CyberSecurity Month PSA: Installing Mozilla Firefox Could Be Hazardous To Your Career …

— By Domani Spero

On September 30, President Obama proclaimed October 2013 as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.  In light of that proclamation, we’re highlighting a grievance case by a Foreign Service officer who downloaded and installed the Mozilla Firefox browser which potentially cost him a promotion.  The State Department proposed to issue him a Letter of Reprimand. The officer filed a grievance challenging the issuance of a Letter of Reprimand. For relief, he asks that the decision to impose discipline be rescinded and the discipline letter be removed from his Official Personnel File (OPF). In addition, he requests that the 2011 Selection Board’s decision to promote him be given immediate effect, and that he be reimbursed for attorney’s fees. The Department denied his grievance on March 13, 2012. He appealed that decision to the Foreign Service Grievance Board on May 14, 2012.  On December 2012, the Board found that grievant’s argument was without merit and sustained the proposed discipline.

This case is available publicly (pdf) from the newly relaunched fsgb.gov.  (BTW, the site is now searchable, yay!) As far as we are aware, the State Department still only allows two browsers for official use — Internet Explorer and more recently during Secretary Clinton’s tenure, Google Chrome was approved for department-wide use.   According to the browser stats maintained by w3schools.com, Internet Explorer’s downward use continues to hover around 12% in 2013, while Chrome continues to climb above 50 percent. Firefox’s usage remains at around the 27% mark.

Now some details on this case extracted from the record of proceeding:

Grievant, an FS-03 Officer, installed a software application, Mozilla Firefox Browser, on his workstation in August 2010. Grievant admitted that he installed the software because he was concerned that his savings accounts may have been the subject of identity theft and he wanted to check his credit union account on-line with what he thought was a safer web browser. The Mozilla software was found to be an executable application so that by downloading it grievant violated the Department’s Cyber Security Policy, and such action could have led to disruption of the Department’s cyber infrastructure. Grievant argued that he was unaware that the Mozilla Browser was an executable file when he installed it, and therefore, did not have the intent to violate the policy. The Board found that grievant’s argument was without merit and sustained the proposed discipline.

Anyone with questions about executable files should check the list here and best consult post’s information systems security officer (ISSO).

Also it might not be bad to get acquainted with 12 FAM 590 CYBER SECURITY INCIDENT PROGRAM if you haven’t already.

The government’s charge:

The Department charged the grievant with violating the directives and procedures for Cyber Security contained in 12 FAM 592.2b 8. The charge is based on grievant’s action in downloading the Mozilla Browser on his workstation on August 9, 2010. A revised cyber security program was implemented in 2007 throughout the Department. The Department asserts that grievant’s failure to comply with the cyber security policy could have resulted in damage or risk to the Department’s cyber infrastructure. The Mozilla Browser could compromise the integrity of the system and introduce a virus or malicious code.

Grievant was informed on December 22, 2010 by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that the installation of the Mozilla Browser by him was a violation of the regulation. Grievant was further advised that the violation determination would be forwarded to the Bureau of Human Resources. Grievant was advised of his right to appeal the finding of a violation by the Bureau of Security, but chose not to do so. He did submit a Statement of Understanding acknowledging receipt of the December 22, 2010 letter and the Department’s security policies.

The Department dismisses grievant’s argument that his action in downloading the Mozilla browser required “mens rea” or a ”deliberate” act on his part to download an application that he knew was not authorized for installation. In his view, the Department has failed to prove that he made such a deliberate decision. He asserts that he did not actually know that the software was not authorized, and that his actions were inadvertent. He explains that he was ignorant that the software was an executable application that was not authorized. He states that he “lacked the knowledge of the difference between a search engine website and web browsing software.” He contends that the Department’s decision to not charge him with the downloading of the Shockwave program demonstrates that his action was not deliberate.

The FSO’s defense and argument:

Grievant has admitted that he installed Mozilla to assist himself with issues concerning his personal savings accounts. He could have used his personal computer to deal with the “spoofing” problems he was having with the possible identity theft matters. Finally, grievant should have reported the “spoofing” problems to the ISSO and checked with that office to determine if he could download Mozilla.

Grievant asserts that the proposed Letter of Reprimand should be rescinded because he lacked the intent necessary to violate the regulation. In 2009 – 2010, grievant was the victim of identity theft. He lost several thousand dollars to the thief, had to cancel his credit cards on two occasions, and was informed that his medical records were among those stolen from an Office of Medical Services database. On August 9, 2010, he received on his agency email four “spoofing” messages purporting to be from his credit union and his retirement fund.

Grievant was concerned that his savings accounts might have been stolen and his Department computer may have been compromised. He installed the Mozilla Firefox browser on his workstation instead of other browsers, such as Google, because he thought that Mozilla was a safer web browser. He was quickly informed by ISSO that Mozilla was not allowed to be downloaded on the Department’s system since it was an executable file. Grievant explained his concerns about his savings accounts and the reason that he downloaded the browser. He stated on several occasions that he did not know Mozilla was an executable file in violation of the regulation, and believed it to be a secure web-based browser. Grievant apologized and accepted responsibility for what he believed was an “inadvertent download of an executable file”.

Grievant argues that he should not be disciplined for downloading the Mozilla browser. In his view, the Department must show that it was his conscious object to download an executable file on to the Department’s network. He admits that his action was prohibited by the FAM, and that he exposed the Department to serious risk by downloading the browser on his workstation. However, he argues that the FAM requires specific intent to violate the regulation, which he did not have when the downloading took place. Grievant argues only deliberate acts, not negligent ones, are punishable under the regulation. He believes it is unjust to punish “a deliberate act that was believed would cause only a permissible result.” His action was negligent and he acted out of ignorance believing Mozilla to be a web based application rather than an executable file. In essence, he states that he believed that he was doing nothing more than accessing a website and that he lacked the knowledge required to make his action of downloading a deliberate violation of the regulation.

