Tag Archives: Victoria Nuland

USAID Egypt: An Official Lie Comes Back to Bite, Ouchy!

– Domani Spero

 

WaPo’s report on whistleblowers’ complaints that critical details had been sanitized from publicly released reports of USAID OIG includes an item on the NGO trial and bail money in Egypt:

[T]he Egyptian government charged 43 NGO workers with operating illegally. Sixteen of them were Americans, including the son of then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Americans were freed in March 2012 after USAID secretly paid the Egyptian government $4.6 million in “bail” money.
[…]
On March 1, 2012, the Americans were permitted to leave the country after USAID transferred $4.6 million from a local currency trust fund to the Egyptian government as “bail.” USAID’s connection to the money was not disclosed at the time.

“This was paid by the NGOs,” a State Department spokeswoman said that day.
[…]

Several findings were condensed; entire sections disappeared. They included a section titled “USAID/Egypt Borrowed Local Currency From the Trust Fund for Bail Expenses.”

That section raised questions about the legality of using the $4.6 million to free the NGO workers. Also deleted were concerns that the use of trust fund money for “bail payments” could set a bad precedent for USAID.

 

A lie and a bribe:

A ransom:

 

The State Department spokeswoman not named in the report was the former spox, and now Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Victoria Nuland.  And because the lie was from the official podium of the State Department, this was an official USG lie. Let’s revisit the Daily Press Briefing from March 1, 2012:

QUESTION: Victoria, could you clarify for us the role of the U.S. Government in posting the bond? I understand that $300,000 per individual was posted and the promise that they will return to face trial. Could you explain to us if there was any role for the U.S. Government in that aspect?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just clarify that none of these people who have now departed were in custody, none of them were subject to arrest warrants. They were under travel restrictions. So at the request of the attorneys for the employees, the Egyptian court ruled that the travel restrictions would be lifted if the employees posted bail. So through their lawyers, the NGOs made payments on behalf of their employees from available funds. So there were no bribes paid, and this was paid by the NGOs.

QUESTION: No, I did not suggest that there was any bribes. I just wanted to ask if there was any official role for the U.S. Government to post bail. Some people may not have had the money. I mean, did you try to help them post that money? It’s a huge sum of money for the bail.

MS. NULAND: The organizations paid the bail.

QUESTION: But these organizations get money from the U.S. Government. Was there any government money involved in this bail payment?

MS. NULAND: The checks for this bail, as I understand it, came from the organizations.

QUESTION: But as I say, these organizations are funded, some of them quite – to the tune of quite a lot of money. So was there any taxpayer money involved in paying this bail? And if there was, which I understand there was, what happens if they – if bail is forfeited, if these people decide not to go back and to face the charges? Does that leave the taxpayer on the hook for however much the percentage was that you guys kicked in?

MS. NULAND: Well, first, to be clear, the bail was posted by the organizations.

QUESTION: Yes, but if I –

MS. NULAND: That said –

QUESTION: But if I give you $300,000 and then you give it to the Egyptians, it’s technically correct that you paid the Egyptians, but it’s my money.

MS. NULAND: Again, the bail was paid by the organizations. You are not wrong that these organizations benefit from U.S. Government funding. They benefit from U.S. Government funding so that they can do the work that they do to support a democratic transition. With regard to the fungibility of money or anything with regard to that, I will have to take that question.

 

So the NGOs paid Egypt; maybe those NGO’s carried and handed $4.6 million to the money shakers, and we called it NGO money. But apparently, it’s USAID money, so really — U.S. taxpayers’ money.  And but for this WaPo report, the American public would not have known that we paid the bail money because the key finding about the $4.6 million payment to free the NGO workers in Egypt was removed from the performance audit and placed into financial documents.  Documents that are not made public. Also apparently deleted were concerns that the use of trust fund money for “bail payments” could set a bad precedent for USAID.

So in places where American NGOs and USAID operates, a not too friendly host government can grab any of the staffers for any purported local crime, and USAID will pay ransom bail money to get the staffers released and returned to the United States; and it can put the details about those payments in USAID financial documents that we never get to see?

