Alex Gibney’s ‘The Agent’ — CIA, FBI, and Pre-9/11 Interagency Woes Now on Video

Posted: 3:10 am EDT
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The New Yorker recently launched its new video series for Amazon Video with Lawrence Wright, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Looming Tower, Ali Soufan, Former FBI Special Agent and author of The Black Banners and others discuss what the CIA knew about the 9/11 hijackers—before 9/11. The Wright piece is an old one from 2006, but the video is new, brief and concise.  The film includes ex-CIA M. Scheuer who said something particularly shocking  (mark 10:26) about FBI agent John O’Neill during a post – 9/11 congressional hearing. O’Neill was among the 2,753 who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center site. We’re posting this here for that sobering part, when interagency cooperation goes exceptionally wrong. The embed video is a little buggy, if you have issues watching it, you can also see it here or available to stream here via Amazon.

 

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Photo of the Day: Searching for Soviet listening devices in a chimney at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow

Posted: 1:40 am EDT
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June 1978:  An SY security engineer searches for additional Soviet listening devices in a chimney at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, after recovering an antenna system hidden there by the Soviets. (Source: State/DS Records)

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To read more about the listening devices  that were placed at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, also see The Great Seal Bug via counterespionage.com

 

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@StateDept Awards Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) 2 Contracts

Posted: 1:25 am EDT
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The U.S. Department of State recently awarded multiple indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity type contracts (IDIQ) to multiple U.S. firms providing security services. The fedbiz announcement says that contract types for individual task orders will vary and selected in accordance with FAR 16.104.

This IDIQ will satisfy anticipated and unanticipated armed personal protective, static guard and team based emergency response security services requirements worldwide. The IDIQ focuses primarily on DOS requirements in high threat areas. The anticipated period of performance is one year with four one-year option periods (to be exercised at the sole discretion of the Government) and the maximum ceiling amount on this IDIQ contract is expected to be $10.2 billion dollars.

The contract SAQMMA15R0282 was awarded to the following contractors on February 12, 2016 but posted on FedBiz on Feb 24, 2016 :

1. Aegis Defense Services LLC SAQMMA16D0042
1760 Old Meadow Road; Suite 400
McClean, VA 22102
$2,804,634,000
2. Chenega Patriot Group LLC SAQMMA16D0043
3000 C Street; Suite 301
Anchorage, AK 99503
$3,536,704,749
3. GardaWorld Government Services Inc. SAQMMA16D0044
1101 Wilson Blvd; Suite 1750
Arlington, VA 22209-2277
$3,799,378,110
4. Sallyport Global Holdings Inc. SAQMMA16D0045
3601 Eisenhower Avenue; Suite 600
Alexandria, VA 22304-6426
$4,922,357,517
5. SOC LLC SAQMMA16D0046
15002 Northridge Dr; Suite 100
Chantilly, VA 20151-3850
$4,586,828,659
6. Sterling Operations Inc. SAQMMA16D0047
2229 Old Hwy 95
Lenoir City, TN 37771-6747
$2,911,391,742
7. Triple Canopy Inc. SAQMMA16D0048
12018 Sunrise Valley Drive; Suite 140
Reston, VA 20191-3444
$3,666,294,805
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Ambassador Michael Punke’s ‘The Revenant’ — on NYT Best Sellers For 9th Week

Posted: 7:31 pm EDT
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Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s movie  The Revenant has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards in this year’s Oscars including Actor in a Leading Role for Leonardo DiCaprio, Actor in a Supporting Role Tom Hardy, and directing and best picture.  The New York Times writes that among the hopeful novelists who will be closely watching Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, only one has negotiated a $1.3 trillion global trade deal. The NYT is talking about Michael Punke, the deputy United States Trade Representative and the United States ambassador to the World Trade Organization. He is the author of the 2002 novel “The Revenant” which inspired the movie. The book  sold around 15,000 copies after it was first published according to NYT.  It had apparently been out of print before the movie started shooting but a new hardcover came out in 2015. “The Revenant” has reportedly sold more than half a million copies, and Picador has reprinted the book 21 times.

Ambassador Punke was originally nominated by President Obama as Deputy Trade Representative – Geneva, Office of the United States Trade Representative in 2009. He was recess appointed in 2010 and finally confirmed by the Senate in the fall of 2011 (also see Deputy USTR Ambassador Michael Punke’s The Revenant: Now a Movie With Leonardo DiCaprio).