Grievant is remorseful and admits that he is fully responsible for his action. He did not know that he was downloading an executable file, and lacking that knowledge he did not have the mental state required by the regulation. Among other things, grievant asks that the decision to impose discipline be rescinded and the Letter of Reprimand be removed from his OPF. In addition, he asks that the Department give immediate effect to the 2011 Selection Board’s decision to promote him.

The FSGB was not persuaded:

Grievant intended to install Mozilla on his workstation. He engaged in a deliberate act. The fact that he was ignorant that it was an executable file in violation of the regulation does not obviate or lessen his culpability. As the Department points out, his action could have resulted in damage or significant risk to the Department’s cyber infrastructure, which could have caused major disruptions and loss of sensitive information. His admitted ignorance or lack of knowledge about Mozilla being an executable file does not excuse his action or his culpability for that action.

This is grievant’s first incident of any kind that caused him to be disciplined. As noted, his record is one of success and accomplishment. Grievant believes that discipline in this case is unjust. However, the proposed Letter of Reprimand is consistent with the penalties imposed in prior cases, and is reasonable under the facts of this case.

One related item, the agency’s cybersecurity was most recently in the news with a BuzzFeed exclusive report that the State Department Lacks Basic Cybersecurity. The report alleges that  “the State Department cable and messaging system, built and maintained — like the troubled ObamaCare system — mainly by large IT contractors, has routinely failed to meet basic security standards.” It further alleges that “There is hackable backdoor access to servers and the potential for spillage of classified information in the unclassified enclave.”  BuzzFeed says that it has  internal docs although those do not appear to be posted online at this time.  Read more here.

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Photo of the Day: Another Year, Another Research Season In Brrrrr-Freeze Antarctica

Via US Embassy NZ

“Each September since 1955 the United States has loaded our planes with scientists, support personnel, cargo, and Kiwi friends and flown south from Christchurch to restart, restaff, and restock full operations at the permanent stations on the Ice after being manned through the long, unforgiving Antarctic winter by skeleton crews. The austral summer research season is a massive, complex enterprise which just in the past ten years has involved flying more than 600 American missions to transport more than 45,000 passengers and about 50 million pounds of equipment and supplies.”

— Ambassador David Huebner

Read more here.  Slideshow includes shots of Mt. Erebus, the second highest volcano in Antarctica and the southernmost active volcano on earth. It last erupted in 2011.  Click here to see the Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory (MEVO) online.

 

Photos via US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr

Well, hello there!
Photos by USAF Major Jason De Kruyf via US Embassy New Zealand/Flickr
(click on image for a slideshow)

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State/OIG: Organized Fraud Rings “Have Taken Control” of the Green Card Lottery Program in Ukraine

– By Domani Spero

— and the Bureau of Consular Affairs needs a program “to address widespread diversity visa fraud!” If about 80% of the cases are questionable and that’s just from the western part of the country, we can’t imagine any kind of program short of shutting it down can cut the fraudsters out, can you?

One of the lengthier section of the State/OIG inspection report on US Embassy Ukraine pertains to the Diversity Visa program aka: the “green card visa lottery” program handled by Embassy Kyiv. Apparently, organized fraud rings “have taken control” of the diversity visa program in the country.  State/OIG made a recommendation that the “Bureau of Consular Affairs should implement a program to address widespread diversity visa fraud in Ukraine.” That seems lame — a program to correct another program?

As well, just as Embassy Kyiv started handling diversity visas in 2012, its FSO-03 fraud prevention manager position was downgraded to entry-level.  We would not be shocked if this position is also a 6-12 month rotational position, as is often the case with entry level positions.  The State Department’s own Crime and Safety Report in 20112012 and 2013 repeatedly noted that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considers Ukraine a hotbed of cyber crime activity. And that “in recent years, U.S. law enforcement (the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Department of Homeland Security) pursued a number of important joint cyber crime/identify theft investigations with Ukrainian law enforcement authorities.”

And still, Embassy Kyiv got an entry level fraud prevention (FPU) manager supervising seven locally employed staff working with an Assistant Regional Security Officer for Investigations (RSO-I) to assist.  A nine-person fraud unit versus organized fraud rings operating in a country of 46 million. That must seem like a tsunami despite the dedicated efforts by the FPU staff to combat fraud. Prior to the downgrading of the FPU manager position and the use of the RSO-I  at the US Embassy in Kyiv,   the Government Accountability Office released a report on the State Department’s visa fraud prevention.  Take a look at Table 2 below from the GAO report and see if that 1:959 ratio of FPU staff to cases at US Embassy Ukraine doesn’t blow your mind.  This is our first line of defense, folks; and this does not make us sleep well at night.

Screen Shot 2013-10-26

Screen grab from GAO 12-888 report

Excerpt from the OIG report:

In March 2012, Embassy Kyiv began processing Ukrainian diversity visas previously handled by Embassy Warsaw. The program allows citizens of eligible countries to enter a lottery for a chance to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa. The consular section has scheduled approximately 2,000 diversity visas for interviews in 2013. Painstaking work by the fraud prevention unit and the assistant regional security officer for investigations has produced a detailed portrait of a pervasive and sophisticated fraud scheme affecting the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine.

Organized fraud rings masquerading as travel agencies have taken control of the Diversity Visa program in Ukraine. They buy, steal, or obtain from public sources personal information about Ukrainian citizens, especially those living in western Ukraine. They use this information to enter these citizens’ names in the online Diversity Visa program Web site, often without their permission or awareness. In addition, other Ukrainian citizens willingly provide personal information to the fraud rings for entry into the program but are usually unaware that the fraudulent “agencies” continue to enter them year after year.

