Blog Index | October 2010


Oh, PJ Crowley, she can see you from Wasilla, you, enemy coddler, you!..

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Oh, PJ Crowley, she can see you from Wasilla, you, big enemy coddler, you!

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Brazil 2009)Image via WikipediaSo, you know that the State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley is on Twitter, right?

Apparently, Mahmoud of Ahmadinejad has just turned 55.  PJ was being clever, trying to get the guy to do something unusual on his birthday, like released the two young men who are still in Iranian jail for allegedly crossing into Iran.  Remember those guys?  The NYT reported that “a classified American military report made public by WikiLeaks, which describes the chaotic day when the hikers were detained, asserts that the hikers were on the Iraqi side of the border when they were seized.”

So here’s PJ | http://twitter.com/pjcrowley

# Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home. What a gift that would be.
#Iran 2:30 PM Oct 28th via web

#  Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open #Iran to a different relationship with the world.     
2:31 PM Oct 28th  via web

But before Mahmoud of Ahmadinejad got a chance to answer PJ’s birthday greeting, somebody who has appended “USA” to her name has taken great umbrage at his tweets:  

SarahPalinUSA | http://twitter.com/sarahpalinusa

# Happy B’day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense
about 12 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

#    Americans awaken 2 bizarre natl security thinking of Obama Admn: Ahmadinejad b’day greeting after call 4 Israel’s destruction speaks volumes
about 11 hours ago  via Twitter for BlackBerry®

PJ, are you coddling enemies again with your sweet tweets?  AFP reported that Crowley defended himself on Friday:

“My tweet was simply to suggest that a reasonable celebration of President Ahmadinejad’s birthday would be to release Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal,” Crowley told reporters.

“I can’t imagine why Sarah Palin would object to the release of the two hikers who remain in custody, we think inappropriately,” he said.

Frankly, we can’t imagine either who would take offense.  Unless of course, whoever writes these tweets was a) thinking only of twitter mileage, b) has no freakin idea who are Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, 3) knows but no care, d) insert one more funny gunny grizzled bearly reason.  

In any case, the “lamestream” media apparently is paying enough attention to report this great development. So hilarity all around. Har…har…har…

We only have one excuse — we’re getting old, we need at least three laughs a day. So this is a good start, one more to go.     


Kabul Embassy Security Force contract now combined with Baghdad Embassy contract and WPPS II into one base Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract

We’ve blogged about the Kabul Embassy Security Force last year (see below):

State’s OIG recently released its performance review of the KESF contract. The following items stick out from the report:

  • The Kabul Embassy Security Force (KESF), provided through a contract with ArmorGroup of North America (AGNA), has ensured the safety of chief of mission personnel in Kabul.
  • The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) did not thoroughly scrutinize Nepalese guards hired by AGNA, allowing guards without experience, training, or background investigations to perform security duty.
  • AGNA has employed Nepalese guards without verifiable experience, training, or background investigations in violation of its contract.
  • OIG found that 57 percent of Nepalese guards lack a proven level of proficiency required by contract.
  • Due to the guards’ low levels of English language proficiency, some supervisors are unable to adequately communicate with their subordinates, which could lead to serious problems during an emergency. OIG calculates that penalties totaling $6 million could be imposed on AGNA for posting guards without required English language proficiency.
  • Because AGNA was unable to acquire a sample of an explosive commonly available in Afghanistan, DS changed the contract standards, allowing AGNA to end testing of this material by explosives detection canines. Since this particular explosive is readily available in Afghanistan, the lack of testing could put the embassy at risk.
  • DS does not provide a sufficient number of U.S. Government-furnished weapons to the KESF. Currently, there are more guards than weapons, and the day-shift Nepalese guards are sharing weapons with their counterparts on the night shifts. Sharing weapons means that weapon sights are not calibrated to individuals, which affects firing accuracy. 
  • OIG noted problems with firearms training that may undermine the readiness and professionalism of the guard force and potentially the security of Embassy Kabul. OIG visited an AGNA firing range, an area 10 miles outside of Kabul, to observe weapon requalification. An OIG team member with 15 years of military experience observed some guards repeatedly missing their mark due to improper breathing techniques and unadjusted sights. No instructors were correcting these deficiencies.

