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US Embassy Oslo: Clueless on Norway, Murder Boards Next?

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— Domani Spero

In the short path to the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, this episode has now been recorded for posterity.

Also made it to Anderson Cooper’s “RidicuList” and now posted on YouTube.

This episode shows that cramming for a job that takes 30 years to prepare for the regular service can be quite perilous for aspiring ambassadors with deep pockets. Despite a week or so of training at the Foreign Service Institute one can still end up as the Norwegians put it, “trampling through the salad bowl.” Imagine that.

We’ll never look at our salad bowl the same way again.

Maybe the SFRC will start conducting closed hearings for these nominees to save us from the embarrassment?  Well, we hope not. Now that Senator McCain has brought the badass back into the confirmation hearings, we’ll have to start watching these hearings again.  A few more of these incidents and the nominees will need to be put through “murder boards.”

In the meantime, U.S. Embassy Oslo had to managed this “uncomfortable” episode.

Via News In English Norway:

TV2 reported that the embassy expressed in the “private conversations” that Tsunis’ remarks amounted to an episode that was both “uncomfortable” and “regrettable,” and one they gladly would have avoided. They reportedly stressed that Tsunis’ remarks did not represent either the attitudes of the US Embassy in Oslo or US authorities in Washington DC.

Kristian Norheim, a Member of Parliament and international secretary for the Progress Party, confirmed he has “been in dialogue” with the embassy since the hearing and told TV2 there was “no doubt” that Tsunis’ remarks were problematic. “The embassy therefore had a need to clarify that they also think this was an uncomfortable episode,” Norheim told TV2.

Norheim’s party colleague Jan Arild Ellingsen, who demanded an apology from Obama himself last week, said that Tsunis clearly needs to undergo some “adult education” and that both he and other party members would welcome him to a meeting at the parliament, assuming the senate goes through with his confirmation as ambassador.

 

News in English Norway, in a follow-up item today reports this update:  “George James Tsunis, the wealthy New York businessman tapped to be the next US ambassador to Norway, has reportedly told Norway’s TV2 that he regrets remarks he made at his US Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month that showed him to be ignorant of the country where he was being sent.”

We are unofficially sorry for you folks, damage control and all that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We hope you put the next ambassador on Twitter as soon as he is confirmed.

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ProPublica: State Department Finally Releases List of ‘Special Government Employees’

— by Justin Elliott and Liz Day ProPublica, Jan. 30, 2014, 1:22 p.m.

Last year, Politico reported that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had a special arrangement under which she simultaneously worked for the State Department and a corporate consulting firm.

Watchdogs and others raised questions about Abedin’s status blurring the line between private and public sector employment. She responded that the dual employment did not pose any conflict of interest, and there is no evidence Abedin used her public position to help private clients.

Soon after, we asked the State Department for a list of any other such employees. Now, after a six-month delay, the department has given us the names.

The list suggests that the status is mostly used for its intended purpose: to allow outside experts to consult or work for the government on a temporary basis.

But at least one person on the list appears to have had an arrangement similar to Abedin’s.

Caitlin Klevorick received two one-year appointments as a special government employee beginning in January 2012.

During that time, online listings show she had a private consulting firm, CBK Strategies, which advises government and corporate clients on communication and policy:

Work with diverse range of clients from Government to Fortune 100 companies to high profile individuals advising them on a range of issues including: overall strategic vision, crisis management, policy and political advising, communications, corporate social responsibility and partnerships.

“There is a very high potential for actual conflicts of interest in this case, and there is certainly every appearance of conflicts of interest,” said Craig Holman of the ethics watchdog Public Citizen.

Klevorick did not respond to our requests for comment about what outside work she did during the period she was a special employee.

Asked about the case, a State Department official said: “All of our employees that are allowed to work for non-Department of State entities are doing so with permission of the bureaus they are working with and provided their outside work does not pose a conflict of interest.”

Before joining the State Department, Klevorick had worked as a consultant to former President Clinton and to the Clinton Foundation.

