@StateDept: Attack Not Specific Targeting of Americans Diplomats, #SouthSudan Guards “A Little Trigger-Happy”

Posted: 12:03 am ET

 

We blogged about FP’s piece on the targeting last July of American diplomats in Juba, South Sudan (see #SouthSudan Presidential Guards Target American Diplomats in Juba). On September 7, the State Department was asked about this incident during the Daily Press Briefing.  The Department’s assessment, according to the deputy spox is that “the attack was connected to the breakdown of command and control among South Sudanese Government forces” and did not specifically target American diplomats. The presidential guards who opened fire at the embassy convoy,  those soldiers were just “a little trigger-happy.”

The State Department says that its “concern” about the FP article was that “it made the assumption or allegation that there was a specific targeting of our diplomatic vehicles.” In the spox words, “And again  — it doesn’t in any way, either if it was or wasn’t, it doesn’t in any way excuse the behavior or the incident. But that’s just our assessment that we don’t believe it was.”

The spox also indicated in the DPB that there is reportedly an ongoing South Sudan investigation, and that Diplomatic Security is also conducting its after-action review of the incident but that ” they’re still looking at other details.” The spox says that in light of this incident, the State Department has made modifications to its security posture such as adjusting its curfew and the rules for the movement of embassy vehicles in Juba. The South Sudan Travel Warning dated July 10, three days after this security incident does not include any detail about curfews.

Below is the DPB segment on South Sudan, September 7:

QUESTION: Do you have a response to reports that seven American diplomats traveling in a convoy in Juba, South Sudan, were fired on by government troops? This was – apparently happened on July 7th —

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: — just days before that brutal attack on the hotel, the westerners at the hotel there.

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And that in this shooting on the convoy, one of the cars was disabled and had to be essentially rescued by a Marine reaction force. What happened there?

MR TONER: Sure. So – and John Kirby spoke to this in the immediate days after the – this incident, and I would just reiterate from the top our condemnation of this attack on what was a U.S. embassy convoy by South Sudanese Government troops. I can walk you through the events as we understand them to have happened, but I can say that we do not believe our vehicles and personnel were specifically targeted in the attack. It’s our assessment that the attack was connected to the breakdown of command and control among South Sudanese Government forces, and we have demanded that the Government of South Sudan investigate this incident and punish and hold accountable those responsible for it.

But just to walk you through the events, again, as we understand them: So on the evening of July 7th, I think at around 2100 local time, two embassy vehicles were returning to the residential compound and passed, as part of their route, the presidential palace. About an hour earlier, forces that were loyal to the government – or rather, to Machar, rather – had clashed with forces loyal to President Kiir. And government troops stationed near the presidential compound, to put it mildly, were very tense. So the two embassy vehicles approached the soldiers on the road outside the presidential palace. When they moved toward the vehicle – they, the troops, moved toward the vehicles and tried to open their doors – the vehicles, the embassy vehicles appropriately, we believe, began to speed away from the scene. And at that time, the soldiers opened fire. Fortunately, the vehicles were armored and no one was injured. And the next day, July 8th, Ambassador Phee met with President Kiir and demanded that the government carry out a full investigation of the incident and hold those responsible for the incident accountable for their actions. President Kiir, it’s worth noting, did make clear that U.S. embassies were – embassy vehicles were not specifically targeted, and he vowed at that point in time to stand up a committee to investigate the incident.

Now, I don’t have anything to read out to you in terms of what that committee may have found or may be investigating or what the deadline is for them to reach an end to the investigation.

QUESTION: And you’re not saying that the – that the troops didn’t know who they were firing on. It was clear they knew they were firing on Americans. You’re just saying you don’t believe it was ordered by —

MR TONER: No, no, what I would say is just —

QUESTION: — Kiir to shoot American —

MR TONER: No, no, what I would say is we don’t believe that they necessarily knew. I mean, there were some – and I – we know —

QUESTION: Why do you not – why do you think that? I mean, it —

MR TONER: It’s just in our assessment. I mean, this is not something that we —

QUESTION: Yeah, but what is that based on? Because it would seem if they got close enough to try to open the doors that they would probably know who they were dealing with at that point.

MR TONER: Well, first of all, the windows were tinted as they often are in these kind of – in these vehicles.

