Read Here: House Intel Committee Publishes #Declassified 9/11 #28Pages

Posted: 11:48 am PT

 

Read below or see the original post here (PDF).

Saudi Arabia’s response below:

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Senate Confirmations: Hall, Silverman, Perez, Pyatt, Silliman, Yovanovitch

Posted: 1:57 am ET

On July 14, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following executive nominations

2016-07-14 PN1264 Lithuania Anne Hall, of Maine, 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 Lithuania.

2016-07-14 PN1374 Kuwait | Lawrence Robert Silverman, of Massachusetts, 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 State of Kuwait.

2016-07-14 PN1423 Chile | Carol Z. Perez, of Virginia, 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 Chile.

2016-07-14 PN1491 Greece | Geoffrey R. Pyatt, of California, 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 Greece.

2016-07-14 PN1492 Iraq | Douglas Alan Silliman, of Texas, 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 Iraq.

2016-07-14 PN1493 Ukraine | Marie L. Yovanovitch, of Connecticut, 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 Ukraine.

The following nominees remain pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar:

STATE DEPARTMENT

Amos J. Hochstein, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources), vice John Stern Wolf.  Mar 10, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Peter Michael McKinley, of Virginia, 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 Federative Republic of Brazil.  Jul 14, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

OVERSEAS PRIVATE INVESTMENT CORPORATION

Nelson Reyneri, of Washington, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for a term expiring December 17, 2018, vice Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, term expired.  Jun 23, 2016 Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

UNITED STATES ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY

Douglas Barry Wilson, of Delaware, to be a Member of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for a term expiring July 1, 2017, vice Elizabeth F. Bagley, term expired. Jun 10, 2016 Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Catherine Ann Novelli, of Virginia, to be United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vice Robert D. Hormats, resigned.  Mar 10, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

Janet L. Yellen, of California, to be United States Alternate Governor of the International Monetary Fund for a term of five years, vice Ben S. Bernanke, term expired.  Jun 25, 2015 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

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U.S. Embassy Juba: 47 Troops Ordered to South Sudan, 130 Pre-Positioned in Djibouti

Posted: 2:19 am PT

 

On July 13, President Obama informed Congress of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.

In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba. The first of these additional personnel, approximately 47 individuals, arrived in South Sudan on July 12, 2016, supported by military aircraft. Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed. Additional U.S. Armed Forces, including approximately 130 military personnel currently pre-positioned in Djibouti, are prepared to provide support, as necessary, for the security of U.S. citizens and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

On July 13, Embassy Juba also announced two charter flights that will depart Juba for Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday, July 14. Passengers are expected to make onward travel plans themselves. A security message issued previously notes that “seating is very limited”  and that the mission “cannot guarantee availability.”  Passengers are limited to one piece of luggage (20 kg/45 lbs) each.  Pets are not included in the charter flights.  Passengers who are not documented with a valid U.S. passport “will likely not be considered for boarding.”

 

Germany and the EU have completed the evacuation of its citizens on July 13.  The UK and India are in the process of also evacuating their citizens from South Sudan.

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Senate Confirms Casper, Pasi, Leonard, and 279 Career Foreign Service Nominations

Posted: 3:01 am ET

 

On June 29, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominees as Ambassadors to Burundi, Chad and the African Union. It also approved the nominations of 279 career Foreign Service officers.

2016-06-29 PN1489 Department of State
Anne S. Casper, of Nevada, 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 Burundi.

2016-06-29 PN1384 Department of State
Geeta Pasi, 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 Chad.

2016-06-29 PN1373 Department of State
Mary Beth Leonard, of Massachusetts, to be Representative of the United States of America to the African Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

2016-06-29 PN951-2 Foreign Service
Nomination for Richard Gustave Olson, Jr., which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2016-06-29 PN1419 Foreign Service
Nomination for Emily M. Scott, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 28, 2016.

2016-06-29 PN1486 Foreign Service
Nominations beginning Amanda R. Ahlers, and ending Lee V. Wilbur, which 90 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on May 18, 2016.

