Now Comes the Accountability Review Board Created by Congress, But Dammit! Congress Can’t Wait

Updated on 10/3/2012 @8:23 EST

The Cable’s Josh Rogin reports that  the State Department is setting up an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate what happened in the Sept. 11 attack of the Benghazi consulate that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.  The report cited  Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides telling SFRC chairman John Kerry (D-MA) that the State Department had begun setting up the panel.

Last week, Secretary Clinton herself told reporters that the panel would be chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a highly regarded retired U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, Jordan and the U.S. Mission at the United Nations.

The regulations that govern the Accountability Review Board were established by law crafted by Congress under either Title III of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, as amended (22 U.S.C. 4831) or Section 140(c).

Here is the stated objective:

The ARB process is a mechanism to foster more effective security of U.S. missions and personnel abroad by ensuring a thorough and independent review of security-related incidents. Through its investigations and recommendations, the Board seeks to determine accountability and promote and encourage improved security programs and practices. In addition, the ARB mechanism enhances the integrity of the visa issuing process by determining accountability in certain instances in which terrorist acts in the United States are committed by aliens.

Security-related incident refers to: “A case of serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a U.S. Government mission abroad, or a case of a serious breach of security involving intelligence activities or a foreign government directed at a U.S. mission abroad (other than a facility or installation subject to the control of a U.S. area military commander).”

With this exception:

Public Law 109-140 and Public Law 111-117, the Secretary of State is not required to convene a Board in the case of an incident involving serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a U.S. Government mission in Afghanistan or Iraq and which occurs in the period beginning on October 1, 2005 and ending on September 30, 2010. *

What can possibly be going on behind the scenes?

Within the State Department is supposedly a small group called the ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee (ARB/PCC). What does it do?

The Committee will, as quickly as possible after an incident occurs, review the available facts and recommend to the Secretary to convene or not convene a Board. (Due to the 1999 revision of the law requiring the Secretary to convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such period may be extended for one additional 60-day period the Committee will meet within 30 days of the incident, if enough information is available.) In addition, the Committee will meet yearly to review the ARB process, existing policies and procedures, and ensure that any necessary changes are effected.

A check with the current directory dated September 12, 2012 does not include a list of this committee. But in any case, a decision has already been reached that an ARB will be convened.

Who are the members of the ARB/PCC?

The FAM lists the membership of the ARB/PCC as follows:

(1) The Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI), who will chair the Committee. ( The Director of M/PRI is currently listed in state.gov as William J. Haugh but the Sept 12,2012 directory indicates that this position is currently vacant).

(2) The Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security or the Principal Deputy; (this is currently, Eric J. Boswell or PDAS, Scott P. Bultrowicz)

(3) The Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research; (currently listed as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Rubenstein)

(4) The Coordinator for Counterterrorism; (this would be the Ambassador-at-Large & Coordinator Daniel S. Benjamin)

(5) The senior deputy assistant secretary (or secretaries, as appropriate) of the relevant regional bureau(s); (the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs  is Elizabeth L. Dibble)

(6) One representative designated by and representing the DNI; and

(7) The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services (currently listed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services (CA/VO) is Edward J. Ramotowski)

c. Other participants: As a result of the State-Justice Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated September 20, 2001, the Department of Justice has been invited to attend PCC meetings. Also, as determined by the Chairperson, representatives of other offices and agencies may be invited to work with the Committee.

In addition, the Director of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI) shall appoint a member of the M/PRI staff to be the ARB Staff Officer. If M/PRI is indeed vacant, then that is a problem, isn’t it?  The ARB Staff Officer will:

(1) Oversee the ARB process and ensure that all policies and procedures relating to the ARB are adequate and up-to-date;
(2) Serve as the institutional memory and primary point of contact within the Department for ARB matters;
(3) Maintain all permanent files, rules, procedures, rosters, libraries, etc., for the ARB; and
(4) Carry out ARB related staff work for the Committee.
b. ARB Executive Secretary: When a Board is convened, M/PRI will name an Executive Secretary to coordinate and facilitate the work of that Board. The Executive Secretary will normally be a senior Foreign Service officer or a retired senior Foreign Service officer who is recommended by DGHR/CDA. The tenure of the Executive Secretary will coincide with the tenure of the Board.

As well, the ARB Staff Officer maintains a list of potential members and at the Committee’s yearly meeting the list will be reviewed and updated. If the Committee recommends that the Secretary convene a Board, it will forward a list of potential Board members to the Secretary for approval. The Committee coordinates its activities in this area with the DNI’s representative.

Convening the ARB, Congressional Notification and Timeframe

According to regulations, the Secretary of State, makes the decision to convene a Board in writing and sets forth the names of the Board’s Chairperson and members, the purposes and jurisdiction of the Board (as established in Section 304 of the Act or, as appropriate, Section 140(c)) and its duration. The decision will be published in the Federal Register, or other similar document, if deemed appropriate by the Secretary.

As of to-date no noticed has yet been published in the Federal Register. However, the Secretary has 60 days from the occurrence of an incident to convene the ARB.  An extension of an additional 60 days is provided at the Secretary’s determination.  Any further delay beyond this requires congressional notification.