Department practice is to provide applicants with a confirmation number once they complete the diversity visa entry form online on the Department-run electronic diversity visa Web site. The instructions state that the applicant should use this number to check on the status of the entry, typically after May 1 of the program year. In Ukraine, since the fraud ring makes the entry into the online system, only the fraud ring has the confirmation number and can check to see if the entry was selected to participate in the Diversity Visa program. The fraud ring then contacts hundreds of Ukrainian selectees and requires them to sign a contract promising to pay up to $15,000 to obtain the confirmation number and to pursue an immigrant visa application. If the selectee is interested but cannot pay, the fraud ring may insist that he or she enter into a sham marriage with a person who has expressed interest in immigrating to the United States. In such a case, the “spouse” pays the agency a substantial amount of money to be paired with a diversity visa selectee.

A fraud ring may also require legitimately married diversity visa winners to obtain divorce certificates, engage in a sham marriages, and leave minor children behind in order to emigrate to the United States. Eventually, the diversity visa winners may petition for the real spouse and children to join them. Kyiv’s immigrant visa unit sees many similar cases, indicating that this practice has been occurring for years. The fraud ring enters the names of a significant percentage of the population of western Ukraine (Embassy Kyiv estimates as much as 80 percent), effectively preventing interested individuals from filing their own applications, since the Diversity Visa program prohibits duplicate entries, a function partially performed by the Department’s computer system that can automatically search for and delete duplicate applications.

The fraud ring’s involvement continues after the selectee enters the United States. The fraud ring applies for the selectee’s social security card and retains both the card and the social security number for misuse. Selectees are required to sign a contract (legally binding in Ukraine) with the fraud ring, stipulating a continuing obligation to pay the fraud ring or to work essentially as an indentured servant to repay what is “owed.” Failure to pay has led to threats against family members in Ukraine.

The consular section, in coordination with the Bureau of Consular Affairs, has taken a number of steps to combat this fraud. The embassy’s fraud prevention unit investigates all diversity visa cases. The assistant regional security officer for investigations keeps a file of Internet protocol addresses associated with fraud rings, but the organizations continually change their Internet protocol addresses to foil these efforts. In order to provide less time for fraud rings to arrange sham marriages, the consular section no longer allows applicants for diversity visas to reschedule the appointment set for them by the Kentucky Consular Center.

Interviews of diversity visa applicants are detailed and lengthy and follow a frequently-varied script, in an effort to stay one step ahead of the fraud rings’ careful coaching of the applicants. Despite these efforts, which have had a significant deleterious effect on the efficiency of the section, fraud continues. The Diversity Visa program is reviewed yearly by the Bureau of Consular Affairs resulting in a number of changes to the program in an attempt to deter fraud.

Fraud rings have exploited the automated process used to notify applicants that they have been selected for the Diversity Visa program in the Ukraine. One possible solution would be for the Department to send confirmation numbers only to the consular section in Kyiv for Ukrainian selectees, with the consular section then notifying those selected for the program. This process would add work for the consular section but less than is now required to combat fraud. The consular section estimates that between 50 and 80 percent of applicants do not have their correct address listed on their application (because of the fraud rings’ actions), but the section can use existing online resources in Ukraine to locate and notify selectees.

Even if the Consular Section can use existing online resources to locate and notify selectees, that downplays the reality that majority of the program registrants in the country are tainted by fraud.  Or that many have provided their personal information to these fraud rings in the first place.

Shouldn’t the State Department be allowed to suspend the lottery program in any country if the level of fraud is deemed to be at a certain level?  All regs are odd in their own way; can’t say if suspension is allowed in the regs, but ought not the State Department request this authority from Congress when fraud is this massive?  Even if only 20% of all 2,000 diversity visas at post are tainted by fraud, that’s 400 cases too many.

Dear Congress, what do you think?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes 50,000 diversity visas available annually, drawn from random selection among entries of individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  Before you get upset that the State Department is giving away visas, please note that this is a congressionally mandated program. Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for a class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants,” from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. For fiscal year 2015, 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) will be available.

Actually, according to DHS, the “United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines the regional DV limits for each year according to a formula specified in Section 203(c) of the INA. USCIS will announce these numbers once these calculations are completed. The number of visas that will eventually be issued to natives of each country will depend on the regional limits established, how many entrants come from each country, and how many of the selected entrants are found eligible for the visa.  No more than seven percent of the total visas available can go to natives of any one country.”

So there, does that make you feel good?  The list here shows the countries whose natives are eligible for DV-2015, grouped by geographic region. Online registration will conclude on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4).

This latest report on widespread fraud in one country alone can potentially add fuel to the repeal of the diversity visa program.  Section 2303 of S.744  which passed the Senate in June this year does just that.  The Senate bill which passed with 68 – 32 votes was sponsored by Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] and co-sponsored by the likes of Sen Durbin, Richard [IL], Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] and Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] and Sen McCain, John [AZ].  If the House agrees, and it becomes law, this will take effect on October 1, 2014 and no alien may be allocated such a diversity immigrant visa for a fiscal year after fiscal year 2015.

To read more, see CRS: Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Issues (2011) via fas.org. See the State/OIG  Memorandum Report: Review of the FY2012 Diversity Visa Program Selection process, ISP-I-12-01 after the FY2012 lottery errors. To read the 2012 GAO report, click State Could Enhance Visa Fraud Prevention by Strategically Using Resources and Training.

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US Embassy Ukraine Gets High Marks and Yay! State/OIG Now Discloses Names of Inspectors

— By Domani Spero

Back in September, we blog-hoped that the arrival of the new Senate-confirmed Inspector General at the State Department would also bring some changes on how the office does its business.  One of the items in our wish list has to do with the redaction of the inspectors’ names from the publicly available reports.

We are pleased to note that the first embassy inspection report released publicly since new OIG Steve Linick took office no longer redacts the names of the inspectors.  State/OIG spokesman Douglas Welty confirmed that this is, in fact, a decision made by Mr. Linick.

So to State/OIG leaning on the side of disclosure —

bravissimo!

