Goodbye 2016: Our Most-Read Blog Posts of the Year #YearInReview

Posted: 10:24 pm PT

 

2016

via GIPHY

 

H.R. 6271: New Bill Lengthens Diplomatic Assignments From 2-3 Years to 4-6 Years | Oct 1, 2016

Trump Transition Help Wanted: 4,000 Presidential Appointees (Updated) | Nov 9. 2016

Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm | July 29. 2016

Why Are DS Agents Fleeing Diplomatic Security In Droves For the U.S. Marshals Service? | Oct 4. 2016

@StateDept Awards Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) 2 Contracts | Feb 29. 2016

Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar Names | Nov 20.2016

Next Generation U.S. Passport To Roll Out in 2016, No More Additional Page Insert Starting Jan 1, 2016  Apr 28.2015

A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue | Aug 15, 2016

Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law? | Oct 14.2016

New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program For Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service | Apr 29.2016

New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status | Sep 14.2015

Why Did Diplomatic Security Compile a Short-List of DS Agents Leaving For the U.S. Marshals Service? | Oct 17.2016

Top Hardship Assignments in the Foreign Service | July 14.2009

First Person: I did everything right. I filed a report the next business day … #FSassault | Nov 22.2016

First Person: I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped in ✂️… Continuing on has been ✂️ incredibly difficult… | Nov 21.2016

Chien v. Kerry: DS Agent Files Suit For Race/Sex Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation | Sep 12.2016

Benghazi: Where the hell were the Marines? Yo! Half our embassies have no Marines | Oct 26.2012

AmConGen Dhahran’s 7 Second-Video Freaks Out Folks Who Do Not Get the Foreign in the Foreign Service | Jun 20.2016

Foreign Service Members Offer Candid Views of @StateDept Mental Health Services (via FSJ) | Jan 7.2016

USAID: That time when an employee wrote to Rajiv Shah and said, “Do us a favor and quit…” #ClintonEmails | Jan 29.2016

#

OSCE Minsk Group: James Warlick Steps Down, Richard Hoagland Assumes Co-Chair Position

Posted: 9:53 pm PT

 

The US embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan announced that Ambassador James Warlick, Co-Chair for the Minsk Group is stepping down effective December 31.  Ambassador Richard Hoagland will assume the position on an interim basis starting in January 2017.

Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland will assume the position of U.S. Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on an interim basis starting in January 2017. He replaces Ambassador James B. Warlick, who will step down on December 31.

Ambassador Hoagland brings over 30 years of diplomatic experience to the position. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2003 to 2006, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan from 2008 to 2011, and as Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan from 2011 to 2013. Ambassador Hoagland most recently led U.S.-Russian military coordination for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria and served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department in Washington. Prior to these assignments, Ambassador Hoagland led the Office of Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs in the Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs and was Press Spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Ambassador Hoagland’s extensive diplomatic experience will be critical as the United States works with the sides toward a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The United States continues to call on the parties to maintain their commitment to the ceasefire and to implement agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg summits, and urges a return to negotiations on a settlement, which would benefit all sides.

The permanent replacement for Ambassador Warlick will be announced at a future date.

Meanwhile — things are heating up again over there:

Greek Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis Murdered, Wife and Brazilian Policeman in Custody

Posted: 8:30 pm PT

 

The Greek Foreign Ministry released a statement on the death of its ambassador in Brazil:

The Brazilian authorities just officially announced the identification of the remains of the deceased Greek Ambassador to Brazil, Kyriakos Amiridis, which were found charred in the region of Nova Iguaçu in Rio de Janeiro.

We express our deepest sorrow at the tragic death of Ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis, a friend of Brazil, who throughout his diplomatic career served Greece conscientiously and responsibly. The late diplomat served at the Permanent Mission of Greece to the EU, at the General Consulates in Rio de Janeiro and Rotterdam, and at the Greek Embassy in Belgrade during the first phase of the war in Yugoslavia.

A milestone in his career was his term as Ambassador of Greece in Tripoli, Libya, and his decisive role in the evacuation, under conditions of extreme violence, of the Embassy staff, of Greeks in Libya as well as of thousands of third-country nationals from Libya in the summer of 2014.

Finally, his contribution to the organization of the International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East” in Athens in October 2015 was of key importance.

