$5 Million Reward for Information Re: Shootings of Two ICE Agents in Mexico

Via the DOJ press shop:

The Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security today jointly announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of individuals allegedly responsible for the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE HSI Special Agent Victor Avila.

The FBI, in conjunction with ICE, has established a 24-hour tip line based in the United States to process the information.  Individuals in the United States with information are encouraged to call 1-866-859-9778.  Individuals in Mexico can provide information by calling +001 800-225-5324.  Spanish language speakers will be available using either number.  Anyone wishing to email information can do so by visiting: https://tips.fbi.gov .  All information is considered confidential.

Also today the Government of Mexico announced a reward of up to 10 million pesos for information leading to the arrest of individuals allegedly responsible for the murder and attempted murder.  Individuals can call (55) 53-46-15-44 and (55) 53-46-00-00, extension 4748 in Mexico City.  Outside of Mexico City, individuals can call 01-800-831-31-96 to provide information.  Information may also be sent to the following email address: denunciapgr@gob.mx.  More information about the Government of Mexico’s award can be found at www.recompensas.gob.mx.

Zapata and Avila were ambushed in Mexico on Feb. 15, 2011, as they were traveling in their U.S. government-issued vehicle from the state of San Luis Potosi to Mexico City.  Mexican authorities have detained several individuals in connection with this incident and the investigation continues at this time.

The U.S. reward is being offered by the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of State’s Narcotics Rewards Program, which was established by Congress in 1986.  Additional information on this program can be found at: www.state.gov/p/inl/narc/rewards/index.htm.



Related posts:

US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock | Feb 16, 2011

“Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?? | Mar 07, 2011




Oh, yeah! U.S. Lawmakers Want Paychecks Even in a Govt Shutdown

On March 1, I posted about the Senate bill that would prohibit Members of Congress and the President from receiving pay during Government shutdowns (see Senate Bill Blocks Pay For Lawmakers and President During Govt Shutdown).

AP reported then that the US Senate unanimously passed this legislation. I wrote at that time that the ball is in the House of Representatives’ court to pass a similar bill quickly, or it might look bad on them.

Well, apparently, I presumed too much, too soon. And know absolutely squat about human nature.

If there is a government shutdown in April, our lawmakers will continue to get their paychecks. Because, hey — are you ready for this? They need the money!

NBC’s Luke Russert and Carrie Dann have an update:    

Today the House GOP said that their soon-to-be-approved budget bill (dubbed the “Prevention of Government Shutdown Act”) would include the same language to eliminate paychecks for members of Congress during a shutdown.

But that budget bill – which has already been rejected by the Senate once – has virtually no chance of passing the upper chamber, meaning that the language about members’ salaries will still not become law.

What’s more, GOP leaders refuse to bring the “clean” – or unattached – Senate-passed salary language up for a vote on the House floor.

Why? There are a variety of reasons, but one that is mentioned constantly is that many newer members of Congress quit their jobs to run for office.

Quite frankly, they say they need the money.

Bwa! ha! ha! Sometimes, life is so hilarious you just gotta roll around and laugh till you cry.  What is more liberating than that?  Obviously, the federal employees, contractors, government vendors, and all the rest of you related one way or another to Uncle Sam do not need the money when our Uncle is shut down.  Nor have bills to pay.  What bills?  Don’t worry, you apparently don’t have those either.

But give them a break, people. First, you did not/not quit your job and borrow a mound of money to run your election/ reelection campaign in order to serve the people. And they did. Second, you are not/not in power, and they are. What’s the use of being in power if you cannot look after a simple self-interest like getting your paycheck on the correct day of the month?  

They very clearly deserves their paycheck even when they are no better than kids squabbling in the schoolyard, and are the cause of the shutdown. Howabout your paycheck?  Well, who do you think you are — an elected representative?         


William J. Burns — to Move Up as Deputy Secretary of State

If confirmed would only be the fourth career diplomat in history to become Deputy Secretary

You probably already saw the news that the Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg is leaving the #2 job at the State Department.  He will reportedly become the dean of the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University.  Secretary Clinton has announced via email to SD staff that President Obama intends to nominate career diplomat, Bill Burns, the current “P” as Mr. Steinberg’s successor.     