Klevorick joined the State Department in 2009, as “Special Assistant for the Counselor of the Department in the Office of the Secretary.”

When she became a special government employee three years later, she “provided expert knowledge and advice to the Counselor and Chief of Staff & other Department Officials on a variety of important foreign policy issues,” according to the State Department.

Klevorick’s boss was Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton adviser who was also a special government employee, reportedly working on Haiti issues.

The list of special government employees also includes many lifelong civil servants and the occasional celebrity, such as Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. She was appointed in 2012 a senior adviser for public diplomacy.

There are also scientists such as a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory who did not draw a salary for his work for the State Department.

Others on the list have ties to Democratic politics but their work did not appear to raise any potential conflict of interest.

Longtime pollster Jeremy Rosner, for example, was made a special government employee in 2011. He moved to Pakistan temporarily to serve as a public affairs consultant to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad providing “expert level advice to the Chief of Mission on how best to exploit new media tools by all agencies at Mission Pakistan,” according to the State Department.

Here is the full list from the State Department.

And here is a list of special government employees from other agencies.

Republished from ProPublica via
88x31CC

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Drowning in Smoggy Delhi: There’s No Blue Sky, So Where’s Blueair? (Updated)

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— Domani Spero

In December last year, Hindustan Times reported on how air and water pollution plagued Indian cities:

One in three people in India live in critically-polluted areas that have noxious levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and lung-clogging particulate matter larger than 10 micron (PM10) in size. Of the 180 cities monitored by India’s Central Pollution Control Board in 2012, only two — Malapuram and Pathanamthitta in Kerala — meet the criteria of low air pollution (50% below the standard).

The NYT also reported in February last year  that “The thick haze of outdoor air pollution common in India today is the nation’s fifth-largest killer.”

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response
Photo from January 11, 2013
(click on image to read more)

The State/OIG report from 2011 says that the health environment for US Embassy employees in India is “challenging, punctuated by frequent respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.”  That’s putting it mildly.  Reports about the air pollution in India is nothing new but has not been as widely reported as the “fog” in China. That’s probably because we have @BeijingAir monitoring crazy bad air in China and no @DelhiAir to report on India’s bad air.  NYT reported this week that “The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi Embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.” Click here to see NYT’s follow-up report why.

The Times of India notes that “Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi” and cites disturbing comparative numbers between the two cities:

Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly two-and-a-half times higher.

Of course, FS folks have been living and hearing about this for years.  Haven’t you heard — “If you have asthma or other breathing issues, think long and hard before committing to New Delhi?”  Last year, an FS member said, “Very unhealthy, especially for young children, during winter when dung, garbage, and everything else is burnt for warmth, and smog traps it within Delhi.”  In 2010, somebody assigned to New Delhi warned that “Asthma and skin disorders are on the rise.

We understand that you don’t get to see the blue sky for a couple of months. In 2011, somebody called it, “the worst in the world.”

This past weekend, Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network released its 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.   The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems.

The announcement made special mention of improvement in India’s overall performance but cites dramatic declines on air quality. The announcement notes that “India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

India ranks 155th out of 178 countries in its efforts to address environmental challenges, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). India performs the worst among other emerging economies including, China, which ranks 118th, Brazil, at 77th, Russia, at 73rd, and South Africa at 72nd.
[…]
In particular, India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

“Although India is an ‘emerging market’ alongside China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, its environment severely lags behind these others,” said Angel Hsu of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and lead author of the report.“ Very low GDP per capita coupled with the second highest population in the world means India’s environmental challenge is more formidable than that faced by other emerging economies.”

This is not a health hazard that just showed up yesterday. So we were surprised to hear that at a town hall meeting at Embassy New Delhi, a medical professional reportedly said that none of the government issued embassy purifiers at the mission do the fine particles.

Wait, the US Embassy in New Delhi issued air purifiers that do not work for the  finest particles — the particles that do the most damage?

How did that happen?

Some folks apparently are now buying their own air purifiers. A mission member reportedly spent $1600 for purifiers to allow a breath of clean air inside the house.