2016-06-29 PN1495 Foreign Service
Nominations beginning Jocelyn N. Adams, and ending Brian Joseph Zacherl, which 187 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on May 19, 2016.

 

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Top Diplomats Oppose Lateral Entry Program to the MidLevels in the Foreign Service

Posted: 1:28 am ET

Last month,  the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) sent a letter to SFRC Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn) to register its strong opposition to the provision in the draft FY 2017 State Department Authorization Bill (Section 207) mandating a program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service at the middle and higher ranks. Below is an excerpt:

— The provision will damage American security interests by undermining the professional nature of the U.S. Foreign Service. Professionalism is as necessary for diplomacy as for the military.

— The provision will subject the Foreign Service to unprecedented politicization to the detriment of our nation’s security.

— At a time when we ask Foreign Services Officers to risk life and limb in assignments from Afghanistan to Africa, the provision would allow entry into the Service at ranks equivalent to Major, Lt. Colonel and Colonel without earning that distinction by actual service and without accumulating the experience to support their status.
[….]
The Academy’s mission is to promote a strong American diplomacy, which today is needed more than ever to support and protect America’s interests. Our most recent report, American Diplomacy at Risk, called for an effective American diplomacy based on a strong State Department founded on strong Foreign and Civil Services. We called for robust funding of diplomacy and we highlighted the need to enhance a professional Foreign Service, not diminish it as this proposed provision will do. The need for a professional Service has been affirmed repeatedly in legislation for nearly 100 years. It will be even more needed in the global world of tomorrow.

The letter signed by AAD Chairman Thomas Pickering, Vice Chairman Marc Grossman, and President Ronald Neumann, was also sent to Senators Cardin and McCain and Representatives Engel and Royce.

The Academy of American Diplomacy founded in 1983 is a non-profit organization whose active membership is limited to men and women who have held positions of high responsibility in crafting and implementing American foreign policy. Last year, it issued the report, American Diplomacy at Risk available to read here (PDF).

Read the letter in full below:

 

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12 Former AFSA Presidents Express “Deep Concern” Over Proposed FS Lateral Entry Program

Posted: 2:02 am ET

 

Twelve former AFSA presidents whose tenures span nearly half a century wrote a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressing “deep concern and opposition to Section 207 of the 2017 State Authorization Bill.” See New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program For Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service.

The past presidents write:  “The Foreign Service Act of 1980 requires entry into the Foreign Service to be “rigorous and impartial.” Lateral entry programs are neither rigorous nor impartial. There have been several lateral entry programs during our collective service. All have been vehicles for abuse through the hiring of personal and political cronies of those administering the lateral entry.”

They urge Senator McCain as an “Officer of the United States Navy, an organization founded on career professionalism and special service” to “decline to attach the 2017 State Authorization in its present form” to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA). As far as we could tell, the NDAA passed by the Senate on June 14 does not include the lateral entry provision.

The letter is signed by William C. Harrop, Thomas D. Boyatt, Lars Hydle, Dennis K. Hays, F.A. Tex Harris, Alphonse F. La Porta, Marshall P. Adair, John Naland, John Limbert, Susan R. Johnson, Theodore L. Eliot, and Lannon Walker.

Read in full below:

 

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More on the Syria Dissent Channel Memo, and Chasing Down Concerning Rumors

Posted: 4:21 pm ET

 

According to Tuesday’s Daily Press Briefing, Secretary Kerry met yesterday with a small number, approximately 10 of the 51 signers of the Syria Dissent Channel memo for about a half an hour. The official spox said that “as you can imagine, the group is sizeable, so it wasn’t possible to meet with everybody. But he did have a collegial discussion with them this morning.” 