State’s Historian’s Office has a quick recap of the #2 position:  Congress created the position of Deputy Secretary of State in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972, approved Jul 13, 1972 (Public Law 92-352; 86 Stat 490), to replace the Under Secretary of State as the second ranking officer in the Department. The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State; serves as Acting Secretary of State in the Secretary’s absence; and assists the Secretary in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy and in giving general supervision and direction to all elements of the Department. Specific duties and supervisory responsibilities have varied over time.

If the Secretary of State resigns or dies, the Deputy Secretary of State also becomes Acting Secretary of State until the President nominates and the Senate confirms a replacement. In 2008, Secretary Clinton appointed both James Steinberg and Jacob J. Lew to the position of Deputy Secretary of State, the former for policy and the latter for management and resources.  Mr. Lew had since returned to OMB and was replaced by Thomas Nides

If confirmed, Bill Burns would become the 17th Deputy Secretary of State and only the fourth to come from the career Foreign Service. Previous Deputy Secretaries to come from the professional ranks are:  Walter John Stoessel, Jr. (February 11, 1982–September 22, 1982) under President Reagan, Lawrence Eagleburger (January 20, 1989–August 19, 1992) under President G.H.W.Bush and  John Negroponte (February 13, 2007– January 19, 2009) recalled from retirement under President G.W.Bush.

Below is Ambassador Burns as Under Secretary for Political Affairs, as he testified recently at the SFRC on “developments in the Middle East.”


Less than three months ago, a desperate Tunisian street vendor, tired of too many indignities and too many lost hopes, set fire to himself and sparked a revolution still burning across an entire region. That single tragic act, has brought the Middle East to a moment of profound transformation, as consequential in its own way as 1989 was for Europe and Eurasia.
The long-held conceit of many Arab leaders was that there were really only two political choices – the autocrats you know or the Islamic extremists you fear. That provided a convenient rationale for blocking real political outlets or broadened participation, and it ultimately produced the spontaneous protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere throughout the region. We have long recognized the tinder that was accumulating in the region, the combustible mix of closed systems and corruption and alienation and indignity documented so eloquently in the Arab Human Development Reports.
As much as it is in our long-term interest to support the emergence of more transparent and more responsive governments, who will ultimately make stronger and more stable partners, the short-term is likely to be complicated and maybe even unsettling.
Successful transitions are about a lot more than just elections; institutions have to be built too, supportive policies, effective checks and balances, and an independent media to hold governments accountable. There will be plenty of vulnerabilities, and no shortage of predatory extremists ready to exploit them. And there will be plenty of hard tradeoffs for American policymakers, with popularly-elected governments sometimes taking sharper issue with American policies than their autocratic predecessors did, and elections sometimes producing uncomfortable results.

Full testimony available here (pdf).

Clinton’s letter to the SD staff is here (h/t to The Cable’s Josh Rogin).

More on the 7th floor shuffle including the top contenders for the “P” job here from The Envoy’s Laura Rozen.

US Embassy Egypt: Non-Emergency Personnel Returns to Cairo

The State Department has released an updated Travel Warning dated March 29 with information on the ongoing security and political situation in Egypt and announcing the return to Egypt of most non-emergency US Embassy personnel. Note that throughout the political upheaval in Egypt, the embassy remained staffed by core personnel.

The Ordered Departure status of embassy dependents is still on.  Visa applications appears to be suspended still, but a prior notice indicates that the American Citizens’ Services (ACS) section of the Embassy will return to its previously established appointment system for U.S. citizens effective April 1, 2011.  Excerpt from updated Travel Warning:

The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens planning to travel to Egypt to consider the risks and to be aware of the information below.  This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated February 18, 2011, to update information on the ongoing security and political situation in Egypt, including the return to Egypt of most non-emergency US Embassy personnel.

On February 1, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest.  The U.S Embassy in Cairo remains on ordered departure status for dependents, but most employees have returned, and the Embassy is resuming normal operations.

Elements of the Egyptian government responsible for ensuring security and public safety are not fully reconstituted and are still in the process of being reorganized.  Until the redeployment of Egyptian civilian police is fully restored, police response to emergency requests for assistance or reports of crime may be delayed.  The Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies to assist U.S. citizens is also significantly diminished.  The Government of Egypt has implemented a country-wide curfew. As of March 29, the curfew hours are from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. U.S. citizens should obey curfew orders and remain indoors during curfew hours.

The security situation in Luxor, Aswan, and the Red Sea Resorts, including Sharm el Sheikh, is calm; however, the situation across Egypt remains unpredictable and subject to change.  

Read in full here.