Dear US Embassy India, we would have liked an official comment, but your public affairs ninja ignores email inquiries.  Call me, maybe — we’d like to know which smart dolt spent all that money for decorative air purifiers.

On a related note, early this month, China Daily reported that in December last year, the US Embassy in Beijing ordered 2,000 air purifiers  for its employees in the country from Blueair, a Swedish manufacturer:

The cheapest model from Blueair, the Blueair 203, costs 3,590 yuan ($591) from Torana Clean Air, Blueair’s official seller in Beijing, while it sells for $329 on the Best Buy and Amazon websites in the US.  The order placed for air purifiers by the US embassy was handled by the Swedish company’s American supplier, and the unit price was not disclosed.

We don’t know what types of purifiers were issued at US Embassy India.  Popular brands like Blueair, Panasonic, Daikin, Sharp, Yadu, Honeywell are compared here as used in China via myhealthbeijing.  There is also a review of air purifiers by the Consumer Report that should be worth looking into; the report is only available to subscribers.  Or check with MED which should have this information available.

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Education USA: Where do you want to study? Las Vegas! With Marilyn Monroe?

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— Domani Spero

According to the   U.S. Department of Commerce international students contribute $24.7 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses. The Institute of International Education notes that “Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.”

In 2008, the State Department issued 340,711 student visas (F1 visas for academic or language training program).  In 2012, the agency issued 486,900 student visas as well as 27,561 F2 visas for spouse/child of F1 visa holders. According to NAFSA, in 2012-2013 academic year, international students across the United States supported 313,000 jobs, a 6.2% increase in job support and creation.

It is no surprise then that our embassies and consulates overseas are working hard to attract foreign students to come to the United States to study. And while most of the videos we’ve seen have been sorta boring, a couple of missions have recently released YouTube videos that seems to be attracting attention.

Below is US Embassy Riyadh with Nawaf starting his journey to study in the United States. If you want to follow in his footsteps — and be more prepared — contact an EducationUSA advisor. Their advising services are free and available through the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah and Dhahran. Sign up for a pre-departure workshop at http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/education….” This is kind of an odd skit but it is getting a lot of views, currently at 254,866 273,668.

Update @8:17 PST:  The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia estimates that more than 100,000 Saudi students and their family members in the United States contribute roughly $6-7 billion to U.S. GDP.  The embassy told us that this video, made with a Saudi production house that produces Saudi Arabia’s most popular animated cartoon series is the second in its educational advising videos.  The first one received over 600,000 views. “Humor doesn’t always translate easily across cultures.  We ourselves don’t understand the elephant joke, but every Saudi we’ve tested it with falls out of their seat laughing so we left it in the video.” Apparently, since airing the series, visits to the embassy’s online educational advising resources have seen a 500% jump. “If elephant jokes and Marilyn Monroe is what it takes to get young Saudis interested in studying in the U.S., we’re happy with the results,”the embassy said.   Should be interesting to see how the spike in views translates into the number of Saudis getting an American education at Saudi government expense.

Here is one from from US Embassy in Bangkok with the staff showing off  their best school cheer in celebration of  Education Month.  Just debuted a couple days ago, the video currently has 1,655 views but they sure look like they’re having a lot of fun doing this!

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Joan Wadelton: Time To Fix The State Department (via WhirledView)

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— Domani Spero

We have previously posted about the case of FSO Joan Wadelton. (See Joan Wadelton’s Case: That’s One Messy Promotion Scorecard, Next Up – It’s GAO Time!Joan Wadelton’s Appeal Makes it to FSGB 2011 Annual Report to CongressGAO Examines Foreign Service Promotion Process — Strengthened But Documentation Gaps Remain). She is now on her tenth year of a legal dispute with the Department of State’s Bureau of Human Resources (HR). She recently guest posted at WhirledView and put her views on the record  “about how to correct the systemic failings that I have encountered over the last 10 years in the Bureau of Human Resources, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Legal Advisor.” Quick excerpt below:

The pervasive lack of oversight has led to near total impunity for those guilty of incompetence, cronyism and corruption within State.  A small group of career officials has taken advantage of this to gain control of the bureaucracy’s administrative functions.  Their pernicious influence has persisted for years.

