Senior Diplomat Mark C. Toner Returns to Foggy Bottom Podium as Deputy Spox

Posted: 3:21 pm EDT
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Mark Toner has been Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs since September 2013.  Prior to that appointment, he served as the State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson from 2010-2013. He was at that time succeeded as #2 in Foggy Bottom’s podium by Obama campaign spox Marie Harf.  Brief bio below:

He is a career Foreign Service Officer who has served overseas in West Africa and Europe. Mark was the Information Officer in Dakar, Senegal; the Public Affairs Officer in Krakow, Poland; and the Spokesman for the US Mission to NATO, in Brussels, Belgium.

In Washington, Mark has worked as a senior advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; as a Senior Watch Officer in the Department’s Operations Center; and as the Director of the European Bureau’s Press and Public Outreach Division. Mark has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a graduate degree from National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Prior to joining the State Department, Mark was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa, and carried out graduate work in Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Emails Brief as Photos, But Where Are The Interesting Bits? #ClintonEmails

Posted: 9:06 am PDT
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So the day before the three day Memorial Day weekend, this happened.

 

Where else would State dump these but at the foia.state.gov website, a slow and notoriously difficult to search website:

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But there’s help from the Wall Street Journal, which offers a faster loading site than the FOIA website.  It also allows you to tag any of the 800+ pages of emails.

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Yo! There’s no smoking gun, and everyone’s like whaaat? Teh-heh!

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What are we learning from this first batch of emails?

1) The document dump is not arranged or ordered in any useful way. The emails from 2011 are mixed with 2012. Some of the emails are included more than once. Some of the redactions are rather odd, given that some of these emails were already published via the NYT.  The former secretary of state is not referred to as HRC, only as “H.” The emails show an extremely small number of gatekeepers – Mills, Sullivan, Abedin, plus a couple of folks routinely asked to print this or that.

2) Sid, Sid, Sid — there are a good number of memos from “friend of S” or “HRC’s contact,” Sidney Blumenthal, who apparently had his own classification system. The memos he sent were marked “Confidential” although he was no longer a USG employee at the time he sent them and presumably, no classifying authority. Imagine the COM in Libya and NEA folks chasing down this intel stuff. Right. Instead of “OGA” for other government agency, State got “FOS”or “friend of S” as intel source.

3) “Pls. print” one of the former secretary of state’s favorite response to emails sent to her.

4) When former Secretary Clinton finally addressed the firestorm of her use of private email, she said: “I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” a self-assured Clinton told more than 200 reporters crowded into a U.N. corridor. (via Reuters). It looks like she had more than one email address, and we don’t know how many devices. The email below was sent from an iPad.

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5) HRC gave a speech on September 12, 2012  Remarks on the Deaths of American Personnel in Benghazi, Libya at the Treaty Room of the State Department.

Here is Harold Koh, the State Department Legal Adviser later that day thanking HRC for her “inspirational leadership.”

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6) On September 14, 2012, HRC delivered her  Remarks at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony to Honor Those Lost in Attacks in Benghazi, Libya atAndrews Air Force Base; Joint Base Andrews, MD. Video at: http://bcove.me/r4mkd76v.  Below are some of the ‘thank you’ emails sent to her, but mostly to HRC through Ms. Mills:

From Deputy Secretary Bill Burns to H:

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From State/CSO Rick Barton to Mills:

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From NEA’s Brett McGurk to Mills:

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From NEA/PD “blown away” to somebody to Mills:

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From Protocol to Mills to Protocol:

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7) On October 10, 2012, there was a congressional hearing on the Security Failures of Benghazi. “Did we survive today?” HRC asked.  The “Pat” referenced to in this email is most likely Patrick Kennedy, the Under Secretary for Management who testified at that hearing (see Security Failures of Benghazi: Today’s Hearing).

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8) In November 2012, the House Intelligence Committee had a closed hearing that reportedly had the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CIA Acting Director Michael Morell and the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy.  Those could be the Matt and Pat in this email:

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9) There was a meeting at the WH Situation Room on Nov 26, 2:35 pm on Benghazi. The invitation was for the Secretary +1, and if she was unable to attend, an invitation for one representative only. The then Executive Secretary John Bass (now US Ambassador to Turkey) asked Mills if she’d prefer “Pat” to attend or “Dan.” Dan is State’s former counterterrorism guy, replied “Pat should go” in reference to Patrick Kennedy. Mills asked HRC if she’s good with Pat going and she replied “I think I should go w Pat.”

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10) On December 17, 2012, then State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (now A/S for the EUR bureau) confirmed that the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi had concluded its work, and that the report went to Secretary Clinton that day (see ARB Concludes Work, Unclassified Report May Be Publicly Available on Wednesday).  The following email is between Burns and Mills dated December 18, 2012. It mentions three names, Eric, Pat, and Greg Starr.  We are guessing that the Eric in the email is Eric Boswell, the then Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and Pat is the Under Secretary for Management. The portion referencing Greg Starr was redacted except for Burns’ “I like the Greg Starr idea.”