PJ Crowley: Why I called Bradley Manning’s treatment ‘stupid’

Excerpt Via the Guardian:

As a public diplomat and (until recently) spokesman of the department of state, I was responsible for explaining the national security policy of the United States to the American people and populations abroad. I am also a retired military officer who has long believed that our civilian power must balance our military power. Part of our strength comes from international recognition that the United States practises what we preach. Most of the time, we do. This strategic narrative has made us, broadly speaking, the most admired country in the world.
But I understood why the question was asked. Private Manning’s family, joined by a number of human rights organisations, has questioned the extremely restrictive conditions he has experienced at the brig at Marine Corps base Quantico, Virginia. I focused on the fact that he was forced to sleep naked, which led to a circumstance where he stood naked for morning call.
Based on 30 years of government experience, if you have to explain why a guy is standing naked in the middle of a jail cell, you have a policy in need of urgent review. The Pentagon was quick to point out that no women were present when he did so, which is completely beside the point.
The issue is a loss of dignity, not modesty.
Our strategic narrative connects our policies to our interests, values and aspirations. While what we do, day in and day out, is broadly consistent with the universal principles we espouse, individual actions can become disconnected. Every once in a while, even a top-notch symphony strikes a discordant note. So it is in this instance.
The Pentagon has said that it is playing the Manning case by the book. The book tells us what actions we can take, but not always what we should do. Actions can be legal and still not smart. With the Manning case unfolding in a fishbowl-like environment, going strictly by the book is not good enough. Private Manning’s overly restrictive and even petty treatment undermines what is otherwise a strong legal and ethical position.
When the United States leads by example, we are not trying to win a popularity contest. Rather, we are pursuing our long-term strategic interest. The United States cannot expect others to meet international standards if we are seen as falling short. Differences become strategic when magnified through the lens of today’s relentless 24/7 global media environment.
So, when I was asked about the “elephant in the room,” I said the treatment of Private Manning, while well-intentioned, was “ridiculous” and “counterproductive” and, yes, “stupid”.

I stand by what I said
. The United States should set the global standard for treatment of its citizens – and then exceed it. It is what the world expects of us. It is what we should expect of ourselves.

Read in full here.

In a War That Must Not Be Named, Leadership and Security On the Line

Wing Wo Ho Weighing Scale 永和號Image via Wikipedia

I’ve posted a first person account here of a Foreign Service officer assigned to a border post.  One wonders if this account is an isolated case or typical of how this is handled in our border posts.  Are our diplomats there routinely told to just suck it up or to go curtail amidst a war next door that must not be named?  First, a few quick points:

#The phone tree as I understand it is regularly updated by the Regional Security Office to ensure that the emergency contact number of mission members are correct. The CLO runs a separate phone tree for family members. The RSO then runs periodic test to make sure employees and dependents are reachable on their contact phones and back up phones.  I have never seen this run by the MGT or by Consular Sections, but I suspect anybody could be tasked to do this at much smaller posts in a collateral role.

#Worldwide Availability: All officers are considered worldwide available, that is, prepared to go where needed; ready, at any time, to meet the needs of the Service. Needs of the Service trumps almost everything else, almost always. The first two tours of entry level officers are normally “directed.” New employees can put in their bid lists, but they could end up going to places not on their lists. Needs of the Service. Over 60% of FS posts are considered “hardship,” in isolated, unhealthful and even dangerous environments.  Family members may not even be authorized to join the employee or even if they join, they potentially could be evacuated at any later time. Once saw a mid-level officer who started with a huge bid list, later shrunk down to 6 positions, all in Iraq. Needs of the Service. He had choices, six of them; all in Iraq.

#Together with the “no double standard” is the “need to know” policy (see 7 FAM 053.2-2 b).  Had the senior officials at the consulate told the junior officers about the impending raid impacting their security, might they have been required under the law to share the information with private Americans (unless the case was an exception under 7 FAM 052 (4))?  But — if there was any doubt as to the interpretation of the regs in relation to these two policies, post management could have picked up the phone and ask CA/PRI for guidance.  That said, I can’t understand why the employees not in the know could not have been ordered to have an official sleepover at the consulate office instead of leaving them out in the open on the day of the drug raid.  Surely, this was not the first raid in Mexico in close proximity to USG housing/facilities.  Is sheltering at home albiet blindly, standard operating procedure for all border posts?

