Newtster News: Gingrich to move embassy to Jerusalem on 1st day in office; to restructure State Dept — details in 392 words!

His political campaign may have imploded post-Greek isle cruise, donors may have deserted him and Callista, but Newt Gingrich promises to “endure the challenges” and slog on with his presidential campaign.

Over the weekend, he gave an address to a Jewish group, promising no less that he’d  move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on his first day in office, resurrecting USIA to fight the battle of ideas once more, and oh yeah, restructuring the U.S. Department of State, too.

Newt’s Address to the Republican Jewish Coalition | Selected quips below:

#1. As a demonstration of this new resolve, the United States should move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel has every right as a sovereign free nation to choose its own capitol and we should respect that choice. As President, on my first day in office, I would issue an executive order directing the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem as provided for in the legislation I introduced in Congress in 1995.
#5. We must also re-establish the United States Information Agency as a robustly funded worldwide anti-terrorism and pro-freedom communications and advocacy system. The USIA fought for our side in the war of ideas during the Cold War and helped us win.
In 1999, this agency was dismantled because we thought the war of ideas was over. We discovered on 9/11 that it was not.
The USIA helped America win the Cold War and it can help us win the war against evil terrorist organizations and dictatorships. But to do this we must ensure that the USIA once again has independent board of governors reporting to the President and coordinating with the State Department but not controlled by the diplomats.

8. All of this will require a restructured State Department, a new level of training and management for Ambassadors, a new promotion system, and a profound shift in the culture of the Foreign Service.  The quickest way to change the culture at the State Department is to inject new blood into the system. We must engage in fundamental reform of the overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.

Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a strong, experienced, and knowledgeable Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.

My campaign website contains a detailed document outlining the other changes that will be necessary to transform the State Department’s historic aversion to moral clarity about the difference between terrorism and civilization, which have weakened both the United States and Israel.

I am, of course, a sucker for detailed documents that seek to transform the State Department. So I followed the link and here is what I found:

The Newtster’s “detailed document” is a 392- word piece entitled: Newt: A Real Peace Process Requires Fundamental Reform of the State Department.

Not kidding, take a look.

Besides that weighty 392- word piece in what must be a Twitter version of restructuring a government agency, Mr. Gingrich’s piece links to two additional info:

How to Block the Palestine Statehood Ploy: Congress can take a cue from Jim Baker in 1989 and threaten to cut U.S. money for the U.N.html]

That’s an article by former UN Ambassador John Bolton in the WSJ  dated June 3, 2011. Oh, maaaan!

The second link in the Newtster’s website is to the “Hart-Rudman Commission recommendations on State Department reform.” The link takes you to a 10 years old document of the Commission titled  – “Volume V – Department of State”a 229 page long addendum on “structure and process analysis” which contains outdated org charts, stats and backgrounders dating back to the late 1990s. A quick scan does not indicate that this volume even contains the suggested reforms from 10 years ago, only “observations” of selected bureaus. Which by the way, does not have a separate section for “M” as in management.

Oh dear! Did anyone from the campaign actually read Volume V before they linked to it?

The report is titled, United States Commission on National Security/21st Century April 15, 2001 National Security Study Group assisted by Booz·Allen & Hamilton. Click on this for a Wikipedia description.

This strikes me as rather odd for someone of Gingrich’s stature: The Newster calls for reforms in the State Department but has not bothered to look under the rocks?

Seriously. A 392-word “detailed document” which includes this:

The quickest way to change this culture is to inject new blood into the system.  The overly slow and bureaucratic security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.  The promotion system of the State Department, which like in many bureaucracies, is known to favor mediocrity and discourage creative thinking, also requires fundamental reform.

Change on this scale will be bitterly fought by the old guard at State and their media allies. It will require a knowledgeable and strong Secretary of State and a deeply committed team around him.

The Newtster says, “security clearance system must be fixed to raise the level of applicants to the Foreign Service.”

Holy mother of goat — what the heck is he talking about?

Wait, wait, that preceding paragraph sounds a lot like his speech at the Jewish Coalition, too.

If that’s not cut and paste, he must just really, really like that section. Or perhaps his speech writer quit, too?

Anyway, a strong Secretary of State?  Sounds like SoS John Bolton under a Gingrich Administration, you betcha!

Unless, of course, Mr. Bolton also runs for president. And he might yet do that, and then Mr. Gingrich would have to find another strong SoS. Or they could agree ahead of time that whoever loses the presidential run gets to restructure the State Department. Sounds only fair.