Whenever the Secretary convenes a Board, the Secretary is also required to promptly inform the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives that the Board has been convened, the membership of the Board, and other appropriate information about the Board.

As to the timeframe of the ARB, the Board is expected to begin its work within a reasonable period of time following the Secretary’s decision to convene the Board. And it must be given ample time to conduct its investigations and write its report. Should a Board decide that the time allotted for its work is insufficient, it must apply, in writing, to the Secretary for an extension of time. A Board’s authority terminates on the date set forth in the Secretary’s order convening the Board, or on such date as is subsequently set by the Secretary.

The regs also says that the Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.

ARBs Through the Years

Unfortunately, this is not the first ARB convened nor will it be the last.  The ARB with the most attention, of course, is the twin-ARBs chaired by Admiral William Crowe for the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998. Admiral Crowe was sworn in September 2008 and the final report was released publicly in January 1999. The members of that ARB are listed here. Other ARBs were convened in 2003, 2005 (twice), 2006, 2008, then 2010 as follows:

  • On 27 Jan 2003, an Accountability Review Board was convened for the Murder of Laurence Foley, USAID Official in Amman, Jordan. Secretary Colin Powell appointed Ambassador Wesley Egan as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by Frederick Mecke, Timothy Deerr, George Wachtenheim, Charles S. Phalen, Jr., and by Executive Secretary Howard Perlow.
  • On 11 Mar 2005, the Accountability Review Board for the December 6, 2004 Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was convened.  Secretary Condolezza Rice appointed David C. Fields, a retired U.S. ambassador, as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by Melvin Harrison, John Geoff O’Connell, Carolee Heileman, Robert Benedetti and by the Executive Secretary to the Board, Mark Jackson.|
  • On 8 December 2005, Secretary Rice convened another Accountability Review Board to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of DS Special Agent Stephen Sullivan and Seven Security Contractors in September 2005 in Iraq.  She appointed Edward G. Lanpher, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by M. Bart Flaherty, Frederick Mecke, Mike Absher, Laurie Tracy and Executive Secretary to the Board, Robert A. Bradtke.
  • On May 2006  an Accountability Review Board To Examine the Circumstances of the Death of David E. Foy and Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed in March 2006, Karachi, Pakistan was convened. Secretary Rice appointed David C. Fields, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by Carolee Heileman, William Pope, Melvin Harrison, John Weber and the Executive Secretary to the Board, Hugo Carl Gettinger.
  • On 14 April 2008, Secretary Rice convened her fourth ARB, this time to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of John M. Granville and Abdelrahman Abees in Khartoum, Sudan in January 2008.  She appointed Michael W. Marine, a retired U.S. ambassador, as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by M. Bart Flaherty, Wayne S. Rychak, Lewis R. Atherton, Michael Pastirik and by Executive Secretary to the Board, Hugo Carl Gettinger.
  • On 22 October 2010, Secretary Clinton convened the first ARB during her tenure relating to the Death of Three DoD Personnel Assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Representative Pakistan (ODRP) on February 3, 2010. She appointed Joseph Lake, a retired U.S. ambassador, as Chair of the Board. He was assisted by Robert Bryson, Lewis Atherton, Barbara Martin, Wayne Rychak and by the Executive Secretary to the Board, Linda Hartley.

With the exception of the Nairobi/Tanzania ARB which is online, none of the above ARB reports appear to be accessible to the public which makes us genuinely grumpy.

As far as we know there was no ARB convened for the August 8, 2012 suicide bombing at the Kunar Province of Afghanistan that killed a USAID Officer and wounded an FSO. The USAID/State officers were  presumably under the control of a military commander, so an ARB is not required.  We are also unaware of an ARB for the September 3, 2012 suicide car bombing which targeted a US Consulate General Peshawar vehicle that wounded four staffers.

Both cases, of course, are still within the 60 days (plus 60) timeframe for convening the Board.

>>>>>

Below is the section where I need to wear a paper bag over my head 😳 . No great excuse for the mess up except to cite the perils of blogging at midnight.  The 60 days (plus 60) provision under the regs is only for convening the ARB. Once the Board is convened, there does not appear to be anything on the regs that dictates the tenure of the Board except that it be given ample time to do its work. I believe that the Secretary may also specify the length of the Board (The FR notice says the Board will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Clinton within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time). The only publicly available report was on an ARB convened sometime after September 1998 and with final report out in January 1999.  While I cannot make a direct correlation on the timeframe  in that ARB with the ARB for Benghazi, the place of investigations for the former included Kenya and Tanzania, where security issues were not as difficult as Libya in its post-civil war state.  I remain skeptical that the DS/OIG would have better luck putting agents on the ground than the FBI in support of the ARB or that the report would be ready before the election or the inauguration.

If we presume the shortest route possible for the Benghazi Attack ARB– let’s say the full Board is convened by end of October, it shall have until the end of December to do its work. Which is way too late for politicians in the middle of an election.  The Board can have an additional 60 days if needed, which would put us until the end of February.  Way too long after the inauguration of either a second term president or  first term president. If true that the FBI agents have yet to set foot in Benghazi, how long do you think it would take for the DS/OIG agents to get shoes on the ground?

