Tag Archives: Thomas Pickering

Officially In: Danny Russel – from WH/NSS to the EAP Bureau

On May 15, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Danny Russel as the next Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (State/EAP). The WH released the following brief bio:

Danny Russel, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Asian Affairs on the White House National Security Staff (NSS).  From 2009 to 2011, he was the NSS Director for Japan, South Korea, and North Korea.  Before joining the NSS, Mr. Russel was Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the Department of State.  From 2005 to 2008, he was U.S. Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan.  Previously, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague from 2002 to 2005, and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus from 1999 to 2002.  From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Russel was Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.  Earlier assignments included posts at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea and with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Before joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. Russel was a manager for an international firm based in New York City.

His bio posted on the Institute of Korean-American Studies indicates that Mr. Russel was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and University College, University of London, UK. He is married to Keiko Abo Russel and has three children: Emily, Byron and Kevin.

He joined the Foreign Service in 1985, was posted to Tokyo and according to his bio, served as the assistant to Ambassador and former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield until 1987.

He worked twice previously with Ambassador Thomas Pickering – first from 1989-92 at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York as Political Adviser to the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Pickering, and was accredited to the Security Council.  And again from 1997-99 when he was Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Pickering. In 1996 he was awarded the State Department’s Una Chapman Cox Fellowship sabbatical and wrote a book, America’s Place in the World, published by Georgetown University.

Click here to read this item from Dispatch Japan on a possible Caroline Kennedy appointment to Tokyo, seniority and other bureau details on this appointment.

If confirmed, Mr. Russel would succeed Kurt M. Campbell who was appointed EAP Assistant Secretary in 2009 and resigned in February 2013.

–DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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QotW: Will Beth Jones Be Formally Nominated as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs?

Laura Rozen of The Back Channel has the Buzz on Obama 2.0 Middle East team.  Excerpt below related to the ARB fallout:

Among the top questions is whether acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Beth Jones will be formally nominated for the post under Secretary of State-nominee John Kerry , or whether someone new will be tapped.  Jones, a career foreign service officer, is, like Kerry, the child of US Foreign Service parents, who spent much of her childhood living abroad accompanying them on foreign assignments, including in Germany and Moscow.

Jones, who previously served as Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (2001-2005), came out of retirement in the private sector (APCO Worldwide) to assist in the Near East bureau in 2011. She assumed the Acting Assistant Secretary job for the bureau after Jeff Feltman retired to take the number three job at the United Nations last May.

Department sources said, however, that some State rank and file officers are troubled that the Benghazi investigation resulted in the departure of Jones’ deputy, Raymond Maxwell, who had come out of retirement to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Libya in 2011, department sources told the Back Channel. The perception among some in the ranks is that Jones let Maxwell take the fall, while escaping blame herself, in part because of her relationship with Tom Pickering, the veteran diplomat who chaired the Benghazi Accountability Review Board investigation, a department source who declined to speak for attribution said. Jones and Maxwell did not immediately return requests for comment.

Read in full here.

So that’s the question of the week.

We have previously blogged about the ARB fallout on personnel at State, both in the DS and NEA bureaus here and here.  We do not think that Ms. Jones will be formally nominated for a couple of reasons:

  1. While it is true that she has been on the job for about three months as acting Assistant Secretary at NEA when the September 11 attack occurred, she was the incumbent sitting at the top of the accountable regional bureau during the Benghazi Attacks. Formally nominating her for the job would look like a promotion despite the deadly fiasco inside the bureau in the lead up to the attacks.  That’s not good optics and the conspiracy sector will have a field day.  Frankly, we can’t even imagine what that confirmation would be like at the SFRC with Senators John McCain and Rand Paul plus newly minted senator from Arizona named Flake, joining in the fun, if she is nominated.
  2. If rank and file officers were troubled with the departure of NEA DAS Raymond Maxwell in the aftermath of the ARB report, imagine what the morale would be like if she formally assumes the job. With a new secretary of state, not sure, this is something he would really want to deal with at the start of his tenure. The incoming SecState has an opportunity to start with a new slate, we think that’s what he’ll do — not because of inside knowledge (we have none) but because that makes the most sense.

Besides — what’s this proclivity with calling people back from retirement?  How about these folks?  None of them qualified to run the bureau with lots of countries in the hotzones?  Where’s the next generation of State Department leaders coming up the ladder? Zap us an email if you know their undisclosed locations.

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How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?

