Christmas Day Attack: Senate Judiciary Hearing

“Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication”
We almost missed this one.  The Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing yesterday related to the Christmas Day attack (January 20, 2010 | 10:00 AM | ROOM: Dirksen-226).  View Webcast
Witness Testimony:
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III | PDF
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Department of Justice
Washington, DC
The Honorable David F. Heyman | PDF
Assistant Secretary for Policy
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC
Under Secretary for Management
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
Excerpt from U/S Patrick Kennedy testimony:
In the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on the day following his father’s November 19 visit to the Embassy, we sent a cable to the Washington intelligence and law enforcement community through proper channels (the Visas Viper system) that “Information at post suggests [that Farouk] may be involved in Yemeni-based extremists.” At the same time, the Consular Section entered Abdulmutallab into the Consular Lookout and Support System database known as CLASS. In sending the Visas Viper cable and checking State Department records to determine whether Abdulmutallab had a visa, Embassy officials misspelled his name, but entered it correctly into CLASS. As a result of the misspelling in the cable, information about previous visas issued to him and the fact that he currently held a valid U.S. visa was not included in the cable. At the same time the CLASS entry resulted in a lookout using the correct spelling that was shared automatically with the primary lookout system used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and accessible to other agencies.
The State Department has broad and flexible authority to revoke visas and we use that authority widely to protect our borders. Since 2001, we have revoked 51,000 visas for a variety of reasons, including over 1,700 for suspected links to terrorism.
In addition to revocation efforts, consular officers refused 1,885,017 visas in FY2009. We now are renewing guidance to our officers on their discretionary authority to refuse visas under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act with specific reference to cases that raise security concerns. No visa is issued without it being run through security checks against our partners’ data. And we screen applicants’ fingerprints against U.S. databases as well.
DHS has broad access to our entire CCD, containing 136 million records related to both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas and covering visa actions of the last 13 years. Special extracts of data are supplied to elements within DHS, including the Visa Security Units of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
We give other agencies immediate access to over 13 years of visa data, and they use this access extensively. In November 2009, more than 16,000 employees of DHS, the Department of Defense (DOD), the FBI and Commerce made 920,000 queries on visa records.
In 2009 we expanded use of facial recognition from a selected segment of visa applications to all visa applications. We now are expanding our use of this technology beyond visa records. We are testing use of iris recognition technology in visa screening, making use of both identity and derogatory information collected by DOD. These efforts require intense ongoing cooperation from other agencies.
In addition, we have 145 officers and 540 locally employed staff devoted specifically to fraud prevention and document security, including fraud prevention officers at overseas posts.
We fully recognize that we were not perfect in our reporting in connection with the attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253. We are working and will continue to work not only to address that mistake but to continually enhance our border security screening capabilities and the contributions we make to the interagency effort.
Patrick F. Kennedy, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Under Secretary of State for Management on November 6, 2007. As Under Secretary for Management he is responsible for the people, resources, facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State and is the Secretary’s principal advisor on management issues. He also provides regular direction to the Bureau of Resource Management, and the Chief Financial Officer serves as a core member of the Under Secretary’s senior management team. The Bureau of Consular Affairs reports to him, and he reports to the Deputy Secretary Jack Lew.

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21st Century Statecraft at the State Department?

Alec Ross, the Senior Advisor for Innovation in Secretary Clinton’s office made some remarks last week on 21st Century Statecraft – Diplomacy in the Age of Facebook and Twitter at the Foreign Press Center in New York City. He gave a background on how the text Haiti campaign came about, talked about a “program in Mexico to restore anonymity to crime fighting using the tools of technology,” and had some back and forth on Google and China with some attendees. All very exciting stuff.  The January 14 statement (posted online yesterday) was a prep for the Secretary’s big speech on Internet Freedom today.

I’ve excerpted a couple of snippets from the Ross’ remarks to the foreign press below that you might find interesting: 
Question: You said something about your team. How many people are working on the 21st Century Statecraft in the State Department?
Senior Advisor Ross: I work in the Office of the Secretary. So I’d simply responds by saying that when the Secretary gets behind something the entire department gets behind something. So I’ll give the examples of Mexico and the Congo.
I have a team, but I don’t have a team in Mexico and in the Congo. We’re not this just anomalous little cell. We’re working with the embassy in Mexico City, with the Ambassador, with the Regional Bureau, and so too in the Congo, for example, we’re working with the Ambassador, with the Embassy staff.
The commitment from the Secretary to bring 21st Century Statecraft to the department is to institutionalize it. It’s not to say oh, here are ten really smart young people, let’s empower them. While that might work over the short term, it’s not going to be institutionalized. So what we are doing is not saying all right, here’s an innovation team. What we’re saying is here is an innovation based department. I’d love for it to be the case that all 30-some-thousand employees of the State Department could say they’re working on 21st Century Statecraft.
Question: If you look back on the Iran, the so-called Twitter revolution there. It’s been criticized for having done as much harm as good that America is trying to impact by helping citizens there. What are your conclusions with respect to that?
Senior Advisor Ross: I think that I will point you to Hillary Clinton’s speech next Thursday. I do believe that access to the tools of the 21st Century is a net good, and again, to quote the President, the more freely information flows the stronger the society and the way in which information flows in the 21st Century is increasingly over our global communications networks and our digital networks. I’ll leave it at that.
I just checked those posts mentioned.  US Embassy Congo is on Facebook, but not on Twitter. Its Facebook page has not been updated since December 30, 2009 11:24pm. US Mission Mexico is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and has a mission blog; all in Spanish.  Our US Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual is also on Twitter; follow him here.
KateatState  on Twitter says that After Sec Clinton’s speech on Internet Freedom tmrw, we’ll have a panel discussion & Q&A. Submit your Q’s:”
This morning I also got a message from an FSO (wishes to remain unnamed) asking “How can State take a leadership role on Internet freedom while we continue to harass and discourage bloggers within our own ranks?”
Now, there’s a question that begs a good answer.  I sent that question to Alec Ross and told him I’d be happy to post his response.  A couple hours later, I got it! Reprinted in part below:
Alec Ross: My response: … When I joined State I saw that we had a long long long long way to go to incorporate technology into our diplomatic practices. 2009 was a spectacularly successful year doing so, but we’re nowhere near the finish line and not yet everybody “gets it”. If I’m given specific names of people doing the “discouraging” then I will take it up with those individuals (or their bosses or their boss’ boss) directly. Listen to the Secretary’s speech today.”
I’m sure you can connect with Alec Ross through the GAL.  I’d be happy, of course, to forward specific information to him if it works better for you.  Did I say his office is within the Secretary’s office? Follow him on Twitter here. Secretary Clinton’s speech will be livestreamed on at 9:30am ET.
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Haiti Consular Assistance: By the Numbers (Updated)