And we wonder why people get jaded watching this show.

The world is changing. While this information might have been hidden in the past from public view for say 20 years or until the FRUS is released, things, at least some things increasingly don’t work like that anymore. The refresh cycle on sunshine in government is coming at shorter bursts.

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Diplomat Drops “Fuck the EU” in Private Chat — Cover Your Ears, It Might Ruin You Forever!

– Domani Spero

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland was caught on tape with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine working the diplomatic sausage over the Ukraine crisis.  The private conversation was recorded and uploaded to YouTube by an anonymous user/s who made an effort to include a photo collage of the individuals referred to in the conversation. The leaked recording is available here and has been viewed 485,122.

The State Department spokeswoman was asked if this call is “an authentic recording of an authentic conversation between Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt?”  As can be expected, Ms. Psaki replied:

“Well, I’m not going to confirm or outline details. I understand there are a lot of reports out there and there’s a recording out there, but I’m not going to confirm private diplomatic conversations.”

Hilarious exchange followed:

QUESTION: As related to Assistant Secretary Nuland’s comments about the European Union, do – are the United States and the EU on the same page on what to deal – how to deal with the situation in Ukraine and how best to resolve the crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, we work incredibly closely with the EU and with representatives of the EU, and Assistant Secretary Nuland certainly does as it relates to Ukraine. And she’s been in close contact with EU High Representative Ashton. Also, let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course, has apologized. But –
QUESTION: What did she apologize for?
MS. PSAKI: For these reported comments, of course.
QUESTION: So you’re not confirming that the comments are accurate? She’s –
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to a private diplomatic conversation, Arshad, but I’m obviously speaking to the content of the reports.

Ukraine’s Security Service has reportedly declined to comment on a leaked recording of this telephone conversation.

The Guardian says that Germany condemns the comments made by Assistant Secretary Nuland:

The German spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Merkel appreciated the work of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who had tried to mediate between the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and protesters who have taken to the streets. “The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasise that Mrs Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Wirtz said.

Meanwhile, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radosław Sikorski tweeted his support:

@sikorskiradek  Critics of @VictoriaNuland worldwide: let him who has never used strong language in private cast the first stone.

In Kiev, Assistant Secretary Nuland also refused to comment “on a private diplomatic conversation” except to say “It was pretty impressive tradecraft. [The] audio quality was very good.” And so here we are:

GIF_prettyimpressivetradecraft

Check out Bloomberg View’s James Gibney (@jamesgibney) with count your blessing, that’s not one of our bumbling hacks — but:

And as to those who are shocked, just shocked, by the U.S. attempt to manipulate Ukraine’s opposition, this is exactly what diplomats at higher levels try to do: All the foreign ambassadors in Washington worth their pensions have salty, Machiavellian conversations with their superiors and colleagues about how to shape votes of the U.S. Congress. If you’re an American, be glad that pros such as Nuland are on the job, and hope that your other diplomats aren’t sitting around munching cucumber sandwiches in between demarches.

That said, here is one scandal that this intercepted call does point to, however: Were Nuland and Pyatt speaking, as they should have been, on the kind of encrypted phone designed for such discussions? If not, that’s a major diplo-no-no. If they were, and some foreign power still managed to crack the code, then Uncle Sam needs to invest in some new phones ASAP.

Continue reading Sometimes Diplomacy Needs the F-Word.

This is a congressional hearing just waiting to happen.  Where did you learn such language?  Who did what, where, when with these phones and how come you did not know that you were bugged?  Congress is always curious about those things.

Now, please do us a favor and stop sending us hate mail for Ms. Nuland.

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Secretary Kerry Hosts Swearing-in Ceremony for EUR A/S Victoria Nuland

– By Domani Spero

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a swearing-in ceremony for Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 18, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remark….