So then, apparently, our senators could not wait to get more answers about the Benghazi attack.  They sent a letter to Secretary Clinton demanding more answers, and the letter itself has already sparked a partisan disagreement.  Is it a huge shocker then that Congress which created the ARB back when, could not wait for the ARB to start/conclude its work now?

Maybe Congress ought to seriously rethink the idea of an Accountability Review Board for the following helpful reasons:

1) Since Senators do not have the patience to wait 60-120 days for the ARB to work and deliver its report, and now uses the dead as political props, they deserve rotten tomatoes on their faces (pies would do also).  Why create the ARB in the first place if you do not trust that it will deliver the results you need? Go delete it from the regs so there is one less issue of 9,999 partisanship issues in Congress that you can concentrate on.

2) The ARB investigations are supported by OIG and DS agents, not by FBI agents who already are conducting their own interviews. If you double the work, will you double the results?

3) We note that the ARB exemptions for security incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan went into the books after the September 2005 attack which killed DS Agent Sullivan and seven contractors in Iraq.  How is it that we do not wish to “determine accountability and promote and encourage improved security programs and practices” in war zones?  Too much work or too many deaths?

That said, if you do not want to scratch out the ARB from the rules books, can you please make sure that all ARB reports are accessible to the nosy public?

*
Pub. L. 112–74, div. I, title VII, § 7034(m)(2),Dec. 23, 2011, 125 Stat. 1216, provided that: “The authority provided by section 301(a)(3) of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 (22 U.S.C. 4831 (a)(3)) shall remain in effect through September 30, 2012.”

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US Embassy Ljubljana: Where Ambassador Mussomeli Runs for Office in Election 2012

US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph A. Mussomeli gets a starring role in this public service announcement urging U.S. citizens to register to vote.  Gotta give the brains behind this a thumbs up for fun and creativity. We particularly like the pan down of the ambo’s feet. Wait! He’s barefoot! And he’s running for president?  And he wears a shirt that says “I am awesome.” What’s this world coming to, only awesome people can run for the presidency?

In any case, if you don’t vote this guy will win, he has a 100% approval rating from a most ignored but easily swayed demographic.

New absentee voting info for overseas voters via the US Embassy in Slovenia:

New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections.  You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request.  All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad.  States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election.  No matter what state you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery on-line.  Be sure to include your email address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every overseas voter take advantage of it.  Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website www.FVAP.gov.

Go register and vote.

 

 

 

 

What Really Happened in Consulate Benghazi? The Truths Are Out There, Lots of Them …

Updated 9/25

Patricia Kushlis of WhirledView has her own questions here.

One more question: What role did social media played in this attack?  I am told that Ambassador Stevens was scheduled to open the “American Space” in Benghazi, that’s why he was there. A day before the attack, the Embassy tweeted this:

In late August, Ambassador Stevens opened the Consular Section in Tripoli.  If bad guys were monitoring the embassy’s media digs, one could easily guess that the Amb or someone higher up in the Embassy would be the official to open the new American Center in Benghazi. In fact, the Public Affairs Officer and the Economic Officer were both scheduled to be there with him for the opening. So all the bad guys would have needed was to stay ready and watch for an opportunity to attack. –DS

* * *

In the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack, UK’s The Independent reports that sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the “safe house” in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack.

An Angry Crowd and Security People Run Away

It also reported that the Benghazi compound perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff.

Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near the compound said: “The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs.”

Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya’s Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post:  “There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet.”

Or There Wasn’t a Single Ant and Then There were 125 Armed Men

A Libyan guard at the Consulate in Benghazi (apparently one who did not run away) interviewed by McClatchy News in the hospital where he was being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.

Mohammad al Bishari who had leased the compound to the USG also said in the same McClatchy report that the attack began with assailants carrying assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and the black flag of Ansar al Shariah moving from two directions against the compound.

How did he know that? Was he an eyewitness?

Ambassador Rice on Spontaneous

On September 16, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos: “What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated response to what happened in Cairo.”

Really now. This was five days after the attack. Surely Ambassador Rice, said to be in the short list as the next Secretary of State if there is an Obama II term could have waited a while longer. The State Department had already announced that the FBI is investigating; five days after the attack with no official presence on the ground, with the consulate compound not even secured by US or Libyan Forces to protect forensic evidence, how do we know that this attack was spontaneous or premeditated?   (The FBI arrived in Libya on September 18). I wonder what do you gain by going on teevee and saying this when the investigation is ongoing?

Blue Mountain Contracted Guards at Consulate Benghazi

On September 17, Danger Room reported that four months before the Benghazi attack, the State Department signed a contract for ** “security guards and patrol services” at a cost of $387,413.68. An extension option brought the tab for protecting the consulate to $783,284.79. The contract which is for the Local Guard Program lists only “foreign security awardees” as its recipient. But Danger Room has confirmed that the contract recipient was Blue Mountain, a British company that provides “close protection; maritime security; surveillance and investigative services; and high risk static guarding and asset protection.” (** Go to the Federal Procurement Data System and search of Benghazi to view contracts, site does not have permalink)

Libyan Officials on Warnings, Preplanned Attacks

In any case, on September 19, CNN’s Arwa Damon reported that Libyan military officials told her, that just three days before the attacks, the Libyans had a meeting with senior employees from the consulate where they were talking about this rising threat against western interests.  Supposedly , the Libyan officials said the meeting highlighted the point that the Libyan government could not control militias.

