Post Closures, Travel Suspension, 9/11 Security Reminders

Posted: 2:07 am EDT
Updated: 11:11 am EDT
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Post closures:

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Non-essential travel suspension:
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9/11 Anniversary reminders:

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Brown v. State Department: Another Day, Another FOIA Lawsuit

Posted: 2:01 am EDT
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David W. Brown is coauthor of Deep State (John Wiley & Sons, 2013) and The Command (Wiley, 2012). He is a regular contributor to TheWeek.comVoxThe Atlantic, and mental_floss. On September 7, he filed the latest FOIA lawsuit against the State Department. He explains why:

If it is now policy to allow private lawyers to hoard potentially classified information, the public is entitled to know the authority by which such policies are maintained, and who is permitted such generous treatment. The public is owed an explanation for blind eyes turned, in the case of Kendall and Clinton, to the obvious dangers to national security. Did no one at State object to this? And if so, who overruled those objections?

To find out, Kel McClanahan and I have filed suit against the U.S. State Department. Our lawsuit is the result of a Freedom of Information Act request for records concerning State’s decision-making in this matter. The State Department first acknowledged our request, and agreed to expedite its processing. Then they ended all correspondence. Americans have the legal right to these records, and our goal is to compel State to hand them over.

This goes beyond politics. If the State Department wants to pick and choose which private citizens get to store classified material at their homes or offices, the public needs an explanation of how such decisions are made, and why. Once we know that, we might know just how poorly our secrets are really being kept.

Read in full here.

The lawsuit is available to read here.

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FASTC Hard Skills Training Center: “Who owes who favors?”

Posted: 12:19 am EDT
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On September 9, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGR) held a hearing to examine the efforts to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel and assets in northern Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican border (see HOGR Hearing: Violence on the Border, Keeping U.S. Personnel Safe).  There were questions about danger pay, security, local guard pay, planned facilities, hardship posts, staffing and yes, a congressman did suggest that we close our consulates in Mexico.

During the hearing, one congressman also showed up to beat up DS A/S Gregory Starr about the FASTC hard skills training center set to be built at Fort Pickett. The congressman from Georgia, Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (GA-1)wanted to know why the OMB has not released its report on this politically contentious project that has been going on for years.  Um… probably because it’s not Diplomatic Security’s report to release? What the congressman from Georgia probably really want to ask is why the heck is the State Department building a training facility  in Fort Pickett, VA, didn’t everybody know that FLETC in Glynco, GA is the best facility there is?  We did not see the representatives from the VA delegation, probably because this was a hearing related to border posts.  Not sure, the congressman was really interested in the answers to the questions he asked. He told Mr. Starr to “go back and compare the two sites.” We wonder how many times Diplomatic Security has to go back and compare these two sites. Until all the congressional delegates are happy with it?  Did he ask other questions about the border posts? Must have missed that.

The Skeptical Bureaucrat recently did a piece on the FASTC:

To review the situation, the administration wishes to construct a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) that would consolidate ‘hard skills’ training by the State Department and its partners at Fort Pickett in southside Virginia. Some members of Congress are trying to stop the project, ostensibly on grounds of economic efficiency, and would require the State Department to use the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Georgia for hard skills training. Both sides are currently awaiting the public release of a General Accountability Organization (GAO) report that evaluates the business case for building FASTC at Fort Pickett.

This week the Progress-Index, a local newspaper in the Fort Pickett area, interviewed and quoted a senior Diplomatic Security Service official for an article about the political impasse over FASTC. Well, hum, that’s interesting. I presume the senior official had gotten official clearance to make those remarks. I further presume that State gets to review the expected GAO report before it goes public. Putting 2 + 2 together, I wonder whether DS is signalling with the interview that it knows the GAO will support building FASTC at Fort Pickett?

Here’s the article, Report could speed up diplomatic training center at Fort Pickett:

State Department officials are hoping a soon-to-be released report will help end wrangling in Congress that has delayed construction on a diplomatic security training center at a National Guard base in Virginia.

Construction on the first phase of the facility at Fort Pickett, just over the Dinwiddie County border, was set to begin Aug. 1 with a completion date set for 2019. State Department officials have put that work on hold while they respond to Congressional requests for information.

The State Department stands by its selection of Fort Pickett, saying its proximity to Washington, D.C., and rural location would allow it to conduct around-the-clock military-style training. The site is also within driving distance of Marine bases in Virginia and North Carolina that State Department personnel train with, as well as Navy special warfare forces that are stationed in Virginia Beach.

Stephen Dietz, executive director of the State Department’s bureau of diplomatic security, said the Marines have told him that they can’t afford to travel to Georgia for State Department training. He said the cost estimates for the southeastern Georgia site [FLETC} only have to do with construction, and don’t include operation, maintenance or travel costs for State Department, military or intelligence agency personnel. 

Read TSB’s  Possible Tip-Off About FASTC Hard Skills Training Center at Fort Pickett?

The report cited by TSB also has a quotable quote from Mayor Billy Coleburn of Blackstone, Virginia who has been looking forward to as many as 10,000 people coming through for State Department training each year:

“If you’re banking your hopes on common sense and consensus in Washington, D.C., you stay up late at night worrying,” said Mayor Billy Coleburn. “Who owes who favors? Who gets browbeaten behind the scenes. Those are things we can only imagine — what happens in smoke-filled rooms in Washington, D.C?”

We can’t imagine those things. Nope.

What we’ve learned from this hearing is that Congress is really worried about the security of U.S. diplomatic personnel overseas. Until it’s not.

So far, it has not been able to get its act together on a project that’s the center of a long standing tug-of-war between politicians. For sure, there will be another hearing. And another. And another.

It certainly is interesting to watch these congressional hearings where our elected reps demonstrate their deep understanding of the issues bubbling with barely hidden agendas. Can we please start sending these folks to Crash and Bang training?  Also, Channel 9 has Survivor Matamoros Nuevo Laredo, all 9 square miles of the city you’re allowed to go  is also accessible on Channel 9, any volunteers?

Anybody out there know what’s happening to the GAO report?

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All Hands at U.S. Mission UAE to Clear Visa Backlog From CCD Meltdown

Posted: 12:02 am EDT
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The US Consulate General Dubai and Ambassador Barbara Leaf opened the Consular Section on “a recent Saturday” to speed the visa process and clear the backlog from a systems crash this past June. The UAE Mission is normally open from Sundays through Thursdays. We’re pleased to see them do this especially with top embassy officials pitching in to help slay the visa backlog.

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The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi provides nonimmigrant visa services to Emiratis residing anywhere in the UAE and to third-country nationals residing in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Embassy provides immigrant visa services to the entire United Arab Emirates and for persons residing in Iran.  The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai provides nonimmigrant services to citizens and residents of Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman, and Umm al Quwain and certain citizens of Iran.

Post has previously made available another video on July 15, 2015 where post worked to get  travelers their visas after the CCD meltdown in June.
If your front office did this at your post, send us a note and we’ll feature your video or FB post here.

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