4 State Department Resignations Follow Benghazi Report - a headline repeated with some variation since Wednesday.

The bureaucratic casualties as of December 20:  One assistant secretary, and reportedly two of his deputies, and a fourth one who was third level down from his bureau’s assistant secretary.

Only one, the assistant secretary submitted his resignation. The other three apparently were put on  “administrative leave” pending further action. Hey! What does “further action” means?  Does that mean reassignment?  Retirement? Or just go disappear until the press gets tired of this thing?  Does that mean the higher ups who dodged the bullet are still looking up what FAM cite to slap them with? Why? Oh, because the Foreign Affairs Manual is the official rules book. Anything not on it, is not considered to have real teeth.  So, obviously, if you want to line them up on a career firing squad, you better get the FAM citation right. Or Legal would have a fit. And that’ll be a ton of paperwork and what with the holidays next week …

Who the foxtrot wants to be stuck at the office doing that sort of stuff!?

Anyway, one was reportedly preparing to retire, anyway.

Too bad his office was not on the 7th floor.

In any case, if he’s been in with XX years of service, he will get a Certificate of Appreciation personally signed by the Secretary of State. Woohoo!

One presumably did not know what was coming; blithely posting on social media about the NYT story on the ARB report the night it was released.

No one called to say we’re releasing this report tonight and there’s no breach or whatever, but that you might stay home tomorrow because the buzzards will be circling the Truman building?

Nothing like that?

According to Dead Men Working, “one will be sorely missed by DS, which would have benefited greatly from his continued service.”

Career execution is a fairly common practice in public organizations, but since they’re often done in private with few details, there is always talk about inability to discuss such personnel matters.  And since there are few breadcrumbs and even fewer witnesses, no can can definitely say who fired the coup de grâce. (thanks N., you may eat another xmas cookie).

We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested below.

More of that from the National Review, below an excerpt from Elliot Abrams:

Does the new report on the State Department’s failures in Benghazi really deliver “accountability?” No: In fact it actually sacrifices a few career officials and protects the higher-ups.

While the report has been called scathing and tough, it does not fix any real responsibility on top officials: the secretary of state, the two deputy secretaries of state, or the assistant secretary for the Near East. The Diplomatic Security bureau takes a lot of hits, but I don’t see in it any serious discussion of the roles played by the under secretary for management, who supervises that bureau, nor of the “Seventh Floor” — the very top officials of the department.
[…]
It is even odder that Secretary Clinton, who once said “I take responsibility. . . . I take this very personally,” also gets off without criticism. It’s not that absolving her or her top deputies is necessarily wrong, but where it leads is bound to affect morale in the department. Look at these events from the perspective of career officials at the office director or deputy assistant secretary level, and what just happened? People like you were just ruined, while people up the chain got off scot free. Being on the Seventh Floor appears to grant immunity. I’m sure that’s what is being said around the water coolers at State, and from what I can see they are not wrong. Pickering led what was called an “Accountability Review Board.” A better name might have been “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board.”

As we’ve noted here, the NEA bureau has been headed by Elizabeth Jones in an acting capacity since June 2012. Don’t know her, never meet her. State always expect that its officers hit the ground running whether in Foggy Bottom or in Burkina Faso.  If we cut her some slack, that’s from our belief, rightly or wrongly, that one needs at least 3-6 months to do an effective transition. We wrote previously that “If she is nudged out when she was on the job barely three months when Benghazi happened, we might think that the pressured shakeup is for purposes of appearances.”

We’ll, it now looks like she’ll be spared but State has now reached down to the third level down at the NEA bureau to find someone “accountable.” And this has nothing to do with appearances and managing perception.

Also the Cable cites the Q&A during the hearing between D/S Bill Burns and Senator Rubio:

When pressed by Rubio over whether the March and July cable requesting more security had reached the upper echelons of the State Department, Burns said they had.

“Well, they certainly would have been reviewed up through assistant secretary level, and it may be that some of my colleagues on the 7th floor saw them as well.” Burns said. “There were certainly memos that came up to the 7th floor that talked about the deteriorating security situation in eastern Libya, yes, sir.”
[…]
Maxwell, according to several State Department sources, had been slated to retire in September but was asked to stay on as DAS for the Maghreb after the attack. Maxwell might have been in a position to directly receive the requests for more security in Benghazi, giving him a direct connection to the security failures, those sources speculated. Those details are confined to the classified version of the ARB report. But State Department officials insist that he would not have been able make any decisions about such matters with consulting with Jones, who would have had the final say.