As if somehow that was news to the Americans whose compound was previously attacked in June and where one car was almost carjacked in Tripoli just a month ago.

Then on September 20, WaPo reports that Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf said in an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation:”

“The way these perpetrators acted, and moved … and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, determined…predetermined.”

GOP Intel Chair on Non-Protest in Benghazi

On September 23, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union: “I have seen no information that shows that there was a protest going on as you have seen around any other embassy at the time.[…] It was clearly designed to be an attack.”

But what did he see? Are they colored?

So of course, there are lots of questions

The office in Benghazi is not an American Presence Post (APP), and not a Consulate, Consulate General or Consular Agency.  It’s called the U.S. Office Benghazi and is not listed in the Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts, or in the State Department list of US embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions. And yet, there were roughly 30 personnel reportedly evacuated from the compound following the attack.  Who was in charged of the office? Other Government Agency?

Who knew about the location of the “safe house” in Benghazi? Who leaked the supposedly secret location?

What happened to the US contracted guards? Did they really run away? What were the nationalities of the US contracted guards? Were they Libyans, UK nationals, third country nationals, what? Who was or who were Ambassador Stevens’ closed in guards? Did he have a US direct hire RSO as one of his closed in guards or not? (WSJ reports that five armed State Department diplomatic security officers were at the consulate during the attack).

What happened to the Libyan guards who were responsible for the outer perimeter? Did they let the attack happen because they “absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate?” If they did not let the attack happen, how long before the Libyan forces reinforcement get to the compound?

How could the Libyan guard interviewed at a hospital tell that there were as many as 125 men attacking the compound? Did he count them while he was down?  Why was he shoot on the legs and not at any other part of his body? Were the militants firing at the ground?

Unidentified Libyan military officials tell CNN that they highlighted the “rising threat against western interests” during a meeting with consulate officials three days before the attack. Why? The rising threat is not a secret if you’re following Libyan news. Is this a CYA line of — we told them, we told them, and they did not do anything? Which consulate officials did they met?

Are people’s recollection of events generally reliable in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident like this, or are they generally reliable much later after they have thought about it some more?

Why would someone say there was an angry crowd and that guards put up little defense or ran away if that did not happen?

Why would  the reported commander of Benghazi Police force say that there were some people from the security forces who let the attack happen if that was not true? Did he not realized saying that sounds bad on the news, and makes Libyan forces look bad?

On the night he was killed, Sean Smith AKA Vile Rat was online with his friend The Mittani and wrote this:

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

If the consulate compound was so quiet that “there wasn’t a single ant outside” — why would one of the Libyan police guarding the compound be taking pictures? That would have been quite a boring picture, wouldn’t it?

And if there was already a shooting war with as many as 125 militants descending on the compound, and one of the Libyan police guarding the compound was taking pictures, was he no more than a spectator instead of doing his job of actually protecting the diplomatic compound?

Ansar al-Sharia, a hard-line Islamist militia has been linked to the attack on Benghazi; the group denied it. The Libyan President al-Magarief told Al Jazeera that he think this was Al Qaeda. Of course, his own Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al_Sharif also claimed during a news conference that those who attacked the U.S. consulate were Gaddafi loyalists.

Were the attackers Qaddafi loyalists? Were they Al Qaeda affiliates? If they are the latter, when was the last time an Al Qaeda group or subgroup passed up on a chance to gloat over dead Americans? Like never.  Are members of  Ansar al-Sharia the perpetrators of this horrific attack or are they the scapegoat for a collective national guilt?

I hope that the Accountability Review Board be convened quickly so they can start their work and provide answers to these questions and many more questions surrounding this attack.

Sean Smith died that night. He had no reason to spin what happened either way. But others sure have good enough reasons.

If this was a spontaneous attack, precipitated by the anti-Islam video clip, who gains?

If this was a premeditated, terrorist attack, who gains?

The truth is out there. The Libyan Government’s truth. The Libyan people’s truth. The American Government’s truth. The Dem’s truth, the GOP’s truth, this is an election year after all, so versions of truths is unsurprisingly de rigueur.

And somewhere in the middle of all that is the real truth.  I hope we get there. We owe it to our dead and their loved ones to find it.

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Senate Confirms Robert Beecroft for Iraq, Richard Olson for Pakistan and More as It Heads Out the Door

The U.S. Senate, early Saturday morning confirmed Ambassador Robert Beecroft as the new Ambassador to Iraq, and Ambassador Richard Olson as the new Ambassador to Pakistan.  It also confirmed a host of other State Department nominees but again, did not include Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR).

Discharged the Foreign Relations committee and confirmed:

PN1923, Robert Stephen Beecroft, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq

State Department confirmations:

  • Richard G. Olson—to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Sharon English Woods Villarosa—to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.
  • Dawn M. Liberi—to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi
  • Stephen D. Mull—to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.
  • Walter North—to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus—to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus—to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • John Hardy Isakson—to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
  • Patrick J. Leahy—to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The Senate also confirmed the following nominations for the personal rank of Career Ambassadors in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period:

  • William R. Brownfield
  • Kristie Anne Kenney
  • Thomas Alfred Shannon, Jr.

