Still No Junkyard Dog? Senator Cruz Warns He’ll Place a Hold on All State Dept Nominations

— By Domani Spero
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) today released the following statement regarding President Obama’s failure to nominate an Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Department of State. IGs are congressionally mandated officers who provide independent agency oversight.

The President’s failure to nominate a State Department Inspector General since taking office in 2009 is unacceptable. The position has been vacant for almost 2,000 days. This is a crucial oversight position and should be a priority for an agency facing substantial management challenges.

While several federal agencies are operating without a Senate-confirmed Inspector General, only the State Department has been without a credible and independent Inspector General for so long.

During the last five years, there have been deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya, mismanagement of security contractors at our embassy in Afghanistan, and hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars wasted for police training in Iraq. These issues highlight the State Department’s need for an Inspector General as soon as possible.

Until the President acts, I have notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that I will place a hold on all State Department nominations.

According to the Project on Government Oversight, the State Department’s Inspector General  has been vacant since January 16, 2008.  At 1,988 days and counting, the vacancy has been the longest unfilled position among the government watchdogs.  After over 600 days of vacancy, President Obama on June 10, 2013 did nominate Michael G. Carroll as the IG for USAID.

State Department sources apparently told The Daily Beast that outgoing Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford might be in contention for the IG job.  We don’t think that’s even permissible because he is still an active FS officer. And if he retires and is appointed IG, he would be in the same status as the current Acting IG Harold Geisel who is a retired FSO.  Ambassador Geisel, by the way, agrees that a Foreign Service officer cannot be an IG.  Below is an excerpt from his oral history interview.  The Sherman he refers to here is Sherman Funk who was named Inspector General for the State Department in 1987.

Q: The idea being to put somebody in who was not Foreign Service.

GEISEL: That is correct.

Q: Sort of, as I think they called it, a junkyard dog.

GEISEL: That’s what Sherman called it. He said his job was to be a junkyard dog. Now, the inspector general act did not require a non-Foreign Service type that was Jesse Helms who attached some legislation to something else that said a Foreign Service officer cannot be the IG. And after having served as the acting IG, I think that was one of the wisest things that Jesse Helms ever put into legislation because it’s impossible for a Foreign Service type who’s an honorable person to be IG when stuff is coming in over the transom about his friends.

Q: Yes.

GEISEL: I had to disqualify myself a few times. I would sign papers, my counsel would say you know this person, you’re going to sign this but you’re just going to see the person’s name but we’re not briefing you on this. Then I would be out of it and I would designate someone else to receive the work and to brief the deputy secretary about it. It didn’t happen too often but it happened.

Yup, the State Department needs a junkyard dog.  It needed that dog yesterday.

The State Department’s Patrick Ventrell says that “the Secretary and the President have identified an excellent candidate for Inspector General for the State Department, and we look forward to the nomination becoming public after the vetting and paperwork process is complete.”

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State Dept on Issa Subpoenas: Received “Out of the Blue”… Witnesses “Need Time to Review and Prep”

—By Domani Spero

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa spells out his complaints on his June 24 letter to Secretary Kerry hereAccording to the Oversight Committee:

Issa details the Committee’s months-long efforts to arrange interviews with officials possessing direct knowledge of the events. On April 29, 2013, Committee staff contacted State Department officials to request their assistance in arranging interviews. The request was reiterated on May 17, 2013, however investigators have only been able to interview one of the 13 individuals with whom they requested interviews and the meeting was arranged without the State Department’s help.

The May 17 letter requested that the following former and current employees of the State Department be made available for a transcribed interview. This is the first time we’ve seen the list.  We have added the titles as best we can determine.

  1. David Adams, former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  2. *Eric Boswell, former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  3. *Elizabeth Dibble, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; rumored to be the next Deputy Chief of Mission for US Embassy London
  4. Jeremy Freeman, State Department lawyer, an expert in Congressional subpoenas (via NYT)
  5. *Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs
  6. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management
  7. Raymond Maxwell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  8. Cheryl Mills, former Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  9. Victoria Nuland, former Spokesperson of the Department of State; nominated as A/S for the EUR Bureau
  10. Philippe Reines, former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  11. William Roebuck, former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs, NEA Bureau; appointed Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya from January-June 2013
  12. Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  13. Jacob Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Currently National Security Advisor to VPOTUS

One name not on this list but was served a subpoena by the Issa Committee is Scott Bultrowicz, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (one of the four officials put on administrative leave pending further action).  Names with an asterisk have been issued a subpoena (see Not Going to Take It Anymore — Issa Subpoenas Boswell, Bultrowicz, Dibble and Jones).

