Howard W. French on Gayle Smith’s Appointment as USAID Administrator

Posted: 1:29 am EDT


We’ve previously posted about the nomination of Gayle Smith as the next USAID administrator on May 5 (see Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator.  What if every nominee gets a thorough treatment like this?

Excerpt from Mr. French’s piece over at FP:

When President Obama recently nominated Gayle Smith to be the next administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, many members of the country’s small Africa-related foreign policy community howled.

Smith’s critics, myself included, have objected to the fact that over the years, this former journalist has been a conspicuous backer of authoritarian regimes in places like Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Rwanda. When I first made this point publicly, a former White House staffer offered a disconcertingly ambivalent response: “I’m not sure if there were more compelling candidates out there,” he said.

He may well be right – and the reason for the lack of qualified personnel is a direct consequence of Washington’s long failure to devise a coherent policy toward Africa.
Gayle Smith should certainly not stand alone to answer for this horrible record, for which the American foreign policy establishment has never given anything like a proper reckoning. One of the reasons for that, though, is the persistence of people like Smith, and her patron, Susan Rice, in positions of high authority. Another, equally pernicious, is the general disinterest that Africa receives from the foreign policy thinkers.

As a region of the world, Africa is virtually alone in being consigned to people with thin expertise and little policy background or clout to shape and guide American diplomacy. Top Africa jobs have often become a kind of sop for African Americans within the bureaucracy. Celebrities like Bono, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck are looked to help set priorities and galvanize public interest. That this should be necessary must be seen as a failure of the policy establishment itself to think more creatively and with more ambition about such a large part of the world.

Read in full via FP, From Quarantine to Appeasement (registration may be required).

Ms. Smith’s nomination requires Senate confirmation. It is currently pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Howard W. French journalist, author, and photographer, as well as an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously a Senior Writer for The New York Times, where he spent most of a nearly 23 year career as a foreign correspondent, working in and traveling to over 100 countries on five continents.  From 1979 to 1986, he lived in West Africa, where he worked as a translator, taught English literature at the University of Ivory Coast, and lived as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and other publications. From 1994 to 1998, he covered West and Central Africa for the NYT, reporting on wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa, with particular attention to the fall of the longtime dictator of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko.


Benghazi Select Committee to Interview 60 Additional Witnesses, Are You On the List?

Posted: 2:38 am EDT

The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi released an Interim Progress Update on May 8, 2015. Below is an excerpt from the report including an item on its intent to call mid-level managers from the State Department:


  • In the coming months, an additional 60 witnesses representing current and former officials and employees from the State Department, the White House and the Intelligence Community will be interviewed.
  • The Committee is nearing the end of its first round of interviews with State Department employees. Information obtained from this first round of interviews has raised additional questions of current and former State Department officials. Upon completion of these interviews, the Committee will begin a second round of interviews with additional State Department employees. This second round of interviews will consist of mid-level managers at the Department, many of whom were and are responsible for making day-to-day decisions and implementing the policy that is set by State Department leadership.
  • The Committee also intends to interview current and former senior State Department officials. These officials include Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin, Susan Rice and Patrick Kennedy, among others.
  • [T]he Committee intends to interview former White House and National Security Staff personnel regarding their roles in the events prior to, during and after the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, former Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, former Deputy Strategic Communications Advisor Ben Rhodes, former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor, and former Director for Libya on the National Security Staff Ben Fishman. None of these individuals have previously testified before Congress regarding their role in and including knowledge of the events prior to, during or after the Benghazi attacks.
  • Beginning in June, the Committee intends to interview current and former Department of Defense employees about their role in the response to the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include Secretary Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey and General Carter Ham, among others.

The 11-page update is available to read here (pdf).


