As Ukraine Opens Probe Into Yovanovitch Surveillance, Foggy Bottom Remains Mute as a Mouse

Update 1:37 pm PST: Mid-day on Friday, CNN reports: After more than 48 hours of silence, Pompeo says State will investigate possible surveillance of ex-US ambassador

On January 14, we blogged about the Parnas documents indicating a possible surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she was posted as U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv (see Parnas Materials: Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv).
According to NBC News reporter Josh Lederman, Robert F. Hyde reportedly dismissed the Parnas texts as “colorful texts” from when they’d “had a few pops way back when I used to drink” (see). When asked about Hyde’s claims of tracking Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lev Parnas in his first TV interview also said, “Well, I don’t believe it’s true.”  He added, “I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take it seriously.”
Since we have not heard anything from the State Department or Secretary Pompeo, are we to understand that the State Department is just taking their words that they’re joking around or drunk as claimed in their worrisome exchange? Given subsequent reporting on the Hyde character, that’s possible, of course. But if there was something there, anyone really expect that these individuals would admit to some nefarious intent publicly?
On January 16, Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior announced that it opened an investigation on the possible surveillance:

Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published references cited contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.

Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.

Also on January 16, NBC News reported that the FBI paid a visits to Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde’s Connecticut home and business.  FBI spokesperson told The Hill, “There is no further information that can be shared at this time.”  But as former DOJ staffer Matthew Miller points out, DOJ has had these messages for months. They’re investigating this claimed surveillance just now.
As of this writing, neither Pompeo nor the State Department has released any statement of concern on the possibility that one of its ambassadors was under surveillance for unknown reasons by people directly connected to Rudy Giuliani, the shadow secretary of state.
When State officials and Pompeo talk about protecting and supporting our diplomats in their town halls and chitchats, do they still say that loud with straight faces? Really, we’re curious.

 

 

 

 

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HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch

 

 

@StateDept Recalls Ambassador Daniel Foote From Zambia in Lame Response #TitNoTat

 

This is a follow-up to our post in early December (see US Embassy Zambia: Threats Against Amb. Daniel Foote For Comments on Harsh Sentencing of Gay Couple). The recall of Ambassador Daniel Foote from the U.S. Embassy in Zambia occurred late last month.
The State Department released a brief statement (see below) and the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy issued a tweet saying, “Dismayed by the Zambian government’s decision requiring our Ambassador Daniel Foote’s departure from the country.” Martin “Marty” Dale, a career member of the Foreign Service, is currently listed as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka on its website; no CDA is identified as of this writing.
So they’re all dismayed, huh? If the State Department considered the Zambian Government’s statement on Ambassador Foote as equivalent of a declaration of “persona non grata” why have they not asked the Zambian Ambassador in Washington D.C. to leave in the spirit of reciprocity?
The State Department’s action so loud, we could barely hear what they’re saying. Perhaps the State Department should have a new recruitment flyer:
See the world, join the State Department
And watch your back!

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U.S. Senate Confirms First Political Ambassador to Thailand in 47 Years

 

We missed this one last year. On July 15, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Michael George DeSombre to be the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on January 8, 2020.
This position has traditionally been encumbered by a senior career diplomat of the U.S. Foreign Service. We have to go back all the way to 1973 to locate a political appointee to this position. Retired U.S. Army officer William Roscoe Kintner (1915–1997) who served during World War II and during the Korean conflict was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand from November 29, 1973–March 15, 1975 under Presidents Nixon and Ford’s tenures. Since AFSA started tracking the ambassadorial appointments going back to 1960, only two political appointees made it to Thailand as chief of mission out of a total of 18 confirmed appointees (data as of 2016).
Ambassador-designate DeSombre’s predecessors at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok includes Career Ambassador Kristie Ann Kenney (1955–), five times ambassador John Gunther Dean (1926–); Career Ambassador Morton Isaac Abramowitz (1933–), and two times Ambassador Charles Sheldon Whitehouse (1926–2001), the father of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).

His Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)  below via state.gov:

Michael George DeSombre is globally recognized as a preeminent authority on mergers and acquisitions and high profile negotiations.  A partner in the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell since 2004, Mr. DeSombre leads their mergers and acquisition practice in Asia where he has been resident for over 20 years.  His extensive representation of American and other international clients has honed his skills as a negotiator opposite Chinese and other Asian counterparties.  Mr. DeSombre is active in the region’s intellectual and philanthropic communities and deeply involved in the American community in Asia.  His keen understanding of Asia, extensive network of contacts and ability to bridge the legal, financial and policy worlds make him an excellent candidate for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand.

Mr. DeSombre serves on the board of the Hong Kong Forum which seeks to promote the exchange of ideas between scholars and policymakers worldwide and to foster communication between the United States and China.  In addition, as Chairman of the Board of Save the Children Hong Kong since 2015, he has substantially grown and professionalized the organization.  He is a 19-year member of the American Club in Hong Kong and served on the Board of Governors for five years (the term limit).  He is an active supporter of the USA Rugby team and, as the Worldwide President of Republicans Overseas, Inc. since 2013, he refocused the organization to address key concerns for Americans overseas.

