Is the State Dept’s Bureaucratic Firewall Crumbling? Former DCM Says Accountability Review “let people off the hook” …

Via CNN:

Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, told congressional investigators that the State Department internal review of the catastrophe at the mission in Benghazi “let people off the hook,” CNN has learned.

The Accountability Review Board “report itself doesn’t really ascribe blame to any individual at all. The public report anyway,” Hicks told investigators, according to transcript excerpts obtained by CNN. “It does let people off the hook.”
[…]
Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday on CBS that Hicks will testify Wednesday in a congressional hearing on the deadly attack in Benghazi.

“In our system, people who make decisions have been confirmed by the Senate to make decisions,” Hicks told investigators.”The three people in the State Department who are on administrative leave pending disciplinary action are below Senate confirmation level. Now, the DS (Diplomatic Security) assistant secretary resigned, and he is at Senate confirmation level.  Yet the paper trail is pretty clear that decisions were being made above his level.

Whom might Hicks be referring to? He specifically mentions Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

“Certainly the fact that Under Secretary Kennedy required a daily report of the personnel in country and who personally approved every official American who went to Tripoli or Benghazi, either on assignment or TDY (temporary duty), would suggest some responsibility about security levels within the country lies on his desk,” Hicks said.
[…]
The day after Rice’s appearance on the Sunday shows, Hicks says, he asked Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, ” ‘Why did Ambassador Rice say that?’ And Beth Jones said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Hicks said he didn’t think Jones “welcomed the question at all. … Both the sharpness of the ‘I don’t know’ and the tone of voice … indicated to me that I had perhaps asked a question that I should not have asked.”

Continue reading, Benghazi whistle-blower Hicks: Internal review ‘let people off the hook’.

If you missed this weekend’s Face the Nation, see the CBS Face the Nation Transcript, May 5, 2013, the first part is on Benghazi.

We have written previously how we were troubled by the ARB fixing the blame at the bureau level (see How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?; and These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …).

 We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested.

Back in December, we’ve also speculated at three future scenarios:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

It looks like scenarios #1 and #3 are now out.  Remains to be seen how scenario #2 plays out with this week’s Oversight hearing.  We suspect that one or more of the under secretaries will soon announce a desire to “spend more time with the family” or retire or whatever.

We understand that Mr. Hicks was the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli from June 2012 – October 2012.  We don’t know why this tenure was only for four months.  We have tried reaching out to Mr. Hicks but have not heard anything back. He presumably also became the charge d’affaires in the aftermath of Ambassador Steven’s death.  Mr. Hicks is an FS-01 Econ Officer with 22 years of service.

On October 11, 2012, retired FSO Laurence Pope assumed office as charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tripoli (see Officially Back: Ambassador Laurence Pope to Tripoli as Chargé d’ Affaires.

In January 2013, a career FSO took over running the embassy from Ambassador Pope (see US Embassy Libya: New Chargé d’ Affaires William Roebuck Assumes Office.

On March 19, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Deborah Jones as the next ambassador to Libya (see  Officially In: Deborah K. Jones, from MEI Scholar-in-Residence to Libya).  Ambassador Jones is scheduled to have her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

Mr. Hicks is scheduled to testify at the House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 8. We have a prior engagement that day so we’ll be late.

— DS

 

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Top Ten Signs Your Embassy Might Be Dysfunctional … or Just Plain Dreadful

1.  Mission Favorites.  Mission staffer’s favorite movie is “Under Siege” but not/not because they’re die-hard fans of Steven Seagal.  The mission’s theme song is  “Front Office in a Bubble” to the tune of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle and it’s not because they want to save time in the bubble and spend them with you.

2.  Voluntold.  When the Front Office holds a meeting on morale participants had to be voluntold so there are real people in the room and not just left over cardboard cut-outs of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from election past.

3.  Liquor Store Run.  Every town hall meeting causes a minor run on the commissary liquor store. This is not necessarily bad as it improves the commissary’s bottom line but, but when employees get up with a hangover the day after every town hall meeting, that is never a good sign.

4.  Not So Cute Nicknames.  Front Office executives and senior managers get nicknames that are neither cute nor fit for polite conversation. The nicknames are occasionally funny, that is, funny to everyone except to those they have been assigned to.

5.  Suck  It Up Buttercup.  The embassy’s motto of DMWL or “doing more with less” has been replaced with SIUB or “suck it up buttercup.”  If employees have legitimate concerns that are impairing their ability to do the work they are sent to do and you tell them to suck it up, what kind of manager does that make you?

6.  Hamsters on Wheels.  Mission staffers ask questions about crisis preparedness in various re-iterations, repeats, rinses, then do over again and again like hamsters on a wheel.  When employees kept repeating the same questions over and over it means 1) they’re not getting the answers they need or 2) they do not believe what you’re telling them.  In which case, they’ll keep asking those questions until they’re satisfied with the answer.

7.  Rumor Has It.  The rumor factory has taken over the embassy compound like the pink slime from Ghostbusters. Rumors express and gratify “the emotional needs of the community.” It occupies the space when that need is not meet, and particularly when there is deficient communication between the front office and the rest of the mission.

8. Humor-less.  It’s been a long time since anyone at post had a real good laugh. Once humor becomes the missing link in the chain of command, then that is a sign of not good things to come.  Employees who are unhappy, demoralized, despondent, frustrated, angry have a hard time laughing at anything unless they are laughing at their senior managers.

9. Post Trends. El Jefe of one of the largest sections at post is suddenly retiring. The resident regional psychiatrist also curtails and retires.  And just about everyone has a curtailment plan.  The non-resident regional psychiatrist posted across the globe has been told he/she is spending way too much time at post. The community liaison officer shows up at Country Team meetings wearing a mockingjay pin. (In The Hunger Games, the mockingjay is a symbol of rebellion and hope among the districts). Uh-oh, trends — the not so subtle and the crafty. And don’t even think about making mocking jay pins illegal.

10. Fan Mail.  Demoralized embassy employees in the Republic of Z send howlers to this blog.  Not one email or two email but emails from the parliament of owls.  Frankly, they are worse than those listed on Harry Potter’s Owl Post.  If you think being featured in this blog is bad, think about how much worse your morning can be when you end up in Al Kamen’s In The Loop column, widely read  by the chattering crowd inside the beltway and the Seventh Floor.

The end.

 

–DS