruguay, Suriname, Guyana, and Chile. (via Ars Technica). You’d think that if you do an embassy FB campaign on IP rights, you should at least target the 39 countries in USTR’s Watch List. Suriname, Guyana and Estonia did not even make that Watch List.

Or how tweets can get “bungled” and no one has the @embassyhandler’s back, not even the State Department Spokesperson.

Or how embassies create “fun” videos that cost time and money that does not fit/poorly fit an occasion or serve any real purpose (See employees around the U.S. Embassy in Manila sing and dance to the Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe” in December 2012, the Harlem Shake by U.S. Embassy Algiers in February 2013, or the U.S. Embassy Tashkent Navruz dance celebration in Uzbek Gangnam style in March 2013!

Look, we are not averse to seeing videos from our diplomatic posts, but they do require time and money.  Rehearsals, anyone?  We’d like to see some purpose put into them beyond just being the “in” thing to do.  (see some good ones US Embassy Bangkok’s Irrestibly Charming Happy 2013 GreetingUS Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You, and US Embassy Costa Rica: La Visa Americana, Gangnam Style).
In December 2012, Ms. Soneshine gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation, touting  “real success” with IIP’s FB properties:

IIP, the Bureau of International Information Programs, has had real success with its four major Facebook properties, which engage foreign audiences on issues related to innovation, democracy, conservation, and the USA.

Our metrics help us refine our understanding of the hopes and aspirations of young people in key countries, allowing us to explain our goals, policies and values in particular and responsive ways. In just 15 months, our Facebook following has expanded from 800,000 to more than 8 million, as they like, share, and retweet in their communities. And that includes young people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and Venezuela.

Ms. Soneshine did not mention how much money the USG spent to expand the number of those Facebook followers or the rate of the engagement.

In the same speech, she touted the use of “rigorous, evidence-based” work that “demonstrate the effectiveness” of the State Department programs:

[O]ur in-house staff – Statewide – includes Ph.D. social scientists, program evaluators who have worked all over the world, pollsters who left successful careers in the private sector to work for us, and other communications experts.

Our rigorous, evidence-based, social scientific work now allows us to go beyond anecdote and demonstrate the effectiveness of our programs and work in increasing foreign public understanding of U.S. society, government, culture, our values and the democratic process.

Here is what the OIG says:

The Office of Audience Research and Evaluation is charged with assessing bureau programs and conducting audience research for PD work. It is not performing either duty adequately. The coordinator brought a former colleague from the private sector into the bureau to oversee the operation, which is attached to the front office. However, that employee had no U.S. Government experience with the issues surrounding PD research or familiarity with the programs, products, and services IIP offers. At about the same time, the Office of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs transferred to IIP the responsibility for managing a PD database for tracking embassies’ work, along with the responsibility for preparing a report assessing the global impact of PD. Since the 2011 reorganization that put these changes in place, the office has accomplished little.


In the aftermath of the release of the IIP report, Ms. Soneshine reportedly sent out a lengthy email offering to connect recipients “directly with the bureau’s leadership so that you can learn more about IIP and its great work, in addition to hearing how the bureau is proactively implementing the report’s recommendations.”

She reportedly also touted the bureau’s accomplishments and writes that “IIP is now positioned firmly in the 21st Century and will innovate constantly to stay at the forefront of modern Public Diplomacy.”

That must be why the fishes are leaping out the barrel; fishes to refer to multiple species of fish in that specific barrel.


Related item:

-05/31/13   Inspection of the Bureau of International Information Programs  [975 Kb]

US Embassy Algiers: environment remains “unusually taxing” and about that success in social media

The State Department’s OIG released recently its inspection report of the U.S. Embassy in Algeria.  Ambassador Henry S. Ensher and his DCM, Elizabeth M. Aubin arrived at post in July and September respectively, last year.  During the OIG inspection last fall, three of the five section chief positions were vacant. Below are the report’s Key Judgments:

• [This section has been redacted. This section has been redacted. This section has been redacted.]
• The management section provides inadequate services to its customers. Opaque processes, perceptions of undue influence and preferential treatment in hiring, and poor communication contribute to customer dissatisfaction with management services.
• Management controls are weak due to a lack of standard operating procedures in vulnerable areas and insufficient collaboration among units, particularly in supply chain management.
• Interagency coordination on counterterrorism, economic and trade issues, and foreign assistance is excellent. Although the United States and Algeria cooperate closely on only a narrow range of issues, related primarily to counterterrorism, the embassy uses assistance programs to promote broader common interests.
• The Ambassador recognizes the centrality of public diplomacy (PD) to achieving the embassy’s goals and supports PD programs and activities. Embassy Algiers has effectively engaged with young people, a priority target audience, and employs a diverse range of exchange programs and PD platforms.