MR KIRBY: I’m – because the dissent channel memo and the contents of it are meant to be privately conveyed, so too I’m afraid are going to have to be the discussions around it. So I’m not going to be able to characterize the content of the Secretary’s conversation with them, because we want to respect the confidentiality of the process. It was, however – it was – I believe the Secretary came away feeling that it was a good discussion, it was worth having. He appreciated their views and just as critically their firm belief in their – in the opportunity that they have to express those views. And so they had a good 30-minute or more conversation.
[…]
MR KIRBY: Look, let me do this. So I can tell you a couple of things. He thanked them for expressing their views and for using the dissent channel. And he reaffirmed his strong belief in the value of the dissent channel, which we’ve talked about quite a bit here. So he thanked them for expressing their views, for using the dissent channel to do that. He made clear that he takes the dissent channel seriously and he took their views seriously, and also made clear that he read their message with sincerity. And, again, without talking about the specific detail of it, the Secretary also walked them through his own thought process with respect to this particular issue and the efforts that he’s been expending on this particular issue.
[…]
MR KIRBY:
 I didn’t say and I won’t speculate as to discussions going forward with respect to what we’re doing in Syria or decisions that may or may not get made, either as a result of this message or as a result of ongoing routine discussions that have been had and continue to be had on alternatives. So I’m not going to speculate about the role that this message might play one way or the other.

But if you’re asking me, was this just a show for the Secretary, the answer is absolutely not. I mean, it – certainly he wanted to thank them and pay respect to the process because this is an important issue. But he also didn’t waste time in terms of hearing them out and asking questions and listening to their views and asking them to expound on them further. I mean, that’s the way this Secretary likes to conduct meetings and discussions and to inform himself. And again, I think he found the meeting useful in that regard. But I wouldn’t begin to speculate one way or another what this conversation today or that message did last week in terms of altering, changing any of the thinking going forward.  As I said last week, nobody is content with the status quo on the ground and the Administration has been looking at other options with respect to Syria for quite some time. This is not new. And yes, some of those options have included the potential for military initiatives. Again, that’s nothing new. So all these things —

The full DPB transcript is here.

Meanwhile, we had to chase down a couple of concerning rumors related to the dissent memo. We heard an allegation about Congressional pressure for a) the memo and b) the names of the signers.  Apparently, “word on the street” is that the Front Office of a certain geographical bureau is “providing names to the Hill in exchange for unblocking some nominations.” We must note that this bureau’s two chief of mission nominees had their confirmation hearing on Tuesday, June 21. There were no indications previously or at this time that these two nominations are subject to a Senate hold.

A State Department spokesperson, on background responded to our inquiry with the following:

“The dissent channel message has been provided to the Hill, but we did not include — nor will we — the names of the authors.”

We do not even want to imagine what a Congressional committee can do with the names or hearings in a partisan fight, in an election year.  So that’s one rumor debunked.

We also heard that the subject of this uproar, which appears to have SBU marking (“sensitive but unclassified”) has now been “retroactively classified.”

A State Department spokesperson, on background also told us that the cable was transmitted on the highside, and was classified confidential by the authors.”

Thanks X for debunking this other rumor.

The draft version published by the New York Times contains the SBU marking. It appears that the final version went out as “confidential” and was transmitted via the classified system.  What we still don’t know and may never know is how wide was the distribution of this “Dissent Channel” message and who purposely let this piglet out of the pen. We are still at a loss as to the leaker or leakers’ motive/s and perplexed at the calculation of sending a public message to a President with less than six months left in office.

Here are more links to read:

Here’s an early summer bonus for the “security diplomats”!

 

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#OrlandoSolidarity: Flowers, Vigils, Condolences From Around the World

Posted: 1:46 am ET

 

The deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 occurred on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting which happened inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, is also the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history to date. The casualties include 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The perpetrator, born and raised in New York to Afghan parents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980’s was killed in a shootout with the police . Below are some expressions of solidarity with Orlando, and the United States from around the world.

US Embassy Paris, France

US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

US Embassy Moscow, Russia

US Embassy London, United Kingdom

US Embassy Warsaw, Poland

US Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Vilnius, Lithuania

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

US Embassy Madrid, Spain

Islamabad, Pakistan

US Embassy New Delhi, India

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

Meanwhile —

In Moscow, two men who left flowers at the US Embassy in Moscow in memory of the Orlando victims were reportedly detained.