Due to his government position, he reportedly can’t give any interviews about the book, or even sign copies. The NYT says that “Federal ethics rules prohibit him from any activities that would be “self-enriching” or could be seen as an abuse of his post.”  The Office of Government Ethics has a handout relating to book deals and government employees (PDF), and a pretty complex guidelines for particularly covered noncareer (CNC) employees and Presidential appointees to full-time noncareer positions (PA).

It took 14 years but on the week of January 17, 2016, the book hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers and has remained on the list for the last 9 weeks.  Enjoy the excerpt courtesy of Amazon/Kindle Instant Preview:

[protected-iframe id=”1eec0a8d9ccd2aa1883b4ff63c822cc9-31973045-31356973″ info=”https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?asin=B00M65OFY4&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_m520wb06ZZTYS&tag=diplopundit-20″ width=”536″ height=”750″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=””]

 

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14 DAYS TO GO OR GO BUST!  
You know best whether our work is of value to you or not. If it is, and if your circumstances allow it, we could use your help to carry on for another year.  Our Go Diplopundit 2016 fundraising effort to keep the blog running for another 12 months is entering its last two weeks. We’ve made it over the halfway mark but with 14 days to go, we are still about 15K under our goal.  So not impossible to get to our goal but you know how it is.  It feels like the blog has been preparing to die for years and maybe this is the year when we’ll finally exhaust our nine lives.  We have half a dozen readers who made contributions through PayPal. We will not accept those contributions unless we know we’ll make it this year. Some of our dedicated readers have also made supplemental contributions to get us to the finish line, but even with our best efforts, the possibility that we may have to join Jeb! in suspending our campaign er, sorry, blogging, is real :-). Let’s see what happens in two weeks, okay? 
— DS

We could use your help to carry on for another year  😌  Real Life, the Way It Is – No Goggles and Plenty of Loose Ends  😉  Podium Cat Rolls Out Diplopundit’s GoFundMe 2016 Campaign

Thanks Jim!  Thanks @FSProblems! This, too! Thanks Sadie Abroad!

US Embassy Libya Evacuation of July 26, 2014 – In Photos

Posted: 12:35 am EDT
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In the early morning of July 26, 2014, the State Department suspended all embassy operations in Libya and evacuated all its staff overland to Tunisia, due to ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the embassy in Tripoli (see State Dept Suspends All Embassy Operations in Libya, Relocates Staff Under Armed Escorts). The photos below are from that evacuation via Diplomatic Security’s photo collection:

July 26, 2014: A portion of the embassy motorcade takes a roadside break along a desert highway in western Libya. Some 70 U.S. Government personnel and 85 U.S. Marines in 34 U.S. Embassy armored vehicles traveled more than 500 miles across desert and mountain terrain to the safety of neighboring Tunisia. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

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July 26, 2014:  U.S. Marines prepare an MV-22B Osprey vertical-takeoff tiltrotor aircraft for departure from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy to assist with the relocation of U.S. Embassy personnel from Tripoli, Libya amid intense fighting between rival Libyan militias. The aircraft was part of a contingent of U.S. air assets, comprised of two Ospreys, an in-air tanker, and two fighter jets, that provided security support for the operation. (Source: U.S. Marine Corps)

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July 26, 2014: A Diplomatic Security technical specialist walks across the tarmac of the U.S. Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy after a long day’s journey through desert, mountains, and over the Mediterranean Sea. He was among some 70 embassy staff and 85 Marines who evacuated the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli earlier in the day, following weeks of escalating battles between heavily armed rival militias in the Libyan capital. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

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Snapshot: Investor EB-5 Visa Program (FY2013 – FY2015)

Posted: 12:18 am EDT
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Excerpted from the prepared statement of Nicholas Colucci, the Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program Office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the House Judiciary Committee Hearing, “Is the Investor Visa Program an Underperforming Asset?”, February 11, 2016:

Congress created the EB-5 visa program in 1990 as a tool to stimulate the U.S. economy by encouraging foreign capital investments and job creation. The EB-5 program makes immigrant visas and subsequent “green cards” available to foreign nationals who invest at least $1,000,000in a new commercial enterprise (NCE) that will create or preserve at least ten full- time jobs in the United States. A foreign national may invest $500,000 if the investment is in a targeted employment area (TEA), defined to include certain rural areas and areas of high unemployment.

The regional center program which has been in the news lately was first enacted in 1992, and provides an allocation of EB-5 visas to be set aside for investors in regional centers designated by USCIS. According to Mr. Colucci, there are currently 796 regional centers. This is up from about 588 at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014, and 11 at the end of 2007.