During his remarks, Secretary Kerry noted that “Toria has served our country her entire adult life. And as the most prominent member of the unique – some might even say improbable – member of the Dick Cheney–Hillary Clinton Alumni Association – (laughter) – she has earned the trust and confidence of Democrats and Republicans alike, without party affiliation.”  

Among the guests:  Senator John McCain, Representative Keating, and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and former Secretary General of the NATO Javier Solana as well as members of the EUR alumni club: former “P” Marc Grossman, Acting NEA A/S Elizabeth Jones, former Special Envoy to Guantanamo Daniel Fried, and EUR A/S predecessor Philip Gordon.

-09/18/13  Swearing-in Ceremony for Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs;  Secretary of State John Kerry; Benjamin Franklin Room; Washington, DC.

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Senate Confirms Victoria Nuland for State/EUR

– By Domani Spero

On September 12, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Victoria Nuland to be the Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of European Affairs (State/EUR). The EUR Bureau develops and implements our. foreign policy in Europe and Eurasia covering over fifty countries, the Holy See and the European Union.

Screen Shot 2013-09-15

Confirmed Executive Calendar #219, the nomination of Victoria Nuland, of VA, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs).

The confirmation completes the line-up of senior officials for the EUR bureau.  The regional bureau’s top officials include Ambassador Paul Jones, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (most recently Ambassador to Malaysia), four DASes including Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, former deputy spokesman and former ambassador to Macedonia, Douglas Davidson Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues and Daniel Rosenblum Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia.

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Today at the SFRC: Nuland, Lute, Baer

By Domani Spero

 

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings for the following State Department nominees:

Presiding: Senator Murphy

Date: Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time: 02:15 PM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Nominees:

  • The Honorable Victoria Nuland of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
  • Mr. Douglas Edward Lute of Indiana, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Mr. Daniel Brooks Baer of Colorado, to be U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in EuropeClick here to view the  scheduled live webcast and prepared testimonies.

 

A live webcast and the prepared testimonies of the nominees will be posted here when available.

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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

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State Dept on Issa Subpoenas: Received “Out of the Blue”… Witnesses “Need Time to Review and Prep”

—By Domani Spero

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa spells out his complaints on his June 24 letter to Secretary Kerry hereAccording to the Oversight Committee:

Issa details the Committee’s months-long efforts to arrange interviews with officials possessing direct knowledge of the events. On April 29, 2013, Committee staff contacted State Department officials to request their assistance in arranging interviews. The request was reiterated on May 17, 2013, however investigators have only been able to interview one of the 13 individuals with whom they requested interviews and the meeting was arranged without the State Department’s help.

The May 17 letter requested that the following former and current employees of the State Department be made available for a transcribed interview. This is the first time we’ve seen the list.  We have added the titles as best we can determine.

  1. David Adams, former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  2. *Eric Boswell, former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  3. *Elizabeth Dibble, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; rumored to be the next Deputy Chief of Mission for US Embassy London
  4. Jeremy Freeman, State Department lawyer, an expert in Congressional subpoenas (via NYT)
  5. *Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs
  6. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management
  7. Raymond Maxwell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  8. Cheryl Mills, former Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  9. Victoria Nuland, former Spokesperson of the Department of State; nominated as A/S for the EUR Bureau
  10. Philippe Reines, former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  11. William Roebuck, former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs, NEA Bureau; appointed Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya from January-June 2013
  12. Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  13. Jacob Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Currently National Security Advisor to VPOTUS

One name not on this list but was served a subpoena by the Issa Committee is Scott Bultrowicz, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (one of the four officials put on administrative leave pending further action).  Names with an asterisk have been issued a subpoena (see Not Going to Take It Anymore — Issa Subpoenas Boswell, Bultrowicz, Dibble and Jones).

