Goodbye 2019: Our Top 10 Blog Posts of the Year

 

#USCIS Badly Written ‘Policy Alert’ on Citizenship Blows Up, Causes Wildfire

FCS Foreign Service Officer Lola Gulomova Killed By FSO Spouse in Apparent Murder-Suicide

Trump Threatens Retaliation Against Countries That Issue Travel Warnings For USA #GetReady

Sources: Major Personnel Cuts Coming For U.S. Mission Iraq

@StateDept Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy Seoul

State Department Official Patricia DeLaughter Pleads Guilty to Procurement Fraud

U.S. Embassy Gabon: State/OIG’s Ode to All Things Dreadful in a Small Post

Former DocuSign CEO Keith Krach to be Under Secretary of State  for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment (E)

Confirmations: Ambassadors, FS Lists, and @USAID Nominees

Foggy Bottom’s Top ‘Champion of Diplomacy’ to Step Up, or Maybe Not

 

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Iraqi Protesters Breach U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Compound

Media reports indicate that Iraqi protesters, identified as Iraqi Shiite militia members and their supporters, stormed the U.S. Embassy Baghdad on December 31, in protest of the deadly air strikes conducted by U.S. forces over the weekend. Reports note that the Sunday strikes killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
On December 30, SecDef Mark Esper announced that “the Department of Defense took offensive actions in defense of our personnel and interests in Iraq by launching F-15 Strike Eagles against five targets associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group.  The targets we attacked included three targets in Western Iraq and two targets in Eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches for Kata’ib Hezbollah.”
On December 27, a rocket attack at an Iraqi base killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. troops. See 
According to the AP, the State Department has stated that all U.S. personnel at Embassy Baghdad are safe and that there are no plants to evacuate.
This morning, U.S. Embassy Baghdad issued a security alert advising “U.S. citizens not to approach the Embassy.  U.S. citizens should keep in touch with family members.  In an emergency, U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.”

 

Foggy Bottom’s Fourteen Principles of Ethical Conduct For a Happy Christmas and All Merry Days

Via Santa’s Be Good Not/Not Naughty List: 11 FAM 611.4-4
a. Public service is a public trust; employees must place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.
b. Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.
c.  Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.
d. Employees shall not, except as permitted by the Standards of Ethical Conduct, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the Department, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.
e. Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
f.  Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the government.
g. Employees shall not use public office for private gain.
h. Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.
i.  Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
j.  Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official government duties and responsibilities.
k. Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.
l.  Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all financial obligations, especially those imposed by law, such as Federal, State, or local taxes.
m. Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, or handicap.
n. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in the Standards of Ethical Conduct.  Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the law or these standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts.

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To our readers and blog friends, we know this has been a difficult year for many.  We feel it every day from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed in an uneasy sleep or nasty nightmares.  There are days when all we want is to grow vegetables on Mars or sleep in a cave. But hey, we’re still here and we appreciate that you’re still here.  We wish you all a happy holidays and send good wishes for the new year. May our homes be always warm in the company of loved ones and good friends.  May we keep faith that there will be better days even in these indecorous and disquieting times. (Excuse me, what? Oh, and may this crazy world not self-destruct in the middle of this darn live show).  Be well, safe travels, and be kind to one another wherever you are.  –DS

 

2019 Holiday Greetings From Foreign Service Posts Around the World

 

 

DACOR Bacon House Foundation Announces 2019-2020 Graduate and Undergraduate Scholarship Awards

 