#Leadership matters. Entry level officers on their first tours obviously do not have the same experience as seasoned officers even if they have previously lived/worked overseas.  Their fears are understandable. Their anger at being shut out is also understandable. People need to feel they matter.  Telling them to basically suck it up because they received danger pay or to go ahead and curtail due to legitimate fears is not good leadership and management. It builds distrust and without trust, the game, as the cliché goes, is over; teamwork becomes a fairy tale.

There are six border posts in Mexico: Cd. Juarez, Matamoros, Monterrey, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana.  Prior to the Cd.Juarez shooting last year, none except the Consular Agency in Raynosa had danger pay.

In 2009, The Telegraph reported that the annual murder rate in Cd. Juarez has reached 133 per 100,000 inhabitants, surpassing Caracas, Venezuela. The comparable murder rate in New York last year was six per 100,000.The report quoted Norte, the local newspaper in Ciudad Juarez: “With this, our city has reached a new historic mark in violent acts that verifies this is the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones.” The victims in Ciudad Juarez this year have included 85 children, 107 women and 49 police officers. There have been beheadings and dismemberments and one victim was tied between two trucks and ripped apart. Most of the crimes remain unsolved.”

And yet, it was not until March 14, 2010, the day after the Cd. Juarez US Consulate murders, that the border posts received a 15% danger pay differential.   (See Mexican Border Posts Get 15% Danger Pay | Mar 23, 2010)That same weekend, six US Consulates in Mexico also went on authorized voluntary departure (See Six US Consulates in Mexico on Authorized Departure).Over 35,000 people killed right next door, including at least 24 journalists and we still do not call that war on our doorstep a war.

As of March 13, 2011, Cd. Juaraez and Monterrey are up at 20% danger pay, Nogales down to 5% and the rest remains at 15%.Perhaps the FSO’s account should encourage not just a discussion on leadership in a crisis but also what it means to be a diplomat in this new and turbulent world.  Should diplomats need to have a new mindset that they are vulnerable like soldiers? And if so, what does that mean in terms of their ability and training to protect themselves and their loved ones?

DOD which is responsible for extracting large numbers of civilians in harm’s way during disasters and civil strife, has a joint publication on Noncombatant Evacuation Operations.  In it, it gave top billing to a legal and political maxim, “The people’s safety is the highest law.”

In fact, it’s just not DOD in an evacuation.  Organizations often tout their people as their greatest strength and resource and their safety, a sort of prime directive.  Why else do we evacuate people from harm’s way (except in diplomatic posts in war zones)? Why have companies evacuated their personnel out of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami and with the increasing bad news on the nuclear reactors? As the familiar phrase go — in the abundance of caution …to ensure their safety.

But what happens when the highest law collides with strategic national interest? We are talking about Mexico here, but we could just as well be talking about Japan, for instance. Or Pakistan, or Iraq, Afghanistan and on and on.Noting that every day is a dangerous day for employees working at US Mission Pakistan, the Office of the Inspector General writes that “Mission leadership and Washington policymakers recognize and accept this risk in order to pursue vital national strategic and security priorities.”

Similarly, leadership and policymakers understand that unarmed civilians in a war zone is at great risk, but they chose to stand up embassies and consulates and put diplomats in the middle of conflict, anyway.  An accepted risk.

And why does it take so long, and often at the very last minute for an ordered evacuation to take place?  Because it is a political decision, even if no one would admit to that. Governments, including ours,  may not want to send the signal that it has lost faith in the ability of the host country to tackle emergencies whether of political nature or natural calamities.  Most especially, if the host country is a close ally, and where our national interest requires that we help shore up its support. The negative connotation of an evacuation undermines that.  Thus, one can conclude that if employees remain in the danger zone, it means somebody has already calculated that risk against vital national strategic and security interest.  And accepted that risk.

I supposed we may think of life in the Service as if it were a weighing scale — the national strategic and security priorities on one side and on the other side, the acceptable personal risk on the employees.   But not everyone will get to look at that scale. And not everyone will get to make the judgment call.  Employees do not get to vote, diplomatic missions are not democracies.

They ought to teach this at A100. On second thought, they ought to have this in the recruitment flyer.

Domani Spero

US Mission Mexico: First Person from a Border Post

The story excerpted below is obviously from one of our six border posts in Mexico (where we have an embassy, 10 constituent posts, plus two VPPs). I understand that this personal account has been doing the rounds here and there for the last several months. I have inserted one link below.  Names are redacted per request of my source. See my comments in a separate post.