“Either they have some kind of documentary evidence that puts Maxwell in a bad light specifically, or this could be the Foreign Service elite protecting itself. Maxwell is not a member of the elite, but Jones is,” one senior foreign policy hand who has worked in the State Department said.

So the three future scenarios we’re looking at next:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

The next time you guys (those still in the building) attend your mandatory leadership and management training, ask your facilitators how to survive organizational life when your leadership is in crisis. When lower-ranked officials are pressured to take the blame while higher ups in the food chain skate, we don’t call it true leadership.

Also, note that we’re not suggesting that all these bureau officials forced to leave made no errors in judgment.  We don’t know.  But to expect us to believe that these folks alone in a highly structured organization committed a firing offense and that their upper bosses knew nothing about whatever it was they did  … why, that’s a bunch of somethings, dahrlings!

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These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …

…. the day before yesterday!

More from the ARB briefing with Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen:

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.

NYT’s Michael Gordon who later filed this report writes:

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to Congress.
[…]
At the same time, the report that Mr. Pickering oversaw suggested that there was a culture of “husbanding resources” at senior levels of the State Department that contributed to the security deficiencies in Benghazi. Without identifying Mr. Kennedy or other senior officials, the report said that attitude “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.”

We are deeply bothered by that “We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level” response.

The State Department is a traditional organization with a top-down hierarchy.  For as long as we’ve been studying it, it has never been a flat one, unless you’re talking about the base of a pyramid.  There are chains of command like any bureaucracy.  You can get in trouble for driving outside your lane.

Are we to believe that the decision to have a presence in Benghazi was done at the DS and NEA bureaus?

That the decision to have a light footprint in Benghazi was done at the DS or NEA bureau?

That the policy at embassies worldwide to hire a local guard force was fixed at DS alone?

That the practice of filling Benghazi with short TDY staff rotations was decided by DS or NEA but not DGHR?

That the allocation of 4-5 Regional Security Officers (RSOs) to Benghazi, as opposed to 200 assigned to US Mission Iraq was a DS bureau decision?

That the DS or the NEA bureau negotiated with the CIA on whatever security agreement there was in Benghazi?
C’mon folks, for us to believe that is like suspending disbelief as we do when we watch HBO’s Homeland.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin @joshrogin tweeted:

Assistant Secretaries are just high up enough to take the fall but not quite high up enough to do anything to defend themselves #Benghazi

Well, that’s not right.  We recognize that bureaucratic life isn’t fair, but this bothers us a great deal.

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ARB Concludes Work, Unclassified Report May Be Publicly Available on Wednesday

State Department spokespersonn Victoria Nuland confirmed today that the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi has concluded its work, and that the report went to Secretary Clinton this morning.

As it stands right now, the ARB leads Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mullen will reportedly brief the SFRC and the HFAC on Wednesday, December 19 during a closed session.

The following day, December 20,  the Secretary’s deputies – Deputy Secretary Burns and Deputy Secretary Nides – will brief SFRC and HFAC in open session, “responding to the report and talking about the path forward.”

As we have previously speculated, the report has both an unclassified and a classified section. According to the spokesperson, the entire report, at the Secretary’s direction, will be made available to the Hill sometime before the Pickering/Mullen classified briefings on Wednesday.   The reasoning being that this would give members “a chance to look at it before the briefings.” We don’t know how long is this report, but we hope it gets to the Hill tomorrow so people can actually read it before the hearings.

The big question is – when are we going to see it?

Probably sometime on Wednesday according to Ms. Nuland, although she could not confirm those details.

During the DPB, a reporter also asked the official spokesperson on “why Secretary Clinton can’t testify on Thursday about this? It seems that she has not been available to testify on the Benghazi situation on some very key dates, including the Sunday after 9/11 and now this Thursday.”

Here is part of the official response:

But it was her intention to be there. If she had not been ill, she would be there. And she’s also committed, including in a letter today to the committee chairmen, that she looks forward to having an ongoing conversation with them herself.” 

As to whether Secretary Clinton want to testify later, the spokesperson said:

“So she has, including in a letter today to the two committees, made clear that she looks forward to continuing to engage them in January, and she will be open to whatever they consider appropriate in that regard.”

With apologies folks, we actually have no idea how to translate that.

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Clinton will testify when ARB report is ready, that may/may not be next week — oh wait update

We blogged yesterday that Secretary Clinton is scheduled to testify at HFAC on Thursday, December 20.

She is also listed as sole witness on the 9:00 am, December 20, hearing at the SFRC on BENGHAZI: The Attack and the Lessons Learned.