QUESTION: And marked with American flags likely as well?

MR TONER: A very small laminated flag, and it’s not clear whether they would have even recognized the plates. I know that’s another thing that the story states.

Look, all I can do is offer our assessment of the situation. We’re not forgiving it and we’re certainly not overlooking it or saying, “Hey, not your bad. It was your” – look, we’re talking about here is the fact that they opened fire on an embassy convoy, and that is inexcusable. But what we believe were the factors of the environment around that was that they – there had been an altercation, fighting in the run-up to this convoy passing, and that they were very tense, and if I could say it, a little trigger-happy.

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: So your investigation concluded that these soldiers made a mistake. Did the investigation conclude anything about the advisability of driving through a republican — presidential palace checkpoint?

MR TONER: So we did – we did and conducted, as you note, an internal investigation, and that – an after-action review is in progress, but we have modified our procedures around the travel of convoys of our personnel.

QUESTION: Because it was a mistake to drive in between two opposing forces within an hour of a clash.

MR TONER: That’s – clearly, that’s – we have made modifications to our security posture.

QUESTION: What – what have you changed?

MR TONER: Well, we, for one thing, adjusted our curfew and we also adjusted the rules for the movement of embassy vehicles in light of the event, and obviously, in light of subsequent violence in Juba.

QUESTION: So it’s an earlier curfew now?

MR TONER: That’s my understanding, yeah.

QUESTION: And how are the rules for the movement of embassy been changed?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to that. I just can’t. I mean, that’s talking about our security posture, which we don’t do.

QUESTION: Why was it appropriate for them – this was a checkpoint, correct?

MR TONER: Not 100 percent sure. I – my understanding is that they passed in front of the presidential palace. Obviously, there were forces out there. I don’t know that it was a formal checkpoint.

QUESTION: Okay. And why was it appropriate for them not to open the doors?

MR TONER: Because they believed that – their assessment was that these forces were, again, trigger-happy, or shall we say – I’ll put it more diplomatically and say tense, and they felt threatened, clearly. And one of the standard procedures is if you feel threatened is to get the heck out of dodge.

QUESTION: So you stated that an after-action review is still in progress?

MR TONER: This is within – yeah, this is – so we’ve – so two points here. One, we’ve asked the government, obviously, to carry out a full and complete investigation. That, I believe, is still ongoing. I may be wrong there, but I don’t have anything here in front of me that says that it’s been concluded. But we also, as we would in any case like this, conducted our internal review.

QUESTION: And is that still in progress?

MR TONER: That’s in progress, but I was able to say out of that review we have obviously, and frankly immediately, adjusted curfew times and other —

QUESTION: And no other people in the convoy were physically hurt, but obviously it’s a very stressful —

MR TONER: Indeed.

QUESTION: — night for them.

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has anyone been evacuated from station? Has anyone received counseling?

MR TONER: We did – and we’ve talked about this before. I believe we’re on authorized departure from Juba. I believe that’s correct.

QUESTION: But do you know if any of the seven people involved in this have left?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to whether they’ve left or not.

QUESTION: Who or what entity is conducting the State Department’s after-action review?

MR TONER: That would be Diplomatic Security.

QUESTION: Okay. And from your account provided here at this briefing today, if I understand it correctly, you really cannot determine how much knowledge the presidential guard members had of who exactly was in this car. You really can’t make a determination whether they knew that there were Americans in this car or not, correct?

MR TONER: Again, I think I said we do not believe that, and I said we assess that the attack was connected more to a breakdown in command and control and not to a specific targeting. But I can’t categorically say one or – that it wasn’t.

QUESTION: Do you —

QUESTION: But you – so you can’t rule it out?

MR TONER: I can’t – yeah, as I was saying, as I – I qualified it. I said it is our assessment that —

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have – is in there about roughly how long this incident – the duration of this incident? How long did it last?

MR TONER: I don’t. Sorry, Matt.

QUESTION: But it does —

QUESTION: Can you confirm that three separate presidential guard units opened fire on the two cars?

MR TONER: I cannot. I’ll try to get – see if I can get more details about the duration and the number of —

QUESTION: It didn’t – this was quite quick. It didn’t happen over a course of hours.