On December 20, 2019, the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, a 1700-member association of foreign affairs professionals based in Washington D.C. announced the 2019 graduate and undergraduate scholarship awards. Foundation President Paul Denig’s announcement includes over$110,000 in graduate fellowships and over $95,000 in undergraduate scholarships as part of its annual education awards program. “The awards will benefit students currently enrolled or soon to enroll in graduate and undergraduate degree programs at 28 colleges and universities throughout the nation.”
The eleven 2019 recipients of the $10,000 DBHF Graduate Fellowships for the Study of International Affairs are currently enrolled in the second year of their master’s degree programs:
  • Samuel Ginty at The Fletcher School at Tufts University
  • Tamara Glazer at The Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago
  • McKenzie Horwitz at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
  • Hunter Hilinski at Colorado State University
  • Caitlin Keliher at the Kennedy School at Harvard University
  • Emma Myers at NewYork University
  • Emmett Orts at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies
  • MatthewR. Quan at the University of Southern California
  • JoAnna Saunders at American University’s School of International Service
  • Elizabeth Wright at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs
  • Anelise Zimmer at YaleUniversity
The Gantenbein Medical Fund Fellowship, a combined award of $30,000 ($25,000 tuition and $5,000 stipend) was awarded to Samuel Ficenec for the 2019-2020 academic year at Tulane University School of Medicine.
Recipients of the $6,000 DBHF Metro Scholarships to encourage the study of foreign affairs are currently enrolled at five universities. They are:
  • Sagar Sharma at George Mason University;
  • Virgil Parker at Howard University;
  • Christine Harris at ShawUniversity;
  • Efrata Wodaje at Trinity Washington University
  • Maya Montgomery at the University of Maryland
The Louis G. Dreyfus Scholarships for dependents of U.S. Foreign Service Officers at Yale University, the Foundation awarded a total of $35,000 to the following Yale students:
  • Adoma Addo
  • Alex Hoganson
  • Sophie Kane
  • Christian Lewis
The Foundation also awarded a $5,000 dependents scholarship to Emily Heimer, a student at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT.
In addition, the Foundation provides $40,000 each year through the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Scholarship Program to children of AFSA members whose parents are or were Foreign Service employees.
DACOR is “a private non-profit membership-based organization for foreign affairs professionals, fostering open, informed, and non-partisan dialogue about current foreign policy issues, and supporting the Foreign Service community through fellowship and outreach.” Through its philanthropic arm, the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, DACOR serves as the steward of the historic mansion (also known as the Ringgold–Carroll House and John Marshall House) located at 1801 F Street, NW, Washington D.C. The Foundation annually awards $250,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students pursuing careers in diplomacy, development and international relations.
Click here to read more about DACOR. To read more about their scholarship awards, click here.

We’ve Only Just Biegun: Pompeo Swears-In New Deputy

Secretary Pompeo swore-in Stephen E. Biegun as Deputy Secretary of State on December 21, 2019. The State Department has posted his official bio on state.gov (see below). No word yet on when he will start on his new role as Acting Secretary of State (word on Twitterverse seems to be “when” not “if”). Without a nominee for Deputy Secretary for Management, it is likely that the new deputy secretary will be dual-hatted, unless, management has been delegated to Pompeo-pal and  Under Secretary for Management, Brian Bulatao.

On August 23, 2018, Secretary Pompeo appointed Stephen E. Biegun as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, responsible for leading U.S. efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Singapore summit. As Special Representative, on behalf of the Secretary of State he directed all U.S. policy on North Korea, led negotiations, and spearheaded U.S. diplomatic efforts with allies and partners.

Biegun has three decades of experience in government in the Executive and Legislative Branches, as well as in the private sector. Through his extensive career in foreign policy and business, he has excelled in tough negotiating settings. Most recently, Biegun was vice president of International Governmental Relations for Ford Motor Company, where—as a third generation Ford employee—he oversaw all aspects of Ford’s international governmental interactions including throughout the Indo-Pacific Region.

Previously, as national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, he provided analysis and strategic planning for the U.S. Senate’s consideration of foreign policy, defense and intelligence matters, and international trade agreements. Prior to that, Biegun worked in the White House from 2001-2003 as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. He served as a senior staff member to the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and performed the function of chief operating officer for the National Security Council.

Before joining the White House staff, Biegun served for 14 years as a foreign policy advisor to members of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. During this time, he held the position of Chief of Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1999-2000. In addition, he served as a senior staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs for 6 years.