US Embassy Rwanda Remembers 26 Local Employees Killed in 1994 Genocide

Posted: 12:25 am EDT







To read about the frustrations of dealing with inaction from Washington, see Ambassador Prudence Bushnell interview, A Soul Filled with Shame via ADST. Below is an excerpt:

Once the RPF took over Rwanda, I was sent to check things out. It was yet another surreal experience. The countryside of one of the most populous countries in the world was literally deadly quiet. Berries ready to harvest were rotting on the coffee trees; houses stood vacant. The man who served as the ambassador’s driver drove us. When we were stopped by child soldiers at checkpoints, I learned never to look them in the eye. As we drove we heard the story of how the driver had hidden and what happened to some of the other embassy employees. Many were dead.

I participated in a memorial service for the FSNs [local Foreign Service employees] who were killed. I will never forget looking into the stony faces of employees who had been abandoned by the U.S. government. American officers who came up to speak would weep, to a person. The Rwandans just looked at us. I can only imagine what they were thinking and the trauma that was still with them.

She was asked what was the rationale for not getting involved:

“We had no interest in that country.” “Look at what they did to Belgian peacekeepers.” “It takes too long to put a peacekeeping operation together.” “What would our exit strategy be?” “These things happen in Africa.” “We couldn’t have stopped it.” I could go on….

I could and did make the argument that it was not in our national interest to intervene. Should we  send young Americans into a domestic firefight, possibly to be killed on behalf of people we don’t know in a country in which we have no particular interest? From the perspective of national interest, people like Richard Clarke will argue we did things right.

In terms of moral imperative there is no doubt in my mind that we did not do the right thing. I could have a clear bureaucratic conscience from Washington’s standpoint and still have a soul filled with shame.


Online Petition to POTUS: Nominate “Mad Dog Mattis” as Next Ambassador to Moscow

— Domani Spero

Francis Regan of San Francisco, CA has started a petition to nominate General James Mattis, USMC, Ret. to be the next Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  Below is part of his justification:

Ambassador McFaul resigned last month to return to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, leaving us without a dedicated official envoy to Moscow. We need an Ambassador to advocate for regional stability and economic confidence. We need an Ambassador right now to be a stone in the Putin administration’s shoe, always present and felt with every step. This is not something we should expect of either the Secretary of State or the Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, who each have other responsibilities.

Finally, we need an Ambassador with a detailed knowledge of existing US capability across every agency and department; a proven ability to deliver finely calibrated messages in volatile situations; and a keen awareness of the ability and willingness of our allies to stand beside us under any given set of circumstances.

Ambassador McFaul and General Mattis have been colleagues at the Hoover Institution for the past six weeks, where they have undoubtedly been talking through this Ukraine crisis as it has unfolded from unrest, to the shooting of protesters, to the ouster of President Yanukovych, and finally to an undeclared Russian invasion of Crimea.

As of this writing, the petition has 50 signatories. Some of the reasons given by the supporters are below:

  • Because I’m a Marine and I know Mattis takes zero shit.
  • Because General Mattis is a badass.
  • Because I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes…
  • Because Gen. Mattis has a zero-tolerance for bullshit.
  • I know General Mattis personally & professionally and he is by far the answer and the patriot to what this country is facing at this time.

One supporter of this petition which is addressed to President Obama states his reason as, “Because this guy unlike the President has a set of balls.

Obviously, that’s really going to help.

In 2013, Gen. James Mattis, known to his troops as “Mad Dog Mattis,” retired after 41 years of military service. Business Insider called him “an icon of sorts in the Marine Corps, arguably the most famous living Marine” and collected some of his unforgettable quotes. Take a look.

On a related note, WaPo’s Al Kamen reported a few days ago that White House press secretary Jay Carney, rumored to be angling for the top spot in Moscow denied that he wanted the job.  Rumint right now apparently includes national security adviser Susan Rice‘s interest in having a woman in Moscow.  In the Loop threw in some names:
  • Sheila Gwaltney , the current Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy Moscow; was deputy chief of mission during Amb. McFaul’s tenure; was consul general in St. Petersburg from 2008 to 2011. We understand that she is scheduled to rotate out this summer with Lynne M. Tracy, current DAS for South and Central Asia as the next DCM.
  • Pamela Spratlen , U.S. Ambassador to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who is a former No. 2 at the embassy in Kazakhstan and former consul general in Vladivostok, Russia.
  • Rose Gottemoeller , undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She just got confirmed on March 6, 2014.

