Where “observing” also means “interferring” foreign election observers under threat of criminal sanctions

The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The member states include the United States.  OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is conducting a limited election observation mission in the United States for the 6 November 2012 general elections. According to the OSCE, this is the sixth US elections the ODIHR has observed, without incident, since 2002 (wait until you hear about Texas). They also observed most recently the 2010 mid-term elections. Our US Mission to the OSCE extended an official invitation.  Similar invitations must have been extended in the past since the OSCE has observed elections in the United States in the last ten years.

Below via the US Mission to the OSCE:

The United States supports the work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR’s election observation methodology remains the standard for election monitoring around the world. The U.S. also supports ODIHR’s programs that increase transparency in the democratic process, encourage the rule of law, and develop a democratic culture by facilitating participation in the policy-making process.

The observation mission is headed by Ambassador Daan Everts of the Netherlands.  The core team members come from the UK, Germany, the Russian Federation, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Poland.  Forty-four long-term observers from member states arrived in the US in early October and has been deployed in teams of two throughout the country.

The Dallas Observer reports that it is “not actually clear if monitors will be placed in Texas, though it seems likely, given our state’s enthusiasm for voter ID laws.”

But if they are — Texas is apparently ready for them.

Via the Dallas Observer:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is threatening to bring criminal charges against European election observers who may be monitoring the general election process in Texas.

His always-entertaining Twitter feed suggests he would also be willing to throttle them with his bare hands. “UN poll watchers can’t interfere w/ Texas elections,” he tweeted yesterday. “I’ll bring criminal charges if needed. Official letter posted soon.” His hashtag added: #comeandtakeit. Delightful.

The AG’s letter with the following warning is now posted here:

The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.

And @GovernorPerry cheers:

No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue.

Actually, these are not UN monitors; OSCE is an observer at UNGA and considers the UN its primary partner but is not the UN.

Now — are our Texas folks suggesting that in the very act of watching, the observers affect the observed reality? That these observers can affect these elections?  If true, that’s like foxtrot bizarre!  How did these election observers interfere in the last five elections they’ve observed in the United States?

Maybe that’s the October Surprise? Then maybe we can do recounts from all those five elections instead of suffering through Da Donald and Gloria’s hair show?

Meanwhile, over in Warsaw (Poland, not Indiana) Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers and reportedly wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the following emphasis:

“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”

You think Ambassador Lenarčič is saying that unless you’re a quantum theorist, observe and interfere are two different things?

ODIHR is scheduled to release an interim report after the election and a formal report a couple of months after their observation mission.

In its latest update, ODIHR reports:

Some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors stated that certain issues in administering elections stem from the fact that states cannot obligate the counties to follow some federal regulations. For example, some jurisdictions failed to send ballots to out-of-country voters 45 days before election day, as required by the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act.7 The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), administered by the Department of Defense, reported to the OSCE/ODIHR LEOM that they are working with state election officials to introduce new state regulations that will require counties to adhere to all provisions of MOVE.

Political advertising continued being a major source for campaigning with large sums of money spent on TV advertisements. Independent organizations have been particularly active in political advertising and, in this respect, the impact of Super PACs and so-called Section 501(c)18 organizations on the outcome of primary and general elections is being questioned by OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors across the political spectrum. According to the data reported so far to the FEC, by mid-October, Super PACs have spent over USD 350 million in political advertising in the 2012 primary and general election cycle, while political parties have spent only USD 150 million. This excludes spending by 501(c) organizations, which are not reported to the FEC. The majority of election advertising in this election cycle placed on TV by candidates, parties, and independent groups has been negative.

Stop laughing over there.  So far, nothing there on Texas’ bright stars.  And no one has been hauled off as criminals for staring at voters casting their ballots. Well, not yet, anyways …

… for now just enjoy a photo of  US Ambassador Anne Patterson observing the polling station in Giza, Egypt in the 2011 elections.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Benghazi: Where the hell were the Marines? Yo! Half our embassies have no Marines

There is a misconception out there shared by some Americans that when they get in trouble overseas, Uncle Sam will come get them. That’s wrong.  He won’t send a helicopter rescue nor the US Marines, not even if our countrymen are in a foreign jail.

Another misconception has to do with the US Marines. On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul over in the Washington Times asks, “Where the hell were the Marines?”

Shortly after the Benghazi attack, Politico also reported it has learned that “The consulate where the American ambassador to Libya was killed on Tuesday is an “interim facility” not protected by the contingent of Marines that safeguards embassies.”