Oh dear! How do you instruct a guard to do something … anything, in case of an attack of the embassy if he/she does NOT speak English or if the response to your every command could be something equivalent to no habla Englis or bistaari bhannus (please speak slowly). 

You know, that contractor would have been better off hiring moi. Really.  (Please quit laughing, you’ll hurt our feelings!)  We don’t have any verifiable guard or police training, we’ll admit that off the bat; and truth to tell — we can’t shoot straight.  But at least we speak some form of English and have never been known to play with our drinks or run around half neked.  

Below is part of Diplomatic Security’s response to the review:   

During late summer of 2009, allegations of misconduct were brought to the Department’s attention and investigated jointly by DS and OIG. As a result of the investigation, 20 AGNA personnel, including its senior in-country management team were removed from the contract. DS also implemented the following measures: a DS Agent was assigned to live at the guard camp; an additional DS agent was designated as a COR to enhance RSO oversight; DS has established a personal services contractor (PSC) position (i.e. a direct government employee, not a third-party contractor) who will arrive in Kabul August 27 to further augment the RSO’s oversight responsibilities; DS introduced mandatory cultural awareness training and banned the consumption or possession of alcohol. A senior level review of the misconduct allegations against AGNA personnel, combined with AGNA’s history of contract compliance deficiencies, led DS, AQM, and Embassy Kabul to conclude that it was in the best interests of the Government to compete a new contract. In light of recent legislation, the KESF contract has been combined with the Baghdad Embassy Security Force and Worldwide Personal Protective Services II (WPPS II) contracts into one base Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) contract.

Details aside, the big picture question is still out there. What do you do when a contractor is unable to fulfill some parts of the contract?  Oh, we know you can kick them out, but then what? Start with the new who’s also part of the old?

We really do hope that the new WPS contract works. Word has it that about 7,000 security folks are needed just for Iraq, and we presume that number is for PSD only and does not include the static embassy guards.

State OIG Report | Diplomatic Security Kabul Embassy Security Force http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=40293153&access_key=key-1n3fef1af0csum61cfk1&page=1&viewMode=list


Cameron Munter, new US Ambassador to Pakistan arrives in Islamabad

Cameron Munter, the newly appointed Ambassador of the United States to Pakistan, presented his credentials to Asif Ali Zardari at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad today, October 27.

Photo from US Embassy Islamabad

From the embassy press shop:  

Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador Munter told the President, “I am looking forward to working with the democratically elected Government and with people around the country to strengthen our deep, long-term relationship based on honesty and mutual respect.” The Ambassador expressed U.S. appreciation for Pakistan’s sacrifices in its ongoing fight against extremism and terrorism. He also assured the President of America’s continued support for Pakistan’s economic development, and for regional stability.

Ambassador Munter was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Ms. Marilyn Wyatt, and accompanied by Deputy Chief of Mission Stephen Engelken, Civilian Assistance Coordinator Ambassador Robin Raphel, Defense Attaché Colonel Joseph Abbott, and his personal staff.

Active links added above. Ambassador Munter and his wife, Marilyn Wyatt, arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday, October 26, and he spoke at the embassy: 

He also spoke with VOA here about rebuilding trust. 

On a related note, Ambassador Munter’s immediate predecessor, Ambassador Anne Patterson was presented by HRC with the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award,” at the Department of State on October 25.  The event was closed to the press and no photo of the ceremony has surfaced as of yet. 