In any case, Patrick Ventrell, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office and occasional person on the podium during the Daily Press Briefings was asked about the Issa subpoenas on June 25, 2013 and here is what the building says in a word cloud:

Word Cloud via WordItOut

Word Cloud via WordItOut

If you want to read the fine details, please see below. We particularly like the question, “to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?” We do not particularly like the dodgy response but somebody’s gotta say the blahs so folks have something to write about.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Patrick, today Chairman Issa’s issued subpoenas to four State Department officials. Will the State Department be cooperating with the subpoenas?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as we’ve consistently said, we’ve been cooperating with Congress on this matter going back many months. We’ve made available to Congress several department witnesses and briefers, as well as over 25,000 pages of documents. We understand that Chairman Issa has issued subpoenas for four Department employees. These four employees were already preparing to do voluntary interviews with the committee, and since the committee sent their initial interview requests, we’ve been discussing with them in good faith both the terms for the interview and the scheduling logistics. In fact, we had offered employees to be interviewed in early July. So this had been something that they were voluntarily willing to do.

QUESTION: But in that letter Chairman Issa claimed that State Department Chief of Staff David Wade has not been cooperating, that since mid-May they’ve been asking for these people. What exactly is the holdup then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we absolutely reject that. We’ve been cooperating all along, and the Department has shown unprecedented cooperation. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of man-hours complying with dozens of requests from Congress. We’ll continue to cooperate while reiterating our request that the Congress and the media shift from focusing on long-debunked myths to the real need to protect America’s diplomats and development experts serving their country overseas.

So on this particular case, ever since we received the interview requests, we’ve been in regular contact with the committee negotiating in good faith and it’s unfortunate that Chairman Issa, without warning, disregarded those discussions and issued subpoenas for witnesses who were willing to testify. This is a pattern that we saw with Mr. Pickering as well, something that – this is a tactic he’s used before. I can’t speculate on his motivations but it’s something that he’s done before.

QUESTION: And to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’ve been in discussion with the committee about providing the witnesses prior to receiving the subpoena. So we were working on the dates, working on the list of names, when this subpoena sort of suddenly arrived yesterday.

QUESTION: It’s been months, why hasn’t it happened?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as months. I mean, this is something that – I don’t have the date of the original request from Mr. Issa here in front of me, but ever since we received the – let me see if I have this here – I don’t have the date right in front of me, but ever since we received it –

QUESTION: Mid May.

MR. VENTRELL: — we’ve been in consistent and continual contact with the committee staff, and we’ve done so in good faith.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you think that this perceived stalling from Issa that it could be perceived that these witnesses are being coached or they’re getting – taking time to get their testimony or words right?

MR. VENTRELL: No, that’s absurd. We reject that. It’s certainly understandable that people need time to prepare for congressional testimony; witnesses take that very seriously, need time to review and prep, and that’s standard practice and normal. So we just reject that.

QUESTION: So it’s not the four people stalling, it’s perhaps the State Department or it’s Issa not being organized?

MR. VENTRELL: This is about getting them the best possible information, making sure the witnesses have time to be prepared to provide the best possible information. And we’re working with them in good faith and scheduling dates, so this sort of arrived out of the blue yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that you told Chairman Issa that you’ve given them everything that you have, and you have nothing else to give them? Is that –

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s not exactly –

QUESTION: In layman’s terms.

MR. VENTRELL: No, no, no. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. This was a specific request, Said, for witnesses. This was a –

QUESTION: Right. I understand what’s going. I’m just saying, what is your position? What do you tell them, that we have already submitted all these – we answered all these questions –

MR. VENTRELL: No. The point is that the cooperation has been ongoing, and in this case we were cooperating on providing witnesses. So we received a subpoena out of the blue.

Makes one wonder how long it took the one witness already interviewed by the Committee with no assistance from the State Department to “review and prep.”

(>x<!)

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Thursday Inbox: Is it appropriate to send a retired general to be ambassador to USNATO?

From our inbox, a question about the recent nomination to NATO:

I don’t know Doug Lute.  And I have no reason to doubt that he is a smart and very accomplished person, who has earned the President’s trust.  However, that’s not the issue.  What *is* an issue is the fact that Lute is a military man.  And I think there need to be some probing questions asked asked about the appropriateness of sending a retired general to be ambassador USNATO.