 STATISTICS

In FY 2013, USCIS approved a total of:
• 3,699 Form I-526 petitions (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur)
• 844 Form I-829 petitions (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions)
• 118 Form I-924 applications (Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Program)

In FY 2014, USCIS approved a total of:
• 4,925 I-526 petitions
• 1,603 I-829 petitions
• 294 I-924 applications

In FY 2015, USCIS approved a total of:
• 8,756 I-526 petitions
• 1,067 I-829 petitions
• 262 I-924 applications

Note: Form I-526, Petition for Immigrant Investor, is filed by all immigrant investors. Approval classifies the investor under section 203(b)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act so that he or she (and derivative beneficiaries) can apply for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to conditional permanent resident. If admitted as an immigrant or adjustment of status is approved, the immigrant investor generally must then file Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, within 90 days of the two year anniversary of his or her admission or adjustment as a conditional permanent resident. Other EB-5-specific forms include Form I-924, Application For Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which is used to apply for regional center designation, and Form I-924A, Supplement to Form I-924, which approved regional centers file annually to demonstrate continued eligibility for the designation.

 

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AFSA Event: Spotting and Solving Ethical Dilemmas at Work, March 10, 11:30 a.m.

Posted: 12:02 am EDT
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The AFSA Committee on Professionalism and Ethics (PEC) has put together a two hour inter-active workshop-presentation on “Spotting and Solving Ethical Dilemmas at Work” at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E St NW, from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. on March 10 with Dr. Terry Newell.  It is a free workshop that is available to AFSA members but civil service colleagues are also encouraged to sign-up. Details from AFSA below:

AFSA welcomes back Dr. Terry Newell for a two hour inter-active workshop-presentation on “Spotting and Solving Ethical Dilemmas at Work” at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E St NW, from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. on March 10. Sandwiches and beverages will be available to participants from 11:30 to 12. This is a unique opportunity to participate in an in-depth inter-active session on a timely issue – how to behave ethically when the rules are not enough. Please join us for this timely opportunity to learn how to think and act ethically in everyday work situations. Space is limited and RSVPs are required. Please click here to RSVP.

Why, despite hundreds of pages or ethics laws and annual ethics training, do we still have ethical problems in government? One answer is that we fail to spot ethical issues in everyday work situations because no laws seem to be broken. Another is that traditional approaches to ethics focus on following the rules, on doing “right” when the regulations tell you what is “wrong”. But lots of ethical issues are choices between two or more “rights” where there are no rules to guide us.

In this workshop we will focus on how to spot and resolve ethics issues in daily work situations using case studies, film clips and small group discussion to explore questions such as:

•What does ethics mean and how do you spot an ethics issue?

•What is the role of ‘value conflicts’ in ethical thinking?

•How can you avoid mental traps in addressing ethics challenges?

•How can you make a sound ethical decision and how can you put an ethical decision into practice, especially amidst opposition?  .

Dr. Newell spent nearly forty years in the federal government, including distinguished service in the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Education, and the Office of Personnel Management. Since leaving his last position as Dean of Faculty at the Federal Executive Institute, he has concentrated on writing and teaching about ethical leadership in government. His books include The Trusted Leader: Building the Relationships That Make Government Work; Statesmanship, Character and Leadership in America; and – most recently – To Serve with Honor: Doing the Right Thing in Government. This book is filled with case studies, checklists, and stories of exemplary public servants, offering a practical, readable road map for acting ethically.

Note that the event is from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. (not 2:20 p.m. as previously announced) on March 10. Please click here to RSVP. Alternatively, you may RSVP to events@afsa.org.

 

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Photo of the Day: Wait, what did he say?

Posted: 3:59 am EDT
Updated: 2:55 pm EDT
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Via state.gov/Flickr:

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Secretary Kerry Delivers Opening Statement During Budget Testimony in Washington to Senate Foreign Relations Committee | State Department Spokesperson John Kirby (far right) and Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan listen as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers his opening statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 23, 2016, during an appearance on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Obama Administration’s 2017 federal budget request. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Below is a brief summary of the State Department’s FY2017 budget request from the Congressional Research Service:

 

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Court Grants Request to Interview Clinton Aides and @StateDept Officials Under Oath Over Email Saga

Posted: 3:57 am EDT
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On February 23, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court of the District of Columbia granted Judicial Watch’s (JW) motion for discovery. The case is Judicial Watch vs. U.S. Department of State (Civil Action No. 13-cv-1363 (EGS)). Court records say that JW will need to submit a Discovery Plan To Court and Counsel by 3/15/2016. The State Department’s response is due by 4/5/2016 and JW’s reply is due by 4/15/2016.