If you want to know why we have been bugging about this subject forever, read our post here.  Now about the OIG report on US Embassy Ukraine:

Brief background: The US Embassy in Kyiv is the largest embassy in eastern Europe, after Moscow. It has 672 employees, including 165 U.S. direct hires, representing nine U.S. Government agencies. In 2012, all elements of the mission, with the exception of Peace Corps and the Office of Defense Cooperation, moved into a new embassy compound. The mission operating budget in FY 2012 was $160.6 million.

According to the IG report, this inspection took place in Washington, DC, between March 25 and April 12, 2013, and in Kyiv, Ukraine, between April 13 and May 7, 2013. Here are the names of the inspectors:  Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft (team leader), Lavon Sajona (deputy team leader), Richard Behrend, David Davison, Dolores Hylander, Patricia Murphy, Shawn O’Reilly, Donna Roginski, Paul Smith, Alexandra Vega, and Tim Wildy.

Screen Shot 2013-10-26

At the time of the inspection, the embassy was headed by Ambassador John Tefft and DCM Eric Schultz. Ambassador Tefft had since left and was succeeded by Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who was confirmed the new ambassador to the Ukraine in June this year.

The following are the report’s key judgments:

  • Embassy Kyiv has been processing Ukrainian diversity visas since March 2012. Indications of widespread fraud have emerged. The program requires urgent attention and corrective action from Washington.(see separate post)
  • The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and Embassy Kyiv are considering reconverting the former Marine House into a new residence for the deputy chief of mission. The project will cost approximately $2.5 million, not counting the cost of reconversion of the current deputy chief of mission residence to separate quarters for several other families. A cost-benefit analysis is urgently needed to determine whether the former Marine House should be converted into multiple apartment units instead, a move that could yield cost savings of $200,000 to $300,000 annually.
  • Eighty percent of Embassy Kyiv’s grant recipients live outside the capital, making oversight difficult. A travel cap imposed by the Department of State in December 2012 does not include grants monitoring in the list of mission-essential travel. The guidelines defining travel to monitor grantee performance should be redefined as mission essential, and thus exempt from the travel cap.
  • The OIG team identified two innovative practices. First, Embassy Kyiv sponsored a contest among university students to promote intellectual property protection. Second, Embassy Kyiv management officers realized that newly-hired local staff members receive an orientation briefing but no further briefings as their careers progress. To address this gap, Embassy Kyiv conducts a regular weekly program designed to inform locally employed staff about policy changes

From the looks of it, the embassy appears well-functioning (with one program exception).  The inspectors have good things to say about Ambassador Tefft and his deputy, as well as the entire mission:

  • Under the leadership of a widely admired Ambassador, Embassy Kyiv has benefited from 4 years of clear policy objectives, effective diplomacy, active public outreach, and skilled management. The country team operates with transparency, confidence, and mutual respect. The recent move into a new embassy compound has reinforced teamwork and operational coordination.
  • The Ambassador is vigorous and articulate in his advocacy of U.S. policies and defense of U.S. interests. Embassy operations run smoothly, with a high level of policy and operational unity. The inspectors noted high morale across all agencies and sections. The deputy chief of mission’s (DCM) businesslike, no-nonsense approach effectively complements the Ambassador’s more informal style.
  • Morale among the American staff in Kyiv is good. The new embassy, and the colocation of personnel from six buildings around the city, enhances camaraderie. The post language program, the embassy employee association, schools, and the embassy dining area and snack bar scored high on the OIG quality of life questionnaires. The medical unit and the community liaison office received average scores.
Potential changes to come:

Local Staff Overtime: Excessive

The LE staff worked more than 23,000 hours of overtime between April 2012 and March 2013. ICASS overtime alone accounted for over 15,000 hours, or $162,000. The inspectors consider this amount excessive.

Tour of Duty: Moving Kyiv to a 3-year tour?

Department employees serving in Kyiv are assigned for a 2-year tour. Embassy Kyiv is a 20 percent hardship differential post. The Department and the embassy would be better served by 3-year assignments. Seven embassies with 20 percent hardship differential have 3-year tours, including Manila, New Delhi, Accra, Dakar, and Santo Domingo. The IG report points out that “cost savings would accrue to the Department if Embassy Kyiv moved to a 3-year tour.”  While it did not directly recommend recommend the move to a 3-year tour, it recommends that the embassy with DGHR and State/EUR “evaluate whether to assign Department of State employees to 3-year tours in Kyiv.”

American Spaces Network – the largest in the world is coming!

The Space represents a key public diplomacy platform in U.S. efforts to reach the more than 90 percent of Ukrainians who live outside the capital city. When PAS establishes its 30th American Space later this year in Zaporizhzhya, it will have the largest American Space network in the world.In FY 2012, PAS committed more than $286,000 to its Space operations. Its FY 2013 funding increased to nearly $500,000.

More nails and hammers!

There is a funded $3.4 million OBO project to convert the decommissioned old consular building into an American Center. There is also a $2.3 million OBO project to convert the former Marine House into a DCM residence. And there is the potential conversion of the current DCM residence into separate multiple apartment units for mission staffers. Construction has not started on the first two projects with estimated completion in  2014.

The report includes 19 recommendations, and  21 informal recommendations.  Ambassador Tefft,who had been appointed ambassador three times recently retired from the Foreign Service. In September this year, he  was awarded the 2012 Diplomacy in Human Rights Award for “For his sustained and effective leadership of the U.S. embassy in Kyiv in providing well-coordinated inter-agency support for the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to enjoy strengthened democratic institutions and practices, the fair administration of justice, and respect for the fundamental freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

We will have a separate post on the massive fraud on the “green card” lottery program in the Ukraine to follow.

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State Dept Introduces More New Ambassadors: Gaspard, Hackett, Ayalde, Costos, Yun, Berry

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s foreign-facing bureau, the  Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) released a few more videos for its ambassador introduction series.  They obviously come from one script — say a greeting in the foreign language, include spouse, kids (or other relevant relatives) and/or pets, visit some Washington memorials, and say you look forward to meeting everyone in your host country.  We have to say that these videos are getting better, but they also come across as somewhat artificial at times, particularly when they get the ambassador and spouse do a duet in their greetings. Some of the ambassadors in this series, not just the ones below are naturally telegenic and excellent in delivery, of course, but others are less so.