From 1992 to 1994, Biegun served in Moscow, Russia, as the Resident Director in the Russian Federation for the International Republican Institute, a democracy-building organization established under the National Endowment for Democracy.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1963, Biegun graduated from the University of Michigan where he studied Political Science and Russian Language. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on the boards of the National Bureau of Asian Research, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S.-Russia Foundation for Economic Development and the Rule of Law, and Freedom House.

Santa Mike Is Coming Late to Town, But Wait … Who’s Avoiding Embassy Kyiv?

 

News media reported earlier that US Embassy Kyiv’s CDA Bill Taylor is stepping down at the end of the year (see US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year).  WSJ has the follow-up report:

“Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Mr. Pompeo who serves as State Department counselor, informed Mr. Taylor on Dec. 11 that Mr. Pompeo had instructed him to hand over his responsibilities in Kyiv on Jan. 1, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Mr. Taylor is planning to leave the country on Jan. 2, and had understood that Mr. Pompeo wanted to avoid being photographed with him while visiting Ukraine, the person familiar with the situation said.”

The Daily Beast reported the following:

“Pompeo is now scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on Jan. 3, according to two U.S. officials and one Ukrainian official. Two other individuals familiar with his visit to Ukraine said the secretary wanted to visit the country after Taylor’s departure.[…] In conversation with department aides about planning a trip to Ukraine, Pompeo said he wanted to avoid the embassy altogether and would hold meetings in his hotel, according to two individuals with knowledge of those conversations.”

Holyswagger macaroni! That’s one leaky ship!
So no photo-op with the diplomats’ children at Embassy Kyiv for Miles With Mike? Or is Mike going to show up on Sikorsky Street and say BOO! to all creatures large and small for the new year? Stay tuned!
All righty. All righty. But hey, serious question. If true that the secretary did not want to be photographed with Ambassador Taylor, what are they going to do with the Embassy’s Counselor for Political Affairs David Holmes? Hide him in the vault? PM, please, or we would not get any sleep at all!

UK Charges USG Spouse Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn’s Car Crash Death

 

We previously posted in early October that an American diplomat’s wife suspected of involvement in a fatal crash that killed 19-year old Harry Dunn in Croughton, in central England has left the UK under diplomatic immunity (see U.S. Diplomatic Spouse Suspect in Fatal Traffic Collision Departs UK Under Diplomatic Immunity).
The spouse previously identified in media reports as Anne Sacoolas was charged on December 20 with “causing death by dangerous driving.”
UK Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith, said: “Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.”  She also announced that “Now that the CPS has authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas we have started extradition proceedings.”
    • Anne Sacoolas (28/08/1977) has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving in relation to the death of Harry Dunn outside RAF Croughton on 27 August 2019. Extradition proceedings are now underway
    • Our guidance on extradition proceedings can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/extradition
The Daily Mail reports that Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence officer (assigned to RAF Croughton) was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police – once on the day after the crash, and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the US.
The Dunn family’s lawyer says that their “case in the judicial review is that Anne Sacoolas never has immunity as the secret UK-US agreement for RAF Croughton did not grant it and in any case under international law/prerogative powers it is not possible to grant family members more immunities than the actual diplomat.”
The State Department and Sacoolas’ lawyer have both issued statements to the press (see below).

 

 

@StateDept Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy Seoul

 

Via USDOJ:

State Department Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy

A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were arrested today for their role in an international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón of the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement.

Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 53, and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 39, were indicted by a grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, and charged with conspiracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods.  According to the indictment and other court documents, from September 2017 through December 2019, Thompson Jr. and Zhang allegedly sold counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags from e-commerce accounts to persons throughout the United States.

Thompson Jr. is employed by the U.S. Department of State as an Information Programs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.  Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms, all from within a secure space within the Embassy designed to protect classified information.  Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon.  Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.  Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon are prosecuting the case.