Who else are you hearing?

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Officially In: Victoria Nuland — From State Spokesperson to EUR Bureau

—By Domani Spero
On May 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Victoria Nuland as the next Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR). The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Victoria Nuland, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, has served as the State Department Spokesperson since 2011.  Previously, from 2010 to 2011, she was Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.  Ambassador Nuland served on the faculty of the National War College from 2008 to 2010, after serving as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from 2005 to 2008.  From 2003 to 2005, she was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and from 2000 to 2003, she served as U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO.  From 1997 to 1999, Ambassador Nuland was Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for the former Soviet States at the Department of State.  Ambassador Nuland served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow from 1991 to 1993, Mongolia in 1988, and at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China from 1985 to 1986.

She received a B.A. from Brown University.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27

Look at that career trajectory!

Next to Susan Rice, Ambassador Nuland is probably the most recognizable name associated with Benghazi. The Benghazi “talking points” that is, which proved to be a most controversial subject with more lives than a cat.   She is also one of the 13 former and current officials of the State Department that the House Oversight Committee would like to chat with.

If confirmed, Ambassador Nuland who is a career diplomat would succeed political appointee Philip Gordon, who was appointed to the National Security Staff as Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region in March 2013.

Ambassador Nuland’s nomination is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm.  It should be an interesting hearing or … a boring one, depends on who shows up for the hearing.


Related item:

May 23, 2013 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Joshua Foust on The Uncomfortable Questions Not Raised by Benghazi

In the most recent Oversight Committee hearing, State Department’s Gregory Hicks mentioned that there were 55 people in the two annexes in Benghazi.  Earlier reports says that a total of 30 people were evacuated from Benghazi. Only  7 of the 30 evacuees were employees of the State Department.  So if 55 is correct, there were actually 48 CIA folks in Benghazi.  How come no one is throwing a tantrum to hear what they have to say?

Joshua Foust writes that the press and Congress are asking the wrong questions.


The eight-month controversy over the attacks on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi reintensified last week, as the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Tripoli testified before a panel at the House of Representatives. The hearing, however, seemed to focus not on the attack itself, but rather on what happened afterward: the content of the talking points handed to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and whether President Obama referred to it as terrorism quickly enough.Indeed, the entire scandal, as it exists in the public, is a bizarre redirection from the serious failures for which no one has yet answered.
The CIA’s conduct during and after Benghazi should be the real scandal here, not the order in which certain keywords make their way into press conferences. It is a tragedy that two diplomats died, including the first ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Sadly, they are part of a growing number of American diplomats hurt or killed in the line of duty. Embassies and diplomatic facilities were attacked 13 times under President Bush, resulting in dozens of dead but little action. If future Benghazis are to be avoided, we need to grapple with why the attack and our inadequate response unfolded the way it did.

Many of those issues were raised in the Accountability Review Board report that the State Department released last December. But to this day, the complicated nature of CIA operations and, more importantly, how they put at risk the other American personnel serving alongside them have gone largely unremarked upon. It’s past time to demand answers from Langley.


Read in full here.

Joshua Foust is a freelance writer and an analyst. Check out his website here:; follow him on Twitter @joshuafoust.

This piece originally appeared in Medium, a new elegant publishing platform from Evan Williams, of Blogger and Twitter fame. Check it out.


— DS











Mario Montoya’s Mission to a Revolution Spurs Search for Stevens’ Benghazi Security Detail?

In December, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) told Breitbart News that he has been “thwarted” by the State Department from seeing any Americans who survived the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in  Benghazi.