#

Russia Responds: -35 Not Cold Enough, Will Not Expel Anyone; Trump Praises Putin’s “Great Move”

Posted: 5:53 pm PT

 

Yesterday, the United States PNG’d 35 Russian officials and imposed new sanctions (see USG Declares 35 Russian Officials Persona Non Grata, Imposes New Sanctions). There was also a CNN report that the Anglo American School of Moscow was ordered shut down yesterday. The director of the school released a statement on FB today saying senior Russian officials have refuted the story and that the school is planning to open as scheduled following the holiday break.

Yesterday, MFA Russia said “We will certainly response adequately.”

Today, MFA Russia says “-35 is not cold enough.”  Russia has responded to USG actions by saying that although it has “a right to retaliate” it will not “resort to irresponsible kitchen diplomacy” but will plan “further steps to restore Russian-US relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”

It also says it will not expel anyone and invites “all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas children’s parties in the Kremlin.”

The Russian Consulate in San Francisco where some of the PNG’d officials are located tweets that “It’s so difficult to remain diplomatic… but we will.” It also released a statement on FB on its “very different, very undiplomatic feelings” saying “We hate to have to say goodbye to close to a dozen of our colleagues, our friends.”

Meanwhile, President-elect Trump has responded to Mr. Putin’s decision not to go with a ‘tit for tat’ response with a tweet praising the Russian leader’s “great move” and melted down Twitter:

The parody accounts, of course, are having a field day today and presumably, the next four years.

Da end.

#

DHS/FBI Issues Joint Analysis Report: GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity (Read Report)

Posted: 1:32 pm PT

 

Related to the declaration of 35 Russian officials persona non grata for malicious cyber activity and harassment (see USG Declares 35 Russian Officials Persona Non Grata, Imposes New Sanctions), DHS and FBI also released a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) which provide details of the tools and infrastructure used by Russian intelligence services to compromise and exploit networks and infrastructure associated with the recent U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. government, political and private sector entities. Below via us-cert.gov: from the JAR: GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity. Click on image below to read the full Joint Analysis Report from DHS/FBI: JAR_16-20296. Original document is posted here.

In spring 2016, APT28 compromised the same political party, again via targeted spearphishing. This time, the spearphishing email tricked recipients into changing their passwords through a fake webmail domain hosted on APT28 operational infrastructure. Using the harvested credentials, APT28 was able to gain access and steal content, likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members. The U.S. Government assesses that information was leaked to the press and publicly disclosed.  

jar

#

USG Declares 35 Russian Officials Persona Non Grata, Imposes New Sanctions

Posted: 1:09 pm PT

 

On December 29, the State Department declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States “who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status.”  The Treasury Department also announced that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on two Russian individuals for engaging in malicious cyber-enabled activities pursuant to E.O. 13694.  Specifically, Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev and Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan are being designated for their activities related to the significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for private financial gain.  Meanwhile, DHS and FBI released a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) which provide details of the tools and infrastructure used by Russian intelligence services to compromise and exploit networks and infrastructure associated with the recent U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. government, political and private sector entities. Below is the State Department statement:

The State Department today declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status. The Department also informed the Russian Government that it would deny Russian personnel access to two recreational compounds in the United States owned by the Russian Government.

The Department took these actions as part of a comprehensive response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to a pattern of harassment of our diplomats overseas that has increased over the last four years, including a significant increase in the last 12 months. This harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk. In addition, the Russian Government has impeded our diplomatic operations by, among other actions: forcing the closure of 28 American corners which hosted cultural programs and English-language teaching; blocking our efforts to begin the construction of a new, safer facility for our Consulate General in St. Petersburg; and rejecting requests to improve perimeter security at the current, outdated facility in St. Petersburg.

Today’s actions send a clear message that such behavior is unacceptable and will have consequences.

 #

memers

 

#

@StateDept Nominations Forgotten By the Senate Time Lords of the 114th Congress

Posted: 5:34 pm PT

 

The following are civilian nominations submitted by the President to the Senate for confirmation during the current 114th Congress and have not made it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) when the Senate adjourned on December 10, 2016.  Senate rules provide that “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President…” These nominations have sometimes been returned to the President at the end of the first session and are always returned to the President at the end of the Congress.

The Senate will convene at noon on January 3, 2017, for the 115th Congress.  We expect that the career nominations in the Foreign Service lists will be resubmitted in January. All other nominations are dead at this point; the incoming Trump Administration will make its own nominations for ambassadorships, as well as the top ranks at State, USAID, BBG and related posts.

Ambassadors

2016-09-28 PN1802 Department of State | Jeffrey DeLaurentis, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cuba.