The longevity of the group has been made possible by its control of the personnel system.  Senior managers at State stay in place for years – and when they do retire, they are rehired in a lucrative pay status, allowing them to remain in senior positions for more years.   Thus, the same people turn up repeatedly in ambassadorships and assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary jobs.

Not only does this discourage fresh thinking, it has bottled up the personnel system at the top.  With the jobs at the higher ranks endlessly filled by the same people, the cohort five or 10 years behind them in the career service cannot move up to become the next generation of leaders.  And as a consequence, many FSOs are forced to retire at the peak of their expertise.

Members of this inner circle have used their control of HR to give themselves and their friends promotions, prestigious assignments, cash bonuses and jobs for family members.  Conversely, they have used HR as a weapon against employees they dislike – including removing them from promotion lists and blocking plum assignments and cash bonuses – no matter how qualified those disfavored people might be.

Ms. Wadelton  was a Foreign Service Officer from 1980-2011.  She served in Africa, Latin America, Russia and Iraq.  In addition to assignments in the State Department, she was an advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a director of the Office of the US Trade Representative.

Continue reading Time to Fix the State Department.

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State/OIG Terminates Preparation of Report Cards for Ambassadors and Sr. Embassy Officials

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— Domani Spero

We heard recently that the State Department’s Office of Inspector General  no longer issue “report cards” for ambassadors and senior officials at inspected diplomatic missions. Apparently, State/OIG no longer prepare Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) but that there are measures underway to collect input for the performance of chiefs of mission (COMs). One we’ve heard is evaluation of ambassadors by their deputy chiefs of missions and by desk officers.  (Achoooo! May we point out that the chief of mission is also the rating officer of the deputy chief of mission?) We could not verify those measures because DGHR is not responsive to email inquiries from this blog. However, we can confirm that the Inspector General Office stopped preparing Inspector’s Evaluation Reports in April 2013. We should note that the current OIG Steve Linick was nominated in June 2013 and did not come into office until September, five months after this change was put in place

The next question , of course is — was this an OIG decision and if so, why?  This is what we were told by State/OIG:

It was an OIG decision, in part based on the points mentioned below that we will continue to comment on executive direction in the course of each inspection in the published report, and because we have seen progress with implementation of the recommendations in the memo report mentioned before (the 360 reviews noted in our 2012 memo report http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/198810.pdf).

That memorandum report from State/Deputy OIG Harold Geisel to State/M Patrick Kennedy dated September 19, 2012 talks about Improving Leadership at Posts and Bureaus.  We’ve blogged about it here: State Dept’s Leadership and Mgt School Needs Some Leadership, And It’s Not Alone.  As an aside, the U.S. military is reported to be in various stages of ramping up efforts to implement 360-degrees feedback. According to Marine Corps Times, it is currently used as a self-developmental tool and not/not as a part of the formal system of performance evaluation. The report notes that “Even if there is interest among the brass to formalize the process, there may be big legal hurdles to expanding the 360-review process beyond a strictly confidential tool for self-awareness.” (Previous post on 360 feedback used as a bidding tool: Sexing up the 360-Degree Feedback, Revisited and for the heck of it, this one Earth Embassy Ganymede – Administrative Notice #04-011300).

We think that the termination of IER preparation by State/OIG is a step in the wrong direction.