The ARB report was released the same day this email was sent (see Accountability Review Board Singles Out DS/NEA Bureaus But Cites No Breach of Duty; also see Accountability Review Board Fallout: Who Will be Nudged to Leave, Resign, Retire? Go Draw a Straw. Mr. Boswell was one of the four employees thrown under the bus. On February 1, 2013, Gregory B. Starr was sworn in as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service. Mr. Starr also served as Boswell’s successor as acting DS Assistant Secretary until he was formally nominated by President Obama in July 2013.

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11) On December 20, 2012, the State Department’s two deputies, William Burns and Thomas Nides went before Congress instead of Secretary Clinton (see Clinton Recovering, Top Deputies Burns and Nides Expected to Testify Dec.20). Thank yous all around with HRC saying thank you to Burns and Nides. Thereafter, Cheryl Mills sent an email praising HRC’s email as being “so nice.”  This was then followed with more thank yous from Nides and Burns.

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12) So nothing surprising in the emails except the parts that may give some of us toothache. And the missing parts.  This is only the first batch of emails although our understanding is that this constitutes the Benghazi-related emails. If that’s the case, it is striking that we see:

a) No emails here to/from Eric Boswell, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.

b) No emails directly related to the other three employees put on administrative leave, Diplomatic Security’s Charlene Lamb and Steve Bultrowicz, and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell (although he is on a few courtesy copy emails) see The Other Benghazi Four: Lengthy Administrative Circus Ended Today; Another Circus Heats Up).

c) No emails to/from Gregory Hicks who was Embassy Tripoli’s DCM at the time of the attack and who would have been attached by phone/email with Foggy Bottom (Hey! Are telephone conversations recorded like Kissinger’s?)

d) Except for an email related to one of the ARB panel member, there are no emails related to setting up the ARB, the process for the selection of ARB members, the assistance requested by the ARB, the support provided by the State Department to the panel, etc.  What happened to those emails?

(By the way, we also have not forgotten that Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleged Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation).

13) Then Secretary Clinton was using at least two emails from her private server according to these released emails. It does not look like anyone from the State Department could have just sent her an email by looking her up on the State Department’s Global Address List (GAL). But certainly, her most senior advisers including the experienced, career bureaucrats at the State Department must have known that she was using private email.

Seriously, no one thought that was odd? Or did everyone in the know thought it was beyond their pay grade to question the practice? Let’s imagine an entry level consular officer conducting official business using a private email server. How long would that last? Right.

So what happened there? Ugh! Pardon me? You were just doing your job? That CIA briefer also was just doing his job.

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Burn Bag: Afghanistan — Is it better to be humbled than ruined?

Via Burn Bag:

“As I decompress after completing a one-year tour in Afghanistan, I often find myself mulling these words by the great English historian Edward Gibbon: “I shall never give my consent to exhaust still further the finest country in the world in this prosecution of a war from whence no reasonable man entertains any hope of success.  It is better to be humbled than ruined.”

Image via Imgur/zimgodo

Image via Imgur/zimgodo

U.S. Embassy Kabul Construction Cost: From $625.4M to $792.9M, and Going Up, Up and Away

Posted: 12:55 am EDT
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report on Embassy Kabul Construction. Below is a a quick summary:

Since re-opening in 2002, the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, has experienced a dramatic increase in staffing, followed by a gradual drawdown. State has invested or plans to invest a total of $2.17 billion in U.S. facilities to address current and projected space needs. State awarded two contracts in 2009 and 2010 to construct additional on-compound housing and office facilities. State partially terminated one contract for the convenience of the U.S. government, and expanded the construction requirements of the second, affecting cost and schedule.

Schedule and cost: The Embassy Kabul project was originally scheduled for completion last summer but is now projected to be completed in fall of 2017. The cost has also increased from $625.4 million to $792.9 million.

Where two is better than one: Instead of building one temporary vehicle maintenance facility, the State Department ended up  funding two new, temporary vehicle maintenance facilities—one at Camp Sullivan (built by OBO) and one at Qasemi Lot (to be built by DS). Apparently, post officials reported that there are security concerns with using the Sullivan vehicle maintenance facility. And if that’s the case, one wonders why OBO did not scrub the other one, hey?

Which five overseas posts have hardened trailers? According to DS officials, hardened trailers could be required as part of State’s containerized housing and office unit task orders. State reported to the GAO that the hardened trailer specification has been applied to temporary facilities at five overseas posts.

Temporary facilities: As of February 2015, temporary facilities on the embassy compound provided nearly 1,100 desks and 760 beds.

Permanent facilities: Once the current construction is completed, the Kabul embassy’s permanent facilities—both older and newly constructed office and apartment buildings—will contain 1,487 desks and 819 beds. Those totals do not include the desks or beds in temporary offices and housing facilities.

The never ending story: State planning documents, as well as post and OBO officials, identify a continued need for some of the temporary facilities following completion of the permanent facilities in 2017. That would be 875 temporary desks and 472 to 640 temporary beds.  The GAO notes that even with the permanent construction completion “temporary housing will continue to provide between 37 and 44 percent of the available beds on-compound” at Embassy Kabul.