Relevant sections of 7 FAM 050 Consular Information Program, Warden Messages and the No Double Standard Policy appended at the end.     

First Person from a Border Post:

[…] I understand and have always accepted that 
[REDACTED] is a place with real danger and risks, but this incident makes me believe that my safety is not as high of a priority as I believed it to be, and that in the future other management decisions could play out in the same way, with my well-being subverted to other interests.

At approximately 12:30 AM on Tuesday, I awoke to the extremely loud sounds of automatic gunfire and grenades.  My husband [REDACTED] called the RSO immediately and reported that we thought that the head of the [REDACTED] for [REDACTED] , who is our next-door neighbor, was being attacked.  We had crawled from the bed to the closet and laid there while the blasts lasted, for approximately 30 minutes.  The window frames were rattling violently, and I shuddered in terror and seriously considered calling my mother to say goodbye in anticipation of my death.  During that time we spoke several times to the RSO, the ARSO, and two colleagues, including one who was also located very close to the center of the raid.  A few minutes after the gunfire ended, the electricity in our house cut off.  The ARSO told my husband that he wasn’t calling the all-clear because the target of the raid had escaped.  Military vehicles with soldiers standing in the back passed by our house every minute or so.

The next morning, our electricity still off, I went to work.  I saw many roads blocked off by soldiers, including one end of my road (3 houses down), and I saw bullet holes in several houses on my street and others in the neighborhood.  There were a lot of soldiers standing around, and some seemed to be inspecting bullet holes in the side of the house on our street (3 houses down, but in the other direction from the house that was raided).

That morning, my Principal Officer [REDACTED]  met with me for about 10-15 minutes to hear about my experience.  He said I should consider calling the psychological support services available through the State Department.  He seemed surprised that I reported being so terrified during the attack.[…]  He said the good news was that because the raid happened in my neighborhood this time, it probably wouldn’t happen again there.  I reminded him of the large daytime narco vs. military battle on Sept. 4, 2009, also in my neighborhood, and he shrugged.

Around 9:15 AM, all the official Americans at the Consulate met again.  The PO pointed out that it was a military raid of a very important Gulf Cartel leader (the plaza boss) and that he had escaped, and that this kind of violence could happen again anywhere at any time because it is part of the [REDACTED]  military’s plan.  He indicated that [REDACTED]  knew about the raid but didn’t really elaborate.  When [REDACTED] asked about moving our housing to Texas, the PO said we would not be able to move our housing to Texas because of diplomatic credentialing and that things this bad have happened near Consulate families at other border posts, and they haven’t evacuated either.  He pointed out that families in [REDACTED]  are eligible for Unique Circumstances Special Maintenance Allowance.  He said the State Department had psychological services that we could use without damaging our personnel records.  The PO said that he would hold a “debriefing” meeting for the spouses at his house at 8 PM. 

The RSO informed us that the emergency text messaging system–intended to send out a warning SMS in emergency situations–had failed and no SMS was sent out, but that the Embassy was working on a new product that it was going to release to the Consulates soon, and that he would ask them to release it as soon as possible.

[REDACTED] questioned why he was the only officer not contacted by the RSO or ARSO. The ARSO[REDACTED] apologized and said by the time they thought to call him, the gunfire and grenade part was over and they didn’t think it necessary.  The PO asked [REDACTED] , who had been acting as the unofficial, undesignated Acting NIV unit chief, why she had not activated the phone tree.  In fact, she had never been given that responsibility, her name is not at the top of the phone tree, and neither is the regular NIV Chief’s (who was on leave but in town, and who did attend this meeting).  In fact, the phone tree has no relation to the NIV unit’s work, or even the Consular Section.  The PO’s name is at the top.  Then someone complained about the phone tree not having accurate numbers, and the PO asked me to release a new version.  As the ACS Chief, I have never had any involvement with the phone tree’s data or dissemination.  I think the Management Officer was out on leave; he wasn’t at the meeting.

  and I had already been planning to go away from post for the long holiday weekend, so I declined for him from the spouse meeting, which I later heard was canceled.  When I got home from work, my colleague [REDACTED]  called and said the more she thinks about it, the more it upsets her that our leadership knew about the military raid in advance and didn’t warn us.  Since I had not understood that message from any of my interactions or the meeting, I was shocked and asked why she thought that (she had combined details of what different people had said during the day).  As we were loading the car at around 6:15 PM, my colleague [REDACTED]  called and said he was hosting the PO and the RSO at his house to talk about the raid, and he invited us to meet over pizza with them at 7 PM.
When I arrived at [REDACTED]  house, he encouraged me to call [REDACTED]  and invite her too, which I did.  [REDACTED] , [REDACTED]‘s wife, was also at the house.  Then the PO and the RSO arrived, with the ARSO-I FSN Investigator[REDACTED] .  A few minutes later [REDACTED]  arrived, and the meeting started.  The PO began by summarizing the facts of the military raid, including that it was a joint United States-Mexico operation.  He confirmed that he and the RSO knew operational details of the raid, which house was going to be raided, and that the Mexican military was going to effectuate the raid that week.