We noted previously that the unclassified ARB on the 1998 East Embassy bombings is publicly available but that the other ARB reports through the last several years are not.   Due to intense public and congressional interest on this incident, we have always presumed that the unclassified portion of the Pickering ARB report will be released to the public.

Then you get this back and forth during the Daily Press Briefing between the State Dept spokesperson Toria Nuland and a member of the press that made us scratch our head.

QUESTION: So as – just to change the subject. As you know, Congress has set a date for Secretary Clinton to testify on Benghazi. So does that mean that the ARB is done now? And has she seen it? Have you seen it?
MS. NULAND: First of all, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. The ARB is continuing to do its work. To my knowledge, it has not yet concluded its work. As you know, it’s decided to keep its deliberations confidential until it is finished. As we’ve been saying, our expectation is that after the ARB reports to the Secretary, then she will have consultations with Congress in terms of the conclusions that she draws about how we need to go forward from there. So obviously, we’re planning ahead, but I don’t have any dates to announce until we have firm dates on when the ARB is coming forward.
QUESTION: Does Congress get a copy of the ARB, and do Mullen and Pickering either brief Congress or brief the press?
MS. NULAND: The ARB’s responsibility is to brief the Secretary. The Secretary has said that she will be transparent and open with Congress. I don’t have anything further to announce. I think we need to let the ARB report come forward, and we’ll go from there.
[…]
QUESTION: She does intend to testify next Thursday on the 20th of December?
MS. NULAND: Again, the Hill has talked about a planning date on the calendar. That presumes that the ARB is finished. I don’t have any dates – any schedule of the Secretary’s to announce here. It’s dependent upon events between now and then.
[…]
QUESTION: She hasn’t committed to testify?
MS. NULAND: Again, it’s dependent on the work being finished. Okay?
QUESTION: Are you aware that Senator Kerry announced that she will testify next Thursday?
MS. NULAND: She has made clear that when the work is ready, she will go consult with Congress on it. And that’s a commitment she’s made, and she intends to keep it.
QUESTION: And it could be later. On the point that he made, under the ARB regulations, the report is required to be given to Congress within 90 days of its completion.
MS. NULAND: No. What is required, Josh, and we’ll get you the statute if you’d like, is that the Secretary’s response to the ARB’s conclusions has to go in writing to the Congress within 90 days of her receiving the report. She obviously will intend to consult with them far earlier than that, as she’s committed.

The reporter did not ask Ms. Nuland if Ambassador Pickering requested an extension to the 60 day authority of the Board, which should have expired on/about December 4.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin: State Dept: Clinton may not testify on Benghazi next week

The exchange seems to also indicate that the ARB report itself may not be submitted to Congress but that Secretary Clinton’s response to the ARB recommendations/conclusion will be.

So we went and dug up the regs once more.

On the ARB findings:  12 FAM 035.1 (b) specifies that “In its report to the Secretary, a Board makes written findings, which may be classified, as necessary.”

Given the presence of the CIA, we suspect that a large chunk of the report will be classified.  The Board itself has no classification authority.  So the Director of M/PRI (reportedly Alaina Teplitz) will exercise classification authority for materials originating from Board activities according to the regs.

12 FAM 036.1 enumerates the types of reports that we can expect from the ARB:

  1. A Board’s report to the Secretary on its findings and any program recommendations;
  2. The Secretary’s report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them; and
  3. Report(s) to the Congress by the head(s) of the concerned agency(ies) or instrumentality(ies) on any personnel recommendations.

12 FAM 036.3 specifically talks about the Reports to Congress:

“The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.”

So yes, the regs did not say she has to submit the ARB report to the Congress, only that she submits a report on the ARB recommendation and the action taken.  There’s nothing that restricts her, of course, from sharing the ARB report (publicly or in closed doors, security classification excepted), but the ARB regulations do not appear to require her to do that.

Given the conspiracy theories already sprouting heads out of the Benghazi attack, we really hope there is a publicly available version of the report.

Updated@ 12/14:  After Toria Nuland’s suggestion yesterday that the ARB report on which Secretary Clinton’s testimony will be based might not be ready in time, the acting deputy spokesman offered some clarifications:

“The committees have announced the secretary will be on the Hill next Thursday, and so that’s the plan,” said Patrick Ventrell, the State Department’s Acting Deputy Spokesperson, in a briefing today. “We’ve been cooperating with Congress extensively and will continue to do so.”

Ugh! A few more of this and we will need dramamine.