“My understanding is that we still have some people in the hospital. I’d like to visit with them and wish them nothing but the best but the State Department has seen it unfit for me to know who those people are—or even how many there are,” Rep. Chaffetz said. “I don’t know who they are. I don’t know where they live. I don’t know what state they’re from. I don’t even know how many there are. It doesn’t seem right to me.”

May we just say that it’s actually a good thing that the good congressman from Utah does not know where the survivors live?  Why? Because who’s to say that a congressman running for reelection every two years would not use the survivors as props in a future campaign?  This is the same congressman who did an overnight trip to Libya (via miljet?) to do some investigation, did not go to Benghazi but did show up pretty promptly at Fox News after the trip.

Don’t know if there is a cure for it, but Opportunistic Disorder Syndrome (ODS) is a common affliction among elected officials.

Seriously, does Congress really think they could find out more the what and whys and hows from talking to the survivors, the same ones who most probably are recovering from physical, emotional and psychological trauma? And what are they going to ask the survivors? Whether or not there was a demonstration prior to the attack?  Or what was Susan Rice doing on the Sunday talk shows? Are they going to ask the survivors why they were in Benghazi? Orders! Dammit, they got orders. Why were they in Benghazi is beyond their pay grades, folks.  Didn’t Congress folks ask the OGA people what they were doing in Benghazi? For sure, they were not there for the fun of it. They were there because somebody had made the decision that it was in our national interest that they be there.  But the OGA people could not possibly be there just on their own. They needed some leafy cover.

Dear god! Senator McCain wants to see the survivors come to Capitol Hill and give their account of what happened in Benghazi on September 11.  Because obviously, the survivors have not already talked to the FBI investigators and they need to answer questions from a bunch of self-serving politicians who cannot get their heads out of their collective posteriors? Ew, apologies for that imagery.  Anyway, maybe they should served these survivors with congressional subpoenas.  Let’s see what kind of PR Congress get for dragging these survivors to a useless hearing. The same survivors who were wounded in the attack; people who have watched their colleagues bleed and die and are never the same again, even if they made it out alive.  They’re not the perpetrators but by all means, go call them to your hearing and grill them to death.

We should note that only a fraction of the Benghazi survivors, about 7 individuals are State Department folks. There were reportedly 32 survivors from the Benghazi attack. Besides the 7 State Dept employees, the rest of the survivors are OGA people; okay call them Annex people, or former Petreaus people. Why are these Hill people not screaming bloody murder that the CIA is hiding their 25 Benghazi survivors from Congress?

And then there’s a spin off. First the Benghazi survivors were “hidden” and now apparently Ambassador Stevens security detail’s identities were “suppressed”.

A few days ago, this piece went online:

State Dept. Publicized Names, Photos of Stevens’ Benghazi Security Detail Before 9/11/12; Suppressed Their Identities Afterward |  February 1, 2013

Before the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, the department undertook a calculated effort to publicize the agents’ names and faces–presenting them in a State Department promotional magazine posted on the Internet. After the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks, the State Department has treated the names and faces of the DS agents who survived those attacks as if they were classified information.

On January 28, the House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, and House Oversight National Security Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz had sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to provide them with certain documents and information relating to the Benghazi attack. Among the things the committee asked Clinton to handover was: “A complete list of every individual—including name, title, and agency—interviewed by the ARB for the December 19, 2012, report, and any documents and communications referring or relating to the interviews.”

The online publication made the following suggestion:

If the committee wanted the names of the DS agents who were in Benghazi with Chris Stevens during the 2011 rebellion—as opposed to those who were with Stevens in Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack—all they would need to do is go to the State Department’s website and look up the December 2011 issue of State Magazine.

The cover story of this official government publication is entitled: “Mission to a Revolution.” It was written by Mario Montoya, identified in the magazine as one of the DS agents who protected Stevens in Benghazi during the 2011 Libyan rebellion.