When we asked the PO why we weren’t warned that there would be a military raid so close to our house, he explained that the “no double standard” policy prevented him from disseminating information about the prospective raid.  [REDACTED]  asked if the RSO took any additional precautions to protect us or monitor our location.  PO and the RSO told us that they took no additional security precautions.  I said that the incident felt like a betrayal and I no longer trusted management to prioritize our safety.  PO and the RSO both reacted to that statement with outrage and PO said that he wasn’t going to argue with me about my feelings but thought I was wrong.

The RSO said that an email containing security instructions for gunfights, sent out Monday, Sept. 13 at 2:10 PM, was supposed to warn us that the raid was imminent.  Everyone else–[REDACTED] –expressed that we had read the message but did not comprehend the warning and believed it to be routine security information, which we receive often.  [REDACTED] pointed out that we are all ELOs at our first post, so we do not know the subtext to messages such as this, if there even were a subtext to it.
I pointed out that no information was shared directly with the family members, including the email.  PO said that is because the CLO was out on vacation.  The RSO sternly reminded me that it is my responsibility to share that information with my own family and to take security precautions for myself and my family.  The RSO and PO implored that we all should have been able to realize that the email was a specific warning.  The RSO said that he is careful not to inundate us with information so that we know to pay attention to each message.  We all agreed that we had heeded the message and pretty much followed it in the moment of crisis (i.e., not watching from the window, going to the safest part of the house, etc.).

PO told us that he didn’t have to debrief us about the military raid and that we should all be thankful that he’s saying anything to us.  Then, he confirmed that the Embassy was involved in the decision to withhold from us any information about the raid.  He confirmed that the head of the [REDACTED] , our next-door neighbor, was informed about the military raid.  He said that in retrospect maybe he should have pointed out the Embassy that several Consulate families would be in imminent risk, but that they all thought it would be a “surgical operation” that they thought would have less of an impact on the neighborhood.  He questioned what we would have done differently if we had known about the raid in advance.  I pointed out that and I could have stayed with friends or in a hotel in Texas, and that I would not have hosted a dinner party on Sunday night for some Consulate friends who left my home, driving past the to-be-raided house at about 11 PM, and that I would not have continued taking my dogs on a walk past the to-be-raided house every evening.  PO pointed out again that we were all choosing to have our families live in a dangerous setting.  He admitted repeatedly “I fucked up,” but never really apologized for letting the incident happen.  Nor did he seem to think the consequences were that serious or the risks to us as great as we believe they were.  He questioned why [REDACTED] was even upset, because his house was about a mile away from the epicenter.  Earlier, PO had questioned while [REDACTED]  was even at the meeting, because she has no dependents living full-time at post.[…]

Next, [REDACTED]  told PO that we did not join the Foreign Service to be exposed to this sort of danger, especially considering the worsening security situation in Mexico and at Post.  PO responded that [REDACTED]  was wrong because all FSOs are worldwide-available.  PO directed us to curtail if we thought Mexico was too dangerous.  He told us that we should not be upset about the military raid occurring so close to our houses because that’s why we receive the 20% hardship/danger pay allowance (a fact he repeated about a half dozen times during this meeting).  When [REDACTED]  became upset and told the PO that his decision not to inform anyone about the raid or take additional security precautions was unfair to the spouses, who were legitimately upset about the military raid, the PO became heated, stood up, and started yelling at [REDACTED] .  The RSO had to step between PO and [REDACTED] to defuse the situation.

We all thanked PO and the RSO for attending the meeting and being forthright with us about the facts of the military raid.  As the meeting ended, the RSO pulled me and [REDACTED] aside into the kitchen.  There, he expressed outrage that I had “sandbagged” him in front of his boss by saying that I no longer trusted the management to keep us safe after they did not disclose the prospective military raid to us.  He informed me that this was “friendly advice” about my corridor reputation, and that his feelings were hurt.  After about twenty minutes of talking, the RSO left.