Below is an excerpt from JW’s Motion for Discovery:

While Mrs. Clinton ultimately returned approximately 55,000 pages of federal records from this “off-grid” system to the State Department, the process for identifying the federal records on the system was undertaken by Mrs. Clinton’s private attorneys, individuals only accountable to the former secretary, not employees accountable to the Department. In addition, there is no evidence that the process complied with appropriate federal records laws, rules, and regulations. The net result is that the integrity of the State Department’s FOIA process has been completely and thoroughly undermined to the substantial detriment of FOIA requesters like Plaintiff who submitted requests to the Department implicating Mrs. Clinton’s official email. In addition to ensuring that the State Department has satisfied its FOIA obligations with respect to the request at issue in this case, a compelling need exists to restore the integrity of the FOIA process at the State Department and ensure accountability for the FOIA violations that occurred. Before this can be accomplished, however, Plaintiff requires discovery to uncover and present admissible evidence to the Court about whether the State Department and Mrs. Clinton deliberately thwarted FOIA. Plaintiff also requires discovery of the system itself to determine possible methods for recovering whatever responsive records may still exist. The Court therefore should grant Plaintiff time to conduct discovery and obtain admissible evidence.
[…]

Plaintiff submits that discovery of the following facts about the use of the “clintonemail.com” system are necessary for the Court to determine whether the State Department and Mrs. Clinton deliberately thwarted FOIA:

• Who at the State Department besides Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin used an email address on the “clintonemail.com” system to conduct official government business;

• Who at the State Department knew that Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin were using “clintonemail.com” email addresses to conduct official government business;

• Were any State Department monies, resources, or personnel used to create the “clintonemail.com” system;

• Was Mrs. Clinton assigned a “state.gov” email address and, if not, why was she not assigned one;

• Why did the State Department not provide Mrs. Clinton with any personal computing devices to conduct official government business;

• Was Mrs. Clinton advised at any point to use a “state.gov” email address to conduct official government business instead of a “clintonemail.com” email address;

• Was Ms. Abedin advised to use her “state.gov” email address exclusively to conduct official government business;

• Under what circumstances did Ms. Abedin use the “clintonemail.com” system to conduct official government business;

• From January 21, 2009 to the day that the New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton used the “off-grid” system, how did the State Department handle FOIA and other legal requests that implicated Mrs. Clinton’s email;

• From January 21, 2009 to the day that the New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton used the “off-grid” system, did anyone at the State Department consider publicly disclosing the use of the “clintonemail.com” system to conduct official government business;

• Who at the State Department assisted Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin in using the “clintonemail.com” system or enabled them to use it to conduct official government business;

• Did the State Department deliberately conceal the existence of the “clintonemail.com” system from the public, and, if so, who at the State Department assisted with ensuring that the public would not find out about the use of the system to conduct official government business;

• Were State Department employees instructed not to inform the public or the National Archives and Records Administration about the use of the “clintonemail.com” system; and

• At any time between January 21, 2009 and the day that the New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton used the “off-grid” system was any State Department employee disciplined or reprimanded for questioning the use of the “clintonemail.com” system to conduct official government business.

The discovery motion says JW will need “to depose State Department officials or employees who had oversight and management responsibilities relating to information systems at the department, as well as officials or employee who were involved in planning and assisting with Mrs. Clinton’s transition and arrival at the State Department.”

The names cited in the court filing includes the Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, the Director of IPS John F. Hackett and the Executive Secretary Joseph E. Macmanus.

Just so you know it doesn’t stop there, the filing also includes this:

To the extent relevant personnel have left the State Department’s employment, Plaintiff may have to serve third party deposition and/or document subpoenas on such persons after they have been identified. It also may include third party depositions and/or document requests to private persons or entities who may have advised or assisted Mrs. Clinton on the establishment of the system, including persons registered the domain name and obtained, set up, and coordinated the equipment, software, data files, etc. needed for the system. It may also include the submission of interrogatories and document requests to the State Department.

On October 3, 1984, Judge Sullivan was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. On November 25, 1991, Judge Sullivan was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve as an Associate Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. On June 16, 1994, Judge Sullivan was appointed by President William J. Clinton to serve as United States District Judge for the District of Columbia. Here’s the troubled judge:

Professor Jonathan Turley writes that “any depositions might result in refusals to testify by key officials. The invocation of Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination would have significant political impacts. After all, no one would suggest that Sullivan is part of a right-wing conspiracy or runaway investigation. The refusal to testify would reflect the real danger of tripping the wire on federal classification laws as well as more general concerns that statements conflicting statements with those government investigators could trigger charges under 18 U.S.C. 1001.” Read more below:

Read the entire motion here:

 

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