And it adopted S.Res.588, Commending the 4 American public servants who died in Benghazi, Libya, United States Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for their tireless efforts on behalf of the American people, and condemning the violent attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi.

The Senate will have seven pro forma meetings between now until November 13 but will conduct no business.  It convenes and resume work on November 13, 2012.

 

 

 

 

Pakistan’s “Love for the Prophet Day” Ends with 15 Dead, 200+ Wounded and Property Mess

On Monday, September 17, the  Pakistan Telecom Authority had ordered access to the anti-Islam film roiling parts of the world blocked from Pakistan.  According to AFP Pakistan, attempts to access YouTube is met with a message saying the website had been classed as containing “indecent material.”

Yet, Russia Today reports that on Wednesday, September 19, several hundred lawyers (good grief, lawyers!) protesting over this same film now blocked in Pakistan have broken into the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad that houses the US Embassy and other foreign missions. The report says that police stopped the demonstrators before they could reach the US Embassy, which is surrounded by another set of high walls and protected by security guards. Protesters chanted slogans such as: “Down With America” and “Whoever is a friend of America is a traitor” as they forced their way through a gate into the enclave.

I saw the lawyers’ protest and thought ominous this development.  Because if we could not expect lawyers, officers of the legal system to exercise prudence and restraint in the face of some great perceived offense, what can we expect from non-lawyers?

Today, September 21, officially declared a national Pakistani holiday – the “Love for the Prophet Day”, shows just what a mob of 10,000 in the capital city of Islamabad, 15,000 in Karachi and more in Lahore and Peshawar can do when it wants to burn down its own house in rage.

The Express Tribune reports on the September 21 protests across Pakistan over an anti-Islam film which descended into riots resulting in several deaths, scores wounded and loss of properties:

Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) [love of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Day] was observed throughout Pakistan on Friday on the orders of the Government of Pakistan, condemning the anti-Islam film.

After Friday prayers, protests erupted in several cities across the country which soon turned violent. As the police remained unable to control the protesters, a loss to life and property was reported.

A total of 15 people were killed across the country and more than 200 were wounded during the protests. Cinemas, banks, vehicles and fuel stations were torched, while markets were also vandalised.

Two police officials were also killed during clashes in Karachi.

The central leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUI-F) Maulana Fazal Rehman commended the nation over successful protests across the country against the anti-Islam film.

People have died and it’s a success. I must confess that efforts to wrap my head around that one has so far been a failure.

An Express Tribune commenter snarkily writes:

“Somebody insulted me today. I am going to go home and burn it down. Now, someone will think twice about insulting me.”

Below is a video clip from GlobalPost’s Karachi-based journalist Mariya Karimjee with Breaking News Editor Hanna Ingber, giving her insights into how the Pakistani government and political parties have encouraged the anti-US protests.  Read more: http://bit.ly/QrRNxS

The AP  reports that the deadliest violence occurred in Karachi, where 12 people were killed and 82 wounded.  Armed demonstrators among a crowd of 15,000 reportedly fired on police, and the mob apparently burned down two cinemas and a bank.

In Peshawar, three people were killed and 61 were wounded.  Police fired on rioters who set fire to two movie theaters and the city’s chamber of commerce, as well as damaged shops and vehicles.

The report also says that police clashed with over 10,000 demonstrators in several neighborhoods, including in front of a five-star hotel near the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad where the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions are located.

I have it in good authority that the members of the US Mission Pakistan including those in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are all safe and accounted for.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon went on CBS News and told Pamela Falk that if the U.S. wants to stop the attacks against American embassies, to “just lay off our Prophet, just lay off our Prophet. Is that too much to ask?” Which makes perfect sense, of course, as the US Government can just send a mass email to all American citizens, including our own idiots to lay off, right?  He works at the UN, in New York, and this shows real understanding of the United States.  And if that is not enough, he adds:

“Is what happened in Pakistan a manifestation of the people of Pakistan? Yes. Of the government of Pakistan? No,” Haroon said. “If the government of Pakistan was acquiescent of what is happening in Pakistan [the violence], they wouldn’t be firing teargas and bullets at the protestors.”

Diiiiiinnnnnnnngggggg! And he totally missed his chance to explain to the American public that his country has a population of over 180 million people and that the mob protesters rounded up to say 30,000 only accounts for  — wait for it —

0.0001666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666 ….

of its total population.

Because that’s what any well-trained diplomat would have done.  Instead, he  lumps all Pakistanis, all 180 million of them with a rampaging mob,  a deadly minority.   I’m baffled by such diplomatic eloquence.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Chris Stevens: Share Your Photo or Story

The family of Ambassador Chris Stevens has set up a Tumblr to capture the memories of people he touched, far and near. The online remembrance says that Chris had a passion for building bridges between the people of the United States and the Middle East. And that in this spirit, a fund has been established in his name to support this important, yet unfinished, endeavor. The family envisions the Fund to support activities that promote religious tolerance, cultural understanding, educational youth exchanges, and other people-to-people programs.

