Pompeo Convenes ARB Guadalajara For Jan 2017 Attack on USG Employee

On November 8, the Federal Register published a notice that an Accountability Review Board (ARB) for a security incident where a U.S. national attempted to murder a U.S. diplomat in Guadalajara, Mexico had been convened:

On June 1, 2018, Secretary Pompeo authorized the convening of an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review a January 2017 attack on a U.S. government employee in Guadalajara, Mexico. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, as amended (22 U.S.C. 4834), the ARB will examine the facts and circumstances, and report findings and recommendations as it deems appropriate, in keeping with its mandate. (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). Last month, the assailant was sentenced to 22 years (see U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico).

The notice includes the composition of the ARB:

Secretary has appointed Lisa Kubiske, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. The other Board members are retired Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, retired Ambassador Joan Plaisted, Ms. Carol Gallo, and Mr. John DeSalvio. They bring to their deliberations distinguished backgrounds in government service.

According to the notice, the Board “will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Pompeo within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time. Within the timeframes required by statute following receipt of the report, the Department will report to Congress on recommendations made by the Board and action taken with respect to those recommendations.”

12 FAM 030 on the ARB provides that “The Secretary must convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such 60-day period may be extended for one additional 60-day period if the Secretary determines that the additional period is necessary for the convening of the Board.”  The attack occurred in January 2017; we have not been able to locate a notice of an ARB for this incident authorized by Tillerson. Pompeo assumed office in Foggy Bottom on April 26, 2018. ARB Guadalajara was authorized on June 1, 2018, some 17 months after the incident, but less than 60 days from Pompeo’s taking office. 

There is a provision in the regs for a delay in convening an ARB; we can’t tell if the delay here was under this provision or simply because Tillerson’s tenure was beset by chaos: With respect to breaches of security involving intelligence activities, the Secretary may delay the convening of a Board, if, after consultation with the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, the Secretary determines that the establishment of a Board would compromise intelligence sources or methods.  The Secretary must promptly advise the chairs of such committees of each determination to delay the establishment of a Board. 

In any case, we’re still interested in learning more about what happened to ARB Guadalajara. If it’s been concluded, has it been forwarded to Congress? 

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US Embassy Kinshasa Remains Closed to the Public For Sixth Day Over Terror Threat #DRC

 

On December 2, the US Embassy Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it will be closed to the public again due to a terrorist threat against USG facilities in the capital city. Below is part of the announcement:

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is working closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to address a terrorist threat against USG facilities in Kinshasa.  The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will be closed to the public on Monday, December 3.

 Actions to Take:

·        Maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

·         Monitor local media for updates.

·         Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.

·         Review the country page  and remain alert for potentially dangerous situations.

US Embassy Kinshasha previously “received credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa” on November 24, 2018. It initially closed to the public with only minimal staffing on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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OSC’s Hatch Act Guidance: No Advocacy For/Against Impeachment, No #Resist, #ResistTrump Use

 

On November 27, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) — not Robert Mueller’s but the federal agency with authorities to investigate cases related to the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) — issued a new guidance regarding political activity. It says that  its Hatch Act Unit has received several questions regarding whether the following constitute “political activity” for purposes of the Hatch Act:

1. Is strong criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions considered political activity?

Criticism or praise that is directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group is political activity. Absent evidence that the criticism or praise is so directed, criticism or praise of an administration’s policies and actions is not considered political activity. Whether a particular statement constitutes political activity depends upon the facts and circumstances.

Consider, for example, the administration’s recent decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. An employee who strongly criticizes or praises that decision during a workplace discussion with a colleague in the days immediately following the decision is less likely to be engaging in political activity than one making those same statements in the run-up to the next presidential election—when the decision will likely have been out of the news for several years—to a colleague that the employee knows has strong feelings about
the subject.

Read more here.

2. Is advocating for or against impeachment of a candidate for federal office considered political activity?

Yes. Read more here.

3. Is activity related to “the Resistance” considered political activity?

To the extent that the statement relates to resistance to President Donald J. Trump, usage of the terms “resistance,” “#resist,” and derivatives thereof is political activity. We understand that the “resistance” and “#resist” originally gained prominence shortly after President Trump’s election in 2016 and generally related to efforts to oppose administration policies. However, “resistance,” “#resist,” and similar terms have become inextricably linked with the electoral success (or failure) of the president. During the period when President Trump was not considered by OSC to be a candidate for reelection the terms did not raise any Hatch Act concerns. Now that President Trump is a candidate for reelection, we must presume that the use or display of “resistance,” “#resist,” “#resistTrump,” and similar statements is political activity unless the facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.

Note that this presumption is only relevant to employee conduct that takes place on duty, in the workplace, while wearing an agency uniform or insignia, or while invoking any official authority or influence. Provided that they comply with the Hatch Act’s restrictions, employees are free to engage in political activity while off-duty and away from the federal workplace.

