@StateDept Opens Swastika Incident Investigation in Foggy Bottom

 

 

Following reports that a swastika was found etched into the wall of an elevator in Foggy Bottom, the State Department has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident. Axios which broke the news of the incident writes:

“The defacement raises troubling questions about security inside the nation’s foreign policy nerve center, and the potential for antisemitism within an outward-facing element of the United States government.”

While the State Department has over 76,000 employees worldwide, the latest June 2021 data from State/GTM indicates that there are some 15,279 Foreign Service and Civil Service Domestic Employees.  There are also various federal contractors working in Foggy Bottom but we do not have a good estimate for those type of employees.
Axios points out that most employees are working from home and that “All of elevators within “Main State” are within a secure perimeter, and security cameras — and, in many cases, uniformed guards – cover entrances to all secure areas.” The investigation including the availability of camera footage would be under Diplomatic Security’s responsibility.
One unintended consequence of this incident is it has raised further awareness among the State leadership and the general workforce that this scourge exists and should not be tolerated. And that, as one employee told us, “when it’s detected anywhere – domestic or overseas — within our midst and work environments, there needs to be tangible and swift consequences.” It has also been pointed out to us that State has an “occasional propensity” to sweep things under the rug because it’s embarrassing and/or inconvenient.
Well, hopefully, not this time. Too many people are paying attention for that to happen.
When the culprit is caught, what might be the penalty? Where would this offense be in the penalty list for 3 FAM 4540? Or 3 FAM 4370?
There is also 18 U.S. Code § 1361 which says “If the damage or attempted damage to such property exceeds the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both; if the damage or attempted damage to such property does not exceed the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
And of course, there is always notoriously disgraceful conduct.
Let’s pay close attention to what happens next.

 

Here is Secretary Blinken’s note:
'Hate Has No Place Here' note, Secretary Blinken, July 27, 2021

‘Hate Has No Place Here’ note, Secretary Blinken, July 27, 2021

 

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Blinken Attends Inaugural Meeting of @StateDept’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council

 

 

Secretary Blinken reportedly delivered remarks at the inaugural meeting of the State Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council. State.gov does not appear to carry a transcript of those remarks, and it looks like the members of this leadership council are not publicly available.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivers remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 21, 2021. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley joined Secretary Blinken. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Blinken With US Consulate Nuuk Staff #Greenland

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Secretary Blinken Departs Greenland and Thanks U.S. Consulate Nuuk Personnel Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken departs from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on May 20, 2021. Before departing, the Secretary took a photo with U.S. Department of State personnel from U.S. Consulate Nuuk. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Secretary Blinken Departs Greenland and Thanks U.S. Consulate Nuuk Personnel
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken departs from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on May 20, 2021. Before departing, the Secretary took a photo with U.S. Department of State personnel from U.S. Consulate Nuuk. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Secretary Blinken Visits Black Ridge in Greenland
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken visits Black Ridge, in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on May 20, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

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@StateDept on Pride Month: Recognition, Advance LGBTQI+ Rights, Fly the #Pride Flag

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The 71st Secretary of State on His First 100 Days

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Secretary of State Tony Blinken was confirmed the 71st Secretary of State on January 26, 2021.  If our counting fingers are correct, today is his 100th day anniversary. If not, well, we got some GIFs anyway for the anti-swagger secretary of state.
—1. The 71st Secretary of State did not cause an international embarrassment by using #swagger in his hashtag diplomacy. Employees here and abroad did not have to work under that witlessly desperate Department of Swagger seal. We have it in good authority that performance evaluations will not/will not suffer for lack of …. what’s that? Gotcha! Will not suffer for lack of excessive flamboyant swaggering.

via GIPHY

—2. He has not/not challenged female reporters to find Ukraine or any other country on an unlabeled world map following any interview. Why? Because he has a solid sense of self-control, a work requirement for a top diplomat. We do not expect him to lose his temper either before any reporter although he may serenade them.

via GIPHY

—3. He has not removed a reporter from the secretary of state’s upcoming trip because the reporter’s co-worker asked awesome but unwelcome questions. We have it from exceptional authority that “Petty” is not his secret security code name.

via GIPHY

—4. S did not end up visiting North Korea during his first 100 days but if/when he ends up visiting the “hermit kingdom,”  we expect reporters will not to get banned from the secretary of state’s plane for reporting about the top diplomat’s food choices. How do we know this? See #3. 