I have no objection to restructuring this agency or that, even the State Department, if it makes the organization works more effectively. But I’d like to know that the Newtster actually knows what he is talking about and not just engaging in political panhandling.




Visa Adjudicators Needed? We Have the Best Suggestion Ever – Unmarried FSOs Pay Attention, Please.

Online romanceImage by Don Hankins via FlickrSee, I was a tad cranky last week about job opportunities for diplomatic spouses (aka eligible family members) in the State Department and was told this:

That there is a need for MANY more low-level visa adjudicators in the so -called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, China and India). Some can be filled by EFMs, but not all, even if all EFMs wanted to do so. They have to be filled by language-qualified applicants, they have to be filled full time, and filling them cannot depend on the availability of EFMs. The word out there is that EFM employment opportunities will not be reduced. Where language-qualified EFMs are available, they will be used.

Okay, I get that but I still have not heard anything from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, re: inquiry about the ConGen training request roller coaster ride that make EFMs throw up. Go take a long nap, this will be a while, like 2016 thereabouts….

The State Department is recruiting twenty (20) visa adjudicators at this time.   Presumably Russian and Hindi speakers will also be recruited at some future time.  For now, applicants for China must be available for all posts in China and must speak/read Mandarin Chinese at a 2/1 level. Applicants for Brazil must be available for all posts in Brazil and must speak/read Portuguese at the 3/3 level. 

According to the State Department, the role of visa adjudicators is “critical to America’s national security; you will serve on the front lines of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, conducting one-on-one interviews and reviewing supporting documentation to determine if a foreign national meets the requirements for entry into the United States. This requires sound judgment and the ability to maintain your composure under stressful circumstances.” See more here and here.

Anyway, after I posted this, I got the best suggestion ever from Consul-at-Arms that I felt darn compelled to pass along:

“Obviously, the thing to do is require unmarried FSOs to chose English-fluent spouses from one of the BRIC countries until further notice.”

Oh, yeah! I am so looking forward to a BRIC-dating service sponsored by the Consular Affairs Bureau …

Well, aren’t you?

Didn’t you know that these four countries, combined, currently account for more than a quarter of the world’s land area and more than 40% of the world’s population?  Apparently, Goldman Sachs has argued that, since the four BRIC countries are developing rapidly, by 2050 their combined economies could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world.

So, if Goldman Sachs is right on this, a BRIC-matching/dating service now, would be an excellent investment for the future of consular affairs!

Seattle Superior Court Judge Questions US Embassy Rome’s Consular Support for Amanda Knox, Complains to President Obama

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Heavey think that the conviction of American student, Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy is a fiasco. He also is of the opinion that the U.S. State Department, specifically the US Embassy in Rome, failed in its mission to protect her rights as a U.S. citizen.

Judge Heavey was a neighbor of Amanda Knox in Seattle and his eldest daughter went to high school with Knox. He recently sent a letter to President Obama requesting an executive inquiry “into the failure of the State Department to fulfill this highest priority and responsibility.” The letter, written in his private capacity was also sent to Secretary Clinton, members of Congress and the press. It highlights seven “glaring violations of Amanda Knox’s rights” that he said should have “set off alarms  at the Embassy in Rome.”

Michael Heavey Letter
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US Embassy London: POTUS visits and here is the best photo

On May 24-26, 2011, President Obama with the First Lady made the first state visit to London by a United States President since George W. Bush in 2003.  I thought, with the US Embassy London on Flickr, this should be a photo-exciting opportunity.  But not much photos of the presidential couple or the folks they visited on the embassy’s Flickr site or anywhere else in its website. I have to admire the mission’s restraint.

There is one picture of President Obama inspecting the troops with “wonderful pomp and circumstance at Buckingham Palace” but frankly, I can’t even tell it’s him or a body double.

There are, of course, photographs of guards, flags, buildings, people, more flags, guards, cars, building ….
  • Guards looking resplendent in Parliament
  • President Obama’s car leaving Lancaster House
  • American Flag on The Mall
  • The Mall & Buckingham Palace
  • People Cheering President Obama At Westminster Abbey
  • Westminster Abbey
  • American Flags at Westminster Abbey
  • Ceremony begins “Amid the star spangled banner and distant gun shots from the park. All smiles on a sunny day.”
  • Union Jacks and Stars and Stripes line the Mall in London

See more here, although I don’t know why you would.

On May 25, the President also held an Embassy meet and greet at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Sorry, no photos of that either.

But the best photo I can find from the collection of photos posted in Flickr is of the matching lecterns at the Lancaster House. They look absolutely gorgeous!