MR TONER: Exactly. No, no, that I can —

QUESTION: This was something that – like, less than —

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: — less than several minutes? I mean —

MR TONER: I’d say, yes, within the realm of several minutes to 10 minutes. I have no idea. I can’t put a specific time to it, duration.

QUESTION: So this happened almost exactly two months ago. How long does it take to investigate or to look into a 10-minute – let’s just assume it’s 10 minutes – incident?

MR TONER: Are you talking the —

QUESTION: Both.

MR TONER: — government’s or the – look, I mean, I —

QUESTION: And are you pushing the South Sudanese Government to —

MR TONER: Yes, we are. Yes, we are. I mean, as I said, Ambassador Phee immediately the next day went to the president and demanded an investigation and we’ve been following up on that.

QUESTION: But that was July 8th.

MR TONER: I understand.

QUESTION: It is now September 7th.

MR TONER: I understand. And with regard to —

QUESTION: What’s the temperature, Matt.

MR TONER: With regard to – (laughter) —

QUESTION: In South Sudan? Hot.

MR TONER: With regard to our own internal investigation, clearly we made adjustments, immediate adjustments, to our security posture in light of that attack. But I think they’re still looking at other details.

QUESTION: You stated —

QUESTION: Any personnel involved being disciplined – U.S. personnel?

MR TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: And —

QUESTION: You stated that at least one of these cars was struck by fire but fortunately was —

MR TONER: Armored.

QUESTION: — armor-protected. To your knowledge, has Diplomatic Security, as part of its after-action review, or any other U.S. personnel, made a physical inspection of these vehicles?

MR TONER: I would imagine, but I don’t – I can’t confirm that. I just don’t have that level of detail.

QUESTION: And the personnel – the U.S. personnel, presumably they have been interviewed as part of this after-action review, correct?

MR TONER: That would be – that would be expected, yes.

QUESTION: And that interview process took place overseas or here in Washington?

MR TONER: I don’t know. It could be either. It could be both. I just don’t have that level of detail.

QUESTION: And did anyone decline to cooperate with the after-action review?

MR TONER: Again, I can’t speak to that either.

QUESTION: It was James Donegan in the car, correct? And the car was disabled and had to be rescued by a Marine force. Is that all correct?

MR TONER: So there is – yes, so that’s an important – and I apologize I didn’t – so there was a small embassy security team basically that traveled to the vehicle and was able to recover our personnel. This happened when the vehicle was no longer under fire and there were no longer hostile forces present, when the team arrived.

QUESTION: Did any U.S. personnel discharge their firearms?

MR TONER: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: And you don’t really have any problems with how the – Foreign Policy wrote this timeline of events, right?

MR TONER: I think our concern was that it made the assumption or allegation that there was a specific targeting of our diplomatic vehicles. And again —

QUESTION: Right, which – yeah.

MR TONER: — it doesn’t in any way, either if it was or wasn’t, it doesn’t in any way excuse the behavior or the incident. But that’s just our assessment that we don’t believe it was.

QUESTION: So you’re making excuses, but it doesn’t excuse —

MR TONER: We good? Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have some preferred outcome for the South Sudanese investigation? Do you want to see people disciplined? Is that the —

MR TONER: Yes, unequivocally.

QUESTION: What would you think would be an appropriate discipline?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, look, that’s something for the South Sudanese Government to speak about, but this was clearly a serious incident that, to put it mildly, put at risk the lives of American diplomats and American citizens. So we take it very seriously and we want to see the appropriate people held accountable.

 

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Snapshot: ARB Recommendations — Procedural Action and Responsibilities

Posted: 1:26 am ET

 

Via 12 FAH 12 Exhibit H-013 | M/PRI 12-08-2014

Per 12 FAH 12, following receipt of an Accountability Review Board’s report, the Secretary will determine what actions should be taken with respect to the recommendations.  The Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources will oversee the Department’s progress on ARB implementation. The Under Secretary for Management (M), in coordination with the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), is responsible for implementation of ARB recommendations.  On behalf of the Secretary and other Department principals, the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI) will coordinate and track recommendations and manage the overall implementation process. 