One of our readers inquired who watches these videos.  These are  IIP products so the intended audience are presumably foreign publics.  Although, there doesn’t seem to be standard on how these videos are “push” to their intended audience abroad.  Some videos are posted across the missions’ multiple social media platforms with negligible results while others are posted only on the mission’s YouTube channels with better though uneven results. These videos are created by professionals (PR, video, digital?) at the IIP bureau, but just because you can, does it mean you should?  Does it make sense to make these videos for all chiefs of mission regardless of the Internet penetration rates in their host countries?  For instance, in Burkina Faso, the Internet penetration rate is only 3% of the population and in Chad that rate is 1.9%. Radio isn’t sexy, but wouldn’t it have more reach in those cases?  I supposed the answer whether it makes sense depends on what kind of return IIP is looking for in its investment of time and effort. For the chiefs of mission, it’s a question of whether they should get on this hot train because everybody’s doing it or if they should find an alternative outreach method more appropriate to their host countries’ infrastructures.

We have two previously related posts on this:

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard

This video was posted by State/IIP on YouTube, and separately on US Embassy Pretoria’s website and Facebook page. The video was also plugged by the embassy’s Twitter account but the total eyeball count could not get above 400 views.

Ken Hackett, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See
(with Italian subtitle)

This video was posted by State/IIP and linked to by US Embassy to the Holy See’s website and Facebook page.  Total views of about 1023 as of this writing.

U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde

Published in English and Portuguese by State/IIP on YouTube in mid September, we could not locate this video on the embassy’s website, Facebook page or a mention even on Twitter. It currently has 243 views.

James Costos, U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra
(Spanish subtitle)

This video was posted by State/IIP in English and with Spanish subtitle with a total views of about 3,000. We have not been able to find this video on the embassy’s website or Facebook page, however, it was reposted by the embassy’s YouTube channel where it registered approximately 6,300 eyeballs.

Joe Yun, U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia
(Malay subtitle)

This video released by State/IIP in English and with Malay subtitle currently has about 320 views. It does not look like it’s posted on the embassy’s website but it was  reposted on the embassy’s Facebook page and YouTube Channel where it has about 755 views.

John Berry, the U.S. Ambassador to Australia

Posted by State/IIP in September, it has about 1030 views. Reposted by US Embassy Canberra on the embassy’s YouTube channel, it currently has 25,791 views

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US Embassy Islamabad: Centaurus Mall Complex Off Limits to American Staff

— By Domani Spero

On October 23, the US Embassy in Pakistan declared the Centaurus Mall Complex off limits to its American staff.  A security message was issued to inform U.S. citizens in the country of the official restriction:

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, informs U.S. citizens that the Embassy is currently prohibiting U.S. staff from visiting the Centaurus Mall Complex in Islamabad.  This restriction on Embassy personnel is consistent with existing security guidance encouraging avoidance of locations where large numbers of people tend to gather. 

Screen Shot 2013-10-24

Screen grab of the Centaurus Mall Complex

According to its Wikipedia page, the Centaurus Mall is located in central Islamabad with over four-storey, and has around 250 shops.  It opened to the public in February 2013:

The Centaurus is a mixed use real estate development in the most central location of Islamabad, Pakistan.[3] Designed by British architectural company WS Atkins, it comprises three skyscrapers, containing corporate offices, residential apartments and a 5-star hotel. The tallest skyscrapers in the city have 41 stories and all three are linked by a shopping mall. Interior Design of The Residence and Mall have been designed by ODEION-Turkey. Its estimated cost is $350 million USD.

The Centaurus Mall website says that it has “five floors of ultimate shopping experience.”  The mall features a five-screen cinema, a gold souk, designer and wedding lounge, food courts and fine dining, a supermarket and leisure and family entertainment.   It also has four levels of parking in the basement.

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30 Years Ago Today: 1983 U.S. Marine Corps Barracks Bombing – Beirut, Lebanon

— By Domani Spero

On 23 October 1983, at around 6:22 a.m., a truck laden with the equivalent of over 12,000 pounds of TNT crashed through the perimeter of the compound of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force at Beirut International Airport, Beirut, Lebanon, penetrated the Battalion Landing Team Headquarters building and detonated. The force of the explosion destroyed the building resulting in the deaths of 241 U.S. military personnel: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

BEFORE

LEB_bltoblq

Photo via Beirut Memorial

AFTER

Beirut_after

Photo via Beirut Memorial

The Report of the DoD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23, 1983 also known as the Long Commission after Admiral Robert L. J. Long who chaired the committee, is available here via fas.org. The following are the names of the people we lost in that attack. (via US Embassy Beirut).