Related items:

a. In administering the travel information program, the Department of State applies a “no double standard” policy to important security threat information, including criminal information.
(1) Such information, if shared by the Department with the official U.S. community, generally should be made available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official Americans.
(2) If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/U.S. non-citizen nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.
(3) If so, the post should notify the Department and request approval of dissemination of the information to the public.

(4) The policy is not intended to prevent the limited distribution of information about threats to specific U.S. citizens/U.S. non-citizen nationals or U.S. corporations. Important security information may be shared on a limited basis when directed toward a specific target or when appropriate to counter a particular threat.

7 FAM 053.2-2 Post’s Role | b.

b. If you learn of a security threat, report it to the Department following the established procedures at your post. At this stage, you should not disseminate information about the threat beyond those with a “need to know” (i.e., persons who could develop additional information or help to counter the threat) to avoid violating the “no double standard” policy (see 7 FAM 053).

New FS Blog: well, that was different | diary of a portable life

Kelly of new FS blog, well, that was different | diary of a portable life, has a new post on white trash food and why learning your host country’s language is extremely important. Excerpt:

As for other, more substantial, foods, I don’t think anyone could describe me as picky. You wouldn’t last long in the Foreign Service if you were.  I’ve eaten crocodile (tastes like chicken), ostrich (tastes like really good chicken) and guinea pig (tastes like a small, stringy goat).  I’ve eaten all kinds of oddball fruits and veggies at all levels of cleanliness. In short, you can take me on the road, stop at any little eating shack, and feed me just about anything. Once, anyway.

But I do have certain principles.  Number one, I think we are designed to eat animals, but that’s no excuse to be mean to them. I try to buy free-range or cage-free eggs whenever I can.  I try to buy free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.  I try not to buy pork products from the big commercial producers. I don’t always succeed, but I try, and have intentions to try harder.

So, I don’t eat veal.  Sorry, not doing the wiener schnitzel, no way, no how.

Number two, there are certain foods that I won’t eat because I know where they’ve been.  Take paté .  I had middle school biology, and I know what goes on in a liver.  So, I don’t see why I would want to eat it.  This seems perfectly logical to me.

Number three (and OK, maybe this isn’t entirely logical), I am not into weird meat products.

I think it’s good that Europeans don’t waste as much of the animals as we do.  It’s ridiculous that so many people in this country will only eat chicken breasts or steaks, and let the rest of the animal go to waste.  But seriously, brains?
All this confirms what I have always thought about German.  The primary purpose of learning it is to make sure you don’t order something nasty on a menu. There ain’t no part of the critter that these folks won’t chow down on. Clearly, I need to be sure I cover the Rosetta Stone lesson on animal parts. All the parts.

Read the whole thing here.

According to her blog, Kelly is a Foreign Service spouse about to head out on their sixth overseas assignment. Here’s more: 

While still in college, I was crazy enough to marry an FSO and head off to Bolivia.  Four more tours in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe followed, as well as one recent unaccompanied assignment for the husband.

I’ve been in DC for over six years, and never been posted to a truly first-world country before, so this next posting to Vienna should be kinda weird.  And something happened while I was snoozing in suburbia: everyone in the FS seems to have a blog now.  So, here goes.  I’m starting by blogging about our lives here in DC and the upcoming move.

And, oh yeah, all the views expressed here are my own.  Why would they be anyone else’s? 

Visit her new blog here.

Arab League’s Libya Jitters Contagious, Flip Flop Bugs Eat Brains in DC and Elsewhere

Contagious gravatarImage by Aquila via FlickrI previously wrote that the Arab League’s Libya jitters are super muy contagious, didn’t I? We’ll, don’t tell me I never warned you.  Apparently, the flip flop bugs have eaten the brains of folks in DC, as well, and elsewhere.    

The Cable’s Josh Rogin reported that HFAC Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen was for the Libya war before she was against it.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was a fierce advocate for military intervention in Libya right up until the Obama administration decided to attack the country, after which she became one of the war’s fiercest critics.

“The United States and all responsible nations should show in both word and deed that we condemn the Libyan regime’s actions and that we will not tolerate such blatant disregard for human life and basic freedoms,” she said in a Feb. 22 press release, shortly after protests broke out across the country.