In OSC’s example, if you tweet “I must #resist the temptation to eat another donut from the break room” – you would not/not be engaging in political activity but OSC would presume that “the use or display of the hashtags #resist and #resistTrump, in isolation, is political activity under the Hatch Act.”  Read in full here.

The thing is, Foreign Service folks are considered on duty 24/7, so what does this guidance means in the real world? We’ve asked the OSC; will update if we hear anything back.

You may also call the Hatch Act Unit at 202-804-7002 or send an e-mail to Hatchact@osc.gov  for your Hatch Act-related questions.

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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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Bureau of Swagger Affairs: Truly Swaggerific (FAM Citation, Please)

Via State Mag (PDF) |Brian Aggeler | September 2018:

Real life example taken from the Swagger Tenets cleared by the Bureau of Swagger Affairs(insert FAM citation when available):

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Halloween 2018: A Great Day For Scaring Kids, Also a Frightful Time For All Else

 

ALSO IN FRIGHTFUL NEWS: The United States could deploy 7,000 armed troops to the US-Mexican border a week before Election Day. It could go up to 15,000, roughly what we have in Afghanistan and three times what the United States deployed to Iraq. Since Mexico refused to fund that wall, the President of the United States now says “”We have to have a wall of people”. Presumably, our friends to the south are not going to pay for this “wall of people” either, so U.S. taxpayers are already saddled with this tab. And since the deployment to the border number will likely kept growing the next few days, the Pentagon probably should ask how deep is this “wall of people” the Commander-in-Chief is talking about.

Meanwhile in Yemen, people have been dying the last three years. Now 14 million people face starvation as the U.S. government continue its military support of Saudi Arabia’s war (see Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy). USG is now seeking a cease-fire over there. Why now? Is it because half of Yemen’s population is on the brink of famine? Or is it because the world is finally paying attention to US-support of the war in Yemen after the Khashoggi murder?  Former USNATO Ambassador Robert Hunter writes that “blanket U.S. support for the Saudi air campaign means that it cannot escape its own share of responsibility.”

Also back in 2010, a State/OIG report estimated that the Yemeni-American community in that country was about 55,000. There were no USG-organized evacuations when war broke out. For those covering Yemen, please ask the Secretary of State his department’s estimate on how many Yemeni-Americans were killed in this war.

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Snapshot: The Tillerson Effect on Foreign Service Family Member Employment (2017-2018)

Via State/FLO:

Rex Tillerson was confirmed and assumed charged of the State Department on February 1, 2017 as the 69th Secretary of State. He was fired on March 13, 2018 and left Foggy Bottom for the last time on March 22, 2018. Below is the comparative look of Foreign Service family member employment numbers inside overseas missions from Spring 2014 to Spring 2018. Overseas missions include over 275 diplomatic and consular posts overseas located in 191 countries.

Related posts:

Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs

Via  NBC News:

NBC News also reviewed hundreds of pages of medical records of U.S. government workers evacuated from both Cuba and China, including those the U.S. has “medically confirmed” were attacked and those it ultimately said were not.
[…]

Most of the American diplomatic evacuees have improved enough to resume work, State Department officials said. Some have been granted accommodations, such as shortened work hours, dimmed office lights or special glasses. Meanwhile, the White House National Security Council is preparing legislation to deal with gaps that Workers’ Compensation doesn’t currently cover, such as care for affected spouses or pay-outs for permanent impairment of the brain.

In internal State Department instructions reviewed by NBC News, workers in Cuba and China were told not to discuss what they knew with the public, with reporters or on social media.
[…]

In May, Pompeo called Werner’s case “entirely consistent” with the Cuba patients. But now top U.S. diplomats say they’re not sure it’s the same thing, with one telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee it’s “apples and oranges.”

And the State Department, in explaining why it’s not setting up a review board to assess the response in Cuba, told NBC News that Pompeo didn’t believe there was enough information to prove that Werner’s injury was “related to a U.S. government mission abroad.”

Somebody please set us straight here. Wasn’t there an ARB for the Cuba attack? Or was there an ARB Havana but no ARB Guangzhou? How did State made a determination that there wasn’t enough information  the injury was “related to a U.S. government mission abroad” without convening an Accountability Review Board? Did they use their Magic 8 crystal ball?

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Foggy Bottom’s State of Affairs: No Active Service Diplomats as Lead in Geographic Bureaus

During Tillerson’s brief tenure at the State Department, there was quite a shock when a large number of offices at the top of the State Department were left empty. We’re not sure if that was intentional (so control remains with the Secretary’s inner circle absent  the presidential appointees), or if this was because Tillerson and the White House could not agree on the same nominees for these offices. In some cases there were career diplomats appointed in acting capacities, in others, there were only senior bureau officials.  We’re almost at the two year mark of this administration, and the State Department is already on its second secretary of state in a four year term, so we’ve decided to take a look at the geographic bureau appointments.  For non-State readers, note that embassies do not report directly to the secretary of state, just as ambassadors do not report directly to the White House; they report through the geographic bureaus. Of course, these days, the traditional reporting structure seems to be breaking apart (which invite chaos), but the staffing is worth taking a look nonetheless.