Operating Environment:

Embassy Algiers operates in an unusually difficult and dangerous environment that requires strong American management skills and expertise. The current management section has neither the staff nor the experienced leadership to operate effectively. The professional credentials of the current management team do not constitute a recipe for success: a management officer who had never served overseas previously; U.S. direct-hire unit chiefs who, with one exception, were serving in their functional areas for the first time; and LE staff members with mixed levels of proficiencies and who are still recovering from malfeasance cases in the recent past. Many of the findings in this inspection report mirror those of the last two inspections in 2001 and 2006. The former deputy chief of mission, who departed immediately prior to the OIG inspection, provided neither guidance nor sufficient mentoring to the management section. The absence of adequate front office support contributed to protracted debates and bureaucratic logjams at the working level. The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs characterized the management section’s operations in more positive terms than OIG found to be warranted.

Family Member Employment:

The U.S. citizen eligible family member hiring process also generates complaints of favoritism and lack of fairness. The embassy’s hiring practices do not conform to Department recruitment policy guidelines contained in the Local Employee Recruitment Policy Guidebook. For example, the embassy has not constituted a post employment committee to review the qualifications of U.S. citizen eligible family members and U.S. veterans who apply for embassy positions. The committee must document its deliberations and prepare a formal memorandum to the chief of mission, recommending appointments for all U.S. citizen eligible family members and veterans who are hired at the mission. The human resources office has drafted, but not yet completed, a family member appointment handbook and other implementing guidance for hiring eligible family members. In the absence of a properly functional hiring process, the embassy cannot address concerns that eligible family member hiring is not transparent and free of improper influence.

Entry-Level Officer Mentoring

The embassy does not have a formal mentoring and professional development program for ELOs, as required by Department guidance (2010 State 120467). The large complement of untenured, first- or second-tour officers and specialists—13 employees, representing more than a third of the Department contingent —combined with the paucity of mid-level professionals, puts a heavy burden on the mission’s few senior officers. In some sections, adequate supervision, training, and mentoring are also deficient. [REDACTED]

There are a couple parts in the report where more enlightenment would have been nice:

Consular Management
Consular management and local staff observe consular leadership tenets. All LE staff members have been cross-trained in at least two of the consular functional areas. The section is sufficiently staffed to meet its visa and American citizens service workload. Standard operating procedures for all routine functions are in use and available to everyone in the section. The deputy chief of mission reviews the adjudications of the consular section chief.

The paragraph above is the entire section on consular management. The inspection occurs every five years and that’s all there is to say?  Management and staff observe the consular leadership tenets – like how? And which ones? All of them?

The OIG inspectors also reviewed the embassy’s web and social media usage and have the following conclusion:

Internet usage is growing but still limited in Algeria. Facebook is the dominant social medium. The embassy successfully uses its Web page and social media to disseminate and amplify policy information, promote programs, and facilitate contact with younger Algerians. PAS Algiers places appropriate emphasis on social media and allocates resources to locally relevant social media.

The report, however, never discussed the OIG’s measure for success in this area.  How can you tell that an embassy has “successfully” used its web page and social media platforms — number of fans? number of comments? type of engagement? number of face-to-face contact? mere existence?

US Embassy Algiers has four, yes, four Facebook accounts:

U.S.Embassy Algiers-Alumni & Education Advising has 2709 fans and open to the general online public. The following FB pages are apparently up but are only open to registered FB users.

  • US Embassy Algiers Consular Section – American Citizen Services
  • US Embassy Algiers Consular Section – Visa Unit
  • U.S.Embassy Algiers Access Program

US Embassy Algiers joined YouTube on Oct 7, 2009. It has 248 video uploads and currently has 285 subscribers.  It is also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/USEmbAlgiers with 704 followers.

Algeria is the second largest country in the African continent. It currently sits as the top 7th internet country in Africa, in terms of users. In 2000, there were only 50,000 internet users in the country.  Internet usage statistics for 2010 indicates 4.7 million users, and an internet penetration rate of 13.6%.  Internet World Stats citing Facebook numbers says that there are 2,836,740 FB users in Algeria as of December 2011.

I admit I was never good with math but c’mon — the embassy has 2,709 FB fans in a country with 2,836,740 FB users. It has approximately a total of 3,600 users across FB, YouTube and Twitter (non gen-public FB pages excepted) in a country with some 4.7 million internet users. 

Dear OIG, what the heck are you talking about?

US Embassy Sarajevo: February Blizzard

The US Embassy in Sarajevo last Friday issued an emergency message to Americans in BiH warning of continuing winter freeze:

The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo informs U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of continuing severe winter weather conditions impacting the country.  More snow and frigid temperatures are forecasted for the next seven days (February 10-17).  We urge U.S. citizens to stay alert and to monitor local weather reports closely and follow the instructions provided by local BiH officials.

The entire Federation and parts of the Republic of Srpska currently remain under a state of emergency.  Because of heavy snow and record low temperatures in Bosnia and Herzegovina, road conditions are hazardous with most roads covered in snow and ice.  In addition, the Mostar region is experiencing severe power outages.  According to press reports, regular access routes to many villages in eastern Bosnia are also blocked.  Public schools have been closed temporarily.  The airport in Sarajevo is open.

Photo from US Embassy Sarajevo/FB

Click here for more photos from the February blizzard.