 


Civilian Surge in Afghanistan: Authorized and Filled Positions

We are unable to republish or embed the SIGAR report on the civilian surge in Afghanistan here but we are  still able to snag parts of it for posting. See below a table of the positions authorized and filled by location and agency. The civilian surge has been split into two phases, the first one ending in December 2009 and Phase II from January 2010 to December 2011.
According to the SIGAR report, a reported 418 personnel have deployed to Afghanistan, including 227 personnel in the field as of September 9, 2010. Approximately 1500 civilians are expected to be deployed in country by January 2012.

State, USAID, and USDA contribute the greatest number of civilians to the uplift, accounting for almost
91 percent of the total number of uplift positions identified. Personnel from these 3 agencies have filled 375 positions, or 90 percent, of the total 418 positions filled as of September 9, 2010.  No surprise there.

HHS and DOC have 100% filled positions since both agencies only have one authorized/filled position.  DHS also has a 100% filled for 11 authorized and filled positions. 

 

(Table extracted from SIGAR report
Click here for larger view)

We have previously  questioned the sustainability of staffing the FS given the troops drawdown in Iraq, the civilian surge in Afghanistan and the persistent staffing gaps in the Foreign Service. Below is what the report says about sustainability:

“One goal of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy is to sustain increased civilian staffing levels in Afghanistan beyond July 2011. Nevertheless, concern has been expressed that the civilian presence in the field may not be sustainable at planned levels. This is particularly true for USAID, which is drawing personnel from a decreasing pool of qualified applicants, many of whom are recruited externally. Furthermore, USAID is already facing difficulties recruiting career personnel for assignments in Afghanistan as many have already completed tours in the country. A July 2010 Embassy cable expressed similar concerns about State’s limited pool of Foreign Service Officers, noting that approximately 20 percent of the Foreign Service Officers posted overseas are already serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan. In addition, the cable noted concerns with USDA’s reliance on its domestic workforce to fill its positions.

The SIGAR report is available here.

 

 

SIGAR recommends US Ambassador in Kabul do something about dat civilian surge …

Robert Gates and Karl Eikenberry, Bagram.Image via WikipediaAnother one of those light-touch reports from our friendly SIGAR office.

SIGAR has just released its 36-page audit on the civilian surge in Afghanistan — U.S. Civilian Uplift in Afghanistan is Progressing but Some Key Issues Merit Further Examination as Implementation Continues (SIGAR-Audit-11-2 | October 26, 2010 | 36 pages).  We were was going to republish the document here for easy reading but the report is in a restrictive PDF format that made it, at least for now, unpublishable in ScribD. Below is an excerpt from the press statement: 

The SIGAR audit shows the “civilian surge” is being implemented in two phases and will take U.S. government civilian capacity from 320 civilians in January 2009 to approximately 1500 civilian employees by January 2012. Additionally, the audit finds that U.S. agencies have deployed nearly 67% of the civilian personnel for this “surge”.

While auditors found that housing and operational needs have generally been met across the field locations, there are issues in civil-military integration and coordination. Civilian and military officials report that there are challenges in developing the integrated working relationship, stemming from differences in organizational cultures and perspectives.

Additionally, civilians have told SIGAR auditors there is a lack of clarity from their agencies on various aspects of their work in the field, including position roles and responsibilities; reporting and supervisory relationships within the field structure; and the role of the Office of Interagency Provincial Affairs as it applies to work at the field locations.

Civilians involved in the “surge” report receiving limited information on their roles and responsibilities before arriving at their assigned locations. They also cited lack of information on national development programs that are being implemented in their areas of operation. SIGAR auditors report when civilians cannot provide quick responses to their military counterparts, they are viewed as being ineffective, which can strain efforts at civilian-military integration. This lack of information is also deemed to compromise effectiveness on program oversight, according to the report.
[…]
The SIGAR report provides two recommendations to ensure that the interagency review of the civilian uplift is comprehensive. In particular, SIGAR recommended that the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan develop a mechanism for collecting, analyzing, and applying lessons learned and best practices, to include the design and implementation of a series of comprehensive field surveys.