CPL Terry W. Abbott, USMC
LCPL Clemon S. Alexander, USMC
PFC John R. Allman, USMC
CPL Moses J. Arnold JR., USMC
PFC Charles K. Bailey, USMC
LCPL Nicholas Baker, USMC
LCPL Johnsen Banks, USMC
LCPL Richard E. Barrett, USMC
HM1 Ronny K. Bates, USN
1STSGT David L. Battle, USMC
LCPL James R. Baynard, USMC
HN Jesse W. Beamon, USN
GYSGT Alvin Belmer, USMC
PFC Stephen Bland, USMC
SGT Richard L. Blankenship, USMC
LCPL John W. Blocker, USMC
CAPT Joseph J. Boccia JR., USMC
CPL Leon Bohannon JR., USMC
SSGT John R. Bohnet JR., USMC
CPL John J. Bonk JR., USMC
LCPL Jeffrey L. Boulos, USMC
CPL David R. Bousum, USMC
1STLT John N. Boyett, USMC
CPL Anthony Brown, USMC
LCPL David W. Brown, USMC
LCPL Bobby S. Buchanan JR., USMC
CPL John B. Buckmaster, USMC
PFC William F. Burley, USMC
HN Jimmy R. Cain, USN
CPL Paul L. Callahan, USMC
SGT Mecot E. Camara, USMC
PFC Bradly J. Campus, USMC
LCPL Johnnie D. Ceasar, USMC
PFC Marc L. Cole, USMC
SP4 Marcus A. Coleman, USA
PFC Juan M. Comas, USMC
SGT Robert A. Conley, USMC
CPL Charles D. Cook, USMC
LCPL Curtis J. Cooper, USMC
LCPL Johnny L. Copeland, USMC
CPL Bert D. Corcoran, USMC
LCPL David L. Cosner, USMC
SGT Kevin P. Coulman, USMC
LCPL Brett A. Croft, USMC
LCPL Rick R. Crudale, USMC
LCPL Kevin P. Custard, USMC
LCPL Russell E. Cyzick, USMC
MAJ Andrew L. Davis, USMC
PFC Sidney S. Decker, USMC
PFC Michael J. Devlin, USMC
LCPL Thomas A. Dibenedetto, USMC
PVT Nathaniel G. Dorsey, USMC
SGTMAJ Frederick B. Douglass, USMC
CPL Timothy J. Dunnigan, USMC
HN Bryan L. Earle, USN
MSGT Roy L. Edwards, USMC
HM3 William D. Elliot JR., USN
LCPL Jesse Ellison, USMC
PFC Danny R. Estes, USMC
PFC Sean F. Estler, USMC
HM3 James E. Faulk, USN
PFC Richard A. Fluegel, USMC
CPL Steven M. Forrester, USMC
HM3 William B. Foster JR., USN
CPL Michael D. Fulcher, USMC
LCPL Benjamin E. Fuller, USMC
LCPL Michael S. Fulton, USMC
CPL William Gaines JR., USMC
LCPL Sean R. Gallagher, USMC
LCPL David B. Gander, USMC
LCPL George M. Gangur, USMC
SSGT Leland E. Gann, USMC
LCPL Randall J. Garcia, USMC
SSGT Ronald J. Garcia, USMC
LCPL David D. Gay, USMC
SSGT Harold D. Ghumm, USMC
LCPL Warner Gibbs JR., USMC
CPL Timothy R. Giblin, USMC
ETC Michael W. Gorchinski, USN
LCPL Richard J. Gordon, USMC
LCPL Harold F. Gratton, USMC
SGT Robert B. Greaser, USMC
LCPL Davin M. Green, USMC
LCPL Thomas A. Hairston, USMC
SGT Freddie Haltiwanger JR., USMC
LCPL Virgil D. Hamilton, USMC
SGT Gilbert Hanton, USMC
LCPL William Hart, USMC
CAPT Michael S. Haskell, USMC
PFC Michael A. Hastings, USMC
CAPT Paul A. Hein, USMC
LCPL Douglas E. held, USMC
PFC Mark A. Helms, USMC
LCPL Ferrandy D. Henderson, USMC
SSGT John Hendrickson, USMC
MSGT Matilde Hernandez JR., USMC
CPL Stanley G. Hester, USMC
GYSGT Donald W. Hildreth, USMC
SSGT Richard H. Holberton, USMC
HM3 Robert S. Holland, USN
LCPL Bruce A. Hollingshead, USMC
PFC Melvin D. Holmes, USMC
CPL Bruce L. Howard, USMC
LT John R. Hudson, USN
CPL Terry L. Hudson, USMC
LCPL Lyndon J. Hue, USMC
2NDLT Maurice E. Hukill, USMC
LCPL Edward F. Iacovino JR., USMC
PFC John J. Ingalls, USMC
WO1 Paul G. Innocenzi III, USMC
LCPL James J. Jackowski, USMC
LCPL Jeffrey W. James, USMC
LCPL Nathaniel W. Jenkins, USMC
HM2 Michael H. Johnson, USN
CPL Edward A. Johnston, USMC
LCPL Steven Jones, USMC
PFC Thomas A. Julian, USMC
HM2 Marion E. Kees, USN
SGT Thomas C. Keown, USMC
GYSGT Edward E. Kimm, USMC
LCPL Walter V. Kingsley, USMC
SGT Daniel S. Kluck, USA
LCPL James C. Knipple, USMC
LCPL Freas H. Kreischer III, USMC
LCPL Keith J. Laise, USMC
LCPL Thomas G. Lamb, USMC
LCPL James J. Langon IV, USMC
SGT Michael S. Lariviere, USMC
CPL Steven B. Lariviere, USMC
MSGT Richard L. Lemnah, USMC
CPL David A. Lewis, USMC
SGT Val S. Lewis, USMC
CPL Joseph R. Livingston, USMC
LCPL Paul D. Lyon JR., USMC
MAJ John W. Macroglou, USMC
CPL Samuel Maitland, USMC
SSGT Charlie R. Martin, USMC
PFC Jack L. Martin, USMC
CPL David S. Massa, USMC
SGT Michael R. Massman, USMC
PVT Joseph J. Mattacchione, USMC
LCPL John McCall, USMC
SGT James E. McDonough, USMC
LCPL Timothy R. McMahon, USMC
LCPL Timothy D. McNeely, USMC
HM2 George N. McVicker II, USN
PFC Louis Melendez, USMC
SGT Richard H. Menkins II, USMC
CPL Michael D. Mercer, USMC
LCPL Ronald W. Meurer, USMC
HM3 Joseph P. Milano, USN
CPL Joseph P. Moore, USMC
LCPL Richard A. Morrow, USMC
LCPL John F. Muffler, USMC
CPL Alex Munoz, USMC
CPL Harry D. Myers, USMC
1STLT David J. Nairn, USMC
LCPL Luis A. Nava, USMC
CPL John A. Olson, USMC
PFC Robert P. Olson, USMC
CWO3 Richard C. Ortiz, USMC
PFC Jeffrey B. Owen, USMC
CPL Joseph A. Owens, USMC
CPL Connie Ray Page, USMC
LCPL Ulysses Parker, USMC
LCPL Mark W. Payne, USMC
GYSGT John L. Pearson, USMC
PFC Thomas S. Perron, USMC
SGT John A. Phillips JR., USMC
HMC George W. Piercy, USN
1STLT Clyde W. Plymel, USMC
SGT William H. Pollard, USMC
SGT Rafael I. Pomalestorres, USMC
CPL Victor M. Prevatt, USMC
PFC James C. Price, USMC
SSGT Patrick K. Prindeville, USMC
PFC Eric A. Pulliam, USMC
HM3 Diomedes J. Quirante, USN
LCPL David M. Randolph, USMC
GYSGT Charles R. Ray, USMC
PFC Rui A. Relvas, USMC
PFC Terrance L. Rich, USMC
LCPL Warren Richardson, USMC
SGT Juan C. Rodriguez, USMC
LCPL Louis J. Rotondo, USMC
LCPL Guillermo Sanpedro JR., USMC
LCPL Michael C. Sauls, USMC
1STLT Charles J. Schnorf, USMC
PFC Scott L. Schultz, USMC
CAPT Peter J. Scialabba, USMC
CPL Gary R. Scott, USMC
CPL Ronald L. Shallo, USMC
CPL Thomas A. Shipp, USMC
LCPL Jerryl D. Shropshire, USMC
LCPL James F. Silvia, USMC
LCPL Larry H. Simpson JR., USMC
LCPL Stanley J. Sliwinski, USMC
LCPL Kirk H. Smith, USMC
SSGT Thomas G. Smith, USMC
CAPT Vincent L. Smith, USMC
LCPL Edward Soares, USMC
1STLT William S. Sommerhof, USMC
LCPL Michael C. Spaulding, USMC
LCPL John W. Spearing, USMC
LCPL Stephen E. Spencer, USMC
LCPL Bill J. Stelpflug, USMC
LCPL Horace R. Stephens, USMC
PFC Craig S. Stockton, USMC
LCPL Jeffrey G. Stokes, USMC
LCPL Thomas D. Stowe, USMC
LCPL Eric D. Sturghill, USMC
LCPL Devon L. Sundar, USMC
LT James F. Surch JR., USN
CPL Dennis A. Thompson, USMC
SSGT Thomas P. Thorstad, USMC
PFC Stephen D. Tingley, USMC
LCPL John J. Tishmack, USMC PFC
Donald H. Vallone JR., USMC
CPL Eric R. Walker, USMC
CPL Leonard W. Walker, USMC
CPL Eric G. Washington, USMC
CPL Obrian Weekes, USMC
1STSGT Tandy W. Wells, USMC
LCPL Steven B. Wentworth, USMC
SGT Allen D. Wesley, USMC
GYSGT Lloyd D. West, USMC
SSGT John R. Weyl, USMC
CPL Burton D. Wherland JR., USMC
LCPL Dwayne W. Wigglesworth, USMC
LCPL Rodney J. Williams, USMC
GYSGT Scipio Williams JR., USMC
LCPL Johnny A. Williamson, USMC
CAPT Walter E. Wint JR., USMC
CAPT William E. Winter, USMC
CPL John E. Wolfe, USMC
1STLT Donald E. Woollett, USMC
HM3 David E. Worley, USN
PFC Craig L. Wyche, USMC
SFC James G. Yarber, USA
SGT Jeffrey D. Young, USMC
1STLT William A. Zimmerman

