US Embassy Warsaw Rocks with All I Want For Christmas Is You

The video below is from US Embassy Warsaw with Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull (at the 0:07 mark) and all the American and Polish staff at the United States Embassy in Poland in Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You.

You guys made us smile today, thank you. Sending you wishes for a happy and safe holidays across the miles!

domani spero sig

 

 

Advertisements

These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …

…. the day before yesterday!

More from the ARB briefing with Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen:

MS. NULAND: Let’s go to New York Times. Michael Gordon, please.

QUESTION: Ambassador Pickering, your report was extremely critical of the performance of some individuals in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the NEA, the Middle East Bureau. And – but these bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re part of an hierarchical organization known as the Department of State, and each has a chain of command. The NEA reports up the policy chain, and Diplomatic Security, I presume, reports up the management chain, their Under Secretaries, and indeed deputy secretaries, and the Secretary herself, who oversees these bureaus. What is the highest level at the Department of State where you fix responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level, which is in our view the appropriate place to look, where the decision-making in fact takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road. And one of the interesting things about the statutory basis for the Review Board was that it clearly was biased against the idea that one could automatically hold, as one often does, the leader of a particular department or agency responsible without pinpointing the place where the failures took place and where the lessons that we derived from that ought to be important to fixing the problem. And so fixing the problem and finding the locus of the difficulties was the major task we had to undertake.

ADMIRAL MULLEN: And I would add to that, Michael, that, I mean, certainly that was a concern that we had as we initiated the review and we just found. And as someone who’s run large organizations, and the Secretary of State has been very clear about taking responsibility here, it was, from my perspective, not reasonable in terms of her having a specific level of knowledge that was very specifically resident in her staff, and over time, certainly didn’t bring that to her attention.

NYT’s Michael Gordon who later filed this report writes:

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to Congress.
[…]
At the same time, the report that Mr. Pickering oversaw suggested that there was a culture of “husbanding resources” at senior levels of the State Department that contributed to the security deficiencies in Benghazi. Without identifying Mr. Kennedy or other senior officials, the report said that attitude “had the effect of conditioning a few State Department managers to favor restricting the use of resources as a general orientation.”

We are deeply bothered by that “We fixed it at the Assistant Secretary level” response.

The State Department is a traditional organization with a top-down hierarchy.  For as long as we’ve been studying it, it has never been a flat one, unless you’re talking about the base of a pyramid.  There are chains of command like any bureaucracy.  You can get in trouble for driving outside your lane.

Are we to believe that the decision to have a presence in Benghazi was done at the DS and NEA bureaus?

That the decision to have a light footprint in Benghazi was done at the DS or NEA bureau?

That the policy at embassies worldwide to hire a local guard force was fixed at DS alone?

That the practice of filling Benghazi with short TDY staff rotations was decided by DS or NEA but not DGHR?

That the allocation of 4-5 Regional Security Officers (RSOs) to Benghazi, as opposed to 200 assigned to US Mission Iraq was a DS bureau decision?

That the DS or the NEA bureau negotiated with the CIA on whatever security agreement there was in Benghazi?
C’mon folks, for us to believe that is like suspending disbelief as we do when we watch HBO’s Homeland.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin @joshrogin tweeted:

Assistant Secretaries are just high up enough to take the fall but not quite high up enough to do anything to defend themselves #Benghazi

Well, that’s not right.  We recognize that bureaucratic life isn’t fair, but this bothers us a great deal.

domani spero sig

 

 

AP’s Matt Lee Asks Tom Pickering About the ARB’s Supposed to be Never-Again Moment

Via the State Department’s ARB Benghazi Briefing with Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen:

MS. NULAND: … Let’s start with Matt Lee from AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. The report, to a layman, seems to indicate either rank incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Benghazi. And my question is: Why is such poor performance like that from senior leaders in these two bureaus that you mention, why is not a breach of or a dereliction of duty? Why is it not grounds for disciplinary action?

And then secondly, after the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the ARB report – the ARB that was formed then came out with a series of recommendations, and many of your recommendations today, the broader ones, are very similar. Those bombings in East Africa were supposed to have been a never-again moment. What happened between then and now that this could possibly have happened?

AMBASSADOR PICKERING: Without accepting your characterization of the problem, it is very clear that under the law and in connection with the State Department regulatory practice, one has to find willful misconduct or similar kinds of action in order to find breach of duty. And indeed, one of our recommendations is – there is such a large gap between willful misconduct, which leads, obviously, to conclusions about discipline, letters of reprimand, separation, the removal of an individual temporarily from duty, that we believe that gap ought to be filled. But we found, perhaps, close to – as we say in the report – breach, but there were performance inadequacies. And those are the ones that we believe ought to be taken up, and we made recommendations to the Secretary in that regard.

Thank you for asking the question, Matt Lee.

On a side note — Ambassador Pickering was the 17th Undersecretary for Political Affairs who was the #3 ranking official at the State Department (1997-2000) when the East Africa Embassy Bombings occurred in 1998.  He was one of those interviewed by the Crowe Commission; that Board concluded that “no employee of the U.S. government” had “breached his or her responsibility.” No one was pressured to leave after that incident as far as we can recall. More on that here from Ambassador Bushnell who similarly requested additional resources for US Embassy Nairobi prior to the bombing.

ARB Benghazi’s report released yesterday says that “the Board did not find that any individual U.S. Government employee engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities, and, therefore did not find reasonable cause to believe that an individual breached his or her duty so as to be the subject of a recommendation for disciplinary action.”

And yet — as of 10:17 pm PST, four State Department officials no higher than an deputy assistant secretary (DAS) have so far been snared by the ARB report (one AS and three DASes).  Only one of those who were reportedly pressured to step down is big enough fish to make a splash on the State Department organizational chart.  A statement from the State Department via NPR:

“The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. “The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

So — now, if the ARB report did in fact identify these officials, why was that considered “classified” and omitted from the publicly available report?

Did the ARB only identified four officials or are there more?

How many deputy assistant secretaries is the State Department prepared to pitch under the bus to ensure that the bureaucratic firewall holds at the bureau level?

Don’t get us wrong.  Four people were dead, a few more wounded. We want to see who is accountable. The ARB report and the State Department’s response is sending lots of static.  We understand that one of those leaving is preparing to retire anyway …. so … what’s going on guys?

domani spero sig