Updated @ 12/15 11:17 am PST:
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines on Saturday has the following email to reporters (via npr):

“While suffering from a stomach virus, Secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted, sustaining a concussion. She has been recovering at home and will continue to be monitored regularly by her doctors. At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in regular contact with department and other officials. She is looking forward to being back in the office soon.”

The AP is now reporting that Clinton’s aides on Saturday informed the SFRC chairman, Sen. John Kerry, about her health, and that “the Massachusetts Democrat,  “insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear” as planned, said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth.  Senior department officials are expected to testify instead.” No word yet on how the HFAC hearing is going to proceed without its main witness.

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HFAC on Dec 20: Secretary Clinton to Testify on Benghazi Post-ARB Release

Last week, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released a statement announcing that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify at an open hearing on the Benghazi attack report. Excerpt from statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“I have just received confirmation from Secretary Clinton’s office that the Secretary of State will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss, in an open hearing, the findings and recommendations in the report from the accountability review board (ARB) concerning the terrorist attack against our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.”

According to CNN, Secretary Clinton will appear before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on December 20:

Next week’s testimony is expected to be proceeded by the release of the findings of an independent review of the State Department’s handling of security and the threats in Libya. The review, requested by the Accountability Review Board, is headed by former U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering and includes former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.

Secretary Clinton will also testify before the Senate Foreign Relations (SFRC) committee although a date has not been announced yet.

Tomorrow at 2 pm, the SFRC is holding a TOP SECRET/CLOSED: National Security Brief on Attacks in Benghazi.  

The names of the witnesses are not posted online. Could this be the Pickering-Mullen appearance?  Previous news report said that Senator Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had asked that Ambassador Pickering (ARB chairman)and retired Adm. Mike Mullen (ARB member) appear before the committee before Secretary Clinton.

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New Diplomatic Security Office to Monitor 17 High Threat Diplomatic Missions (With ARB Update)

CBS News has a report on December 8 on the State Department’s new directorate within Diplomatic Security (DSS) that focuses on seventeen high threat diplomatic posts overseas. The posts listed in the report includes Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. These are in addition to previously designated high threat posts in Iraq and Pakistan Afghanistan.

The new office will reportedly have Bill Miller as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.  According to CBS News, he was described as “an experienced Diplomatic Security Official” by a senior State Department official.  A National Review report dated November 30, said that Bill Miller was a former State Department special agent who coordinated regional security for the Coalition Provisional Authority and the American Embassy in Baghdad. We missed the official announcement on this and could not locate it but according to NR, the State Department said in an announcement that the new assistant secretary will be responsible for “evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements at high threat diplomatic missions.”

These posts previously fell under the portfolio of Charlene Lamb, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, but apparently the unnamed senior officials who spoke to CBS News denied that this was a demotion for Ms. Lamb or anything like that.  The report also described how her appearance in Congress was widely viewed within Foggy Bottom:

Two senior officials described the decision to CBS News as a matter of shifting of personnel and resources to “elevate the level” of oversight at risky posts and gave those duties to a specifically assigned Deputy Assistant Secretary. They denied that this was a demotion of Charlene Lamb though these posts no longer fall under her portfolio.
[…]
During the night of the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Lamb was the U.S. official at Diplomatic Security Command Center who monitored the fatal assault on “multiple open lines” in “almost real-time” via audio-only feeds according to the testimony that she delivered to the House Oversight Committee on October 10. Her hesitant responses during that questioning was widely viewed within the department as damaging to the agency. She described her role as being responsible for the “safety and security of more than 275 diplomatic facilities.”

Read in full via CBS News: State Department security overhaul

We should note that Kenya was considered a medium threat post when it was bombed in 1998.  Of particular concern here is what happens to posts that are not/not listed in the “high threat” category? According to the IntelCenter cited by the NYT, Al Qaeda has six regional branches and affiliations with at least 14 other terrorist groups. All together, the organizations reportedly have operations in almost 30 countries.  Check out the map of operations here.  So again, what happens to posts not in the “high threat” category? Do you know?

In any case, if this was not a demotion for Charlene Lamb what have they done to her official biography? (h/t to A who writes “either I’m having very selective network problems, or it appears Charlene Lamb’s official bio is no longer available from State’s website.”)

Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs — Charlene R. Lamb
The Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs is responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies that protect the Department of State’s international missions and personnel from the threats of terrorism, espionage (human and technical), and crime. [biography]

Don’t know what’s going on.  But that [biography] link now lands on a “We’re sorry. That page can’t be found and may have moved” page.