The State Department has 294 physical embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world.  Currently, about 1,200 Marine security guards are assigned to security detachments in 148 locations. For understandable reason the list of posts with no MSG is currently unavailable online, unless of course, Congress publishes the list in its search for da truth.

The Marine guards at US embassies are part of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group  (MCESG) based in Quantico, Virginia.

Its mission according to http://www.marines.mil/

The primary mission of the Marine Security Guard is to provide internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States.

The secondary mission of the MSG is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S government property located within designated U.S. diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances (urgent temporary circumstances which require immediate aid or action).

So where the hell were the Marines?

Is it just possible that there were no Marines in Benghazi because there were no classified material to protect?

Hell, ya … but does it matter? Nope.

Where the hell were the Marines, dammit?!

Here is a bit of the MSG program history:

The Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program, in its current form, has been in place since December 1948, but the Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation and distinction with the Department of State (DOS) going back to the early days of the Nation. From the raising of the United States flag at Derna, Tripoli, and the secret mission of Archibald Gillespie in California, to the 55-days at Peking, the United States Marines have served many times on special missions as couriers, guards for embassies and delegations, and to protect American officials in unsettled areas.

The origins of the modern MSG Program began with the Foreign Service Act of 1946 that stated the Secretary of Navy is authorized, upon the request of the Secretary of State, to assign enlisted Marines to serve as custodians under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at an embassy, legation, or consulate. Using this Act, the DOS and U.S. Marine Corps entered into negotiations to establish the governing provisions for assigning MSGs overseas. These negotiations culminated in the first joint Memorandum of Agreement signed on 15 December 1948. Trained at the DOS’s Foreign Service Institute, the first MSGs departed for Tangier and Bangkok on 28 January 1949. The authority granted in the Foreign Service Act of 1946 has since been replaced by Title 10, United States Code 5983, and the most recent Memorandum of Agreement was signed on 13 March 2008. The Marine Corps assumed the primary training responsibility of its MSGs during November 1954.

Following the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut Admiral Ray Inman chaired the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security.   Part of that report concerns the Marine Security Group’s role in embassy security. While I have not seen the 2008 MOU between State and the Marine Corps, I suspect that role has not changed very much:

MSG’s are not normally posted near, on or outside of the premise perimeter. This is because the protection of the mission is primarily the responsibility of the host government. Further, many countries would object to the posting of military personnel on their soil.

The MSG’s carry out their primary mission by a) operating access controls and stationary and patrol coverage of classified facilities and operations, b) conducting inspections and patrols to ensure proper procedures for handling and storage of classified material within the premises, c) writing notices of security violations as Department of State security regulations direct, d) effecting and supervising destruction of classified waste, e) providing control of buildings and portions of buildings during construction or renovation of areas, f) providing special guard services for U.S. delegation offices for regional or international conferences at which classified information is kept, g) assisting in guarding the temporary overseas residences of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and other ranking dignitaries as required, and h) providing internal security guard coverage on a temporary basis of the Principal Officer’s residence when the life or safety of the protected official is in danger. The latter duty is rarely conducted by the Marines and it is subject to written orders and approval. Further, the assignment must be in response to a threat situation, and the MSG’s must be armed and in uniform. The MSG’s may also provide special guard services in the execution of interagency plans for dealing with emergency situations.

The MSG Detachments are operationally supervised by the Regional Security Officer (RSO) or the Post Security Officer (PSO). The RSO or PSO provides the guard orders, directions and instructions for the operations of the Marines at the post and ensures that they are properly housed and supported. The Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) is the senior member of the MSG Detachment and he supervises and administratively controls the Marines. He reports through the RSO or PSO to the Chief of Mission.

As described above, the MSG role is essentially defensive in nature. They serve as an in-house deterrent to limited acts of violence, as well as a defense mechanism to large scale riots. The Marines are expected to delay entry by hostile elements long enough to permit destruction of classified material and to assist in protecting lives of the mission staff until host government forces arrive. They are authorized, under the command of the senior Foreign Service officer present, to use weapons to protect their own lives or mission staff from direct and immediate danger. The specific use of force is outlined in the MSG post guard orders.

In 1983, less than one-half or only 126 of our foreign posts were protected internally by the U.S. Marines. The MCESG says that the Marine guards are currently in 148 locations which is about half the number of our current overseas posts (Marine spokesman at the Pentagon put the number at 130 locations).  In the last 29 years since the Beirut embassy bombing, the Marine security detachments at our overseas posts grew by 22.

Part of the Inman report recommendation also states that “At those very small posts with few Americans, and where it is not practical to supplement the post with at least six Marines, the Panel recommends that the Department reduce or eliminate the amount of classified or sensitive equipment and material at these posts.”