The Stevens family has partnered with the New Venture Fund to house the J. Christopher Stevens Fund. The New Venture Fund is a 501(c)(3) public charity that supports public interest projects in areas including global health and development, human rights, conservation, education, and disaster relief. For more information, see http://www.newventurefund.org

All contributions by US donors are tax deductible. Donors residing outside of the United States should refer to the tax laws of their country of residence to determine the tax deductibility of their donation.

For information about the fund, please contact rememberingchrisstevens@gmail.com. For technical support, please contact support@networkforgood.org.

Photo from The Stevens Family (Used with Permission)

The Tumblr is about three days old and growing. There are photos of Ambassador Stevens with the Piedmont High School A Capella Choir at the Fourth of July Celebration in Piedmont Park in 1978; of him appearing as Robert Livingston in the 1980 community theatre production of 1776 in Piedmont, California; with The Rat Pack at the US Embassy Damascus Marine Ball in 2001.  There is even a photo of Stevens of Arabia (in full gear) from Halloween 2001.

What a bore it is, waking up in the morning always the same person. I wish I were unflinching and emphatic and had big eyebrows and a message for the Age.
— Chris Stevens, Piedmont High School Yearbook, 1978 (originally adopted from The Living Age, Volume 294)

I’ve read through the touching and tender stories shared by people who knew him in Piedmont High, UC Berkeley, Peace Corps, and the Foreign Service family.  And it’s hard not to be heartsick.  There are also some notes from Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi.  Fair warning – you will need a big box of tissues.  Below are some excerpts.

 

A few days ago I had a silly idea: Go back in time and warn Chris about the Libyan terrorists. It’s not an original idea — actually, it was the plot of Back To The Future. But more to the point, it’s impossible, I don’t have a time machine. The only way back is to remember.
— David Wingate

 

Time passed, and Chris headed off to the State Department.  The last business card I have from him stated his billet as “Iran Desk Officer.”  I asked him what he did.  He said he could tell me, but then he’d have to kill me.
John Lamborn

 

I see you picked up a few things in the Middle East like the fine art of negotiating. I was looking forward to hounding you about this chair and how you proposed to get it to Thailand from Libya! Now I have no chair, am down one running partner, and have trouble sleeping. So tell me dear friend, why did you have to become a celebrated fallen hero when I would have preferred that you try to sell me another chair?
– M

 

He loved that part of the world and the people he met, and despite every reason not to, remained optimistic that the world could be made a better place. He was doing hugely important work, winning over hearts and minds, and I can’t imagine anyone being a better representative for our country overseas.
— Austin Tichenor

 

During an earlier tour in Tripoli, when Moammar Gaddafi was still in power, Chris once grabbed the camera off a Libyan intelligence goon on his tail, turned and, with a big smile, took the guy’s picture. Then he gave the camera back. The lanky Californian could be both charming and disarming, even as he made his point.
Robin Wright
Author of “Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.”

 

They told me you died but I refuse to mourn you.  I refuse to send condolences, and I will continue to refuse doing that.   So, I decided to send you an email instead like the old days.  I wanted to prove them wrong. They don’t know that someone like you never dies.  I refuse to yield to the will of evil, despair and darkness because you taught me not to. Chris—we shall meet up and you shall have “a social cigarette” (remember) and we shall both laugh just like the old days … they just think you died…
— Ibrahim, U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem

 

Your life was cut short on September eleven
We all know that you are gone to heaven
* * *
With sadness we grieve, and we shed tears
We will achieve your vision if it takes 100 years
—Mahmud Abudaber, Libyan American

 

I know in Tripoli where i live, the people love him, and miss him, they miss the times he strolled down the streets of the city, we all felt for once we have a diplomat who was one of us, a normal person, he ate where we ate he went to normal small local cafés. and people here loved that.
[…]
It’s not something sorry can fix but we truly are so sorry, i’m sorry we could not do more to keep Chris safe.
— Hassan Morajea, 18, British Libyan, Benghazi, Libya

 

We in Libya will miss Chris dearly and we are more than appreciative of his hard work and committed to bringing the evil group that took his life away to justice.

Thank you and we will miss you brother.
— Sami, Tripoli, Libya

 

I’ll end with an excerpt from a beautiful piece written by Allen Manzano, not because I knew Ambassador Stevens but because, it seems to me, he, too would wish “for laughing days to come again” … maybe not today or tomorrow when we have not yet burn our grief out … but one day soon …

Isn’t it true that when we heard the news we said to ourselves our laughing days are over?

Isn’t it true that knowing who he was with all his wisdom and caring heart, his skills, his willing servitude to make that longed for better world, we asked our selves can this be that this rare good man is gone?
[…]
Isn’t it true that our consolation is to have known this man, too soon taken, and to know that it would have surely been his ardent wish for those he loved that, yes, oh yes, in our work for good, our laughing days should come again?

 

If you have a story or a photograph to share of Ambassador Stevens, please visit http://www.rememberingchrisstevens.com/

 

 

Obama Nominates Ambassador Robert Godec as Next Ambassador to Kenya

On September 20, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Robert F. Godec as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Robert F. Godec, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is currently Chargé d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.  From 2009 to 2012, he was Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State, and from 2006 to 2009, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia.  Ambassador Godec served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2005 to 2006 and as Deputy Coordinator for Iraq from 2004 to 2005.  Ambassador Godec’s overseas posts include: Acting Deputy Chief of Mission (2002), Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa (1999-2002), and Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (1996 -1999).  Additional posts in Washington include: Assistant Office Director for Thailand and Burma in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1994-1996), and Director for Southeast Asian Affairs at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (1992-1994).