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO is actually a shorthand title — s/he is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council (NAC).  The NAC is NATO’s political decision-making body.

The United States has, of course, had veterans in the USUN job before, but never, to the best of my knowledge, a retired career military person.  Indeed, the whole point of the North Atlantic Council is that it is run by civilians.  That’s why it is the top and sovereign body in NATO.

Those responsible for this appointment either don’t know or care about the history of NATO and why the NAC exists.

Sending a career military man to [USUN] USNATO is similar to, although different in degree, naming a Secretary of Defense who is a retired general.  In the United States, we have civilian control of the military.  These kinds of appointments blur that distinction in a dangerous way.

By the way — lest anyone make the argument that, since Lute is retired, we really should just ignore his whole military career and view him as a civilian, that is a laughable argument on two fronts:

(1) The only thing that makes him a candidate for any senior government job is that very military experience; and

(2) The White House even calls him *General* Lute in their announcement of the nomination!  So much for the civilian stuff.

A final note:

There is actually a quasi-counterpart to the North Atlantic Council for military reps at NATO — the NATO Military Committee.

Can one assume that, when the current 3-star who is the U.S. rep on the Military Committee leaves, he will be replaced by some just-retired FSO?  Of course, the answer is no.

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Below via history.state.gov | The Chief of Mission has the title of U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Prior to 1 July 1967 the Representative on the Council of NATO was the Chief of the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nad European Regional Organizations at Paris.

 

Since post was created, only five six of those appointed as ambassador to USNATO were career diplomats from the U.S. Foreign Service. One of those FSOs and the sole female appointee is Victoria Nuland, former State spokesperson and current nominee to be Assistant Secretary for the EUR Bureau. Update: One of our readers wrote to inform us that although Kurt Volker was a “non-career appointment” to the USNATO position he actually was a career FSO for a number of years. We understand that he was not in the Senior Foreign Service when appointed ambassador. Whether by mistake or oversight, both Volker and Nuland are listed by history.state.gov as non-career appointees.  Since Volker was in the FS and Nuland is currently in the FS (just promoted to FE-CM in 2012) we’re listing them both as FSOs in this blog post.

Only one previous appointee is a retired former military official – William Henry Draper Jr. who served during World War II as a major in the infantry, left and became a banker but stayed in the Army Reserves.  He later became a brigadier-general after World War II,  was promoted to major-general, and became the first under secretary of the Army from September 18, 1947 to February 28, 1949.

General Lute graduated from West Point in 1975 and left active duty in 2010.

Lieutenant General David R. Hogg is currently the United States Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee (USMILREP).

Updated to clarify details on Volker and Draper. Thanks to readers who helped!   

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Officially In: Douglas E. Lute from the WH to NATO

— By Domani Spero

On May 23, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Douglas E. Lute as the United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The WH released the following brief bio:

Douglas E. Lute is Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for South Asia on the White House National Security Staff.  He retired from active duty in the United States Army as a Lieutenant General in 2010, after 35 years of service.  From 2007 to 2009, he was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan.  From 2006 to 2007, he was Director of Operations (J3) on the Joint Staff.  Previously, from 2004 to 2006, he was Director of Operations for the United States Central Command.  General Lute’s previous positions include Deputy Director of Operations for the United States European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; Assistant Division Commander in the 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany; Commander of U.S. Forces in Kosovo; and Commander of the Second Cavalry Regiment.

He received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

If confirmed, General Lute would succeed Ivo Daalder who has been the U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since May 2009. Previous occupants of this position includes Victoria NulandR. Nicholas BurnsDonald Rumsfeld, and William Henry Draper, Jr. who served as the first U.S. Ambassador to NATO in Paris.

p(^^)q

Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts May 23, 2013


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Congress Seeks Details on Status of Four State Dept Employees ‘Fired’ Over Benghazi

— By Domani Spero

Express mail has been terribly busy between the Hill and Foggy Bottom. On May 28, the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena for “documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” from ten current and former State Department officials.