Note that the commission did not say reduce the staff but to reduce or eliminate the amount of classified information. Logic dictates that the Marines will be present where there is classified material to protect, but will not be present if there is none (note: specific types of classified material cannot be present without Marine guards).

As in 1983, there will be calls to provide Marine security guards at all our overseas posts. And of course, despite all the noise and stuff, that will not happen.

The Benghazi attack has now become a feeding frenzy with all sorts of sharkies. Some of the stories out there are informed by nuttiness and ignorance that it doesn’t even make sense to write about it. Check this one out.  And a smoking gun one day is not smoking the next day.  So I’m going to stop hyperventilating (same recommendation for the Hill) and wait for the congressionally mandated accountability review board’s report.

And perhaps while waiting we can have a useful conversation about our Marines and the appropriate use of force in our diplomatic posts.  The MSG’s role is defensive in nature. The protesters, no doubt are aware of that. They knew that since Tehran.  Is it time to rethink that and allow aggressive resistance within embassy grounds using non lethal and lethal force that corresponds to the escalation of the attack?

If I’m missing anything on the Marine guards, please feel free to add in the comments.

US Embassy Laos: Ambassador Stewart Gets a Lesson in Breakdancing

Via the US Embassy Vientiane:

“The 2012 Fang Meh Khong dance festival will take place October 23-24 in Vientiane, featuring hip-hop, modern, and traditional dancers from Laos, Singapore, and France. The U.S. Embassy is one of the sponsors of this event, so Mr. Ole, the director, decided to stop by the Embassy to teach some dance moves to Ambassador Stewart. She raps, she breakdances, it’s official: Than Thoot Karen is the coolest Ambassador ever!”

Why breakdancing?  Ambassador Stewart explains in her blog:

Since coming to Laos, I have definitely tried a lot of things I never thought I never thought I would try. From eating bugs, to detonating a huge pile of unexploded ordnance, to rapping in Lao to a crowd of teenagers, I’ve had some amazing experiences.

Last week I got to cross another experience off my list: Break-dancing! To show my support for the upcoming Fang Mae Khong dance festival (which the U.S. Embassy is helping to sponsor), I got a lesson in B-Boy dancing from Ole, the young director of the dance festival.

Ole and his team showed me a few simple moves (well, simple for them, anyway). At the end, we performed a little dance routine together. You can watch the results here.

Well, of course I am no real dancer, but it was a lot of fun! It’s always good to get out there and try to do something when part of you thinks you can’t do it.

Read her full post here.  She also blogged about detonating the “bombies” here.

 

 

 

US Embassy Ankara Restricts USG Travel to 16 Turkish Provinces

On October 23, the US Embassy in Ankara informed US citizens in Turkey that it expanded the number of provinces in the country that requires special permission for official and unofficial travel by US government employees. Excerpt below from its Emergency Message:

The Embassy advises U.S. citizens that we have recently added the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, and Șanlıurfa to the list of provinces in southeast Turkey for which special permission is required for any necessary official or unofficial travel by U.S. government employees. The other restricted provinces are Şırnak, Diyarbakır, Van, Siirt, Muș, Mardin, Batman, Bingöl, Tunceli, Hakkâri, Bitlis and Elaziğ. U.S government employees are required to take special precautions when traveling in these provinces, to include consulting with local security officials on current threats. If road travel is necessary, drive only during daylight hours and on major highways. The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens that the situation in southeast Turkey, while usually calm, can change without warning. Over the past several months, provinces in southeast Turkey have experienced a substantial increase in terrorist attacks and kidnappings. Turkish towns located directly along the border with Syria have also been struck by bullets and artillery rounds originating in Syria, with some resulting in deaths or injuries.

In addition to the well-known, longstanding threat from terrorists associated with Kongra-Gel (KGK, also known as PKK), other violent extremists have transited Turkey en route to Syria. Therefore, we recommend that U.S. citizens take care in meetings with individuals claiming to represent the Syrian opposition movement.

 

I should note that we have a small consulate in Adana, as well as Incirlik Air Base a few kilometers from the city.

 

 

 

Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Image from http://marklijek.com/index.php

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Day: President O with Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson

Via WH/Flickr

President Barack Obama meets with Rick Olson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, in the Oval Office, Sept. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Click on image above to view intro video by Ambassador Olson

US Embassy Dublin: Roger Kiley Impersonates Customs Attaché, What’s Love Gotta Do With It?

