Retired Army General John P. Abizaid to be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

 

On November 13, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate retired U.S. Army four-star General John P. Abizaid to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The WH released the following brief bio:

John P. Abizaid of Nevada, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
General Abizaid currently serves as the first Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and works as a private consultant at JPA Associates. Previously, he held the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He has worked with the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  General Abizaid began his career in the U.S. Army as an infantry platoon leader and rose to become a four-star general and the longest serving commander of United States Central Command.  He served as the Director of Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff and then Director of the Joint Staff among other leadership positions.  General Abizaid was a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and earned his M.A. in Middle Eastern Area Studies from Harvard University.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  General Abizaid is a recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star.

If confirmed, General Abizaid would succeed Joseph William Westphal (1948–) who was Ambassador to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh from March 28, 2014–January 9, 2017.  Ambassador appointments to Saudi Arabia going back to the mid-1990’s have all been noncareer political appointees. The last career diplomat appointed as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia was Charles W. Freeman Jr. who served from 1990-1992 under George H. W. Bush.

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U.S. Secretary of State Calls Newsweek “Fake” After It Accurately Quotes Him

 

AND NOW THIS:

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Foreign Relations of the United States, 2018, Volume XXXXIX, Part 🍌: The Pompeo Cheese Incident

 

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Whistleblower Protection Memo – How Useless Are You, Really?

Back in July, we blogged that State/OIG cited a State Department’s revocation of an employee’s security clearance in retaliation for whistleblowing in its Semi-Annual Report to Congress for October 2017-March 2018. State/OIG recommended that the whistleblower’s security clearance be reinstated (see State/OIG Finds @StateDept Revoked Security Clearance in Retaliation For Whistleblowing).  Retaliatory revocation is not an unheard of practice but we believed this is the first time it’s been reported publicly to the Congress.

Also in July, there was a joint OIG-State memo noting that “Whistleblowers perform a critically important service to the Department of State and to the public when they disclose fraud, waste, and abuse. The Department is committed to protecting all personnel against reprisal for whistleblowing.  This summer OIG told us that Congress enacted a new provision in 2017 that requires an agency to suspend for at least 3 days a supervisor found to have engaged in a prohibited personnel practice, such as whistleblower retaliation, and to propose removal of a supervisor for the second prohibited personnel practice. (see @StateDept’s Retaliatory Security Clearance Revocation Now Punishable By [INSERT Three Guesses].

In September, we note the time lapse since the official report was made to the Congress and wondered what action the State Department took in this case.  If the State Department believes, as the memo states that “Whistleblowers perform a critically important service to the Department of State and to the public” we really wanted to know what the State Department has done to the official/officials responsible for this retaliatory security clearance revocation.

We also want to see how solid is that commitment in protecting personnel against reprisal — not in words, but action.  So we’ve asked the State Department the following questions:

1) Has the security clearance been reinstated for the affected employee, and if so, when?

2) Has the senior official who engaged in this prohibited personnel practice been suspended per congressional mandate, and if so, when and for how long? and

3) Has the State Department proposed a removal of any supervisor/s for engaging in this prohibited personnel practice now or in the past?

As you can imagine, our friends over there are busy swaggering and to-date have not found the time to write back.

Folks, it’s been eight months since that annual report went to the U.S. Congress. If you’re not going to penalize the official or officials who revoked an employee’s security clearance out of retaliation, you were just wasting the letters of the alphabet and toner in that darn paper writing out a whistleblower protection memo.

And the Congress should be rightly pissed.

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Career Diplomat Matthew Tueller to be U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

 

On November 7, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. The WH released the following  brief bio:

Matthew H. Tueller of Utah, to be to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq.

Ambassador Tueller, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, rank of Minister-Counselor, is currently United States Ambassador to Yemen. Previously, he served as United States Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at  United States Embassy Cairo, Political Minister Counselor at United States  Embassy Baghdad, Deputy Chief of Mission at  United States Embassy Kuwait, Counselor for Political Affairs at  United States Embassy Riyadh, and Deputy Director for the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs in the Department of State.  Ambassador Tueller received his B.A. from Brigham Young University and his M.P.P. from Harvard University. He is the recipient of the CIA Director’s Seal Award, two Presidential Meritorious Honor Awards, and the Department of State’s Baker-Wilkins Award for Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission.  Ambassador Tueller is fluent in Arabic.

Related posts:

Career Diplomat Kate Marie Byrnes to be U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia

 

On November 7, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat Kate Marie Byrnes to be the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kate Marie Byrnes of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Macedonia.

Ms. Byrnes, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy Athens, Greece. Previously, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission and Deputy United States Permanent Representative at the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Vienna, Austria.   During her career, she has served as Public Affairs Counselor at the United States Embassy Madrid Spain, Department of State Senior Civilian Representative to Task Force Bastogne/Bronco, Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, and the Public Affairs Advisor to the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Brussels, Belgium.  Ms. Byrnes earned B.S. and M.A. degrees from Georgetown University. She is also the recipient of the Secretary’s Expeditionary Service Award and the United States Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award.  Ms. Byrnes speaks Spanish, Hungarian and Turkish.

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Republican Lawyer Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr to be U.S. Ambassador to Australia

 

On November 5, the White House announced the president’s intent to nominate Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Australia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr., of Tennessee, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of Australia.