The problem here is simple. Do we really expect to see the OIG reports to be included in the official personnel file  (OPF) used for promotion consideration?  Of course not.  Comments on senior officials performance on the executive direction portion of OIG reports will not go into their official personnel file.   Some of the more egregious sections in OIG reports, we don’t even get to read because they are politely Sharpied out.  Meanwhile, the persons referred to in these reports are sometimes quietly moved to other posts.  In one case, a DCM was allowed to curtail and landed as a principal officer at another post.  Previously, this DCM was a senior officer at country X where he/she is alleged to have “pushed a seasoned FSO he/she supervised so cruelly and relentlessly, that this FSO attempted suicide.” In another case, a senior management officer was allowed to serve out a remaining tour and moved to one of our more dysfunctional posts at the end of the world.   As if that post needed a bump on its misery factor.  We have typically called this personnel movement, the State Department’s Recycling Program.  Of which we were roundly scolded by one reader who suffered the brunt in one case. “To suggest the Dept.‘s recycling program merely ‘stinks’, is to insult Parisian taxis and slaughter house septic tanks, everywhere.” 

OIG’s FY 2012 inspections found that “while 75 percent of ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and principal officers are doing a good to excellent job, 25 percent have weaknesses that, in most cases, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and morale of their posts and certainly warrant intervention by the Department.” Then Deputy OIG Geisel was careful to point out that “The 75 percent/25 percent figures apply to the posts OIG inspected and not necessarily to the Department as a whole.”

And because State/OIG saw “progress” which is not detailed or publicly available, it is terminating the preparation of  IERs for ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and other senior officials.

Is that the kind of accountability that serves the public interest and the employees that work in these missions?

In fact, the Foreign Affairs Manual that dictates the preparation of the IERs for senior managers is still in the books and has not been deleted or superseded by new guidance:

3 FAM 2813.5-1 last updated on November 23, 2012 states that OIG Inspectors will prepare Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) on senior officers (chiefs of mission, permanent chargés, deputy chiefs of mission, principal officers, Assistant Secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries) in connection with each post or bureau inspection. These IERs will be related directly to the officer’s management or supervision of the domestic unit or post abroad being inspected and will constitute a part of the independent review of the operation being evaluated. They will focus on the skills and abilities of rated officers to manage personnel, budgets, resources, and programs. Both career and noncareer officers will be evaluated.

Another section of that FAM cites additional reasons for the preparation of the IERs as follows:

1 FAM 055.6(f) last updated on July 17, 2013 says that IERs may be prepared, at the discretion of inspectors, on any employee for the reasons stated in 3 FAM 2813.5-2, including: (1) To record outstanding or substandard performance that the inspection team leader feels needs further documentation; or (2) To record performance observed during the inspection that noticeably differs from that reported in an employee’s evaluation report prepared by his or her regular supervisors.

What happens to these IERs when prepared by the OIG inspection teams?

“Upon receiving an IER from the inspection team, OIG/ISP designates a panel of three active or retired ambassadors who have been senior inspectors to review the IER. Once approved, the panel sends the IER to the Inspector General. In the case of a career employee, the Inspector General sends it with a memorandum to the Director General of the Foreign Service, requesting that it be placed in the rated officer’s official performance evaluation file. In the case of a noncareer employee, the Inspector General sends it to the Director General to review and send to the Deputy Secretary and White House Liaison Office to forward to the White House’s personnel office.”

So now, since the IERs are no longer prepared, poor performance will no longer be documented and will not appear in the rated officer’s official performance evaluation file. They will appear in OIG reports, which may or may not be redacted, but will not be included in the official personnel file.  The Promotion Boards will have no idea how senior officers manage our overseas missions when those officers names come up for promotion.

Do we really think this a good thing?

Also, the White House is now saved from the embarrassment of learning how some of its “highly qualified” political ambassadors show their deficiencies as stewards of the embassies and representatives of the United States abroad.

One less headache for the Press Secretary to worry about, yes?

The IERs typically are not released to the public. But some of the details occasionally leaks out when cases end up in the Foreign Service Grievance Board. We hope to have a separate blog post on that.

If you value accountability and the proper functioning of the service, you might consider  sending a love letter to State/OIG Steve Linick and asking him to reverse the prior OIG decision of terminating the preparation of IER reports.

Why?

Because … gummy bears!  All teeth, but no bite will have repercussions.

gummy-bears-o

Gummy Bears by Dentt42 via GIFsoup.com

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Today at the SFRC: Bauchus (China), Chacon (DGHR), Smith (INR)

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–Domani Spero

Today, the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding its confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee for the next ambassador to China, the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  You know where all the attention will be.