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Related item:

12 FAM 030  ACCOUNTABILITY REVIEW BOARD (ARB)

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First Person: An Embassy Bombing – Dar Es Salaam, August 7, 1998

Posted:12:41 am ET

The following is an excerpt from a first person account of the 1998 bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania by FSO Dante Paradiso. He is a career Foreign Service Officer, a lawyer, and the author of the forthcoming book “The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy,” Beaufort Books (New York) available in October 2016.   Prior to joining the Foreign Service he served in the Peace Corps and was an intern at the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam in 1998.  Since joining the FS in 2002, he has served  in Monrovia, Beijing, Addis Ababa, Jalalabad, Libreville and Washington, D.C.

The piece is excerpted from the Small Wars Journal and includes the  standard disclaimer that “the views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.”  He is on Twitter at @paradisoDX.

The wall and guard booth are gone—just rubble and rusted ribs of rebar.  The motor pool fleet is crushed, pancaked, the frames of the cars and vans fused and welded together.  The chassis and tank of a blue water truck lie upside down and crumpled against the base of the chancery like a scarab beetle pinned on its back.  The community liaison office at the corner of the building is a black, smoldering cavern.  The other wing stands disfigured.  The sun louvers are cracked.  Above the cafeteria, blood is splattered across the wall like abstract art, rust-colored in the light.  The Economic Officer tells me, “Don’t enter through the side.”

“Why?”

“There’s a hand in the stairwell.”

Read in full here.

While you’re reading this, you might also want to check out Vella G. Mbenna’s account of the same bombing.  She served as a ­­­­­Support Communications Officer and recounts her experience during the attack in Dar es Salaam. She was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in 2016. Via ADST:

After leaving the center where I worked and passed the area around the corner where the Front Office was located, I heard a faint phone ringing. I stopped in my tracks, turned around and entered the communication center to find out that it was my phone.

I quickly went to the back of the center to my office to get it. It was Pretoria on the line and I was glad. I sat in my chair and said these words to them, “I am Vella from Dar es Salaam and I was wondering why our system’s staff …..”

Before I finished the sentence, the blast occurred because the wall I was facing came back in my face and slammed me into racks of equipment across the room.

I recall getting up, brushing myself off and proceeding to alert Washington via my equipment that something bad had happened and to close our circuits for now. Then I proceeded to check on colleagues in the communications suite and putting communication and IT stuff in a safe.
[…]
I walked on and opened the door to the Admin building side of the building….What I saw without even entering deep into the building was complete chaos. It was more of what I saw in the Executive Office, but to a greater extentIt was like a meteorite had hit the Embassy. Even worse was that the entire wall and windows facing the road was gone.

I started having a really bad feeling because most of all I saw or heard no one. Why was everyone gone except me? I backed out of the door and back onto the catwalk and started down the stairs.

As I started down the stairs I realized that something bad had happened, something really, really badI thought that maybe that if it wasn’t a meteorite, then a space ship came down and the aliens took up everyone except me.

I wanted to start screaming for help…Then I thought, no one would know exactly what happened to us all. So, I tip-toed down the rest of the stairs.

When I saw more devastation and how I appeared to blocked in, I had to scream. I started screaming for help, first a low scream…and then louder….

After about a minute and a half I heard a familiar voice calling out asking who was there. It was a Marine. I told him it was Vella, the communications officer from the 2nd floor. I wanted to be as clear as possible, even though I knew the voice. Once I told him exactly where I was, he told me to try to climb over the rubble and look for his hands. I told him I was going to throw up the INMARSAT first and I did.

Read in full here via ADST.

In related news — in Kenya, where over 200 hundred people were killed and more than 4,000 were injured in the embassy blast, victims are now reportedly accusing the Kenyan and US governments of neglecting them.

On July 25, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. See  U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings.

To-date, no one has been compensated and the victims are now seeking compensation through the International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

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Two Mexicans Extradited in the 2011 Murder and Attempted Murder of ICE Agents in Mexico

Posted: 12:03 am ET

In 2011, we blogged about this case here:  US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey$5 Million Reward for Information Re: Shootings of Two ICE Agents in Mexico and “Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?

On May 16, 2016, USDOJ announced that two Mexican nationals have been extradited from Mexico to face charges for their alleged participation in the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico.

The charges and extraditions were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and Director Sarah R. Saldaña of ICE.

Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, aka Loco, 28, and Alfredo Gaston Mendoza Hernandez, aka Camaron, aka Burger, 33, both of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, were charged on May 16, 2013, in a four-count indictment with murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.  The indictment was unsealed today when Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez made their initial appearances before Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia.  Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez were ordered detained without bail.

Four defendants—Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 35; Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 28; Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 33; and Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 41—previously pleaded guilty to offenses based on their roles in the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  As part of their guilty pleas, Espinoza, Rivera and Villagran admitted that they participated directly in the Feb. 15, 2011, ambush of the two special agents as part of a Los Zetas hit squad.  The fourth defendant, Flores, acknowledged assisting Zetas members after the attack.  A fifth defendant, Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, aka Safado, 35, was extradited to the United States on Oct. 1, 2015, for his participation in this attack and is currently awaiting trial.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The FBI is investigating the case with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

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Malian National Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison For Conspiracy to Murder US Diplomat in Niger

Posted: 12:07 am ET

 

In September 2013, we blogged about Malian national Alhassane Ould Mohamed who was indicted for the 2000 murder/attempted murder of US Embassy Niger staffers.  In March 2016, Alhassane Ould Mohamed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed at US Embassy Niger. In late April, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to murder William Bultemeier, a DOD civilian employee and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant.  The victim was  deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger in July 2000 where he served as the Defense Attache Systems Operations Coordinator. He was murdered the day he was supposed to return home to North Carolina 15 years ago.

 

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Pres. Obama’s Personal Representative Faces Anti-Gay Bigotry in the Dominican Republic

Posted: 5:02 am ET

 

The NYT piece below notes that “the administration of President Danilo Medina, by remaining silent on the controversy, creates the impression that the government condones bigotry. That is a big mistake for a country that depends heavily on trade and tourism from the United States.”

In fact, Americans comprised the majority of the five million tourists who flocked to DR hotels and resorts in 2014, a figure that the Government of the Dominican Republic (GoDR) has vowed to double within 10 years according to export.gov. Ambassador Wally Brewster officially represents the United States of America, the Dominican Republic’s main trading partner, with $12.5 billion in total trade.

Beyond these, here’s something that the GoDR might want to think about while it is officially keeping its silence — Ambassador Brewster is President Obama’s personal representative to the Dominican Republic, and expected to reflect the views of this President and of this administration, including on the international initiatives to advance the human rights of LGBT persons. In short, Ambassador Brewster is not/not freelancing.  And based on President Obama’s memo, the ambassador is not/not on a secret crusade to “convert Santo Domingo into the Caribbean’s gay paradise.”

 

 

Related posts:

 

Malian National Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Diplomat Stationed at US Embassy Niger

Posted: 2:20 am ET

In September 2013, we blogged about Malian national Alhassane Ould Mohamed who was indicted for the 2000 murder/attempted murder of US Embassy Niger staffers. On March 24, 2016, USDOJ announced that Alhassane Ould Mohamed, aka Cheibani, 46, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed in Niamey, Niger, on December 22, 2000. William Bultemeier was a DOD civilian employee and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant. He was deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger in July 2000 where he served as the Defense Attache Systems Operations Coordinator. He was murdered the day he was supposed to return home to North Carolina 15 years ago.

Photograph of William Bultemeier via

Photograph of William Bultemeier via USDOJ

Via USDOJ:

Alhassane Ould Mohamed, aka Cheibani, 46, a citizen of Mali, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed in Niamey, Niger, in December 2000.

The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the FBI New York Field Office.

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, in the early morning hours of Dec. 23, 2000, Mohamed and a co-conspirator accosted a group of employees of the U.S. Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant in Niamey.  Carrying a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle, the two men approached Department of Defense official William Bultemeier as he was about to enter his car, which displayed diplomatic license plates clearly indicating that it belonged to the U.S. Embassy.  After demanding that Bultemeier turn over the keys to the diplomatic vehicle, the defendant and his co-conspirator shot Bultemeier and Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for the U.S. Embassy in Niger at the time, who had run to Bultemeier’s aid.  Mohamed and his fellow assailant then drove away in the U.S. Embassy vehicle.

