Name That Embassy: Where The DCM Has Two Official Residences (the Second, For DCM Junior’s Playdates)

Most of this blog’s readers are already familiar with the term DCM.  For those who aren’t, a DCM or a Deputy Chief of Mission is like the chief executive officer or chief operating officer of the embassy. He/She is a career diplomat and acts as Charge d’Affaires (person in charge) whenever the Ambassador is absent from the host country or when the position is vacant. The DCM is responsible for the day to day management of the embassy, ensuring the mission can operate with allocated resources and together with the Ambassador runs the Embassy “front office.”  He/She oversees the heads of sections (Political, Economic, Public Affairs, Management, Consular and the Regional Security Office) at the Embassy and has overall responsibility for mentoring and professional development of the entry-level professionals.

All that serves as a preamble to this:

The Deputy Chief of Mission in Country X has an official residence in the downtown area of the capital city; the location is not too far from the embassy.

The second residence, an apartment is allegedly in the suburbs, in one of the U.S. government compounds in the capital city. The ostensible reason for the second residence is reportedly so the DCM’s spouse would have a place to arrange playdates near the international school where DCM junior is enrolled.

Imagine if you’re overseas and you demand a second USG-owned or USG-leased residence for your kid’s playdates.  Do you know what would happen?  They’d pack you up on a medical evacuation so quickly before you can even say BOO!

But when you’re a DCM, apparently they don’t do that, which we must admit is a nice perk.

Poor contract guards.

They wanted to know what sort of special protection they should be giving to the DCM and his/her visitors when he/she is using the second residence.

As you might imagine, the  security office was not happy about this.

And the housing office was pretty steam up about it.  The Housing GSO reportedly refused to have anything to do with this … um, unusual arrangement.

Luckily, the Housing GSO’s supervising officer …. no, not the GSO but the Management Counselor is said to have arranged the details so the DCM gets the second USG housing. This is the part where we need to point out that the Management Counselor’s Employee Evaluation Report rater is no other than the DCM.

So —

If you were the Management Counselor at this post, would you have “arranged the details” so the DCM gets a second residence?

Or would you have taken out the Foreign Affairs Manual  and  said, “No your excellency, you may not have a second residence.”

Perhaps this should cover as our ethical dilemma exercise for the day.

According to FAM  15 FAM 211.1, the objective of the housing program is “to provide safe and secure housing that is adequate to meet the personal and professional requirements of employees at a cost most advantageous to the U.S. Government. For the purposes of this policy, adequate housing is defined as that comparable to what an employee would occupy in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, with adjustments for family size and locality abroad.”  The housing provided to employees is based on position rank and family size:  “Where an employee’s position rank is greater or less than his or her personal rank, the position rank determines the employee’s maximum authorization.”  

We have been unable to locate regulations in the FAM that allows an employee to occupy two USG-owned or USG leased housing overseas.  It might be that the FAM in a parallel universe does not specifically prohibit the allocation of two residences to a DCM, especially if one needs an apartment for the officer’s kid’s playdates. But — even if we grant that this is not illegal — holy mother of goat! How can a senior official even think this is not waste and misused of U.S. government property?

In any case, we understand that several mission staffers thought this was just plain wrong and appropriately filed complaints at the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

We heard that State/OIG “passed it on” to the regional bureau which then had a “conversation” of some sort. Subsequent to the conversation with the regional bureau, the keys to the second residence were returned.

We checked with the OIG and this is what we’re told by its spokesman, Douglas Welty:

[I]t is OIG policy not to comment on complaints submitted to our Hotline, nor do we comment on any possible, pending or on-going investigations.

It is also OIG policy to refer  non-criminal, but inappropriate activities to the Department (or bureau) for administrative action – with a request for a response and report of remedial actions taken.

So unless you don’t return the keys … then it becomes a big deal. But if you do return the keys, then things can be forgotten and forgiven? Did the bureau even charged the DCM rental for the use of the second residence? Was any administrative action ever issued? No one knows since that’s all done behind doors because hey, privacy!

In what ethical landscape would anyone consider this appropriate behavior for any public servant, particularly one who is a senior official with mentoring responsibility for our next generation of diplomats?

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Updated May 16@8:37 am to include RSOs under the responsibility of the DCMs.

 

 

 

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From Russia With No Love: US Diplomat/Alleged CIA Spy Expelled For Having Two Bad Wigs

The Voice of Russia reported today that US diplomat, Ryan C. Fogle was asked to leave the country for allegedly attempting to recruit a Russian special service officer as a US agent:

A statement from the FSB said that overnight on May 13/14 Russian FSB counter-intelligence agencies detained a member of the US Central Intelligence Agency, named as Ryan Christopher Fogle, who worked as third secretary of the political department of the US Embassy in Moscow.

It is alleged he was caught red-handed, with written instructions, a large sum of money and a wig.
[…]
The foreign ministry said Ryan C. Fogle must return to the United States “as soon as possible,” adding that such “provocative acts in the spirit of the Cold War in no way help strengthen mutual trust” between Moscow and Washington.

We don’t know more than what we’ve read on the news but expulsion also means he will only have a very short window to pack and leave the country.

Of course, we’re also reminded that in September 2009, there were lots of speculation that the FSB was responsible for leaking a story and video of the sex tape purported to be of a US diplomat assigned at the US Embassy in Moscow. That one went on for seven weeks until then Ambassador Beyrle finally complained to the Foreign Ministry over what it says is an effort to smear a diplomat with a fabricated sex tape (see US Embassy Moscow Complains About Russian Sex Video).

So no sex tape this time but a couple of wigs, a compass (?),  a recruitment letter that looks like spam and gmail!

The wigs!

Really, wigs are so 1980’s. Whoever wrote this script did not earn his/her pay. At least in FX’s The Amerikans, whenever the KGB agents had to go in disguise, they wear wigs. But you know, those wigs stay on whether those agents are on a knife fight or in a bed escapade. If those guys can keep their wigs on in a 1980’s show, surely our CIA agents if they have to wear a wig as a disguise, can do better than a blonde wig that gets dislodged when you’re wrestled to the ground? Plus whatever happened to Mission Impossible’s latex masks? Ugh!

A compass!

Over in NYT: “Who uses a compass these days?” asked Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor who studies Russian security affairs. “This would be a phenomenal breach of tradecraft. This isn’t what they teach you at the CIA.”

What’s a compass?

NYMag posted the alleged written instruction found on Mr. Fogle but writes that there is “actually something pretty weird about this story. It’s the recruitment letter (translated here into English from its original Russian by news outlet RT):

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Click on image to read the text of the recruitment letter (via WaPo)

 

This is how the CIA recruits spies? With a form letter that reads like something you’d find in your in-box courtesy of a Nigerian prince? See (see Apparently the CIA Recruits Russian Spies With a Spammy Form Letter).

Of course, the arrest also happened as the US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was holding a live Q&A on Twitter.  Coincidence or perfectly timed?

The AP on the video released by FSB:   “The official, whose face is blurred, alleged that Fogle called an unidentified FSB counterintelligence officer who specializes in the Caucasus at 11:30 p.m. Monday. He then said that after the officer refused to meet, Fogle called him a second time and offered 100,000 euros if he would provide information to the U.S. The Russian official said the FSB was flabbergasted.”

Well, they should be. This sounds like awful theater.

In WashDC, State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell is reported to have said that the incident is unlikely to hamper U.S.-Russia relations.

And life goes on.

–DS