State/OIG: Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archives

Posted: 2:09 pm EDT
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The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Office of Evaluation and Special Projects is examining the State Department’s records preservation and the use of personal hardware and software by five Secretaries of State (Albright, Powell, Rice, Clinton, and Kerry) and their immediate staff. On March 4, State/OIG posted the OIG (Linick) – M (Kennedy) memorandum on classified material discovered in the archives and its removal for secured storage:

During the course of this evaluation, OIG searched unclassified archives and discovered records suggesting instances in which potentially sensitive material may have been transmitted via personal email accounts or other unclassified means to Secretary Powell or to Secretary Rice’s immediate staff. None of the material was marked as classified, but the substance of the material and “NODIS” (No Distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested that the documents could be potentially sensitive. On October 19, 2015, OIG transmitted to the Department and separately to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community (ICIG) for classification review 19 separate Office of the Secretary archival documents. The date range of the documents is from February 2003 through June 2008.
[…]
On December 29, 2015, the Department advised OIG that 12 of the 19 documents contain national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels based on a review by 9 Department bureaus and offices. Two of these documents were emails sent to Secretary Powell’s personal email account; the remaining were documents transmitted to personal or unclassified accounts belonging to a member of Secretary Rice’s immediate staff and another senior Department official.
[…]
State’s official response:  Office of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES) staff have removed from the Department’s unclassified network all of the email material identified as classified and placed it in secure storage. Additionally, retired electronic records provided to the Bureau of Administration that were initially stored in an unclassified system have b~enmoved to the appropriate classified system. With regard to paper records relating to former Secretaries Powell and Rice, the Department does not believe any action is warranted because these materials are currently stored in a facility certified to house classified Department record~up to the SECRET level.

Read the memo exchange here:

 

Related post:

Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archival Material | Posted On: March 04, 2016 Report Date: March 2016 | Report Number: ESP-16-02

 

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Syria Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Hotline Fail: Ceasefire Violations in the Land of Pepsi (Updated)

Posted: 1:49 pm EDT
Updated 6:54 pm EDT
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Via syriadirect.org: Ceasefire Violations in the Land of Pepsi

On Monday, Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid called the hotline number advertised by the State Department’s Twitter account (1-202-736-7829) to report a series of Russian airstrikes on villages in southern Hama province earlier in the day.

The first State Department employee to answer the phone told Osama, in stilted Arabic, that he had the “wrong number” before disconnecting the line.

Osama redialed the same number, and another employee answered the call.

“Ok sir, I’m a Syrian journalist and I’d like to report a breach of the hudna [ceasefire] involving multiple airstrikes in the countryside south of Hama city—at the area where Hama governorate meets northern Homs province,” Osama said. [For additional reporting on this reported ceasefire violation, the Hama News Agency’s coverage is here.]

During the four-minute phone call, the operator struggled to ask basic questions regarding the incident.

At one point, when attempting to ask Osama if the strikes had resulted in any casualties, the operator instead said what appeared to be an accidental string of expletives.

Osama explained that local residents believed that Russian planes were responsible for the airstrikes based on the “intensity of the strikes” and the “number of planes” participating. Following this detailed explanation, the operator replied: “Russian.”

During the call Osama told the operator the name of the village (Hirbinifsah) four times and spelled it out.

However, when Osama asked whether the operator knew where the village was, he responded: “Yes, Harb Bebsi,” the latter being the word for “Pepsi” in Arabic.

The incident above obviously made news and also made it to the Daily Press Briefing. So, it looks like the Syria Cessation of Hostilities  (COH) Team is running as a Task Force at the State Department. This was set up in such a hurry that  no one vetted the volunteers for Arabic proficiency? There’s a question of language but also time difference? And apparently, the phone number is not a free phone number? We feel bad for the volunteers at the Task Force Syria COH team but we feel even worse for the folks who called in, and were amazed, not in the good way, with their reception.

So, contrary to what Mr. Toner says in the DPB, we understand that the Syria COH group is not/not a Task Force.   The Syria Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Team is run by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) as a “Coordination Team.”  We hope this is not run by the office who can’t even keep its own interns. Our Foggy Bottom nightingale calls this whole thing dumb asking “who exactly is going to be emailing or calling to report violations?” You really think people are going to be inclined to give Uncle Sam their phone numbers and email addresses? Seriously?

Via the DPB:

QUESTION: — over the weekend, you guys published this phone number, these contact numbers for people to call in or to write in and report violations of the ceasefire, and apparently, some reporters from one news outlet, who were actually calling not just to – they were actually calling to report what they said were violations, ran into some problems with – apparently with some limited – with the person on the other end not having particularly great Arabic. Is this something that you’re aware of and —

MR TONER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — if it is an issue, what’s being done to address it?

MR TONER: Well, so as you noted, we did – in order to help monitor the cessation of hostilities in Syria, we did set up an information hotline that was staffed 24/7 where violations could be reported I think via a number of different apps, also phone, email, text, WhatsApp, Telegram and Google Voice, and the information hotline was part of our broader Syria team, and it was staffed by State Department personnel, some of whom spoke or speak Arabic. We have received reports of violations and obviously added them to or fed them into the overall – the pipeline or the task force that is monitoring the ceasefire and reviewed every allegation. But as you note, there were some language issues amongst some of the volunteers. And granted, these are – these, again, are State Department employees who are doing this in addition to their usual jobs, but we are aware that there were some language issues, as you note, and we’re working to correct those, obviously, because it’s important that we have Arabic speakers who are able to field incoming calls.