Via sfrc

Via sfrc

Presiding: Senator Menendez

Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast: This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live and see the nominees prepared testimonies:

Panel One:

The Honorable Max Baucus (see WH announcement)
of Montana, to be Ambassador to China

Panel Two:

The Honorable Arnold Chacon (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Director General of the Foreign Service
The Honorable Daniel Bennett Smith (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
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A Blast From the Past: How to Purge a Bureau? Quickly.

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— Domani Spero

Via the National Security Archive (NSA):

“Reflecting a perpetual annoyance with unauthorized disclosures, Kissinger purged several senior staffers from the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs in December 1975, after U.S. aid to opposition groups in Angola leaked to the press. Kissinger told Scowcroft that “It will be at least a new cast of characters that leaks on Angola” [See document 7].

Below is the telcon between Scowcroft and Kissinger recently released by the Archive. For additional background on how these docs are able to get out of the lockbox, see here.

Via National Security Archive

Via National Security Archive
(click image for larger view)

Here Kissinger and Scowcroft discuss the purge of the State Department’s Africa Bureau.  At a departmental meeting that day Kissinger said that the leaking of information about Angola policy was a “disgrace” and that he wanted people who had worked on Angola “transferred out within two months.”  Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Nathaniel Davis, whom Kissinger associated with the leaks, had already resigned under protest (Davis was slated to be ambassador to Switzerland).[4]  The reference to the man who is a “hog” is obscure.

That meeting on Angola occurred on December 18, 1975 attended by Henry Kissinger, then the Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary Ingersoll, Under Secretary Maw, Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger, Ambassador Schaufele, Mr. Saunders, INR, General Scowcroft, NSC, Mr. Hyland, NSC, Mr. Strand, AF and Mr. Bremer, Notetaker.  The 56th Secretary of State who purged the Bureau of African Affairs had some memorable quotes:

The Secretary: The Department’s behavior on Angola is a disgrace. The Department is leaking and showing a stupidity unfit for the Foreign Service. No one can think that our interest there is because of the Soviet base or the “untold riches” of Angola. This is not a whorehouse; we are conducting national policy.

[…]

The Secretary: I want people transferred out within two months who have worked on Angola. Did I cut off cables at that time?

Bremer: They were restricted.

The Secretary: Even more repulsive is the fact that AF was quiet until Davis was confirmed and then it all leaked. If I were a Foreign Service Officer I’d ask myself what kind of an organization I was in. I’ll be gone eventually but you are people whose loyalty is only to the promotion system and not to the US interest.

[…]

The Secretary: The DOD guy then says it’s between Henry and his Moscow friends.

First I want discipline. Someone has to get the FSO’s under control. If they don’t like it, let them resign.

Eagleburger: I have some ideas on that, Bill.

The Secretary: I want action today. I am not terrified by junior officers. I want to discuss Angola. I’ve got papers on the UN and on the Security Council. I had a foretaste from Moynihan who had been brought into the discussions.

[…]

The Secretary: Who will shape up the Department? I’m serious. It must be a disciplined organization.

Eagleburger: The focus now must be on AF.

Schaufele: I’m bringing the new director of AF/C back soon.

The Secretary: Good.

Schaufele: Yes, he’s good and tough. He’s due out at the end of the month.

The Secretary: Well get him back sooner and get Nat Davis’ heroes out fast.

Schaufele: As soon as we can find replacements.

The Secretary: No, I’d rather have no one. I want some of them moved by the end of the week. I want to see a list. I want progressive movement. Should I swear you in?

The exchange above is from the Memorandum of Conversation (memcon) of that meeting, published by history.state.gov. Imagine if you can read these memcons a year or so after the top honcho’s departure from office and not after four decades?

