AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony Adds Eight Names to Wall of Honor

AFSA’s Memorial Plaque Ceremony was held at the State Department today.  The ceremony was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director Brennan, USAID Administrator Shah and Secretary Kerry who delivered his remarks here.  Excerpt:

The most important thank you that we can all give – and we do – is to the family members. I know this is a mixed day. It’s a hard day. It’s a day that brings back pain, but it’s also a day, I hope, of comfort and of pride in knowing that the contributions and the memories of your loved ones are a permanent part of the State Department, as strong as the marble which will carry their names for eternity.

Today we add eight names to our wall of honor, eight people who dedicated their lives to service. And to a person, each one sought out the most difficult assignments. They understood the risks, and still they raised their hands and they said: “Send me.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, and American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) President Susan R. Johnson honor foreign affairs colleagues who have lost their lives while serving overseas in the line of duty or under heroic or other inspirational circumstances, at the AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]  Click on image to view video of the ceremony.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, and American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) President Susan R. Johnson honor foreign affairs colleagues who have lost their lives while serving overseas in the line of duty or under heroic or other inspirational circumstances, at the AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Click on image to view video of the ceremony.

The ceremony honored the following individuals:

ANNE T. SMEDINGHOFF
Foreign Service Officer, died in Afghanistan from injuries sustained during a bombing on April 6, 2013.

J. CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

SEAN PATRICK SMITH
Information Management Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

TY WOODS
Security Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

GLEN A. DOHERTY
Security Specialist, was killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

RAGAEI SAID ABDELFATTAH
USAID Foreign Service Officer, was killed during a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012.

A lot have been written and said about the individuals above but two who were honored today were from 40 years ago.   And we don’t know much about them. So we are excerpting that from Secretary Kerry’s remarks:

Joe Fandino served in the Air Force during the Korean War where he sat on the “black box” during missions, meaning it was his job to blow up the plane if it got into real trouble. So he was a man who understood high-stakes situations. He also had a tremendous sense of humor. On his first Foreign Service posting to the Dominican Republic, he was riding with the Ambassador, who just happened to be his future father-in-law, and the rioters began rocking the car. And the Ambassador asked, “Joe, what do you intend to do if things get really bad?” And Joe didn’t miss a beat. He just leapt up and said, “I’ll jump out of the car, tear off my tie, and yell ‘down with the Americans!’” (Laughter.) Joe’s family and friends cherish those memories of his charm and his ability to cut through the noise. He died in 1972 while serving in Vietnam with USAID.

Frank Savage used to ride his Harley around Europe while wearing a Levi jacket with a big American flag sewn onto the back of it. He was proud of his country, and he wanted everybody to know it. Frank volunteered to serve in Vietnam with USAID, and when he wasn’t on duty, he helped defend a local orphanage from Viet Cong attacks. He was severely injured in the 1965 terrorist bombing of My Canh, the floating restaurant, but after a year, he volunteered to go back. And Frank felt he that had a job to finish, which is characteristic of every single one of these people. Sadly, he became critically ill from his original wounds and he died in Saigon in 1967.

You may read the full text of the remarks here.

The memorial plaque ceremony traditionally happens once a year, usually on the first week of May. Unfortunately, it has been the case in the last several years that a new name is added on the wall every year.

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

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State Dept’s Inspector General to Conduct a “Special Review” of the ARB Process, Not/Not the ARB Panel

According to thehill.com, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General notified the State Department on March 28 that it will be conducting a “special review” of the process that the department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) used to probe security lapses prior to and during the terrorist attack:

Doug Welty, a spokesman for the IG’s office, said the office is responsive to lawmakers’ concerns; he said this is the first time the office will review an ARB process, although it has in the past reviewed how well the State Department has followed through on the recommendations of other review boards formed after security breaches.

The review will examine “the effectiveness and accountability of the process and the resulting implementation of the recommendations,” Welty said. He couldn’t specify a time frame, but said the results would be made public: “It will take the time it needs to take to do a reliable job.”

At a State Department briefing last year, Pickering defended the ARB’s approach. He said the panel fixed responsibility “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.”

Fox News originally reported this and found an unnamed senior State Department official to comment on this development:

[A] senior State Department official told Fox News the IG probe is not a “formal investigation” but rather a review process, and one, moreover, that will examine previous ARBs in addition to the one established after Benghazi.

The official noted that the department had published a notice early on instructing employees on how they could furnish information to the ARB for Benghazi, and that the panel ultimately interviewed more than 100 witnesses.

The original law that established accountability review boards mandates that they act completely independently, the official said, adding that the department in this case neither sought nor enjoyed any influence over the panel’s work.

In any case, Fox News headline screams “State Department’s Benghazi review panel under investigation, Fox News confirms.

So we checked with State/OIG and was told by Douglas Welty that this is a  “special review of the Accountability Review Board process.” He pointed out that when he spoke with the reporter at Fox, he specifically said this was not an “investigation.” “When OIG uses the term “investigation,” it means we are looking into the possibility of criminal activity,” according to Mr. Welty. 

We asked Mr. Welty if this special review was specifically requested by a congressional representative or some other entity and we’re told the following:

We already had plans to conduct a review of the ARB process when we responded to Senators Lieberman’s and Collins’ post-Benghazi inquiry last year. Our current review is not a response to or the result of the recent congressional investigation or upcoming congressional hearing on the Benghazi attacks.

Reviews, inspections and audits of security issues is an important part of our oversight work. Whenever appropriate, we will check on the status of recommendations made by ARBs, as we did in our Jeddah and “mantraps” reports. The report will note if an ARB recommendation has been implemented. If so, how, and if in process, what is being done. If it has not been implemented and no progress has been made, then that will be noted, as well.

In late December, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine released Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi.

We did, in fact, blog recently about the March 2013 OIG’s review of ARB Jeddah (see 2005 Jeddah ARB Recommended “Remote Safe Areas” for Embassies – Upgrades Coming … Or Maybe Not). That’s the only OIG review of a previous ARB that we are aware of.

We would be interested, of course, to see what the OIG finds in its review of the ARB process. However, there are a couple of things that we are sort of curious about.   One is the fact that the State Department has not had a permanent IG since 2008.  If you look at this org chart, the IG (that is the Deputy IG) reports directly to the Secretary of State. We are curious how often does the IG sits with the Secretary of State – monthly, quarterly, and so on and so forth?  Two, we’re wondering if in practice the IG actually deals more directly with “M” (the Under Secretary of Management) rather than the Secretary of State?  We anticipate that whether justified or not, these two issues may bite in the post-IG review.

Also, given how politicized Benghazi has become, we’re also wondering if it might have been more wise for State/OIG to work with Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity & Efficiency (CIGIE) on this ARB process review.

Of course, even with that, there’s no way to tell if this would end the Benghazi controversy. In fact, our guess is we would be hearing about Benghazi for months to come. Whether or not all the hearings and reports would actually amount to improved security and better risk planning/mitigation for our people overseas remains a big question.

–DS