Ambassador Godec received a B.A. from the University of Virginia and an M.A. from Yale University.

His official bio at State says that he joined the Foreign Service in 1985.  He earned a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Yale University as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. He attended the State Department’s Senior Seminar and has received a Distinguished Honor Award and numerous other awards and commendations.  Also that he speaks French and German.

In 2009 while he was the US Ambassador to the US Embassy in Tunis, Ambassador Godec was one of the few Chief of Missions who had a Tumblr.  Here he is with students at the American Cooperative School of Tunis, a school founded in 1959 and burned down by protesters in the September 2012 protests over an anti-Islam movie.

“Reading Rocks!” at the American Cooperative School of Tunis a few weeks ago. Here you see some great kids dressed up as their favorite book characters and two ambassadors playing along. My friend and colleague, UK Ambassador Chris O’Connor, is in the Union Jack hat and I’m the Cat in the Hat, of course.
(Photo and caption from Ambassador Godec’s blog)

If confirmed, Ambassador Godec would succeed political appointee, Scott Gration who resigned from his position last July over “differences” with Washington.

Related item:

September 20, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

 

 

 

 

Officially In: Deborah Ann McCarthy, from Foggy Bottom to Lithuania

On September 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Deborah Ann McCarthy to be the next Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania. The WH released the following brief bio:

Deborah Ann McCarthy, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.  Previous positions with the Department of State include Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece from 2008 to 2010, Special Coordinator for Venezuelan Affairs from 2006 to 2007, Senior Advisor for Counter Terrorism from 2004 to 2006, and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement from 2002 to 2004.  Additional overseas assignments include Consul General in Montreal, Canada (2001 to 2002), Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua (1998 to 2001), and Economic Counselor in Paris, France (1996 to 1998) and Port au Prince, Haiti (1991 to 1993).

Ms. McCarthy received a B.A. from the University of Virginia, and an M.A. and an M.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.

If confirmed, Mr. McCarthy would succeed career diplomat, Anne E. Derse who was appointed Chief of Mission to the US Embassy in Vilnius in 2009.

Related item:

September 13, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

 

 

 

More Protests Expected, Post Closures: Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, HK, Lebanon, Pakistan

We’re trying to keep up with the protests breaking out across the globe over the anti-Islam movie. Here is what we know based on publicly available information:

Malaysia:   US Embassy Kuala Lumpur informs U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on Friday, September 21, 2012. It says the embassy is not aware of specific threats to U.S. citizens in Malaysia at this time but will close to the public on mid-day tomorrow.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been informed by the Royal Malaysian Police that demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the afternoon on  Friday, September 21, 2012 at the following locations:   on Jalan Tun Razak in the vicinity of the Embassy;  in front of the Tabung Haji Mosque and proceed by foot to the vicinity of the Embassy; in the vicinity of Jamek Kampung Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, approximately 3 kilometers north of the U.S. Embassy on Jalan Raja Abdullah;  at the  Taman Perling Mosque in Johor Bahru, Johor state;  and at all district mosques in Sabah state.  U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all areas noted above in Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon.
From noon until late afternoon on Friday vehicular and foot traffic in the area around the U.S. Embassy will be disrupted.  Given the uncertainty inherent in this situation, the Embassy will close to the public at 11 a.m.   Visa and American Citizens Services appointments scheduled for the afternoon of September 21 will be rescheduled for later dates.  In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens may call (03) 2168-5000 at any time.   The Embassy plans to re-open for normal business on Monday, September 24.

Indonesia: US Embassy Jakarta informs U.S. citizens of the continuing closure of APP Medan, and closure of US Embassy Jakarta and USCG Surabaya on September 21, 2012:

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, the American Presence Post in Medan, the U.S. Consular Agency in Bali, and the U.S. Mission to ASEAN will be closed tomorrow, Friday, September 21 because of the potential for significant demonstrations that might be held in front of these facilities.  The American Presence Post in Medan continues to be closed today, September 20. We apologize for any inconvenience. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates, if needed.

Australia: US Consulate General Sydney informs U.S. citizens of possible new protests in Sydney and Melbourne on September 22, and September 23.

Sydney law enforcement authorities have advised of possible anti-American demonstrations in Sydney for Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.   U.S. citizens should avoid Sydney’s Hyde Park and its perimeter area and Martin Place on both Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Previous demonstrations in Sydney on September 15, 2012 occurred in Martin Place and Hyde Park and turned violent.

Melbourne law enforcement authorities have also advised of possible anti-American protests in downtown Melbourne on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Should they occur, U.S. citizens should avoid the immediate demonstration areas.

Nepal: US Embassy Kathmandu informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration on September 21.

A demonstration is planned for Friday, September 21 in the area of Ratna Park in Kathmandu in the early afternoon (1 pm or sometime thereafter).  (Ratna Park is located in central Kathmandu, approximately one mile south of Thamel, an area popular with backpackers and other tourists, and about a half mile east of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, another popular tourist destination.)  Ratna Park is a major transit point for local public transportation buses, so a demonstration in the area could cause traffic disruption.