Bultemeier died of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds.  Staff Sergeant McNeely survived the shooting and later retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

Today’s plea took place before U.S. District Judge William F. Kuntz II of the Eastern District of New York.  At sentencing on April 26, 2016, as part of the agreement, the defendant faces an agreed-upon sentence of 25 years in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zainab Ahmad, Margaret Lee and Melody Wells of the Eastern District of New York with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The unsealed Grand Jury indictment is available to read below:

 

 

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WH Petition: Latest Attack Against Wally Brewster, the US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 1:58 pm EDT
Updated: 5:16 pm EDT

 

An anonymous petition currently posted at the White House We The People portal is asking the Obama Administration “to remove the U.S. ambassador in the Dominican Republic, James W. Brewster for primarily promoting in his official duties an LGBT agenda inconsistent with the Christian cultural values and tradition of the Dominican Republic.” The petition has  above 25,000 signatures as of last night and needs over 74,000 by April 7, 2016 to reach the petition threshold which would then require an official response from the White House.

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And here is a counter petition supporting the ambassador.

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Maybe the White House can officially respond with this video:

The removal petition is just the latest in a series of attacks that Ambassador Brewster has faced since he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2013.  After his nomination was announced, the AP reported that religious groups in the country said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay U.S. ambassador to the conservative Caribbean country.  DR Bishop Pablo Cedano was quoted in the media saying that if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.

After Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in country, a diplomatic event in honor of Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina was cancelled.  Ambassador Brewster’s husband was reportedly not invited to that event because he was not considered a “wife.” Consequently, several diplomats reportedly refused to attend and the event had to be “suspended.” (See Meanwhile in Santo Domingo: Ambassador Brewster’s Husband Not Invited ‘Cuz He’s Not a “Wife”).

This week, the Washington Blade reports:  Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster. A group of Dominican intellectuals and religious leaders in January urged President Danilo Medina and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare the out U.S. ambassador as “persona non grata” because of a U.S.-backed initiative they contend seeks “to turn our adolescents gay.”

Yesterday, Senator  Dick Durbin (D-IL) tweeted his support saying Ambassador Brewster is “doing exceptional work under difficult circumstances.”  U.S. Ambassador to Chile Mike Hammer also tweeted his support:

Previously in January:

Last December:

Last year, Senator Durbin also wrote and appealed to the Pope about the hostile public remarks against Ambassador Brewster made by Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo:

Ambassador Brewster is from my state of Illinois and he is a personal friend.  I supported President Obama’s selection of Ambassador Brewster and he was sworn into his position in my Senate office.  Ambassador Brewster is gay and was married under the laws of the United States to his partner, Bob Satawake.

Even before Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in Santo Domingo in 2013, Cardinal Rodriguez launched a personal attack against him with public statements quoted in the popular press.  The Cardinal used the hateful slur “faggot,” which he continues to use to this day.  In a recent interview Cardinal Rodriguez again described the Ambassador as a “faggot” and falsely claimed the Ambassador was setting out to promote “faggotry” in the Dominican Republic.  The Cardinal described the Ambassador as a “wife” who “should stick to housework.”
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The Church’s teachings on gay marriage are well known but the Church also teaches us to show tolerance for those with different sexual orientations.  The intolerant public statements of Cardinal Rodriguez are inconsistent with that clearly stated value.

Since your selection as Pope, you have shared a message of compassion, tolerance, and love.  I remember distinctly when you spoke to us at the joint session of Congress in September and reminded us of our responsibility to “defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.”

This can’t be easy for Ambassador Brewster, his husband or the mission.

These persistent attacks are hard to watch but imagine what it must be like for LGBT members in DR and in many parts of the world.

A Dominican LGBT rights advocate told the Blade, “This is only a reflection of the homophobia that continues to exist in this country,” Ramírez told the Blade. “If this is what the ambassador of the United States is facing, you can only imagine what common GLBT people who don’t have a political agenda are up against.” 

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State/OIG Issues Report on @StateDept IT Incident Response and Reporting Deficiencies

Posted: 2:03 am EDT

 

An independent accounting firm hired by State/OIG determined that the State Department’s IT incident response and reporting (IR&R) program was not operating effectively. Specifically, of the 25 cyber security incidents evaluated, Williams, Adley found that five were miscategorized, six were not remediated in a timely manner, one was not identified in a timely manner, one was missing incident information, four were not reported to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) in a timely manner, and two were not reported to US-CERT as required.