Read the whole report here.

First, we have to say that putting restrictions on a USG government is not unheard of, but disabling the copy and paste function is not nice SIGAR people! Even the GAO doesn’t do that to their reports, and they have been around longer than you guys. Not only that, SIGAR has also “encrypted” all contents of the document so search engines will not have access to this document’s metadata.  We should be grateful that we can at least print and read this “public” document, huh?  

Second, read the report’s recommendation closely. Is it just us or does it come across like whoever wrote this report seem quite detached from the reality of a 24/7 operation of a US mission in a warzone? Where are these folks coming from?  Must the “U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan develop a mechanism for collecting, analyzing, and applying lessons learned and best practices, to include the design and implementation of a series of comprehensive field surveys?” Holy mountain goat — field surveys??? We fell off our chair when we read those recommendations.  We quite understand the need for lessons learned and best practices, field surveys and all that — really — but dude, do you have to give that job to that poor man in Kabul who already has to deal with looniness in Afghanistan and Wash DC, work even on his one off day of the week, tele/video conference during ungodly hours, and play guide to war tourists and VIPs, in addition to running the US mission?
 
Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the data collected at the conclusion of the Afghanistan assignment back at the big house during an outbrief — either at S/CRS, or at the Af/Pak “bureau” or whichever alphabet soup is responsible for the inbrief of all employees heading to Afghanistan?  The office responsible for the inbrief of all civilians hearing over there could also be responsible for the outbrief of civilians coming home, regardless of their home agency, and the responsible office then ought to get face time with FSI and other training arms to improve the deployment preparation of civilians.  
    
Also, just wondering — where’s the recommendation on how to address the challenges in “civil-military integration and coordination?”  How many of the nearly 67% deployed civilian did SIGAR talked to? For instance, there are 35 DSTs in the country, and SIGAR talked to 4 during their June/July field visits.

It’s a good thing this report is free; we would have asked for our money back had we paid for it.

Um wait — we did pay for this; that’s our tax dollars at work! Aaaaahhhhrggggg!   


Karzai Our Guy and Theirs Two-Ply Strategery Plays Out in Great Tackery

NYC Subway sculpture - MoneybagsImage by DogFromSPACE via FlickrVia AFP:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted Monday that his chief of staff had received “bags of money” from Iran but insisted the payment was transparent and a form of aid from a friendly country.

Cash payments “are done by various friendly countries to help the president’s office … this is transparent,” Karzai told a press conference as the White House warned over Iranian influence in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, received regular cash payments from Iran, a US foe and reportedly trying to expand its influence in the presidential palace in Kabul.

Karzai angrily rejected the reports that the payments were secret.

“This is nothing hidden. We are grateful for Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They’re providing cash to some of our offices,” he said.

Asked if the money came in bags, as reported, he said: “It does give bags of money yes, yes it does … it’s all the same let’s not make this an issue.”


Eight days till election day – do you know your Hatch Act Rules?

The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity.

The 2010 midterm election is predicted to be one of the most expensive and heated elections in recent years. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency with jurisdiction to enforce the Hatch Act recently cited two Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) decisions to remind all federal employees of the importance of understanding and observing the Hatch Act’s restrictions on political activity. As seen from these decisions, the penalties for violating the Hatch Act are significant. The federal employee in the first case was ordered removed; and the second employee was ordered suspended without pay for 120 days. According to OSC:

The first employee was a Program Analyst/Contracting Officer Technical Representative with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). This employee, while on duty and in the federal workplace, forwarded several partisan political e‐mails, including two that solicited political contributions, to BEP employees and BEP contractor employees over whom she had authority and influence. In finding that the BEP employee violated the Hatch Act’s restrictions on using official authority or influence to affect the result of an election, soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions, and engaging in political activity while on duty or in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties, the MSPB found that the employee’s conduct was “little different than distributing campaign literature prepared by others, a clear violation of the Hatch Act.” Special Counsel v. Ware, 114 M.S.P.R. 128, 138 (2010). The MSPB also ruled that “soliciting contributions from persons doing business with an agency is a serious violation of the Hatch Act because of the threat of coercion and the appearance that government contracts are awarded based on political patronage rather than competitive bidding.” Id. at 137.