Japan: US Embassy Tokyo notifies U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on September 21.

The Embassy has been advised that there will be a demonstration starting in the Shibuya area and arriving at the U.S. Embassy at approximately 4:00PM on Friday, September 21. The Government of Japan has designated the Japan Tobacco (JT) building as the designated location near the U.S. Embassy for these demonstrations to gather legally and peacefully.

China: US Consulate General Hong Kong informs US citizens in Hong Kong of planned demonstration this weekend:

The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong informs U.S. citizens that local Muslim leaders have announced plans for peaceful demonstrations to take place in Chater Garden in Central in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 23. Consulate General personnel have been instructed to avoid the immediate area around Chater Garden on Sunday, September 23, and we advise you to avoid the area also.

Pakistan: The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and Consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will be closed tomorrow (Friday, September 21). The Government of Pakistan yesterday officially declared September 21 a Love for Muhammad Day, a national holiday (see more below).

Meanwhile, the State Department has issued updated Travel Warnings for both Lebanon and Pakistan:

Travel Warning Lebanon: September 17, 2012

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 8, 2012, to emphasize information on security, kidnappings, and an upsurge in violence in Lebanon and the region.
[…]
The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to American scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year have been suspended in country because of the deteriorating security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Travel Warning Pakistan | September 19, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.
[…]
Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted. U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off limits to official personnel.
[…]
There have been several terrorist attacks in the past few years, targeting civilians and security personnel. On September 3, 2012, unidentified terrorists attacked a U.S. government vehicle convoy in Peshawar, injuring U.S. and Pakistani personnel.  On April 24, 2012, an explosion at the Lahore Railway Station killed three people and injured at least 30.  On April 5, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a police vehicle in the Malir Area of Karachi, not far from the airport, causing a number of deaths. On November 16, 2011, a vehicle driven by suicide bombers exploded in the Defense Area of Karachi, killing the three bombers and two police officers. On May 20, 2011, a U.S. Consulate General vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring a dozen, including two U.S. employees of the Mission. On April 5, 2010, terrorists carried out a complex attack on U.S. Consulate General Peshawar, with several Pakistani security and military personnel killed or wounded.  On February 3, 2010, ten persons, including three U.S. military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A side note here.  Pakistani news report that the Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday has decided “to observe September 21 as ‘Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh)’ day to express reverence for Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and register the government’s protest against the recently released anti-Islam film in the US.” The day has been declared a national holiday.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, addressing the Cabinet meeting, was quoted as saying: “At this moment, I call upon the people of Pakistan to register their protests peacefully but to observe restraints and not to damage their own property.”

On Radio Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has reportedly said that special security arrangements will be made on Friday on the occasion of “Day of Ishq-e-Rasool and that no one will be allowed to take the law into his own hands and damage private or public properties during the protests.

SFRC Clears Villarosa, Liberi, Mull, North, Olson, Macmanus with Looming Senate Holds

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee(SFRC)  cleared the following ambassadorial nominations on September 19, 2012.

  • Sharon English Woods Villarosa, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.
  • Dawn M. Liberi, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.
  • Stephen D. Mull, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.
  • Walter North, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
  • Richard G. Olson, of New Mexico, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador

Two nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

The Honorable John Hardy Isakson, of Georgia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The nominations will now go to the Senate for the full vote.

The SFRC, by the way,  just held its confirmation hearing for Ambassador Robert Beecroft (US Embassy Iraq) on September 19, so he was not included in the cleared nominees on Wednesday.  The Cable says that according to committee aides, “there was broad support for dispatching the Beecroft nomination out of committee without a formal vote so he could be confirmed this week before the Senate leaves town.”

However, all these nominees could get entangled in Senator Rand Paul’s hold.  He has reportedly placed a hold on the Olson nomination over Pakistan’s Afridi case. And according to The Cable, there is also the the ongoing dispute between Senate leadership and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over Paul’s demand for a floor vote on his amendment to cut off all U.S. aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.

We don’t think Dr. Afridi should be in jail, but taking away what, $33 million from over a billion US aid to Pakistan, and a very public congressional pressure to released the good doctor — is not going to help much. No country, particularly one like Pakistan would like to be seen as publicly relenting to such foreign pressure, especially one coming from the United States, a perceived enemy by a great number of its population. To do so is contrary to the laws of political self preservation.  Can you imagine any US President acceding to a foreign senator’s demand to release a prisoner from one of our jails?  Of course not.

Senator Paul says, “If Pakistan wants to be our ally — and receive foreign aid — then they should act like it, and they must start by releasing Dr. Afridi.” He has more here.

Even if the elected Government of Pakistan may be amendable to releasing Dr. Afridi, it would be foolish to do so now, in the most public way. Or if it does, and it falls, who would we have next to deal with?

If screaming from the Senate chamber works perfectly in conducting foreign relations, why the heck do we have a diplomatic corps?  More congressional shock and awe is not going to help the cause of Dr. Afridi, it just drags it longer.  Senator Paul should understand this.  It’s not about him, it’s about them.  He should lift his hold so Ambassador Olson can join his embassy in Islamabad and our diplomats can do the work they need to do.