And in Jamaica–

Back in DC —

 

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Rainey v. @StateDept: Attention Whistleblowers — Rules and Regs Are Not Laws

Posted: 2:14 am ET

 

Last year, we blogged about a decision by the Merit Systems Protection Board concerning a Whistleblower Protection Act case where a State Department employee, Timothy Allen Rainey, alleged that the agency stripped him of certain job duties and gave him a poor performance rating after he refused to follow an order that would have required him to violate federal acquisition regulations (FAR) and training certification procedures. See Rainey v. State Department: “Right-to-Disobey” (Precedential Decision).

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the Merit Systems Protection Board ruling in a precedent-setting opinion — agreeing that the term “a law” in section 2302(b)(9)(D) refers only to a statute, and not to a rule or regulation.

In this IRA appeal, Rainey claimed that his duties as contracting officer had been taken away from him because he refused to obey his supervisor’s order to tell a contractor to rehire a terminated subcontractor.  Rainey contended that he refused to obey the order because dong so would have required him to violate a provision of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.  The issue was whether the right-to-disobey provision of the Whistleblower Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. §  2302(b)(9)(D), which protects covered employees from retaliation “for refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law,” applied to the appellant, who alleged that he had suffered retaliation for refusing to obey an order that would require him to violate a regulation.  The Board, relying on a recent Supreme Court decision, Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean, 135 S. Ct. 913 (2015), which held that the word “law” in the “right-to-disclose” provision of the WPA, 5 U.S.C. §  2302(b)(8), refers only to statute, and not to a rule or regulation, ruled that the term “a law” in section 2302(b)(9)(D) should also be interpreted to refer to a statute, and not to a rule or regulation.  122 M.S.P.R. 592 (2015).

The Court writes:

Dr. Rainey makes a final argument that the FAR is a particularly important regulation that has the full force and effect of law and therefore should be regarded as “a law” within the meaning of section 2302(b)(9)(D) even if other regulations do not qualify as “laws” for purposes of that statute. The first problem with that argument is that substantive agency regulations that are promulgated pursuant to statutory authority typically have the “force and effect of law,” see Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Ass’n, 135 S. Ct. 1199, 1204 (2015); Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 295 (1979), so that feature does not distinguish the FAR from other more quotidian legislative rules. The second problem with the argument is that, as noted, there is nothing in the section 2302(b)(9) that even hints at a distinction between important regulations and less important regulations; to the contrary, the statute distinguishes between “a law” and “law, rule, or regulation,” and the FAR clearly falls on the “regulation” side of that divide.

What now?  Court says “Congress is free to alter the scope of the statute”:

Dr. Rainey’s arguments are heavy on policy reasons why Congress likely would not have wanted to confine the scope of section 2302(b)(9)(D) to statutes. Those policy considerations are not without force, and it may be that the statute should be extended to cover rules, regulations, and other sources of legal authority. If so, Congress is free to alter the scope of the statute. But we are not so free. Between the restrictive language chosen by Congress and the closely analogous decision of the Supreme Court in MacLean, we are constrained to hold that the protection granted by section 2302(b)(9)(D) is limited to orders that are contrary to a statute, and does not encompass orders that are contrary to a regulation.

This is bad.  So basically State Department employees will not be able to get whistleblower protection for refusing orders that violate rules or regulations in the Foreign Affairs Manual/Foreign Affairs Handbook.  If a supervisor orders an employee to break the rules/regs in the FAM/FAH, the employee must comply or be subjected to disciplinary action/s?  How nutty is that?

Click here to contact your congressional representatives.

Read the ruling below or read it via mspb.gov here (PDF). 

 

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US Embassy Ulaanbaatar: CODEL Mongolia, May 2016

Posted: 1:08 am ET

The House Democracy Partnership, @house_democracy,  a bi-partisan Commission in the US House of Representatives, works with 17 partner democratic legislatures around the world.  Last month, the members were in a congressional visit to Mongolia.

Here’s the U.S. Congressional delegation at a lunch at Ikh Tenger hosted by Speaker Z. Enkhbold. Photo via US Embassy Ulaanbaatar.

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Here’s the U.S. Congressional delegation in front of the Statue of Chinggis Khaan. Photo via US Embassy Ulaanbaatar.

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