“Additional U.S. and international measures should include the establishment and enforcement of a no-fly zone, a comprehensive arms embargo, a travel ban on regime officials, immediate suspension of all contracts and assistance which benefit the regime, and the imposition of restrictions on foreign investment in Libya, including in Libya’s oil sector,” she said in another press release four days later.
On March 19, Ros-Lehtinen criticized the intervention in an interview with CBS Miami.

“The bottom line is you’ve gotta ask what is the U.S. security interest in getting involved in Libya,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Because there’s unrest everywhere. Today it’s Libya, tomorrow it will be somewhere else.”

Two days later, she told Reuters, “Deferring to the United Nations and calling on our military personnel to enforce the ‘writ of the international community’ sets a dangerous precedent.”
Ros-Lehtinen has backed up her demand for an explanation of the administration’s policy by calling for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before her committee.

Still, her public statements call into question the pledge she made in a March 18 interview with Congressional Quarterly to support the administration’s Libya approach.

“Whatever the president decides, I will support what the president wants to do. I’m not going to Monday-morning-quarterback him,” she said.

Read more here.

Then on March 7, one of our favorite entertainers for years and now presidential explorer of 2012, Newt Gingrich told Fox News:

GINGRICH: Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. … It’s also an ideological problem. The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.

Well, we didn’t need NATO in Afghanistan either, until we did. Harumph!

Anyway, after the US forces started firing missiles into Libya, here’s the Newtster again on March 23:

“I would not have intervened,” he said in an interview with NBC News in the morning. “I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gadhafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region that we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.”

Then there’s House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who told the AP on March 9 of President Obama:

“He’s doing a great job of doing nothing on Libya.”
But after President Obama clearly did something, McKeon said this in a March 20th press release:
“I am concerned that the use of military force in the absence of clear political objectives for our country risks entrenching the United States in a humanitarian mission whose scope and duration are not known at this point and cannot be controlled by us.”

Overseas, the Daily Star of Lebanon has also accused Prime Minister David Cameron of being “guilty of more flip flops than an Olympic gymnast.” More on Mr. Cameron here and the ghost of Tony Blair. 

In the same piece, Michael Glackin points out that EU’s foreign affairs chief, the hapless Baroness Ashton, also sided with Germany in opposing the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.  The BBC says that “the mood was strongly against any kind of military intervention. The words “no-fly zone” did not even make it into the final communique. Ten days later European planes are doing bombing runs over Libya.” 

Seriously.  These bugs are pretty nasty. The CDC is reportedly working on a vaccine but it’s not even on the trial phase yet. In the meantime, be careful who you shake hands with.   

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"Operation Tomodachi" #Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Update and Photos

U.S. Pacific Fleet forces continue to sustain efforts in support of Operation Tomodachi. As of March 25, there are 19 ships, 140 aircraft and 18,282 personnel in the area of operation. In the 12 days since Operation Tomodachi started, U.S. 7th Fleet forces have delivered over 260 tons of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies to survivors of the tsunami and earthquake in support of Japan Self Defense Force efforts.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Navy/Flickr

The ships supporting the operation:

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) | USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) | USS Preble (DDG 88) | USS McCampbell (DDG 85) | USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) | USS McCain (DDG 56) | USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) USS Mustin (DDG 89) | USS Cowpens (CG 63) | USS Shiloh (CG 67) | USS Essex (LHD 2) | USS Tortuga (LSD 46) | USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) | USS Germantown (LSD 42) | USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10) | USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) | USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) | USSN Safeguard (T-ARS 50) | USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) | USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7)

According to the Seventh Fleet, the US forces worked together with JMSDF and commercial divers to open the harbor for operations. They took underwater surveillance imagery to detect, mark and move underwater obstacles from the channel and the vicinity of the liquid natural gas pier. The local port captain certified the channel and pier for safe navigation. A LNG tanker will enter the port for the first delivery since the earthquake. After Hachinohe harbor is clear, Navy teams will continue similar efforts in the ports of Miyako, Kamaishi, Ofunato, and Sendai.

CFAY also began transferring fresh water to two empty fuel barges, which will be used to support cooling efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. A total of 500,000 gallons are being distributed between the barges that have been cleaned of fuel to support fresh water. The first Barge YOGN-115 departed Yokosuka March 25 and will be escorted by the JMSDF support ship JS Hiuchi. The second barge is scheduled to leave tomorrow. The water will eventually be used to replace the seawater currently being used in cooling efforts at the plant.