In related news, the WSJ reported (registration required) that Egyptian authorities have detained Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, the alleged ringleader of an Egyptian terrorist network whose members are suspected of participating in the September 11 attack on Benghazi.  Abu Ahmad is reportedly a former member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad who was freed from prison in March 2011 following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak

ARB-Related News

The AP reported yesterday that the Accountability Review Board report is imminent. The news report also said that Senator Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had asked that Ambassador Pickering (ARB chairman)and retired Adm. Mike Mullen (ARB member) appear before the committee before Secretary Clinton.

Secretary Clinton officially convened the Board for 60 days on October 4, 2012.  The 60-day deadline hit its mark on December 4.  No announcement of extension was made so we presume that the final report may already be available to the Secretary.  If we recall correctly, the regs also says that Secretary Clinton has no later than 90 days after receipt of the ARB recommendations to submit a report to Congress.

Various news report said that Secretary Clinton will appear before both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the Accountability Review Board report is released.  No date has been set for the hearings. But it looks like the target adjourned date for the House is December 14, with December 31 for the Senate.

Given the intense public and congressional interest on this case, we suspect that the report will be publicly released sooner rather than later. Probably as early as the next week as we don’t think Congress would want to stay in DC holding hearings for the holidays. Of course, those dates can always change, especially with the fiscal cliffhanger looming large.

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Benghazi Attack: Closed-Door Briefings and Hearings All This Week

The Hill reports that three congressional panels will be holding closed-door briefings this week with administration officials at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Nov.13), the Senate homeland security panel (Nov.14) and the House and Senate intelligence panels (Nov.15). State Department officials are reportedly scheduled to brief the chairmen and ranking members of several House committees with jurisdiction over national security.

For two State Department officials, this week will be a packed schedule on the Hill.

  • Tuesday (Nov 13): Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Wednesday (Nov 14): Under Secretary Kennedy and Assistant Secretary Boswell will brief members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
  • Thursday AM (Nov 15):  Under Secretary Kennedy will testify in a closed hearing before the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee
  • Thursday PM (Nov 15): Under Secretary Kennedy will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Friday AM (Nov 16): Under Secretary Kennedy will brief Chairmen and ranking members from the House

During the House Oversight Committee hearing on October 10, U/S Kennedy and Charlene Lamb (Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs) testified on behalf of the State Department.  The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service Scott P. Bultrowicz, the most senior special agent did not testify.  Neither did Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, the top guy at Diplomatic Security, and who by the way, also reports directly to U/S Kennedy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearings is “To Review Circumstances Surrounding September 11, 2012, Terrorist Attack in Libya and Intelligence and Security in Region”  and will focus on:

  • The intelligence collection and threat reporting relating to Libya and other Middle East countries prior to the September 11 attack, how and when that information was disseminated, and what actions were taken in response;
  • What is now known about the events of September 11, who was responsible for the attack, and what efforts are being made to find and hold those responsible to account;
  •  The Intelligence Community’s collection capabilities in the Middle East and North Africa, to include the levels of funding and availability of intelligence personnel with language and other skills necessary to operate in that part of the world; and
  • The level and adequacy of security at the State Department and other U.S. government facilities in the Middle East and North Africa, and whether current arrangements for providing security at these facilities are appropriate.

The House Intelligence Committee (also a closed hearing) will reportedly have Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CIA Director David Petraeus Acting Director Michael Morell and the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy who is probably the lowest ranked official among those invited.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) will also have a November 15 closed hearing on “Benghazi and Beyond: What Went Wrong on September 11, 2012 and How to Prevent it from Happening at other Frontline Posts” and currently has two witnesses listed:

  • Mr. Michael Courts, Acting Director, International Affairs and Trade, Government Accountability Office
  • Mr. William Young, Senior Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation

The Hill is however reporting that Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who has the inside track on the gavel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the 113th Congress, has “promised his Republican colleagues he would conduct a vigorous investigation of Libya.” Would have been much preferable if he promised the “American public” not just his “Republican colleagues” but it is what it is. We’ll see what happens next year.

We should note that the congressionally mandated Accountability Review Board for the Benghazi Attack started work the week of October 3.  Unless Ambassador Pickering requires additional time for the Board, the report and recommendations should be available to the Secretary at the end of the specified 60 day mark, which would be the week of December 3 or thereabouts.  The report presumably will be made available to the public given the interest on this case but for sure, it will also have a restricted classified annex given the other component.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadors, Congress, FSOs, Hearings, Leaks|Controversies, State Department, U.S. Missions

Protecting Diplomats Post-Embassy Attacks: More Fortresses or Rethinking Fortresses?