The deficiencies in the IR&R program occurred primarily because of inadequate communication between the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and inadequate management oversight that would ensure that personnel within the Department’s incident response team fully complied with prescribed categorization guidelines, reporting requirements, and remediation timelines.

Without an effective IR&R program, the Department may be unable to properly identify weaknesses, restore IT operations in a timely manner, and identify and respond to cyber security incidents, which could potentially lead to interruptions of critical operations and hinder the Department’s ability to achieve its core mission.
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Williams, Adley determined that the Department’s IR&R program was not operating effectively for the months of September and October 2014. Specifically, Williams, Adley reviewed the Department’s handling of 25 cyber security incidents out of 303 incidents (CAT 1 to CAT 6) reported during the scope period8 to determine whether the Department complied with its information security policies and procedures.

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According to the audit, remediation of one denial of service attack took over 200 hours, remediation of four malicious code attacks took between 174 hours and 312 hours, and remediation of one probe attack took over 175 hours.

Here’s the proposed solution according to the audit:

DS officials stated that a proposed solution was currently being developed that would improve the responsiveness of and communications between DS and IRM. Specifically, the Department would create a Joint Concept of Operations, via a Memorandum of Understanding, that would enhance the current capabilities of the DS Foreign Affairs Cybersecurity Center. Although the Memorandum of Understanding was in the initial drafting phase as of the date of this report, it is a proposed solution that, when fully implemented, will allow the Department to approve a Joint Security Operations Center concept that will potentially consolidate core IRM and DS cyber security functions and thus strengthen the responsiveness of and communications between IRM and DS. This effort will serve as the first step in improving communications between IRM and DS.

The State Department’s response to the OIG requests that the two recommendations be closed  due to agency actions but also expressed concerns over the OIG’s use of this press article from nextgov cited in the audit:

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WaPo reported about the down email system due to hacking concerns here and we did a blogpost of the incident here (see  State Department’s Computer Systems Hacked, 5th Known Agency Breach This Year?).

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Last Night’s “I’ll Have Your Back” For Our Diplomats, and OMG! 13 Hours! Benghazi! Now! Boom! Boom! Boom!

Posted: 2:41 pm EDT

 

So the first of the Benghazi movies is here with Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” It looks like there are three more movies in the works (see You’ve Seen the Boooooks, Now Get Ready For the Benghazi Movies!).

Anyway, today’s the day you’ve all been waiting for, of course.

The New York Times reviewed it:

Here is what The Atlantic says:

No one wanted? Really?

About that CIA chief and the stand down order, the chief finally speaks out:

The Intercept mentions the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

The Guardian says it sent its writer-at-large to his local multiplex and he found out that Bay’s Benghazi spectacular is far from the perfect date film but does sum up a particular slice of the American psyche.  @dave_schilling writes about the  American Way.

Regardless, Ted Cruz and his fellow candidates will surely try to use this motion picture for their own personal gain for as long as possible. That’s what we do with tragedy in this country, after all. We build a memorial, complete with a gift shop stocked with all the cheaply made junk imaginable. We crank out corny movies based on the true story in the hope that enough people will drag their significant other to the theater to experience the sadness first-hand, with the explicit goal of making a sorry buck off the misery. And we try to score political points whenever possible. That’s the American Way.

At last night’s GOP debate, Mr. Cruz did talk about Benghazi:

CRUZ: “13 Hours” — tomorrow morning, a new movie will debut about the incredible bravery of the men fighting for their lives in Benghazi and the politicians that abandoned them. I want to speak to all our fighting men and women.

I want to speak to all the moms and dads whose sons and daughters are fighting for this country, and the incredible sense of betrayal when you have a commander-in-chief who will not even speak the name of our enemy, radical Islamic terrorism, when you have a commander-in- chief who sends $150 billion to the Ayatollah Khamenei, who’s responsible for murdering hundreds of our servicemen and women.

I want to speak to all of those maddened by political correctness, where Hillary Clinton apologizes for saying all lives matter. This will end. It will end on January 2017.

CRUZ: And if I am elected president, to every soldier and sailor and airman and marine, and to every police officer and firefighter and first responder who risk their lives to keep us safe, I will have your back.

Dammit… no “I’ll have your back” for our diplomats.

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