This one:

Screen Shot 2013-02-06

From State Magazine, December 2011

In pages 18-23 of the article, are indeed the names of some of the DSS agents in Benghazi:

DS agents Jeremy Clarke, Chris Little and Mario Montoya, medic Jack Van Cleve, Regional Security Officer Mike Ranger and Security Protective Specialists Domingo Ruiz and Ronald Young protected mission staff traveling in Benghazi or in the rebel-controlled towns in eastern Libya.

In another part of the article is this:

But the group’s members needed more than a warm welcome; they needed a place to bed down for the night. In expeditionary diplomacy, they key is to make do with what you have, so the mission’s first night was spent aboard ship while Diplomatic Security Service agents Brian Haggerty, Kent Anderson, Josh Vincent, Chris Deedy, James Mcanelly, Jason Bierly and Ken Davis, Agent in Charge Keith Carter and Political Officer Nathan Tek scoured the city for rooms. They soon settled into a formerly government-owned hotel where other foreign missions and international journalists were lodged, but had to move when a car bomb exploded in the hotel parking lot.

We presumed that the main reasons the names and the photos actually made it to publication was that those agents were no longer in Libya.

And oh, hey! Did you hear that the DSS agents tour of duty at the temporary mission in Benghazi was a series of 45-60 days TDY rotations? The memo highlighted by the Oversight Committee containing the security request mention a permanent staffing for an RSO on a one year assignment.  Traditionally, RSOs have regular tours that range from 1-3 years depending on the locations of their assignments.  But Benghazi was unique; it did not have a permanent staff similar to other embassies and consulates. It was staffed by temporary duty personnel.

The Libyan Revolution occurred from 5 February 2011 – 23 October 2011.  Chris Stevens was the Special Representative to the National Transitional Council  during the Libyan revolution. He got to Benghazi in April 2011 and left sometime in November 2011.

In September 2011, the accredited US Ambassador to Tripoli Gene Cretz  returned to Libya. Chris Stevens  later that fall returned to Washington, D.C. President Obama officially nominated him to be the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in January 2012.   Chris Stevens remained in DC to prepare for his confirmation hearing.  The SFRC held his nomination hearing on March 20, 2012.

His nomination confirmed, Ambassador Stevens arrived in Tripoli on May 26, 2012 and presented his credentials the following day.

In any case, most of the names mentioned in the Montoya article have very light digital footprint. A quick look online indicate that one is now assigned in D.C. and we found one who actually made the news on his own.  Chris Deedy who in November 2011 was accused in a Waikiki shooting during the APEC conference in Hawaii was one of the DSS agents who was in Benghazi when Chris Stevens was the Special Representative to the Transitional Council.

Some of the related headlines made it sound as if these were the same agents.  Our source intimately familiar with the comings and goings  told us that none of those who accompanied  Chris Stevens to Benghazi as Special Rep in April 2011 were with him when he returned to Benghazi as ambassador in September 2012.

While we can understand why the government would want to protect the OGA names,  we can’t think of a reason why the names of the rest of the interviewees could not be made public. We would not have any argument about Congress forcing State to make public the list of individuals interviewed by the Accountability Review Board.  This was done in the East Africa Embassy Bombing ARB.  Besides, this is after all an “accountability” report, we believe the names of those interviewed should be made public. We are not so much interested on the names of the survivors as much as the names of the senior officials who were or were not interviewed by the Board.

That said, we certainly would not want Congress to add to the trauma that the survivors already suffered by parading them around under the broad cover of “investigating” this incident in political perpetuity (until 2014 for the senator on the growl or the next four years, take your pick).  Presumably, the FBI have talked to all the survivors.  If Congress cannot trust the FBI investigators to talk to the survivors and investigate this incident, why the foxtrot do we have an FBI?