The second case involved an employee of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The employee, while on duty and in the federal workplace, disseminated a fundraising e-mail to approximately 44 recipients. The e‐mail requested contributions for then‐Presidential candidate Barack Obama, and provided three links for recipients to make contributions online. In affirming the Initial Decision finding that the IRS employee violated the Hatch Act’s restrictions on soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions, and engaging in political activity while on duty or in a room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties, the MSPB stated that “any Hatch Act violation by a federal employee, on duty and in government offices, [is] a serious matter.” Special Counsel v. Mark, 114 M.S.P.R. 516, 520 (2010). Also, the MSPB determined that the employee’s violation warranted a “significant penalty” of a 120‐day suspension. Id. at 525.

Read the whole thing here.

In the September issue of AFSANet, the organization issued a Hatch reminder and cited the “most recent cable on this issue” (the text unfortunately, appears to be extracted from the original cable and does not contain any daytimegroup indicator, so we can’t tell how recent this is). Here is a summary: 

For Foreign Service employees: Hatch Act requirements and Department policy place broad restrictions on what political activities Presidential appointees may undertake. All employees are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activities while “on duty.” For Chiefs of Mission serving overseas, this restriction has a large footprint; you are considered to be “on duty” twenty-four hours per day while at your post of assignment. Accordingly, you may not engage in any partisan political activities while at post, including host ing events at the Embassy or official residence on behalf of a partisan political candidate or group (after consultation with L/Ethics, however, the Embassy may be able to meet with such candidates or meet with members of these groups under other limited circumstances). You also may not leave post for the primary purpose of participating in partisan political activities in the United States.

In addition, your partisan activities are considerably restricted even when not at post. You may not endorse or oppose a candidate for partisan political office in a political advertisement, broadcast, campaign literature, or similar medium. You may not attend a political party convention or an election night celebration, unless authorized to attend due to special circumstances by the Department’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, Deputy Legal Adviser Jim Thessin. You may not run for a partisan political office or work for a partisan political campaign. You also may not speak, attend or host a fundraising event for a partisan political candidate or party, or conduct any fundraising activity in this regard, even if the candidate is a spouse or family member.

Like other employees, Chiefs of Mission may register and vote; express personal opinions on partisan political subjects; and be a member of a partisan political party or group. You also may make contributions to political parties or candidates, subject to state and federal limitations. Additionally, when authorized by the Executive Secretary of the Department, you may provide foreign policy briefings in your official capacity to candidates and political groups on a nonpartisan basis.

For your ready reference, we have reprinted below the Department’s more detailed guidance on political activity restrictions applicable to PAS employees. This is also available on the ethics webpage at http://ethics.state.gov If you have further questions, please contact the attorneys at L/Ethics, preferably by e-mail on the SBU at L-EMP-Ethics-Attorney-Mailbox, or, by phone at 202-647-4646.  We also urge that all employees familiarize themselves with 5 FAM 790, Social Media Use and Policy, which may also affect political activity.

Read the whole Hatch Act Rules and detailed guidance for FS personnel here.

OSC has put together a Federal Q&A on the Hatch Act here.

If you are a Federal employee and is active on Facebook Twitter, blogs, etc., the OSC’s FAQ regarding social media and the Hatch Act may also be worth a read. Reposted below via USNavy in Slideshare:


Video of the Week: Jack Black as Professional "Mis-Informant" Just in Time to Scare Us Silly for Halloween

Have you ever seen Jack Black in Nacho Libre where he played a monk moonlighting as a luchador (Mexican wrestler)?  We’ll, he is back this time without the blue tights and cape but as a professional “mis-informant” posing as an eight year old complete with a school backpack as accessory.  Woo-hoo! Just in time to scare us out of our wits this Halloween.