The Skeptical Bureaucrat in his blog points out that the USG investment in new, secure, embassy buildings paid off very big for those employees who were inside the safe havens in Tunis, Khartoum, and Sanaa during the embassy attacks several days ago.  He writes:

Where the host government fulfilled its obligation to protect the integrity of diplomatic premises, the mobs were kept back. Where the host government did not do so, our missions had to rely on physical barriers – their walls, doors and windows – to keep the mobs outside.

Physical barriers themselves are not absolute protection, of course, but are there just to delay the attackers until the host government acts, if it ever does.You cannot keep people out of embassy compounds for long if the local authorities don’t show up. However, you can keep people out of your embassy office building for a good long time, maybe even long enough for them to give up and leave, if the building was built for that purpose.

Of course, if it were more than a mob attack, people may not just give up and leave; or may do so only after there is considerable damage in life and property.

In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack and several breaches into our embassy compounds, diplomatic security will be in the front burner once more.  Like Yogi Berra says, it’s dejavu all over again. The 1998 East Africa embassy bombings happened in an off election year (but during the Lewinsky scandal), the Benghazi attack happened right smack in the middle of a presidential election. So while there will be calls for resignations, investigations and whatnots, this year, it will be louder than usual.

There will be calls for more secure embassy facilities in addition to the now standard requirement for 100-foot setback from vehicular traffic and nine-foot-tall walls.  Former Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian once said, ‘O.K., we built a 16-foot wall, but there is such a thing as a 17-foot ladder.’  As we’ve seen this past weeks on live tv, the 100-foot setback and nine-foot walls were not a deterrent to rioters who scrambled quickly up those walls and spread easily to wreck havoc inside the compound.

Before the embassy attacks happened, the new 1 billion US Embassy in London reportedly inspired by English architecture, was already planned to include a moat, er, reflecting pool to “prevent the possibility of a vehicle getting to the embassy to cause damage.” Take a look. Somebody must have already calculated the upkeep and utilities for a building such as this, but we have not seen the figures.  For more on the new embassies, read  former FSO, Dave Seminara’s piece in The Washington Diplomat, America’s Embassy Building Boom Fortifies Diplomacy, Security Abroad from April this year.

Aerial view of the new Embassy building © KieranTimberlake/studio amd via US Embassy London/Flickr

Continuing on this road, the next stop might be a concentric fortress for an embassy needing the very best protection.  As with the concentric castles of the 12th century, the concentric embassy will be surrounded by a moat and entrance will be by drawbridge. It will be protected by an inner wall built of thick stone with towers positioned at intervals, and another lower stone wall that’s just as thick.  Apparently, in the old days, the space between the two walls was known as the ‘death hole’ because those trapped within the walls certainly die from being picked by archers one by one.

The Krak des Chevaliers as it was in the Middle-Ages. From Guillaume Rey : Étude sur les monuments de l’architecture militaire des croisés en Syrie et dans l’île de Chypre (1871). Via Wikipedia

Finally, we promised not to fall off our chair if there will be calls for our diplomats to get more weapons training in addition to a week of crash and bang for those going to war zones and dangerous assignments. Or for our diplomats to be armed.

While we wait for the results of the yet to meet Pickering Accountability Review Board, we must note that the Benghazi office or as The Skeptical Bureaucrat calls it, the Non-Standard, Un-Fortress, Not-A-Consulate In Benghazi, is not even a typical new embassy compound. But it’s not by far, the only one. We have an American Presence Post and Consulates with one or two or a few American officers holding offices at rented floors in commercial buildings.  How do you turn those rented floors into fortresses?

Anthony C. E. Quainton, a former assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security says, “You can protect people where they work by building more fortified embassies. […] But how do you protect them all the time, in all places?”

That’s a great question — how do you protect them all the time, in all places?