In any case, Patrick Ventrell, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office and occasional person on the podium during the Daily Press Briefings was asked about the Issa subpoenas on June 25, 2013 and here is what the building says in a word cloud:

Word Cloud via WordItOut

Word Cloud via WordItOut

If you want to read the fine details, please see below. We particularly like the question, “to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?” We do not particularly like the dodgy response but somebody’s gotta say the blahs so folks have something to write about.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Patrick, today Chairman Issa’s issued subpoenas to four State Department officials. Will the State Department be cooperating with the subpoenas?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as we’ve consistently said, we’ve been cooperating with Congress on this matter going back many months. We’ve made available to Congress several department witnesses and briefers, as well as over 25,000 pages of documents. We understand that Chairman Issa has issued subpoenas for four Department employees. These four employees were already preparing to do voluntary interviews with the committee, and since the committee sent their initial interview requests, we’ve been discussing with them in good faith both the terms for the interview and the scheduling logistics. In fact, we had offered employees to be interviewed in early July. So this had been something that they were voluntarily willing to do.

QUESTION: But in that letter Chairman Issa claimed that State Department Chief of Staff David Wade has not been cooperating, that since mid-May they’ve been asking for these people. What exactly is the holdup then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we absolutely reject that. We’ve been cooperating all along, and the Department has shown unprecedented cooperation. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of man-hours complying with dozens of requests from Congress. We’ll continue to cooperate while reiterating our request that the Congress and the media shift from focusing on long-debunked myths to the real need to protect America’s diplomats and development experts serving their country overseas.

So on this particular case, ever since we received the interview requests, we’ve been in regular contact with the committee negotiating in good faith and it’s unfortunate that Chairman Issa, without warning, disregarded those discussions and issued subpoenas for witnesses who were willing to testify. This is a pattern that we saw with Mr. Pickering as well, something that – this is a tactic he’s used before. I can’t speculate on his motivations but it’s something that he’s done before.

QUESTION: And to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’ve been in discussion with the committee about providing the witnesses prior to receiving the subpoena. So we were working on the dates, working on the list of names, when this subpoena sort of suddenly arrived yesterday.

QUESTION: It’s been months, why hasn’t it happened?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as months. I mean, this is something that – I don’t have the date of the original request from Mr. Issa here in front of me, but ever since we received the – let me see if I have this here – I don’t have the date right in front of me, but ever since we received it —

QUESTION: Mid May.

MR. VENTRELL: — we’ve been in consistent and continual contact with the committee staff, and we’ve done so in good faith.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you think that this perceived stalling from Issa that it could be perceived that these witnesses are being coached or they’re getting – taking time to get their testimony or words right?

MR. VENTRELL: No, that’s absurd. We reject that. It’s certainly understandable that people need time to prepare for congressional testimony; witnesses take that very seriously, need time to review and prep, and that’s standard practice and normal. So we just reject that.

QUESTION: So it’s not the four people stalling, it’s perhaps the State Department or it’s Issa not being organized?

MR. VENTRELL: This is about getting them the best possible information, making sure the witnesses have time to be prepared to provide the best possible information. And we’re working with them in good faith and scheduling dates, so this sort of arrived out of the blue yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that you told Chairman Issa that you’ve given them everything that you have, and you have nothing else to give them? Is that —

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s not exactly —

QUESTION: In layman’s terms.

MR. VENTRELL: No, no, no. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. This was a specific request, Said, for witnesses. This was a —

QUESTION: Right. I understand what’s going. I’m just saying, what is your position? What do you tell them, that we have already submitted all these – we answered all these questions —

MR. VENTRELL: No. The point is that the cooperation has been ongoing, and in this case we were cooperating on providing witnesses. So we received a subpoena out of the blue.

Makes one wonder how long it took the one witness already interviewed by the Committee with no assistance from the State Department to “review and prep.”

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