Via HuffPo:

People who love Jack Black and hate lying corporations will get a real kick out of this hilarious viral campaign from Health Care For America Now. Stop Spewman is a two-part satire featuring Black and the lovely America Ferrera that attempts to shed light on the corporate misinformation dominating this Fall’s elections.

In this first episode, Black’s character Nathan Spewman, a professional “Mis-Informant” or undercover pawn of greedy corporations, tries to spread lies about Obama’s health care plan by posing as an eight-year-old boy. Claiming to suffer from “Enlargitis” which makes him appear older, Spewman spreads fear among the kids in Ferrera’s class about Obamacare and death panels, and even uses Justin Bieber as bait.


 

 


$70K for "friendship, $40K for applying to the CIA, how much was he paid for applying to the US Foreign Service?

Cover of No Way OutAmazing how much the Chinese would pay for something called “friendship.” 

Apparently some $70K.

Applying to the CIA? $40K.

The statement from the DOJ did not indicate how many times this bozo attempted to join the US Foreign Service between 2005-2010.  Well, entry is a long drawn out process, probably hard to collect from the spy handlers when he had to pass a written exam, pass an oral exam, pass the medical exam, the security process, then wait on the register before landing a spot in A100.  And then training, short or long, depends. Spy handlers would have been bored out of their wits listening to his grammar drills. Oh wait, he already had Mandarin ….    

Thank goodness he did not get through the door, but if he were able to penetrate the hiring shield of the US Foreign Service, his handlers would have gotten bored listening to his 2-4 year escapades in consular sections talking to visa applicants, or destitute Americans overseas.

Of course, we all remember that the Russkies waited more than that in No Way Out, yeah?      

Via USDOJ’s press release on October 22, Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Spy for the People’s Republic of China

WASHINGTON—Glenn Duffie Shriver, 28, of Detroit, Mich., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady to conspiring to provide national defense information to intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
[…]
Shriver pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it. In a plea agreement, the defense and government jointly recommended a prison sentence of 48 months. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2011.
[…]
According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Shriver is proficient in Mandarin Chinese and lived in the PRC both as an undergraduate student and after graduation. While living in Shanghai in October 2004, Shriver developed a relationship with three individuals whom he came to learn were PRC intelligence officers. At the request of these foreign agents, Shriver agreed to return to the United States and apply for positions in U.S. intelligence agencies or law enforcement organizations.

Shriver admitted in court that he knew that his ultimate objective was to obtain a position with a federal department or agency that would afford him access to classified national defense information, which he would then transmit to the PRC officers in return for cash payments.

From 2005 to 2010, Shriver attempted to gain employment as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State and as a clandestine service officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. Shriver admitted that, during this time, he maintained frequent contact with the PRC intelligence officers and received more than $70,000 in three separate cash payments for what the officers called his “friendship.”

In December 2009, Shriver received notice that he was to report to Washington, D.C., in May 2010 for final employment processing activities with the CIA. Shriver admitted that he communicated with a PRC intelligence officer that he was “making some progress” in obtaining a position with the CIA and that he would not be free to travel to PRC for another meeting because it could raise suspicion with federal agents conducting his background investigation.

Shriver admitted that he made false statements on the CIA questionnaire required for employment stating that he had not had any contact with a foreign government or its representative during the last seven years, when in fact he had met in person with one or more of the officers approximately 20 times since 2004. He also deliberately omitted his travel to PRC in 2007 when he received a $40,000 cash payment from the PRC for applying to the CIA. In addition, Shriver made false statements during a series of final screening interviews at the CIA, and he admitted he made each of the false statements to conceal his illicit relationship with the PRC intelligence officers.

Active links added above.  Read the whole thing here.