Meanwhile, just a couple days ago, over in the less dysfunctional Washington, Anne Stevens, sister of the late Ambassador Stevens and a doctor at Seattle Children’s Hospital is finishing the work her brother started — creating a collaborative relationship with U.S. doctors to advance Libyan health care.  According to Seattle Times, Dr. Stevens thought that the most fitting tribute to her older brother’s life was to complete the work he had started in Benghazi, helping Libyans improve emergency care in the troubled and dangerous city.








Benghazi Hearings with Hillary Clinton: Some Take Aways

So after months of endless chatter and lots of ink spilled on Secretary Clinton testifying on Benghazi, the moment finally arrived on January 23, 2013. You’d think that after over four months waiting for the Secretary of State to appear in Congress to answer questions about the Benghazi attack, that our elected representatives had the time to craft questions that would help inform us better.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.    Did we learn anything new from the hearing? Well, not really but we did have a few take aways.

I.  Folks elected to Congress apparently do not need to know basic information before coming to a hearing and asking questions. Uh-oh, brains going commando!  But that’s part of the perks of being an elected representative.  You don’t have to know anything or a lot.

Rep. Joe Wilson asked why there were no Marines in Benghazi.  Oh, Joe!

Rep. Kinzinger suggested that an F-16 could/should have been have flown over Benghazi to disperse the mob/crowd or whatever you call those attackers.

We’ve heard of things called pepper sprays, tear gas, even pain rays for crowd control but this is the first time we’ve heard of the suggestion of using F-16s for crowd dispersal.  You need to get one of those for your post asap.

Rep. Juan Vargas asked again why there were no Marines in Benghazi. Ugh! Juan, do your homework or dammit, listen!

Rep. McCaul asked why Stevens was in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.  Did he bother to read this report, or did he read it and did not believe it?

Rep. Marino on State Dept personnel who were put on administrative leave in the aftermath of the ARB report: “Why haven’t they been fired?” Clinton: “There are regulations and laws that govern that.”

Well, dammit, who wrote those regulations and laws?  Oooh!

 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on the Benghazi ARB not having interviewed Clinton: “I think that’s outrageous.”

The good congresswoman from Florida would have wanted the ARB Benghazi to interview the Secretary of State for a report that will be submitted to the Secretary of State. That would have been certainly outrageous, too, no?

She also asked: Why did State not immediately revamp our security protocols prior to the September 11th attacks?


Sen. Jeff Flake  asked if Clinton was consulted before Susan Rice was chosen to go on Sunday morning shows.

Rep. Matt Salmon: “Eric Holder has repeatedly misled about an international gun-trafficking scheme.”

Gawd, no more Rice, pleeeeaase! And did somebody scramble Matt’s hearing schedule again?  Was Eric Holder in the building?

At the SFRC hearing, the more deliberative kind, Senator Rand Paul gave himself a lengthy talk and then asked: “Is the U.S. involved in shipping weapons out of Libya to Turkey.”

Clinton’s response: “To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. That’s … Nobody has ever raised that with me.”

Dear Senator Paul, please check with OGA, the Annex people may know.

Of course, President Senator Paul will also be remembered for stealing the thunderbolts from Senator McCain with his: “Had I been president at the time and I found out that you did not read the cables … I would have relieved you of your post.”


Senator Paul was only topped by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin with his inquiry which started a heated exchange with Clinton:  “Did anybody in the State Department talk to those folks [people evacuated from Libya] very shortly afterwards?”

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton told him angrily. “Whether it’s because of a protest or whether a guy out for a walk decided to go kill some Americans, what difference at this point does it make?”

And perhaps because of that heated exchange, we will forever remember Senator Johnson as the guy who got Hillary mad, and got a public spanking in the process.  His response? “Thank you, Madame Secretary.”

II.  2016 looming large in their minds, oh my!

Tom Udall of New Mexico praised Secretary Clinton for her work on “cookstoves” which  improve lives for third world people.

Were there cookstoves in Benghazi?