via GIPHY

—5. Given his prior performance, we predict that he will have the good sense not to smile for a photo-op if he must meet, as his job requires, with a foreign leader responsible for the dismembering of another human being.  No smiling, period! 

via GIPHY

—6. He has not/not started an infrastructure project to build bridges with wealthy donors and patrons for a future political campaign. Our very helpful source indicate that no infrastructure project of this kind is on the Secretary’s project list for his entire tenure. 

via GIPHY

—7. He has not uttered self-serving mush like, “I’m flattered when people say Tony will be a good United States senator representing New York.”  Fantastic! So we don’t have to play that silly ‘he’s running/he’s not running’ game.

via GIPHY

—8. He has not made “staff recruitment” trips to battleground states, unlike his predecessor, so that’s good! On the other hand, his Press Office in Foggy Bottom has an email chewing doggie for questions they do not like. Just like his two predecessor!  So, that’s not/not good! 

via GIPHY

—9. He has not/not assigned a Senior Advisor to handle important taskers such as picking up stuff, taking care of dogs, making salon appointments, planning events unrelated to the official mission, etc. etc. A source informed us that unlike in the immediate past, no DS agents have been sent to restaurants wearing brown paper bags over their heads to request waiving $8 plating fees for bringing in outside food. 

via GIPHY

–10. The 71st Secretary of State has not/not announced that he is trying to achieve good diplomatic outcomes for the  people of New York, his home state, even if it is the 4th most populous state in the country. He is not thirsting to become the next senator from New York or the next President from New York while doing his day job as Secretary of State. And that’s a very good thing. 

via GIPHY

Brought to you by your fully-vaccinated blogger:

via GIPHY

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On #WorldPressFreedomDay, Congrats to @StateDept For Holding Itself Accountable

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On May 2, 2021, Secretary Tony Blinken released a statement for World Press Freedom Day. Excerpt below:

Tomorrow, the United States joins the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day.  Information and knowledge are powerful tools, and a free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, and hold governmental officials accountable.  The United States advocates for press freedom online and offline, and for the safety of journalists and media workers worldwide.

Freedom of expression and access to factual and accurate information provided by independent media are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.  Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression includes the right of all individuals “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
[…]
The United States is committed to working in partnership with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned governments to support access to information and defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who face intimidation, harassment, arrest, and violence in exercising their rights.

Regardless of frontier. Well, now, let me tell you a story.
On March 12, 2021, the State Department announced the appointment of former Ambassador Pamela Spratlen as the Senior Advisor to the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF), aka the Havana Syndrome task force reporting directly to the Department’s senior leadership. (See Ambassador Pamela Spratlen Designated as Senior Advisor to Department Health Incident Response Task Force).
On March 13, I sent an email to the State Department asking if I may submit emailed questions for Ambassador Spratlen to respond regarding the Havana Syndrome and the Task Force.
On Monday, March 15, I got a response from the State Department: “Sure you can send along your questions.”
On Tuesday, March 16, I got another email from the State Department: “Yes, you can forward your questions.”
Late on March 16, I forwarded  sixteen questions via email for Ambassador Spratlen. See the questions here.
On Wednesday, March 17, the State Department acknowledged receipt of questions sent via email: “Thank you for sending this along.”
Then crickets.  Then some more crickets.
On April 5, 2021, I sent a follow-up inquiry.
Still crickets.
On April 8, I sent a follow-up to my follow-up.
There was just radio silence.
As often the case, we get an unofficial chirping cricket. Maybe it was the middle of the night, who knows?
No response was forthcoming. Now apparently, “traditionally State has not engaged with anonymous bloggers.”
Whoops! That was so funny I almost died laughing. This blog has been running almost uninterrupted as a pseudonymous blog since 2008. We can tell you for a fact that the State Department has traditionally engaged with this blogger.
Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A frequently cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
[…]
These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a “pamphleteer” or “a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.”
The State Department at another time has respected these rights, and has traditionally responded to our inquiries through the years. We’ve covered Foggy Bottom at the tail end of Rice’s tenure, and through Clinton, Kerry, Tillerson, and Pompeo’s tenures. We’ve been around so long, we have a headful of gray follicles to show for it.
In 2017 during Tillerson’s tenure, State suddenly stopped responding to this blog’s inquiries or request for comments. What happened in 2017? Tillerson and his crew caused quite a mess in Foggy Bottom. On April 1, 2017, we wrote  Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives to celebrate the time honored tradition of April Fools’ Day. Back in those days, we still had some humor left.
Apparently, the State Department’s leadership at that time not only got really pissed but also lost its damn mind over a joke. This blog was sent a take down email which we published.  See Aww, @StateDept Sends Official Take Down Request For April Fools’ Day Cable.
And that was the end of our exciting relationship with the nameless “Senior State Department Officials” who all held office at the Public Affairs bureau. No one from Foggy Bottom’s PA shop ever wrote back to say, we can’t engage with you anymore because my gosh! you’re an anonymous blogger! (For the record, we’re not anonymous, we have a pen name!).
One contact from another bureau eventually told us … so sorry, we’re not allowed to respond to you.
Fast forward to 2021, the new administration came to office. We got exactly one response from the PA shop before the somebodies shut it down and put our emails back in the “do not respond” lock box.
Truth to tell, a non-responsive State Department was not the end of the world. We are not short of unofficial sources, and typically, what we get from our unofficial sources are better information than the carefully crafted PA talking points. Still, there are times when we do need to have the official word of the State Department. There are occasions  when we need to have its officials on record on specific issues, or to be accountable for the government’s actions. As Secretary Blinken message for this year’s World Press Freedom say, “Information and knowledge are powerful tools, and a free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, and hold governmental officials accountable.” 
And here we are, whether Foggy Bottom likes it or not, we’ve been connecting information with the public since 2008. To the 7th floor folks reading this blog — we may not be the newspaper of record but the Havana Syndrome questions  are for this blog’s readers who needed answers to these questions just the same.  Why? Because there are no answers from inside the building. Or worse, folks fear retaliation when pursuing answers to questions like these.
So just one last question. Is the State Department, our great defender of First Amendment Rights and World Press Freedom around the world using this blogger’s pseudonymity as an excuse not to answer questions about its own handling of attacks which resulted in injuries among its employees, and god knows who else? See Havana Syndrome Questions @StateDept Refuses to Answer.