Below is the Wikipedia entry on Ambassador Nathaniel Davis’ resignation:

Operation IA Feature, a covert Central Intelligence Agency operation, authorized U.S. government support for Jonas Savimbi‘s UNITA and Holden Roberto‘s National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) militants in AngolaPresident Gerald Ford approved the program on July 18, 1975 despite strong opposition from officials in the State Department, most notably Davis, and the CIA. Two days prior to the program’s approval Davis told Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, that he believed maintaining the secrecy of IA Feature would be impossible. Davis correctly predicted the Soviet Union would respond by increasing its involvement in Angola, leading to more violence and negative publicity for the United States. When Ford approved the program Davis resigned.[4] John Stockwell, the CIA’s station chief in Angola, echoed Davis’ criticism saying the program needed to be expanded to be successful, but the program was already too large to be kept out of the public eye. Davis’ deputy and former U.S. ambassador to ChileEdward Mulcahy, also opposed direct involvement. Mulcahy presented three options for U.S. policy towards Angola on May 13, 1975. Mulcahy believed the Ford administration could use diplomacy to campaign against foreign aid to the Communist MPLA, refuse to take sides in factional fighting, or increase support for the FNLA and UNITA. He warned however that supporting UNITA would not sit well with Mobutu Sese Seko, the ruler of Zaire.[5][6][7]

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Senate Intel Committee Benghazi Report — “Additional Views” Make Special Mentions

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— Domani Spero

On January 15, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its 85-page report on Benghazi.  As we noted previously, the report itself is 42 pages long with its findings and recommendations. As well, there are “Additional Views” attached to the report:  a 5-page one from the Democrats on the SSIC (Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller IV, Wyden, Mikulski, Udall, Warner, Heinrich and Maine Senator Angus King);  a 16-page one from the GOP members of the Committee namely, Vice-Chairman Chambliss and Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio and Coburn and a 4-page statement by Maine Senator Susan Collins who co-authored with then Senator Joe Lieberman the HSGAC 2012 report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi.

The appended 5-page “additional views” from the Democrats talks about — talking points, terrorists vs. extremists, dropping the term “Al-Qa ‘ida”,  no protest, and talking points, again going through the interagency process. It concludes with this:

“The Majority agrees that the process to create the talking points was not without problems, so we join our Republican colleagues in recommending-as we do in the report-that in responding to future requests for unclassified talking points from Congress, the IC should simply tell Congress which facts are unclassified and let Members of Congress provide additional context for the public. However, we sincerely hope that the public release of the emails on May 15, 2013, that describe the creation of the talking points, and the evidence presented in this report, will end the misinformed and unhelpful talking points controversy once and for all.”

The appended “additional views” from the Republicans is 16-page long, almost a report in itself. It complains of “Disturbing Lack of Cooperation by the State Department”

As the Committee attempted to piece together key events before, during, and after the attacks, we faced the most significant and sustained resistance from the State Department in obtaining documents, access to witnesses, and responses to questions.”

We’re sure the State Department sees it differently. The same day the SSCI report came out, it released its Fact Sheet on the Benghazi ARB Implementation.

The GOP’s “additional views” mentions former Secretary Clinton just once, saying  that “Ultimately, however, the final responsibility for security at diplomatic facilities lies with the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.”  It also point fingers at senior officials at the State Department. Who gets a special mention?

Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy

“We believe the background of one senior State Department official made him uniquely situated to anticipate the potential for a terrorist attack on the Benghazi facilities. Prior to the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings which killed 12 Americans, Under Secretary Kennedy was serving as the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration, and concurrently served as the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security. Coincidentally, some of the same failures identified by the report of the Accountability Review Board following the 1998 Embassy bombings were noted by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board. Mr. Kennedy later served in key positions in Iraq, in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein, and in the IC. The threat of terrorism, including against U.S. facilities, was not new to him, and given the security situation in Benghazi, the attacks could have been foreseen. Given the threat environment, Mr. Kennedy should have used better judgment and should be held accountable.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs – Charlene Lamb

“While many individuals with information relevant to our review were more than forthcoming with the Committee, we are particularly disappointed that Charlene Lamb, who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs, has refused to explain to the Committee why certain decisions were made concerning enhanced security at the Temporary Mission Facility and who ultimately was responsible for those decisions. The Committee extended invitations to Ms. Lamb on three occasions prior to and after her reinstatement each time, she refused to meet with the Committee.154 Unfortunately, even after Ms. Lamb was returned to full duty, the State Department did not make her available to the Committee, something we believe should have been a priority for both Ms. Lamb and the State Department. Based on what we have learned during the Committee’s review, we believe Ms. Lamb’s testimony is critical to determining why the leadership failures in the State Department occurred and the specific extent to which these failures reached into its highest levels.”