Via USDOJ:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Pleads Guilty to Impersonating U.S. Customs Attaché

WASHINGTON – A supervisory customs and border protection officer pleaded guilty today in the Southern District of Florida to impersonating a U.S. Customs attaché and making false statements related to his assignment with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance Office in Dublin, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida.

Roger J. Kiley, 42, of Miami, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Ursula Mancusi Ungaro in Miami to a criminal information charging him with one count of false personation and one count of making a false statement.

According to court documents, Kiley was stationed at the CBP Preclearance Office in Dublin from 2009 to 2011.   As part of his plea agreement, Kiley admitted that he began a romantic relationship with a Dublin resident in 2010.   Kiley also admitted that he held himself out to this individual as the Customs attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, a government position that did not exist, and that he could arrange for the embassy to lease the residence she was living in as his embassy residence.   Kiley further admitted that he created a fake lease from the embassy as well as a funding cable for the payment of the lease on the residence.   Kiley also admitted that he created a bogus letter from the embassy authorizing the relocation of Kiley and his romantic interest to the United States, and that he forged the signature of the deputy chief of mission on the letter.   Kiley further admitted that he lied to federal agents in February 2012 when interviewed about the allegations of misconduct while he was in Dublin.

Kiley faces up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release for the charge of false personation.   He faces five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release for the false statement charge.   Kiley is also responsible for restitution in the amount of $2,500.  Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 7, 2012.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Richard B. Evans of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Robin W. Waugh, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.   The case is being investigated by the CBP Office of Internal Affairs.

Makes you wonder what’s the back story of this case.  Did the romantic interest found out he was a fake attaché  with a one bedroom apartment when they relocated back to the United States and marched to Internal Affairs? If love made him do it, will the Court be lenient about that five year possible prison term?

– DS

Quickie: Goldberg’s Benghazi Embarrassment, But Who’s Red on the Face?

Jeffrey Goldberg,  a national correspondent for The Atlantic writes:

The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can’t have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

He made four reasonable points:

1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we’re going to end up with more mindless CYA security “improvements” that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.

2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration’s unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

4) As Blake Hounshell put it, “Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone.” We’ve lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day.

Continue reading, The Benghazi Embarrassment.

– DS

 

 

US Army Activates “Warrior Diplomats” … Unlike State’s Expeditionary Diplomats, These Got Guns

I almost forgot this item I saw from the US Army a few weeks ago.  After the “build phase” is completed, we can expect at least five battalions of “warrior diplomats.”  Since a battalion has around 300–1,200 soldiers, the new warrior diplomats brigade can have a as low as 1,500 soldiers or as high as 6,000 for a brigade consisting of five battalions.

FORT HOOD, Texas, Sept. 22, 2011 — A brand new unit now has a home at Fort Hood. The 85th Civil Affairs Brigade officially stood up at the “Great Place” Sept. 16, after years of planning and coordination.
[…]
“In 2007, the Army saw a need for additional civil affairs capabilities,” Ruth explained. At that time, only one active-duty brigade-sized civil affairs unit existed — the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne) which is aligned under U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After the surge in Iraq was announced in 2007, Ruth said nearly half of the USASOC civil affairs Soldiers were deployed to the Middle East to support ongoing operations. Plans were made to build another brigade, although that process took some time.

“We are in the build phase now,” Ruth said. “By the time we finish building the brigade, we will have five battalions. Each battalion will be oriented on a geographic combatant command.”

The 85th Civil Affairs Bde. is a direct-reporting unit to U.S. Army Forces Command. In addition, the brigade’s first battalion, the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion, stood up Sept. 16 at Fort Hood. That battalion is oriented to Southern Command.

In September 2012, two additional battalions will stand up. They include the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., which will be oriented to Central Command, and the 82nd Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Stewart, Ga., which will be oriented to Africa Command.

The two final battalions will activate in September 2013 and will include the 80th Civil Affairs Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., which will be oriented to Pacific Command, and the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Bliss, which will support European Command.

There’s a simple reason for the roll out of the brigades, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Berry, the brigade’s senior enlisted advisor.

“Part of the challenge of what we have (is) the MOS (military occupational specialty) and the branch have only existed since 2007,” he said. “So as we’re building capacity in the branch, we’re expanding the units at the same time.”

Soldiers that are interested in the civil affairs branch have a challenging road ahead of them before they can join a battalion or a brigade.

“We recruit from inside the Army,” Berry said. “The process is quite lengthy.”

Interested Soldiers must first meet the qualifications and go through a screening process. If they make it through that level but are not yet parachutists, they must complete Airborne school. After that, there is the official civil affairs MOS qualification course, and finally, the Soldiers must learn a foreign language, which means months of additional schooling.
[…]
“It’s very busy, but it’s also very rewarding to do something that not very many people have an opportunity to do in the Army, and that’s stand something up from nothing.”