Wendy Chamberlain, our former Ambassador to Pakistan and Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the current
President of the Middle East Institute has this piece in HuffPo:

In this brave new context the 1961 Vienna Conventions, based on the premise of the equality of sovereign states, seem quaint to say the least, particularly Article 22 which guarantees the inviolability of diplomatic facilities. Clearly we must not abandon the mission even though these newly emerging nations do not have the wherewithal to provide such security.
[…]
In transitional regions, we must rely on smaller, more agile missions, granting the ambassador greater control over the nature and size of his or her staff. While not minimizing the importance of personal contact, and the unspoken message our presence sends, we should engage NGOs and local platforms and deploy electrons in lieu of bodies whenever possible. We must be more Sun Tzu than Clausewitz, less bulky and bureaucratic, with the budgetary flexibility to change direction when need be and less reliant on embassy fortresses to secure our assets, even as we work to assist central authorities to build their security infrastructure. And perhaps it is time to take another look at our increasingly militaristic approach to international relations, driven to some degree by the fact that our enormously talented, competent military and its neatly measureable operational successes are politically easier to fund than the long, often messy slog of brick-making for building the foundations of civil society.

The ever sharp Chas Freeman, our former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and almost National Intel Council chair (until his nomination was derailed) has some thoughts about how to make our diplomats safer, and it has less to do with fortress embassies:

In his speech to the UNGA, Egyptian President Morsi recognized the “duty” of the receiving state to protect the diplomats assigned to it.  This is a useful reminder of an ancient truth. The farther we move into self-protection through the transformation of embassies into fortifications and motorcades into armadas, the more we undercut both the traditions and the effectiveness of diplomacy.  Diplomats add very little value if they mimic military invaders, cower behind walls, are inaccessible to local people, and venture forth only in armed convoys.  (I won’t visit U.S. embassies myself anymore.  It’s just too much hassle.  Then, too, as a onetime professional diplomat and proud American, I’m embarrassed by the zero-risk mentality on display.)

In procedural, if not in substantive terms, diplomacy is an inherently consensual and reciprocal, not a coercive or combatant activity.  We should be thinking hard about how to return the responsibility for the protection of diplomats as much as possible to the host nation, where it belongs.  If a host nation cannot or will not discharge that duty, we would be well advised to end or severely to limit our presence there, impose reciprocal restrictions on its representation here, enlist others in punitive sanctions against it, and plan to communicate with it by Skype, etc. or in neutral third countries rather than face-to-face.

It is truly striking (though not surprising in the midst of a presidential election and given the role of talk radio in dumbing down our national dialogue) that debate here focuses so singlemindedly on how we can protect ourselves or — as many Americans argue — arm our diplomats to blow away those who appear to threaten them.  We should be attempting to strengthen the host nation obligation to protect diplomats that is implicit in the Vienna Conventions, find ways to enforce this obligation, and criminalize or assign liability under international law for failing to discharge it, not designing more elaborately crenelated crusader castles for our diplomatic outposts in the Middle East or elsewhere.

By taking up the gun and relying on the parapet rather than the security services of the host and the law to protect us, we are inadvertently endorsing the notion that there can be no safety in the rule of law.  In an odd way, by building fortresses and preparing to blaze away at those who display anger as they approach us, we encourage the very violence we should be attempting to preclude.  Our obsessions with monopolizing security responsibilities for our installations and personnel unintentionally contributes to the irresponsibility of receiving-state governments, degrades the idea of the sanctity of envoys, and erodes the prospects for rule-based order internationally.  To make our diplomats safer, we need better diplomacy vis-à-vis foreign nations and international organizations much more than we need higher bastions.

The Inman Report of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security following the Marine barracks bombing and the April 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, has been influential in setting security standards, not just with the embassy design, but also with physical and residential security, training, use of armored vehicles, etc. The idea of an accountability board as a “board of inquiry […] convened in the event of a security incident involving loss of life, grievous injury or massive property destruction due to terrorist or other violence” also originates from the Inman Commission.

The Crowe Accountability Review Board following the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania “observed that many of the problems identified in that landmark report [Inman] persist..”  It faults “the collective failure of the US government over the past decade to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of US diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries around the world. Responsibility for this failure can be attributed to several Administrations and their agencies, including the Department of State, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the US Congress.”

Following the release of the Crowe Report, there were changes in work place security including co-location of US agencies in the host country, additional funding for capital building programs, better crisis management and procedures including Crisis Management Exercise conducted regularly in our posts overseas.

The Crowe ARB in 1999 also recommended that the Department look specifically at reducing the number of diplomatic missions by establishing regional embassies located in less threatened and vulnerable countries with Ambassadors accredited to several governments. The State Department did exactly the opposite, of course, by opening missions not only in vulnerable countries but in the middle of war zones.

It is too early to tell how the Pickering ARB will impact the conduct of diplomacy abroad or the life of USG employees overseas.  We’re sure there will be changes, we just don’t know if there will be more fortresses in the future or less.

 

 

 

 

 

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