If the Committee really “believe” that Ms. Lamb’s testimony is “critical to determining why the leadership failures in the State Department occurred” how come it did not subpoena her to appear before the Committee?  Well, maybe just half the Committee believe that? Or maybe they had other issues to squabble about? Or like most of the American public, did they all get Benghazi’ed out?

GOP Senator Susan Collins, not noted for her extreme views or for presidential ambition, also appended a 4-page statement to the SSCI report:

The SSCI report, while adding considerably to our knowledge, would have been strengthened if it had placed greater emphasis on the lack of accountability for the broader management failures at the State Department. It would have been premature for earlier reports published in the months immediately following the attack, such as the Accountability Review Board and the “Flashing Red” report, to reach final judgments with respect to the State Department’s personnel actions because the contributing factors to the vulnerability of the facility were still being pieced together. This report could have more fully evaluated the accountability issues because sufficient time had elapsed for the State Department to demonstrate whether or not decision-makers would be held accountable for poor judgments, refusals to tighten security, and misinformation.
[…]
A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats and other American personnel in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. This is unacceptable, and yet the Secretary of State has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings. This leads to a perception that senior State Department officials are exempt from accountability because the Secretary of State has failed to hold anyone accountable for the systemic failures and management deficiencies that contributed to the grossly inadequate security for the Benghazi facility.
[…]
While I support the SSCI report and appreciate its thorough analysis of much of what went wrong, I believe that more emphasis should have been placed on the three issues I have discussed: (1) the Administration’s initial misleading of the American people about the terrorist nature of the attack, (2) the failure of the Administration to hold anyone at the State Department, particularly Under Secretary Kennedy, fully accountable for the security lapses, and (3) the unfulfilled promises of President Obama that he would bring the terrorists to justice.

The SSCI report does not include details about the Benghazi fallout at the State Department. Except for one mention of Charlene Lamb, none of the other three officials put on administrative leave by the State Department made it to the report.

And life goes on. Perhaps in time, history.state.gov will afford us a view of the memcons during the internal deliberations at Foggy Bottom during and after this crisis — who said what and when, and who did what, where and when.  We still haven’t seen all the Kissinger telcons so, this may take a few decades, too.

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Senator John McCain’s “No More Questions” at the Senate Confirmation Hearing Gets a GIF

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— Domani Spero

We have not been paying attention to the Senate confirmation hearings at the SFRC.  I mean, these folks get nominated, grilled lightly or well done by the senators and with very few exceptions, they get confirmed. Unless, a senator or two puts  a hold on the nomination, but more often than not, for the wrong, unrelated reason. Yeah, it gets boring after a while.  Anyway, on January 16, the nominees for ambassadorships to the Republic of Iceland, the Kingdom of Norway and to Hungary appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (see the SFRC hearing page here) for their confirmation hearing.

By now, you have already heard about the feedback from Norway on what transpired during the hearing. If you haven’t, click here and here. News in English Norway reports that as local media put it, “the wealthy Greek-American businessman who’s been nominated to be the next US ambassador to Norway “tråkket i salaten” (trampled through the salad bowl) at his recent US Senate confirmation hearing. George J Tsunis’ confusion over Norway’s form of government and who’s actually in it was sparking reaction in Norway on Thursday.” Read all that here. And it’s all over the Internets now.

The nominee “trampled  through the salad bowl” after questioning by Senator McCain.  Here is the senior Senator from Arizona during the hearing with his gif-able moment.

SFRC_SenMc01232014

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