Standing up a brigade requires identifying unit facilities, creating procedures and policies, and working closely with Human Resources Command to make sure positions are properly staffed, in addition to dozens of other tasks on a daily basis.

“I don’t think we could do this at any other place except Fort Hood, and that goes back to the superb level of support we’re getting,” Ruth said.

The Civil Affairs brigade at Fort Hood equips FORSCOM with a crucial tool, a team of “warrior diplomats,” eager to leave their mark on the world.

“The mission is to provide FORSCOM with a civil affairs capability,” Ruth said. “It can do three things, (including) support the Army Force Generation cycle with civil affairs operators. The second capability that we provide FORSCOM is the ability to provide peacetime engagement throughout the world, and then the last thing we provide is the ability to support any emergent operations.

“So if we have another Haiti (earthquake) or flood in Indonesia, now we have civil affairs Soldiers who can go out and lend their expertise in mitigating those disasters,” he added.

Civil affairs Soldiers play a crucial role in both war and peace, although Ruth admitted that the branch is sometimes misunderstood.

“There’s a misnomer out there that what we do is hand out MREs (meals, ready-to-eat) and dig wells,” he said. “That’s not exactly what we do. We can facilitate that, but we do things for specific reasons, and that’s really to legitimize the local, regional or national government, and facilitate the commander’s ability to operate in theater.”

At the tactical level, civil affairs Soldiers serve as an intermediary between a commander on the ground and local village representatives. That’s where the in-depth training and language skills make all the difference in the world.

“Because of all that training and the way we select those Soldiers, we’re going to be able to provide the Army with a mature Soldier, a Soldier that has the ability to think on his or her feet,” Berry said.

“You can put them in a situation and they may not know the answer when they get there, but they’re going to keep working at it until they figure out what the answer is. They also have the ability to work with people and understand people.”

“Our motto is ‘warrior diplomat’ because we have to be warriors. We have to be Soldiers,” Ruth said. “But the Soldiers also have to add the diplomatic capability to where they can diffuse dissension, identify what the local vulnerabilities are and really bring people together.”
[…]
To mark the brigade’s activation, the unit will host a ceremony at the flagpole in front of III Corps Headquarters Sept. 30 at 9 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The full article is here.

By September 2013, the full brigade with an upper count of possibly 6,000 soldiers will be in place. One battalion of warrior diplomats will support each combatant command: Central, Southern, Pacific, European and Africom.

To put this in perspective: the diplomatic service, officially called the United States Foreign Service and tasked with carrying out the foreign policy of these United States in over 270 posts overseas has about 13,000 staff members.  Only about 6,500 are Foreign Service officers.  Indeed, they could easily fit aboard a single aircraft carrier.

In the FY2012 budget State requested an addition of 197 full time Foreign Service and Civil Service – a growth of 1 percent, and 165 new positions for USAID. I can’t tell how many additional staffing was granted. But the FY2012 budget request for the State Department was $62.7 billion, and only $53.4 billion was enacted.

For FY2013, State has again requested additional staffing, this time, for 121 new positions (83 Foreign Service and 38 civil service) in high priority programs and regions.

And that’s that for the chopping block, until the next round.

Also — the State Department’s hiring effort called Diplomacy 3.0 to increase its Foreign Service workforce by 25 percent by 2013 was derailed due to emerging budgetary constraints. It is anticipated that this goal will not be met until 2023.

Gangnam Style Intern Flash “Mob” Invades US Embassy Seoul, Then Psy Shows Up

The Gangnam Style video by South Korean rapper Psy has been viewed over 480,000,000 million times on YouTube as of October 17, 2012.  So sorry did not get to see Ambassador Kim as the first Gangnam Style Ambassador but at least he got a “mob” of interns willing to do the dance. Check below at the 00:20 – 1:00 mark, where I would have chopped this video off:

And then what do you know?  Psy stopped by at the US Embassy in Seoul “on a visa matter.”  Well, not on the same day.  Ambassador Kim blogs that “Psy keeps getting asked to perform in the U.S.  The wonderful side effect is that we occasionally get to see him at the U.S. Embassy.”

 

US Ambassador to Seoul Sung Kim with Psy
(Photo via US Embassy/FB)


That’s Psy without his blue jacket and eyeglasses and no crazy horse riding dance this time.  Psy reportedly got an “O” visa for “aliens of extraordinary ability.”  And like all visa applicants, he was interviewed, fingerprinted and had a chit-chat with the ambassador.  🙂