President Obama Visits London
Photo from US Embassy London/Flickr

Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana Guilty in Terrorism Conspiracy

Chicago Businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana Guilty of Providing Material Support to Terror Group and Supporting Role in Denmark Terrorism Conspiracy

Via the U.S. Attorney’s Office | Northern District of Illinois
June 09, 2011     

CHICAGO—A Pakistani native who operated a Chicago-based immigration business was convicted today of participating in conspiracy involving a terrorism plot against a Danish newspaper and providing material support to a terrorist organization based in Pakistan. The defendant, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, was found guilty by a federal jury that deliberated two days following a trial that began May 16 in U.S. District Court. The jury acquitted Rana of conspiracy to provide material support to the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.

Rana, 50, a Canadian citizen, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the terrorism plot in Denmark and one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Lashkar e Tayyiba (Lashkar.) He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined and remains in federal custody without bond. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ordered the defense to file post-trial motions by Aug. 15. No sentencing date was set.

“The message should be clear to all those who help terrorists — we will bring to justice all those who seek to facilitate violence,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

“Today’s verdict demonstrates our commitment to hold accountable not only terrorist operatives, but also those who facilitate their activities. As established at trial, Tahawwur Rana provided valuable cover and support to David Headley, knowing that Headley and others were plotting terror attacks overseas,” said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “We will not rest in our efforts to identify and bring to justice those who provide support to terrorists.”

“The effort to combat terrorism and bring justice to the victims is a global effort, requiring the cooperation and collaboration of many countries and many people. We are grateful for our role and that of the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force in bringing some measure of justice,” said Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Rana is the second defendant to be convicted among a total of eight co-defendants who have been indicted in this case since late 2009. Co-defendant David Coleman Headley, 50, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to all 12 counts against him, including aiding and abetting the murders of the six American victims. Headley, who is also facing a maximum sentence of life in prison, has cooperated with the Government since he was arrested in October 2009, and testified as a Government witness at Rana’s trial.

The six remaining defendants are all believed to be in Pakistan.

Headley testified that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar, a designated foreign terrorist organization, on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005. In late 2005, Headley received instructions from members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times leading up to the Mumbai attacks three years later that killed more than 160 people and wounded hundreds more.

In the early summer of 2006, Headley and two Lashkar members discussed opening an immigration office in Mumbai as a cover for his surveillance activities. Headley testified that he traveled to Chicago and advised Rana, his long-time friend since the time they attended high school together in Pakistan, of his assignment to scout potential targets in India. Headley obtained approval from Rana, who owned First World Immigration Services in Chicago and elsewhere, to open a First World office in Mumbai as cover for his activities. Rana directed an individual associated with First World to prepare documents supporting Headley’s cover story of opening a First World office in Mumbai, and advised Headley how to obtain a visa for travel to India, according to Headley’s testimony, as well as emails and other documents that corroborated his account.

Starting Nov. 26, 2008, and continuing through Nov. 28, 2008, 10 attackers trained by Lashkar carried out multiple assaults with firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices against multiple targets in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, the Leopold Café, the Chabad House and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, each of which Headley had scouted in advance. The six Americans killed during the three-day siege were Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr, and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.

Regarding the Denmark terror plot, Headley admitted that in early November 2008, he met with a Lashkar member in Karachi, Pakistan, and was instructed to conduct surveillance of the Copenhagen and Aarhus offices of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten in preparation for an attack in retaliation for the newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

In late 2008 and early 2009, after reviewing with Rana how he had performed surveillance of the targets attacked in Mumbai, Headley testified that he advised Rana of the planned attack on the Danish newspaper and his intended travel to Denmark to conduct surveillance of its facilities. Headley obtained Rana’s approval and assistance to identify himself as a representative of First World and gain access to the newspaper’s offices by falsely expressing interest in placing advertising for First World in the newspaper. Before departing Chicago, Headley and Rana caused business cards to be made that identified Headley as a representative of the Immigration Law Center, the business name of First World, according to the evidence at trial.

The government’s evidence also included transcripts of recorded conversations, including those in September 2009, when Headley and Rana spoke about reports that co-defendant Ilyas Kashmiri, an alleged Pakistani terrorist leader, had been killed in a drone attack and the implications of his possible death for the plan to attack the newspaper. In other conversations, Rana told Headley that the attackers involved in the Mumbai attacks should receive Pakistan’s highest posthumous military honors. In the late summer of 2009, Rana and Headley agreed that funds that had been provided to Rana could be used to fund Headley’s work in Denmark, and the trial evidence showed that Rana, pretended to be Headley in sending an email to the Danish newspaper .

Active links added above. Read in full here.