Rep. Ami Bera said: “I think I speak for all the freshmen that we’re not gonna get much time to serve with you, but we hope in a few years we’ll get that chance to serve again.”

Rep. Juan Vargas said: “I have to say that because it’s true, one, and secondly, I don’t think that my wife, my 16-year-old daughter or my nine-year-old daughter … she’d probably even turn on me and wouldn’t let me in the house if I didn’t say that.  You are a hero to many, especially women ….”

That’s just a sampling of the other extreme reception that Secretary Clinton received from one side of the aisle while the other side were reportedly “grilling” her.  If you call what she got a grilling, we hate to see what a real roasting is like.

III.  1.4 million cables

Secretary Clinton told Congress that about 1.4 million cables go to the State Department every year, and they’re all addressed to her.  All you need to do is peek at those Wikileaks cables and you’ll quickly notice that almost all cables going back to Washington are addressed to  SECSTATE.  The Secretary doesn’t read all of them because that would be a crazy expectation; that’s why there are tiered leadership within that building.  There’s a cable reportedly floating around the net sent by Ambassador Stevens to the State Department about security. From best we could tell, the cable was drafted by one officer, cleared by one officer, and released by one officer under Ambassador Stevens’ signature. He is the chief of mission. All cables that went out of Tripoli were sent under his signature.

The question the reps should have asked is how many NODIS cables did Ambassador Stevens send from Tripoli?  Cables captioned NODIS identifies messages of the highest sensitivity between the chief of mission and the Secretary of State.  All other regular cables marked Routine, Priority or Immediate would have gone through the appropriate distribution channels, and up the offices and bureaus within State.  Security request cables would have been received at Diplomatic Security, any deliberation beyond the bureau would have gone up to the Under Secretary for Management (“M”).  That’s within their pay grades.  We doubt very much that any would have gone to the Secretary’s office.  Note that this is not the first time that an ambassador’s request for additional security was not seen by the Secretary of State. Ambassador Bushnell prior to the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi made a similar request to Secretary Albright. In the aftermath of the bombing  Secretary Albright told the ambassador she never saw the letter.


IV.  Iraq and Afghanistan sucked out resources

Okay, we all know this already. But here the Secretary of State, for the first time publicly acknowledged that an emphasis on security in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade diverted resources from other outposts around the world.


V. Accountability Review Boards. 

Since 1988 there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and diplomatic facilities worldwide.   Of those 19 ARBs only the ARB for the East Africa Bombings and the ARB for Benghazi are available for public view.  Can some media or accountability group please FOIA the remaining 17 ARBs? Better yet, if Congress can get its act together, it should update the regs to allow for the automatic publication of the ARBs after a certain length of time deemed appropriate.

We should note that the Accountability Review Boards are not “independent” bodies as they are often described in news reports. They are composed of individuals recommended by the Permanent Coordinating Committee (PCC) inside the State Department. A committee so transparent that you can’t find it listed in any of the DoS telephone directory.  In almost all of them, the chairman is a retired ambassador, with former, retired or current members from the federal bureaucracy.

The PCC composition itself is interesting.  Are we to understand that the PCC did not/not recommend to Secretary Clinton convening ARBs for the embassy breaches in Tunis, Sana’a, Cairo and Khartoum despite significant destruction of properties? Four ARBs in addition to Benghazi would have been too much, huh? Do please take a look at the PCC membership, and perhaps there’s the reason why.


VI. High Threat Posts. 

Secretary Clinton told the panel that she named the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High Threat Posts, “so Missions in dangerous places get the attention they need.”  She’s talking about the newly designated 17 (20?) diplomatic posts considered high threat, which obviously need its own assistant secretary and an entirely new support staff.

That’s good and that’s bad. Perhaps we need to remind the somebodies that when the US Embassy Kenya was bombed, it was not a high threat post.  Nobody seems to know how or what factors were used in determining which post get into this list.  Even folks who we presumed should know are scratching their heads; they are in the dark.  As we have pointed out previously, some posts on this high threat list are not even considered danger posts.  And some posts considered dangerous enough that the Government pays employees a danger differential to be there are not on this list. Go figure.