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#HavanaSyndrome: Directed-Energy Attacks Now Reported in D.C.

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On April 28, NBC’s Josh Lederman reported that a group of Canadian diplomats have accessed Canada’s government of withholding information about new cases of brain injury resulting from “Havana Syndrome”.  The report also says that the diplomats are citing “unacceptable delays” on coordinating care for Canadians affected, including numerous children who were accompanying their parents in Cuba. “Who knows what the long-term impacts will be?” the diplomats wrote.
Who knows what the long-term effect will be for the employees affected and the family members who were at these posts? For the State Department, the magic number appears to remain at 41 for those officially diagnosed. We do not have the number of employees who were not officially counted but whose lives and health were upended by the Department’s botched response to these attacks. We do not even know how many Foreign Service kids were similarly affected by these attacks.  Given the Department’s poor track record of handing these incidents going back to Moscow in the 1970’s, we need to keep asking questions.  Congress needs to step up in its oversight.
Back in early April, one of the questions we asked the State Department is to confirm that the mystery illness has been reported domestically (WH staffer in Arlington, a couple at UPENN)?  The State Department refused to answer that question and all our other questions.  See the rest of the questions here: Havana Syndrome Questions @StateDept Refuses to Answer.  We added a submitted question: #17. Why not expand the mandate of Ambassador Spratlen to include instances of previous microwave attacks, since those episodes were handled so badly by the State Department? Here is a little background: https://shoeone.blogspot.com/2013/09/moscow-microwaves.html
CNN is now reporting that “federal agencies are investigating at least two possible incidents on US soil, including one near the White House in November of last year, that appear similar to mysterious, invisible attacks that have led to debilitating symptoms for dozens of US personnel abroad. Multiple sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that while the Pentagon and other agencies probing the matter have reached no clear conclusions on what happened, the fact that such an attack might have taken place so close to the White House is particularly alarming.”
So there. Now that this has become “particularly alarming,” maybe we’ll learn some more?
Pardon me, what do you mean  …. “NO”!?
Recent related posts:

Related posts:

Putting Out Our First Public Request to @StateDept’s First Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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On April 12, Secretary Blinken announced the appointment of former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. This is a first in the department’s history.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office found that racial or ethnic minorities in the department’s Civil Service were up to 29 percent less likely to be promoted than their white peers with similar qualifications.

The report also found that the higher up you went in the department, the lower the proportion was of women and racial or ethnic minorities.

In other words: up in rank, down in diversity.