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Photo of the Day: Kerry to Hagel, the Japanese Version – 誕生日おめでとう Tanjoubi Omedetou

— Via DOD/Flickr

No, Secretary Kerry did not sing happy birthday in Japanese, but there was a cake to celebrate Secretary Hagel’s 67th birthday in Tokyo.  And look, Secretary Hagel is actually smiling! So we’ve call this the tanjoubi omedetou version.

Secretary of State John Kerry, left, surprises Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel with a birthday cake in honor of Hagel's Oct. 4 birthday in Tokyo Oct. 3, 2013. During their visit Hagel and Kerry and their Japanese counterparts met to discuss issues of mutual importance. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Released)

Secretary of State John Kerry, left, surprises Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel with a birthday cake in honor of Hagel’s Oct. 4 birthday in Tokyo Oct. 3, 2013. During their visit Hagel and Kerry and their Japanese counterparts met to discuss issues of mutual importance. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Released)

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Ding! Ding! Ding! We can use whatever definition of “transparent” we want? Please, nooooo….

— By Domani Spero

The State Department’s Daily Press Briefing remains the best reality show online, hands down.  Today, we bring you, Marie Harf, State’s Deputy Spokesperson and Matt Lee, the Associated Press correspondent at the State Department for over six years. The two sparred over the word “transparent.”  Ms. Harf says that “we” can use  “whatever definition of transparent we want.”  Mr. Lee disagreed pointing out that he thinks that word only has one definition. Reminds us of the utter confusion  and rhetorical gymnastics employed on whether or not there was a coup d’état in Egypt last July.  Sounds bad to our ears, you, too?

 

 

Below is an excerpt from the DPB transcript:

QUESTION: So then my last one is: When this current President came into office, he and his first Secretary of State spent a lot of time doing what they said was trying to repair what they said was damage done to the U.S. image and reputation abroad during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. Are you concerned at all that the weight of these revelations, coming as they are with increasing – seemingly increasing frequency, is negating the – that effort to improve your – the image of the United States abroad? Because it certainly appears that many countries, whether they’re warranted and are justified in feeling this or not, are looking at the United States now as some kind of Orwellian big brother-type outfit.

MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. The first is that whether it’s on these alleged intelligence activities, on counterterrorism operations, on a number of issues, this Administration has taken steps to increase the transparency, not as much as I’m sure everybody would like in this room, but certainly whether it’s the President giving speeches about counterterrorism, giving speeches just recently about our intelligence gathering and how we’re reviewing that. We’ve actually taken steps to be more transparent, both to our people but to other countries around the world. So I think that people do look at that as a positive step in the right direction.

But when it comes to specific intelligence matters, we also, I would underscore here, share intelligence with a number of our partners and allies. Intelligence is collected, broadly speaking, to protect our citizens, to protect their citizens as well. So people understand the value of intelligence gathering around the world, right? It’s where the balance lies between privacy and security, and those are the conversations we’re having right now.

QUESTION: Yeah, but people don’t like – when you say that you’re being more transparent, people don’t like what they see when they are being – so just being more – coming out and saying —

MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree a little bit with your notion there. I think people appreciate when the President or the Secretary or other folks come out and say: I know there have been a lot of allegations out there. Here’s what we can say we’re doing, here’s how we’re looking at it. And when we have a path forward, we’ll let you know that as well.

QUESTION: Okay. But you claim to be being more transparent, but in fact you’re not. You’re not at all being transparent. You’re saying that —

MS. HARF: Well, I would take issue with your characterization.

QUESTION: Oh, really? Well, you’re not confirming any of these reports, whether they’re true or not.

MS. HARF: That —

QUESTION: How is that transparent?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we can use whatever definition of transparent we want —

QUESTION: I think there’s only one definition.

MS. HARF: What I would say is that the President has gotten – has stood up. Whether it’s on counterterrorism, he stood at the National Defense University and said: I’m going to talk to you about how we make decisions on counterterrorism operations —

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MS. HARF: — for the first time.

QUESTION: — it’s either transparent or it’s not. It’s either transparent or it’s opaque.

MS. HARF: Matt, that’s —

QUESTION: Right?

MS. HARF: No, this isn’t a black-and-white issue.

QUESTION: You can’t have —

MS. HARF: That’s not – that’s absolutely not the case.

 

Perhaps Ms. Harf is referring to the use of “transparent” in computing, where it means  “(of a process or interface) functioning without the user being aware of its presence.” Which actually kind of fits given the subject of the tussle.

We’re filing this in our  “Huh? News” folder as It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Not Superman On a Nantucket Boat Or How to Make a Non-News Into Big News.

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New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over

— By Domani Spero

We were writing our welcome back blog post for State/OIG last week when we noticed that there were new faces and reshuffled desks at the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department.

You may be aware by now that the new IG Steve Linick took office on September 30 but he wasn’t the only one who started fresh at the State Department.  He came to the State  Department with  Emilia Di Santo, his Chief of Staff/Acting Deputy Inspector General for Policy from the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office (FHFA-OIG),and David Z. Seide, his Director of Special Projects at the FHFA-OIG.

Emilia Di Santo, Acting Deputy Inspector General

Ms. Di Santo who was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.

Ms. Di Santo was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to this month’s move to the State Department. Previous to that, she was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and was a longtime senior investigator for GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.  During her time with committee, particularly from 2004 onwards, the Wall Street Journal called the Finance Committee “a chamber of misery for the pharmaceutical industry and medical device makers, using its mandate to stop Medicare fraud as the grounds for many investigations.”  Ms. Di Santo also made news in 2005, when  she was repeatedly attack by someone with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat while unloading her belongings at her home in Virginia. The Hill reported at that time that nine staples were needed to close her head wound and that the FBI and Capitol Police investigated the vicious attack amid concerns that the assault was related to her work on the Finance Committee.  We could not locate a follow-up report on that incident.  She did not give interviews, and simply returned to work. Ms. Di Santo had been expected to follow Senator Grassley to the Judiciary Committee but in 2011 she moved instead to the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office.

David Z. Seide, Counselor to the Inspector General

Mr. Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency. According to his LinkedIn profile, while in that capacity, he made significant contributions to the work of the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group. Mr. Seide also spent nearly 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he was responsible for the investigation, prosecution and trial of multiple individuals and organizations suspected of engaging in securities and business fraud.

A side note here, Mr. Linick’s former office at Federal Housing Finance Agency worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. On Friday, the WSJ  reported that JP Morgan has reached a tentative agreement of roughly $4 billion to settle Federal Housing Finance Agency claims the bank misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of mortgages it sold to them during the housing boom. Over the weekend, the NYT also reported about a larger tentative settlement over JP Morgan Chase mortgage practices and a potential record of $13 billion in penalty.

Another interesting note  we should add here.  Mr. Linick was FHFA’s first Inspector General. When he came to office in 2010, FHFA accused him of exceeding authority and went so far as to restrict the OIG access to agency documents, shared drive, and instructed employees that they should not communicate with FHF A-OIG without first apprising FHFA management. This guy did not fold.  (See Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) records provided to Senator Charles E. Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn concerning the independence of Inspectors General necessary to promote efficiency and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in agency programs, in response to the Senators’inquiry, 2011-2012, FOIA Request via governmentattic.org)

Two more new appointments:

Karen Ouzts, Assistant Inspector General for Administration

On September 4, 2013, Karen Ouzts was appointed as the new Assistant Inspector General for Administration.  She was previously the deputy at State/OIG’s Office of General Counsel. Ms. Ouzts succeeded David M. Yeutter who was appointed as OIG’s Executive Officer on October 2009. Mr. Yeutter is a Foreign Service specialist who presumably will return to a regular assignment in the Foreign Service.

Norman P. Brown, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits

On September 13, Norman P. Brown was appointed the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audit. He was previously the deputy for the Audit directorate prior to this appointment.  He succeeded Evelyn R. Klemstine who was appointed Assistant Inspector General for Audits in November 2009. State Magazine’s October 2013 issue listed  Ms. Klemstine as newly retired from the Civil Service.

The following officials remain at posts:

State/OIG has 318 employees, more than double FHFA-OIG staff.  About 93% of State/OIG staff are civil servants.  Interesting times, over there.

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