QUESTION: Was that not a requirement?

MR TONER: It was, just – but given the time limits on setting this up, probably some of the language skills weren’t properly vetted. It just was people who couldn’t – they were having a hard time —

QUESTION: All right. And you said the people that are staffing this are volunteering their time to staff it?

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, that’s interesting. But then again, I mean, as wonderful as that is, if they can’t speak the language then —

MR TONER: Agreed. We should have people who – we should have people – agree. So we’re working to address that.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: And why didn’t you set it up in the region in one of the embassies?

MR TONER: I’m sorry, the hotline?

QUESTION: This center, this hotline. With the time difference and the – with the language —

MR TONER: It’s a valid question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that just given the – I have no idea. I mean, usually – I’m guessing that this is run out of the Ops Center which has all the phone banks set up, can easily take incoming calls, but – and has, frankly, the facilities able to put together a task force like this but —

QUESTION: Is it a free phone number? And if not, how many cents a minute does it cost to call from Aleppo, say?

MR TONER: I believe it should be a free phone number.

QUESTION: Yes?

MR TONER: I’ll check on all this. This is good – these are all valid questions. I just don’t have a lot of information in front of me.

QUESTION: And if it isn’t?

MR TONER: I think it’s a free phone number. It has —

QUESTION: No.

MR TONER: It’s not?

QUESTION: No.

MR TONER: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Mark, are all of these staffers volunteers or is it a mix?

MR TONER: Yes. I believe they are volunteers. Is that what you’re questioning, or that they’re not?

QUESTION: I’m not (inaudible).

MR TONER: Okay.

QUESTION: Mark, are you sure that they’re doing this in addition to doing their regular jobs? I mean, if you’re doing —

MR TONER: That’s what I was told, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah?

QUESTION: Could I just follow up on the ceasefire itself?

QUESTION: Sorry, Said. What’s the number? Do you have that?

MR TONER: I don’t have it in front of me, sorry. I completely failed on this issue, I apologize.

 

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Kerry Stands By Linick as Clinton Campaign Goes the Full Monty on @StateDept Inspector General

Posted: 1:38 pm EDT
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Well, thank heavens not the Full Monty like the men of Sheffield but certainly with HRC presidential campaign chairman John Podesta, and with HFAC Dems attacking the watchdog and alleging bias, the Office of Inspector General is getting the works … the whole enchilada… the whole shebang … you get it. And we get to use the full monty in our blog post, teh-heh!!

But this is perplexing, if one wants a “more prestigious appointed position” we know where the kiss-assing is happening. Unless DIG DiSanto is running for national office, this charge doesn’t even make sense.

This started last year, and will only continue to get louder.

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The State Department was asked about this on March 2 and here is the official response:

QUESTION: Does the inspector general’s office have the confidence of the current leadership in the State Department, including the Secretary? And do you think it’s appropriate for the campaign to be complaining?

MR TONER: Well, as you know, the inspector general’s office operates independently from the State Department – rightfully so, given their mandate to look into these kinds of issues. They need to have that kind of freedom. But I believe the Secretary has every confidence in the inspector general’s ability to carry out his mission. I’m just – I haven’t seen those specific allegations, but I doubt we’d really comment on them given that the IG’s role is really to operate independently, look into the – whatever matters they’re looking into.

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is: Does the building share the – given that it is an independent operation and you do not speak for them, does the Secretary, does the building —

MR TONER: But I did say – I said the Secretary has confidence in the inspector.

QUESTION: Yeah. So you do not share the same concerns as Mr. Podesta?

MR TONER: Again, we have confidence in his abilities to conduct independent investigations.

 

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USCG Monterrey: USG Personnel Banned From Driving Between Post-U.S. Border, Also Extortions Up by 24%

Posted: 2:58 am EDT
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In the new Crime and Safety Report for Monterrey, Mexico, Diplomatic Security notes that U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border.

Violent crime (kidnappings, extortions, homicides, sexual assaults, personal robberies, residential break-ins), and non-violent crimes (financial scams, vehicle thefts, petty drug crimes) continue to be a serious concern for those living or working in Monterrey’s Consular District.

USCG Monterrey’s consular district covers the following states: Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Durango, Zacatecas, and the southern two-thirds of Coahuila. The consular district has nearly 13 million inhabitants and almost the size of Texas.  There are an estimated estimated 85,000 American Citizens who are permanent resident in the consular district. Although reported homicides in 2015 declined in all states of Monterrey’s consular district, except Zacatecas, compared to the same time periods in 2013 and 2014. In Zacatecas, 420 homicides occurred in 2015, up from 294 in 2014.

Due to drug-related violence associated with Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO), U.S. government personnel are not permitted to drive between Monterrey and the U.S. border. U.S. government personnel in Monterrey may travel by land to the states of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, and Durango, utilizing toll roads and may overnight in their capitals. Travel is permitted within the state of Nuevo Leon via toll roads. Travel to Coahuila must be done in an armored vehicle, and overnight lodging is restricted. U.S. government personnel must remain in San Pedro Garza Garcia from 0100-0600 (0500 if traveling to the airport).

The January 19 Travel Warning notes that the Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees’ travel in Mexico. At least since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. Personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted during daylight hours on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales, on Highway 45 between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, and on the main roads between Palomas, Chihuahua and Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

USCG Monterrey is a 15% hardship pay post with zero COLA, and zero danger pay.

 

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DOJ Grants Immunity to Bryan Pagliano, Ex @StateDept Staffer and HRC’s Former Server Guy

Posted: 2:16 am EDT
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