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

One other reminder. In the aftermath of the East Africa Bombing in 1998, and upon recommendation of the ARB for that incident, the State Department kicked off its Crisis Management Exercise program for its worldwide posts. The Crisis Management Training Office (CMT) went from a one-person shop ran for years by, if we remember correctly, a retired Special Forces colonel and Vietnam vet, to a big shop with lots of trainers and travel money ran by an FSO who was not a crisis management professional.  Yeah, you should read some of the scenarios they table-top sometimes where there’s a plane crash, and an earthquake and hell, a tsunami and a hostage taking, too, all on the same day, why not?

See if you can find an assessment on how much impact the CMEs have on mission preparedness. Particularly, if the local employees who play a large part in any catastrophic event overseas are not included in the exercise.  Did any of the CMEs ever written in the last 10 years imagined any of the events that played out in the last two years?

In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, Congress often is lax with its purse strings. It does not want to be perceived as functioning on the wrong side of the story. It’s bad for reelection.  We have no doubt that Congress will increased funds for building new embassy compounds or hardening old ones, as well as increase US Marine Guards and Diplomatic Security personnel.  We don’t know if the MOU between DOD and State has been updated to allow the active use of force. Because what does it matter if you have more Marines if they are only allowed to engage in a passive response? Did anyone ask that during the hearing?

Perhaps the important take away in all this is that once you create and fund something in the bureaucracy, it lives almost to perpetuity; it is easier to stand up an office than remove an old one.  Has the Crisis Management Office served its purpose in the last decade? Maybe, maybe not. We have no way of knowing but it continue to exist.  Was the new directorate for High Threat posts within Diplomatic Security well thought of? Maybe, maybe not. But the office now exist and will operate with new authority, staff, funding and  the accompanying high profile within and outside the building.  Until the next big one happens, in which case, a new program or office will be quickly created in direct response to the incident.


Happy Now? Susan Rice Removes Name From Consideration as SecState

NBS News exclusive reports that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments.

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she’s saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects.

“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,” she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News.

Read the full letter here via Politico.

Below is the Statement by the President on Ambassador Rice:

Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.

Somewhere Senator McGrouchy is dancing in the moonlight.

Rumors abound that former Senator Chuck Hagel is heading to the Pentagon. In which case, it seems likely that the Senate’s favorite, John Kerry is a step closer to Foggy Bottom.

domani spero sig






All Susan All the Time — Foggy Bottom’s Hallway Conversation?

The Daily Beast has a new addition to the Susan Rice, please let this be over story already. It’s titled, Susan Rice’s Personality ‘Disorder’.  Is it just us or are folks trying to outdo themselves with their Susan headlines?  We fear that the longer this runs, the more outrageous the headlines will be; so they’ll get our attention despite cruising towards some darn cliff, of course.  While it is not surprising that this is a hallway conversation over in Foggy Bottom, we’re still struck by this: (excerpt):

George W. Bush, had flouted longstanding tradition and downgraded the U.N. job to sub-cabinet status, but President Obama restored it to cabinet rank for Rice—thus insuring intense bureaucratic rivalry between the U.S. Mission in New York and the State Department in Washington, where various career foreign-service officers view the prospect of Rice’s takeover with suspicion.

“It’s the hallway conversation,” says a longtime State Department staffer. “It’s like, Jesus Christ, woe unto us all if this happens!”

Indeed, Rice has apparently left a trail of bruised egos and injured feelings in the nation’s capital. A veteran of the Clinton White House recalls a junior aide being summoned by Rice, then director of Africa policy at the National Security Council, and returning to his desk in tears.


It’s like, Jesus Christ, must be more than just bruised egos!

How come this makes us think of our favorite resident from the Foggiest Bottom?

domani spero sig