The very next day, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with 14 other Members of the Committee, also called on Secretary Kerry to detail what personnel actions the State Department has taken regarding the four Department employees who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the grossly inadequate security at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi last year.

In December last year, State Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland said: “The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs….The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

You might want to read WaPo’s The Fact Checker – Has anyone been ‘fired’ because of the Benghazi attacks?

Below is an excerpt of Mr. Royce’s letter to Secretary Kerry:

As part of our inquiry, Committee Members have repeatedly asked the State Department to explain the employment status of certain Department personnel who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the inadequate security in Benghazi.

Initial reports indicated that these officials were “relieved of their duties,” thus implying their employment had been terminated.  However, by all accounts, these individuals have instead been placed on administrative leave and may or may not be returning to work.  Moreover, at least one of these individuals has stated that he has still not been informed of why he was removed from his position within the Department, or been allowed to view the ARB’s conclusions with respect to his job performance.  The Department’s handling of these matters is of great concern to the Committee, other Members of Congress, and the public.

When appearing before the Committee on April 17, 2013, you testified that you would soon be weighing in on an “internal review and analysis” of the performance of these individuals with respect to their handling of security issues.  Now that over one month has passed since your testimony, and over a full five months have passed since the ARB issued its report, we expect an immediate update on this process, and confirmation as to whether the referenced personnel are still employed by the Department.

Additionally, if these officials are still employed but on administrative leave, please describe what steps the Department has taken to resolve the issue of their employment status.  Please also provide a detailed account of any action taken by these officials to challenge the findings of the ARB report, including their basis for doing so.  Lastly, if any of these individuals are no longer employed by the Department, please provide a detailed explanation of the circumstances leading to the termination of their employment.

The full text of the letter is here.

The “at least one of these individuals” referred to in the letter above is without a doubt, Raymond Maxwell who told The Daily Beast that “nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline and that he has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report.”

So now Congress wants details on what the State Department did to Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Eric J. Boswell, PDAS Scott P Bultrowicz, DAS Charlene R. Lamb and  NEA DAS Raymond Maxwell.

Ahnd, so do we!!

Obviously since there was no leadership and management deficiencies at the top … well, we need to see what the bureaucracy actually does to officials below who are deemed deficient in leadership and management.

But — hey, do you know why this is taking so long?  Are they still researching the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) so they can break the um … administrative gridlock?  Or are they updating the FAM so they can have a citation to cite?

Waiting bored until somebody translates this bureaucratic puzzle into something understandable for Congress and the neighbors …

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Update: On May 30, the State Department was specifically asked about this during the Daily Press Brief, and here is the official word from the podium:

QUESTION: Okay. You’re aware of this letter that Congressman – also Chairman – Royce has sent inquiring as to the status of the four individuals who the ARB singled out in their classified version. Do you have an answer to – well, one, have you responded to him, and two, can you – if you have or if you haven’t, can you give us any update on what those – on what their status is –

MS. PSAKI: Well, we just received the letter yesterday, so I’m not aware of a formal response at this time, although that is something that we do do in response to letters, of course. I have seen the content of the letter. There’s no real mystery here. We talk – we’ve talked about this. I have talked about this from the podium, so let me walk you through a couple of status issues. One is the Secretary is briefed regularly by his senior staff and is focused on not only continuing the ongoing cooperation with Congress, but on implementing the ARB recommendations and coming to a conclusion on the status of these four individuals. He has publicly made that clear that he considers – and that he’s considering a number of factors.

As we’ve talked about a little bit before, career Foreign Service employees are entitled to due process and legal protections under the Foreign Service Act with respect to any potential disciplinary action, and Secretary Kerry, as he said in his budget testimony, there are a set of rules and standards that govern personnel actions such as these, and any actions must be considered with a full understanding of options.

So in terms of what the status is, he continues to review with all those factors –

QUESTION: Okay. Still pending?

MS. PSAKI: — and will make a decision soon.

In short, still pending.

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