2016-09-22 PN1763 Department of State | Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

State Department

2016-09-19 PN1758 Department of State | Justin H. Siberell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, with the rank and status of Ambassador at Large.

2016-09-19 PN1757 Department of State | Tina S. Kaidanow, of Maryland, a career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs).

2015-07-08 PN628 Department of State | Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-01-08 PN48 Department of State | Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Foreign Service

2016-11-15 PN1810 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Anne N. Williams, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1809 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeanne F. Bailey, and ending Robert Henry Hanson, which 9 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1807 Foreign Service | Nomination for Alexander Dickie IV, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-11-15 PN1806 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning David Charles Miller, and ending Scott S. Sindelar, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-09-06 PN1704-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Leslie L. Johnson, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 6, 2016.

2016-07-13 PN1643-1 Foreign Service | Nomination for Edward Peay, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 13, 2016.

2016-07-13 PN1642-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Michael Ashkouri, and ending Ethan N. Takahashi, which 4 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 13, 2016.

2015-06-10 PN573-6 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jeffries Blunt de Graffenried, Jr., and ending Debbie Patrice Jackson, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

2015-02-26 PN230-3 Foreign Service | Nomination for David Elliott Horton III, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN72-8 Foreign Service | Nomination for Daniel Menco Hirsch, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN71-2 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning David J. Barth, and ending R. Douglass Arbuckle, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

Broadcasting Board of Governors

2016-11-29 PN1918 Broadcasting Board of Governors | Richard Stengel, of the District of Columbia, to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

2016-11-29 PN1917 Broadcasting Board of Governors | Richard Stengel, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term expiring August 13, 2017.

United Nations

2016-09-13 PN1751 United Nations | Cynthia Ryan, of the District of Columbia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

2016-09-13 PN1750 United Nations | Valerie Biden Owens, of Delaware, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Asian Development Bank

2015-02-26 PN229 African Development Bank | Marcia Denise Occomy, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years.

2015-02-26 PN228 Inter-American Development Bank | Mileydi Guilarte, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.

 

#

23 Days to Inauguration: Kerry Delivers Middle East Peace Speech, Netanyahu Looks to Trump

Posted: 5:13 pm PT

 

#

POTUS and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Visit Pearl Harbor

Posted: 2:54 pm PT

 

“As the prime minister of Japan, I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place, and also to the souls of the countless innocent people who became victims of the war.  We must never repeat the horrors of war again.  This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken. And since the war, we have created a free and democratic country that values the rule of law and has resolutely upheld our vow never again to wage war.”

#

Failure of Iraq’s #Mosul Dam Would Likely Cause “A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions”

Posted: 2:29 pm PT

 

In February 2016, the US Embassy in Baghdad released a fact sheet on Mosul Dam.  It warned that in the event of a dam failure, the floodwave would resemble an in-land tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra’, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste. It notes that less than 6 inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet, and 16 inches of moving water can carry away most automobiles. Flooding south of Samarra would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina, with standing water that pervades much of Baghdad for weeks to months. As floodwaters recede, mud and waste-covered remnants of previous infrastructure will be left behind.  Flood water could reach depths greater than 45 feet in some parts of Mosul City in as little as one to four hours, giving residents little time to flee. Flood water could reach Tikrit in one to two days.  Flood water could reach Baghdad in three to four days and have depths of up to 33 feet in the river channel.  Some parts of Baghdad would be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport (see US Embassy Baghdad Issues Warning on Possible Collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam).

The State Department’s July 2016 Travel Warning notes that the Government of Iraq has taken measures in improving the structural integrity of the dam but urged contingency planning for those who reside in the floodplain. The same Travel Warning also notes that the ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty is extremely limited.

The Government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam.  A dam failure could cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services from Mosul to Baghdad.  While it is impossible to accurately predict the likelihood of the dam failing, the Embassy has made contingency plans to relocate its personnel in such an event.  The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River, prepare their own contingency plans, have valid U.S. passports, and stay informed of local media reports and Embassy security messages for updates.  

Dexter Filkins has a new story in  (subscription) about the potential coming flood if the Mosul Dam collapses and cause a “catastrophe of Biblical proportions.” Earlier this month, Al Jazeera also reported that the Mosul Dam collapse ‘will be worse than a nuclear bomb’. Apparently warnings by scientists and environmentalists about an imminent collapse are dismissed by Iraqi officials as far-fetched.

 

#