Image via gao.gov

Image via gao.gov

What the GAO found:

  • Cost and schedule have increased for the Kabul embassy construction project, in part due to incomplete cost and risk assessment. Cost for the 2009 and 2010 contracts has increased by about 27 percent, from $625.4 million to $792.9 million, and is likely to increase further. Projected completion has been delayed over 3 years to fall 2017. The Department of State (State) did not follow its cost containment and risk assessment policies, resulting in lost opportunities to mitigate risks. These risks, such as delays in the sequencing of the two contracts, eventually materialized, increasing cost and extending schedule. Unless State follows its policy, it may be unable to avoid or mitigate risks to cost and schedule on future projects.
  • Since 2002, State has built over $100 million in temporary buildings (intended for no more than 5 years’ use) to meet space needs on-compound but has no security standards tailored to those facilities. On completing the project in 2017, all temporary facilities will be 5 to 10 years old, and their continued use is likely.
  • State does not have a strategic facilities plan for Kabul that documents current and future embassy needs, comprehensively outlines existing facilities, analyzes gaps, provides projected costs, and documents decisions made. Lack of such a plan has inhibited coordination and undermined the continuity necessary to address emergent needs at the Kabul embassy.

Too many cooks and constant personnel turnover:

According to State officials in Kabul and Washington, coordination to address the Kabul embassy’s future needs is particularly difficult due to the large number of stakeholders in Kabul and in Washington. Additionally, the constant personnel turnover caused by the 1-year tours served by most management, facilities, and security staff in Kabul results in lack of continuity in decision making. As far back as January 2006, the State Office of Inspector General also identified “the near total lack of institutional memory” stemming from the lack of staff continuity and a “never-ending” learning curve as the most serious impediment to good executive direction at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Post and Inter-Bureau Cooperation: Embassy Kabul, DS, OBO

Without a comprehensive plan that provides a strategic framework to document mission needs, catalog existing facilities, analyze gaps, provide projected costs, and document recommendations, the competing proposals of the post’s many stakeholders are difficult to manage, prioritize, and reconcile. As a result, State officials in Kabul said that these meetings suffer from no common vision and a lack of decision making. Consequently, State has been challenged to efficiently address changing embassy needs in several instances on- and off-compound. For example:

      • Interference with on-compound construction—OBO officials in Kabul expressed frustration that proposals for new projects would often conflict with plans previously agreed to by previous post management staff. For example, during our fieldwork, post management proposed to locate a helicopter landing zone near the embassy warehouse. However, according to OBO officials on-site, they had arranged with the previous management team to reserve that space as a staging area for the contractor to build the warehouse expansion. When asked about this, post management officials stated that they had no continuity document that informed them of this earlier decision.
      • On-compound physical security upgrades—DS first requested changes to the embassy compound’s security perimeter in December 2010 and added more requirements in response to attacks against the compound in September 2011. In February 2013, the post urged OBO to provide a project schedule and expedite the upgrades. However, that was not done and as of March 2015 OBO and DS had not reached agreement on schedules and costs for some security upgrade projects.
      • Camp Seitz—In 2013, DS and post management decided to relocate the Kabul Embassy Guard Force from Camp Sullivan and the Protective Security Detail (movement protection) Guard forces from another camp to sites closer to the embassy compound due to security concerns. To facilitate this, DS initiated the acquisition of the Camp Seitz site through OBO. However, according to State officials, DS then began construction of temporary housing at Camp Seitz without submitting the design to OBO for review or applying for a building permit. After OBO became aware of the completed construction, it identified fire safety deficiencies that DS had to correct.
      • Camp Sullivan, Camp Eggers, Qasemi Lot Vehicle Maintenance Facility—As part of the security contractor relocation, post management and DS proposed removing several support facilities, including a vehicle maintenance facility, from an ongoing construction project at Camp Sullivan and transferring them to Camp Eggers. Post management and DS officials stated that once the temporary vehicle maintenance facility on-compound is demolished to make way for apartment buildings 2 and 3, it would be better for security and logistics to build the replacement vehicle maintenance facility close to the compound rather than at Camp Sullivan. However, OBO proceeded to build the Sullivan vehicle maintenance facility because negotiations for the 30 leases required at Camp Eggers were not complete, and OBO was concerned that if an alternative vehicle maintenance facility was not in place, construction of apartments 2 and 3 could be delayed and their costs increased.56 Discussions continued among OBO, DS, and post management, and the proposed vehicle maintenance facility was shifted to Qasemi Lot, a site adjacent to Camp Seitz. OBO decided not to descope the Camp Sullivan vehicle maintenance facility until plans for a replacement facility at Qasemi Lot were approved by OBO and DS had awarded a construction contract with a scheduled completion date prior to the demolition date for the existing vehicle maintenance facility on- compound. As a result, State is funding two new, temporary vehicle maintenance facilities—one at Camp Sullivan (built by OBO) and one at Qasemi Lot (to be built by DS).57

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