The Consular Bureau with Michele Bond (DAS for Overseas Citizen Services) and David Donahue (DAS for Visa Services) conducted a briefing on January 18 on consular services provided to American citizens (amcits) during the Haiti disaster. The work is ongoing; the numbers below a snapshot of what have been accomplished so far and most certainly will change in the future. Numbers are compiled from the January 18 briefing and from the Spokesman’s briefings on January 19,and January 20. 
40,000-45,000 | Estimated number of American Citizens in Haiti
15,000 | Approximate number of American registered at the embassy
2 | Number of Task Force in Washington
2 |Number of Call Centers Set-up
300,000 | Number of calls received
9,000 | Number of cases opened in crisis database
12,300 | Number of cases opened and track in crisis database (1/20)

3,500 | Number of people accounted for in crisis database
7,500 | Number of people accounted for in crisis database (1/20)

2,900 | Number of American Citizen (Amcits) evacuated (1/18)
4,500 | Number of American Citizen (Amcits) evacuated (updated 1/19)
6,174 | Total number of Amcits evacuated (updated 1/20)
44 | Number of flights
525 | Number of Amcits in Embassy Compound
136 | Number of Amcits at Haiti Airport
24 | Number of Amcit deaths (private Americans 1/18)
27 | Number of Amcit deaths (private Americans updated 1/19)
33 | Total number of Amcit deaths (1/20)
| Number of immigrant visas for orphan children
146 |Children issued visas and humanitarian paroles (1/20)
$23 million | Contribution raised thru Text “Haiti” to 90999 (1/19)
72 | Number of individuals rescued (1/19)
3 | Number of email addresses set up
American Citizen Welfare/Whereabouts:
American Citizen W/W in Haiti:
Adoption Inquiry:
Other Foreign Service Numbers:
80 | Number of non-essential/family members evacuated
8 | Total Number of Amcits wounded (official personnel)
4 | Number of Amcits seriously wounded (official personnel)
1 | Number of Amcit death (official personnel)
3 | Official USG Persons Unaccounted for (1/20)
25 | Number of Consular Officers (augment) sent to Haiti
?? | Number of Local Staff at AmEmbassy Haiti
?? | Number of Local Staff Unaccounted for at AmEmbassy Haiti   
I have sent out emails inquiring about the local staff but have not received any response from anyone.  If you have an idea, or an estimate, please zap me an email. Our thoughts and prayers to our folks at the US Embassy in Port-Au-Prince. Take care of yourselves; this is not going to be over quickly.


Numbers updated  from DPB on January 20, 2010

Updated 1/21:
On FSNs/local employees:  I’m told that 75% percent of the local staff have called in, and that they’re hopeful more will call.

Top Floors Read the Consular Corner

Resort Municipality of WhistlerImage via Wikipedia

From FS blog, SassAndSweet ““Observations about working as a Diplomat. Thoughts on living in Israel. Comments on life, the universe and everything.” Extracted from entry What to Write, What to Write?

I have to send a shout out to & word of appreciation LS who kindly congratulated me a couple weeks back via the Consular Corner re: my Olympics Posting to Whistler.
so my thanks to LS is for posting the word and congrats that I’d heading to Whistler for the Olympics because THAT got noticed by Public Affairs & Consular Affairs and last week an email popped into my inbox at work…
I’m hardly the only one but … among other imminently more qualified people than myself. I’ve been asked to write a blog entry to be published by the Department of State about my posting to Whistler. We’ve negotiated subject and timing so I’ll be writing it 48 hours after my arrival – and discussing first impressions, my role up there for the upcoming Olympics, and probably some “Ra Ra State!” wordings. Which I’m cool w/because I like my job and my employer. Most days… 🙂
Active links added above. The writer has been tapped to open State’s first temporary consular office in Whistler, Canada to provide support for the U.S. Olympic Committee and consular assistance to American tourists attending the Olympic Games.

The up floors as much as the down floors probably read Liam’s Consular Corner (newsletter and Facebook). Now that’s something to think about, ya?