At the State Department, the Information Programs Officer (IPO) manages the Information Programs Center (IPC)  and is responsible for all IPC systems, programs, and telecommunications operations. According to the FAM, the IPC is primarily responsible for all classified Information Resource Management communications and systems.
Count 1 of the Grand Jury Charges is Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods) (18 U.S.C. § 2320(a))

“From at least in or about September 2017 and continuing until at least the date of this Indictment, in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, Defendants, GENE LEROY THOMPSON, JR., a.k.a. Eugene Leroy Thompson, Jr., and GUOJIAO ZHANG, a.k.a. Becky Zhang, a.k.a. Becky Thompson, knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with each other and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to intentionally traffic in goods, namely Vera Bradley handbags, while knowingly using on and in connection with such goods counterfeit marks, the use of which counterfeit marks was likely to cause confusion, mistake, and deception; Indictment . Page 1 Revised April 2018 Case 6:19-cr-00561-MC Document 1 Filed 12/11/19 Page 1 of 7 In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320(a).”

Item #9 of the Indictment notes:

“On or about April 23, 2018, Vera Bradley sent cease-and-desist letters to the coconspirator’s home in Nyssa, Oregon. On or about April 26, 2018, that co-conspirator conveyed the information in the cease-and-desist letter to THOMPSON, JR. via e-mail, saying that Vera Bradley is “requesting that you immediately cease and desist from offering for sale any Vera Bradley counterfeit products and destroy any violating products.” THOMPSON, JR. replied, “OK, I thought this would happen. Stop all shipment.” THOMPSON, JR. then sent an e-mail to ZHANG stating, “Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you.”

Also item #10 further notes:

“Subsequently, Defendants began creating e-commerce accounts in the name of aliases and used those accounts to continue selling counterfeit Vera Bradley merchandise.”

Download Thompson Indictment

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Confirmations: Biegun as Deputy Secretary, 11 Ambassadors, 3 Foreign Service Lists

 

On Thursday, December 19, the U.S. Senate adjourned for the 116th Congress, First Session. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate will reconvene for the 116th Congress, 2nd Session, at 12:00 pm on Friday, January 3rd, 2020.
Prior to leaving town, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Stephen Biegun as the State Department’s Deputy Secretary. It also confirmed the nomination of 11 ambassadors, one USAID Assistant Administrator, and three Foreign Service lists.
STATE DEPARTMENT
PN1266 Confirmed, 90-3: Executive Calendar #550 Stephen E. Biegun to be Deputy Secretary of State

PN834 Executive Calendar #521 Kelley Eckels Currie to be Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues
PN617 Executive Calendar #519 Morse H. Tan to be Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice

 

AMBASSADORS
PN1047 Executive Calendar #529 Peter M. Haymond, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
PN1046 Executive Calendar #528 Kelly C. Degnan, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to Georgia
PN1038 Executive Calendar #527 Alina L. Romanowski, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the State of Kuwait
PN1036 Executive Calendar #526 Robert S. Gilchrist, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of Lithuania
PN965 Executive Calendar #524 Carmen G. Cantor, of Puerto Rico, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Federated States of Micronesia
PN902 Executive Calendar #523 Yuri Kim, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of Albania
PN891 Executive Calendar #522 Leslie Meredith Tsou, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Sultanate of Oman
PN703 Executive Calendar #520 Roxanne Cabral a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of the Marshall Islands
PN121 Executive Calendar #518 David T. Fischer to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Kingdom of Morocco
USAID
PN614 Executive Calendar #411 Michelle A. Bekkering to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS
2019-12-02 PN1318 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Shon Stephen Belcher, and ending David Mango, which 41 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.
2019-12-02 PN1319 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Kara Miriam Abramson, and ending Megan Elizabeth Zurowski, which 154 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.
2019-12-02 PN1321 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jenny U. Abamu, and ending Hamda A. Yusuf, which 119 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.

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