Mr. Culvahouse is Chair Emeritus and Of Counsel to O’Melveny & Myers LLP, an international law firm.  Previously, he served as Chair of the firm.  He started his career as Chief Legislative Assistant to Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., and served as Counsel to the President of the United States from March 1987 through January 1989.  Mr. Culvahouse served on numerous boards and commissions, including the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Intelligence Oversight Board, the Nuclear Command and Control System Federal Advisory Committee, and the Supreme Court Fellows Commission.  He currently serves as a member of the Board of The Brookings Institution and the Board of the Howard H. Baker, Jr., Center for Public Policy.  Mr. Culvahouse earned a B.S. from the University of Tennessee and J.D. from the New York University School of Law.  In January 1989, President Reagan awarded Mr. Culvahouse the Presidential Citizens Medal, and, in December 1992, Secretary of Defense Cheney awarded him the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

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Former Virginia Gov James Gilmore to be U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE

The White House announced the president’s intent to nominate James Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia to be the next Ambassador to the OSCE. The WH released a brief bio:

James S. Gilmore of Virginia, to be the Representative of the United States to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe with the Rank of Ambassador.

Mr. Gilmore currently serves as President and CEO of American Opportunity Foundation. Previously, he served as Governor of Virginia, Attorney General of Virginia, and as Chairman of the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, a national panel established by Congress to assess Federal, State, and local government capabilities to respond to the consequences of a terrorist attack. Mr. Gilmore served in the United States Army for three years, where he was assigned to United States Army Intelligence in West Germany. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia School of Law. Mr. Gilmore is the recipient of the Air Force Exceptional Service Award and the Joint Service Commendation Medal for Service to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

 

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DHS PDAS John Barsa to be Asst Administrator for USAID/Latin America and the Caribbean

The WH announced the president’s intent to nominate John Barsa, currently with DHS to be the next USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin American and the Caribbean. The WH released the following brief bio:

John Barsa of Florida, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean).

Mr. Barsa currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Partnership and Engagement (DHS OPE).  Previously, he served as the Acting Assistant Secretary for OPE. Mr. Barsa served with the United States Army Reserves for nearly a decade and was a member of the 11th Special Forces Group and the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion. In the U.S. Congress, he worked for Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, focusing on foreign policy and national security issues.  During the Bush Administration, Mr. Barsa served in external engagement roles within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. He is a graduate of Florida International University and is a native Spanish speaker.

Reax:

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U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico

 

This past July we blogged about the guilty plea of U.S. national and former medical student Zia Zafar over his attempted murder of Christopher Ashcraft, a U.S. diplomat assigned at the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico (see U.S. National Zia Zafar Pleads Guilty to the Attempted Murder of U.S. Consulate Official in Mexico).

We posted previously about this case:

On November 7, USDOJ announced that Zia Zafar was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the attempted murder of Mr. Ashcraft. In addition to the prison sentence, Zafar was sentenced to serve eight years of supervised release. The DOJ release also notes that Mr. Ashcraft survived the attack, but that “the bullet remains lodged in his spinal column, as it was deemed too dangerous to remove.”

The original statement is available here.

U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for the Attempted Murder of U.S. Consulate Official in Mexico

A U.S. national and former medical student was sentenced to 264 months in prison for the 2017 shooting of a U.S. diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Acting Special Agent in Charge Tom Jones of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Christian J. Schurman for U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security and Director for Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), made the announcement.

Zia Zafar, 33, of Chino Hills, California, previously pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.  Zafar was sentenced by U.S District Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia.  In addition to the prison sentence, Zafar was sentenced to serve eight years of supervised release.

“Zia Zafar targeted a U.S. government employee and surveilled him before shooting him in the chest at close range,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “The Department of Justice will do everything in its power to prosecute anyone who targets U.S. officials at home or abroad.  I commend the investigative team and our law enforcement partners in Mexico for their outstanding work in bringing Zafar to justice for this premediated heinous act.”

“The FBI works closely with international partners and security services in order to conduct complex investigations and acquire evidence from abroad for criminal prosecutions in the United States,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Jones.  “I want to thank the Mexican government for their full support and cooperation throughout this investigation.”

“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”

“Today’s sentencing of Zia Zafar sends a strong message: Diplomatic Security is committed to making sure those who attack diplomatic personnel representing America abroad face serious consequences,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Schurman.  “Diplomatic Security’s strong relationships with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. and foreign law enforcement partners around the world continue to be essential in the pursuit of justice.  Such crimes threaten the national security of the United States.”

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea and facts presented at the sentencing hearing, on Jan. 6, 2017, Zafar, then living in Guadalajara, Mexico, armed himself with a firearm and wore a wig and sunglasses to disguise his appearance.  He then waited in a parking garage for the victim, a vice consul who worked at the U.S Consulate in Guadalajara, following him as he walked towards his vehicle.  After noticing a security guard nearby, Zafar changed his location to the vehicle exit ramp, where he waited for the vice consul to exit.  When the vice consul approached the exit in his car, Zafar fired a single shot into the vehicle, striking the vice consul in his chest.  The vice consul survived, but the bullet remains lodged in his spinal column, as it was deemed too dangerous to remove.  Zafar admitted that he targeted the vice consul because he knew from earlier surveillance that the victim worked at the U.S. Consulate.

FBI and DSS investigated the case in close cooperation with Mexican authorities and with valuable assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Walutes of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

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We were hoping that court records would provide some more clarity about this case, unfortunately, they don’t. We wanted to understand what made Consulate Guadalajara or this official the specific target in this attack. There is no mention in the unsealed court records of a visa denial as a motive in this attack.  U.S. Attorney Terwilliger says, “The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States.” All consulate officials represent the United States in Guadalajara, what made this specific diplomat the target?  The U.S. national attacker reportedly lived in California but was studying in Mexico. This individual left California, went to Mexico, and then later decided to surveil the consulate in Guadalajara in order to find a target? Why? What made him decide he suddenly wanted to shot a representative of his own country one day? What was the trigger? This case remains perplexing to us.

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