According to AFSA’s appointment tracker, out of 49 total appointments at the top ranks of the State Department right now, only five are career appointees. The five appointments include three active Foreign Service officers, U/S Political Affairs David Hale (confirmed), Carol Z. Perez as DGHR (nominated, pending confirmation) and USAID’s Michael T. Harvey as Assistant Administrator, Middle East (nominated, pending confirmation). The other two are recalled retired FSOs Tibor Nagy, Jr. for African Affairs (confirmed), and Ronald Mortensen for Population, Refugees and Migration (nominated, pending confirmation). There are also two previous members of the Foreign Service (Diplomatic Security’s Michael Evanoff and Consular Affairs’ Carl Risch) who were two of Trump’s earliest appointees but are considered political appointees.

Going back to 1960, the European and Eurasian Affairs (70.6%), Near Eastern Affairs (85.7%), and African Affairs (53.8%) have the highest numbers of career appointees at the assistant secretary level.  The largest number of noncareer appointees in the geographic bureaus  are in International Organizational Affairs (23.1%) followed by East Asian And Pacific Affairs (42.9%). South and Central Asian Affairs (50.0%) and Western Hemisphere  Affairs (50.0%) are split in the middle between career and noncareer appointees.

During Obama’s first term, the assistant secretary appointments at the regional bureaus was 57% noncareer and 42% career. On his second term, this flipped with career appointees leading four of the seven bureaus.

George W. Bush made a total of 19 appointments (career-8; noncareer-11) in the geographic bureaus during his two terms in office. This translates to 57.8% noncareer and 42.1% career appointments.

Right now, Trump’s overall State Department appointments are 89.8% noncareer and only 10.2% career appointees. His career appointments in the geographic bureaus is currently at 1 out of 7. We do need to point out that with the exception of African Affairs (AF) where the appointee is a recalled retired FSO, there are no active service diplomats tasked with leading a geographic bureau in Foggy Bottom.  It is possible that this Administration will bring in a career diplomat to head the South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) bureau, but then again, if they have not found one before now, who’s to say that they will ever find a career diplomat that they like enough to nominate in the next two years?

Of course, everything’s fine. It’s not like we have an ongoing war in Afghanistan, yeah?

Below is the staffing/vacancy status of assistant secretaries at the geographic bureaus as of this writing.

African Affairs (AF): The bureau covers these countries in sub-Saharan Africa but not those in North Africa.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Tibor P. Nagy, Jr. (2018-
Retired FSO/Confirmed

 

East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP): Click here for the countries covered by the bureau. Department website notes that “The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, headed by Senior Bureau Official W. Patrick Murphy deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. relations with the countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NOMINATED: David Stilwell (NonCareer/Pending at SFRC)

 

European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR): The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1949. The name changed to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs on August 8, 2001. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: A. Wess Mitchell (2017-)

NonCareer/Confirmed

 

Near Eastern Affairs (NEA): The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) deals with U.S. foreign policy and U.S. diplomatic relations with AlgeriaBahrainEgyptIranIraqIsraelJordanKuwaitLebanonLibyaMoroccoOmanPalestinian TerritoriesQatarSaudi ArabiaSyriaTunisiaUnited Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Regional policy issues that NEA handles include Iraq, Middle East peace, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and political and economic reform

CURRENT: Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
David M. Satterfield (Career FSO)

NOMINATED David Schenker
(NonCareer/Pending at SFRC since 4/2018)

 

South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA): The Bureau of South Asian Affairs was established Aug 24, 1992, and is responsible for relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, and the Maldive Islands. It has since expanded to cover these countries.

CURRENT: No Acting Assistant Secretary

NO NOMINEE ANNOUNCED

 

Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA): On January 12, 1999, the Bureau assumed responsibility for Canada and was renamed the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Department of State had first established a Division of Latin American Affairs in 1909. The bureau covers these countries.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary:  Kimberly Breier (2018-)
(NonCareer/Confirmed)

 

International Organization Affairs (IO): The Department of State created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs in February 1949, using one of the six Assistant secretary positions originally authorized by Congress in 1944 (Dec 8, 1944; P.L. 78-472; 58 Stat. 798). On June 24, 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson established the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) as part of the U.S. effort to meet the needs of post-World War II diplomacy.  IO is the U.S. Government’s primary interlocutor with the United Nations and a host of international agencies and organizations.

CURRENT Assistant Secretary: Kevin Edward Moley (2018-)
NonCareer/Confirmed

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