There’s been a lot of attention focused on what’s happened with diversity and inclusion in the last few years, including the alarming lack of diversity at the highest levels of the State Department.

But the truth is this problem is as old as the department itself.

It’s systemic.  It goes much deeper than any one institution or any one administration – and it’s perpetuated by policies, practices, and people to this day.

That’s why we’ve got to grapple with the problem of unequal representation – and its root causes out in the open.

We can’t sweep it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.  This work is hard, it can be painful, but it’s going to make us better diplomats, and it will help us do right by the people on our team who have for too long waged this battle alone.

It’ll also show other countries that we’re practicing what we preach when it comes to working to advance equality and respect here at home.

Today, we’re taking an important step in that direction by naming Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as our chief diversity and inclusion officer – the first in the department’s history.
[…]
We’re asking hard questions.

What’s the full spectrum of diversity we aim to reflect?

How do we incentivize and reward progress?  How do we hold ourselves accountable when we fall short?

And recruitment and advancement are just one part of a much broader challenge.

How do we ensure that the voices of people who have often been marginalized and underrepresented are afforded equal weight and respect – by their colleagues, and by our policymaking process?

To change the numbers, we have to change the culture – our norms, our behaviors, our biases.

We can’t build lasting diversity without first building an environment where all people are valued.

That’s the foundation.  Laying it is going to be hard work, but I consider it one of my greatest responsibilities as Secretary of State.

We are pleased to see that the new appointee reports directly to Secretary Blinken.
We’d like to make our first public request to the new CDIO.
In 2020, the State Department lost in a discrimination lawsuit filed by an FSO of Hispanic heritage. In that litigation, a document production request was made for data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities. The Department was also asked for the gender/racial breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards. The State Department  never produced these statistics.
The State Department could add 1200 diverse new FS employees every year but if they are losing them at the midlevels quietly, the tops ranks will remain the same. We need to see the data of those selected out for non-promotion and data for the gender and racial composition of those low ranked by promotion boards. Right now, that’s a black box. Without it, the diversity and inclusion efforts could become just another  hamster on a wheel project.  No one wants to see that, obviously.
So we’re calling on the first State Department CDIO Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley to make it a priority to publicly release the following DGHR data:
–A. 2016-2020 data showing what percentage of FSOs who are selected out are minorities plus breakdown by ethnicity/race;
–B.  2016-2020 data that shows the ethnic/racial/gender breakdown of those who are low ranked by promotion boards.
The 2016-2020 data should span the tenures of Clinton, Kerry, Tillerson and Pompeo.  Who knows what we’ll find there but we think it’s a good place to start.
If the State Department’s new CDIO does not take public requests, perhaps our friends on the Hill invested in advancing equality at our oldest executive agency can help pry this data from Foggy Bottom’s cold lock box over at DGHR. Best if it happens this year, please, we may not be around far, far into the future.

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Senate Confirms Wendy Sherman as @StateDept Deputy Secretary

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@StateDept Appoints Career Sr. Diplomat Ricardo Zúñiga as Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle

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Earlier this week, the State Department announced the appointment of career senior diplomat Ricardo Zúñiga to be the Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle. 

The Department of State is pleased to announce that Ricardo Zúñiga, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, will serve as its Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle. The Special Envoy will lead U.S. diplomatic efforts, advise the Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and coordinate closely with the National Security Council staff on the administration’s comprehensive efforts to stem irregular migration to the United States and implement President Biden’s multi-year, $4 billion to address root causes of migration in Central America.

The Special Envoy will engage with regional governments, including but not limited to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, on a range of issues in order to seek to improve conditions in Central America. He also will hold our partners accountable for their commitments to address root causes of migration and the increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border. Additionally, the Special Envoy will engage stakeholders in civil society and the private sector as we work toward building better futures in these countries.

As such, he will accompany White House senior officials to Mexico and Guatemala March 22-25.

The Special Envoy will also keep Congress apprised of our efforts.

The Department congratulates U.S. Special Envoy Zúñiga as he takes on his new role and thanks him for his continued service to his country.

In May 2015, Mr. Zuniga completed a three-year detail with the National Security Council Staff, where he served as a Special Assistant to then President Obama and was Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  In July that year, he assumed charged as Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Also see Secretary Kerry With U.S. Delegation Set For Ceremonial Reopening of U.S. Embassy Cuba. According to his Wilson Center bio, until March 15, 2021, he was the Interim Director of the Brazil Institute and a Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Latin America Program, on detail from the U.S. Department of State.