In 1990, Mr. DeSombre received a B.A. in Quantitative Economics and an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar.  He graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude in 1995 and received the Reginald F. Lewis Prize in International Business Law. Mr. DeSombre is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and speaks some Korean and Japanese.

@MichaelDeSombre’s Twitter profile says “Republicans Overseas, Worldwide President.”
Big Law Business reported in August 2019 that “DeSombre, in his ethics agreement filed as part of the confirmation process, said he would resign from his posts in Republican organizations as well as his chairmanship of Save the Children Hong Kong Ltd., if he is confirmed.”
Related posts:

SFRC Clears Sullivan For Moscow, Other Ambassador Nominations, Foreign Service Lists

Former Iran Hostage Amb John Limbert: “Mr. President, if you are listening ….”

 

 

 

New Year Opens With Security Alerts Issued For U.S. Embassies in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia

Updated: 2:44 pm PST

US Embassy Iraq issued a Security Alert on January 3, 2016:

Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the U.S. Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 Travel Advisory and depart Iraq immediately.  U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.  Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all public consular operations are suspended until further notice.  U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy.  The U.S. Consulate General in Erbil is open for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance.  U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.

Do not travel to Iraq; Avoid the U.S. Embassy; Monitor local and international media for updates 

US Embassy Bahrain issued a Security Alert on January 3, 2016:

In light of regional events, there is potential for spontaneous demonstrations or unrest to take place in Bahrain over the coming days, and possibly beyond.  While we have no information indicating a threat to American citizens, we encourage you to continually exercise the appropriate level of security awareness in regards to your personal security and in the face of any anti-U.S. activity that may arise in Bahrain.  We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to local authorities.

U.S. Embassy Kuwait also issued an Alert on January 3:

Heightened Tensions in the Region

The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is aware of heightened security tensions in the region.  Out of an abundance of caution, the Embassy is increasing its security posture. The Embassy will remain open during regular business hours for visa and American Citizen Services appointments, including passport issuance.

We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private U.S. citizens in Kuwait at this time.  Nonetheless, this situation serves as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times.

U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon also issued an Alert on January 3:

Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Lebanon to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

Actions to Take:

The State Department also tweeted a Security Alert for Morocco:

: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we encourage US citizens in Morocco to maintain a high level of vigilance. We are not aware of specific threats against US citizens in Morocco. US citizens are urged to enroll in STEP to receive security alerts.

U.S. Mission Saudi Arabia has now issued its own Security Alert:

In light of events in the region, the Mission wishes to remind the American community to maintain heightened security awareness and follow sound security practices while in Saudi Arabia.  The Mission is not aware of any specific, credible threats to U.S. interests or American citizens in the Kingdom.  In the past, regional actors hostile to Saudi Arabia have conducted missile and drone attacks against both civilian and military targets inside the Kingdom.  U.S. citizens living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Eastern Province and areas near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk of missile and drone attack.

Iraqi Protesters Breach U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Compound

Media reports indicate that Iraqi protesters, identified as Iraqi Shiite militia members and their supporters, stormed the U.S. Embassy Baghdad on December 31, in protest of the deadly air strikes conducted by U.S. forces over the weekend. Reports note that the Sunday strikes killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
On December 30, SecDef Mark Esper announced that “the Department of Defense took offensive actions in defense of our personnel and interests in Iraq by launching F-15 Strike Eagles against five targets associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group.  The targets we attacked included three targets in Western Iraq and two targets in Eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches for Kata’ib Hezbollah.”
On December 27, a rocket attack at an Iraqi base killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. troops. See 
According to the AP, the State Department has stated that all U.S. personnel at Embassy Baghdad are safe and that there are no plants to evacuate.
This morning, U.S. Embassy Baghdad issued a security alert advising “U.S. citizens not to approach the Embassy.  U.S. citizens should keep in touch with family members.  In an emergency, U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.”

 

Foggy Bottom’s Fourteen Principles of Ethical Conduct For a Happy Christmas and All Merry Days

Via Santa’s Be Good Not/Not Naughty List: 11 FAM 611.4-4
a. Public service is a public trust; employees must place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.
b. Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.
c.  Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.
d. Employees shall not, except as permitted by the Standards of Ethical Conduct, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the Department, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.
e. Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
f.  Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the government.
g. Employees shall not use public office for private gain.
h. Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.
i.  Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
j.  Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official government duties and responsibilities.
k. Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.
l.  Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all financial obligations, especially those imposed by law, such as Federal, State, or local taxes.
m. Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, or handicap.
n. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in the Standards of Ethical Conduct.  Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the law or these standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts.

#

To our readers and blog friends, we know this has been a difficult year for many.  We feel it every day from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed in an uneasy sleep or nasty nightmares.  There are days when all we want is to grow vegetables on Mars or sleep in a cave. But hey, we’re still here and we appreciate that you’re still here.  We wish you all a happy holidays and send good wishes for the new year. May our homes be always warm in the company of loved ones and good friends.  May we keep faith that there will be better days even in these indecorous and disquieting times. (Excuse me, what? Oh, and may this crazy world not self-destruct in the middle of this darn live show).  Be well, safe travels, and be kind to one another wherever you are.  –DS

 

2019 Holiday Greetings From Foreign Service Posts Around the World

 

 

DACOR Bacon House Foundation Announces 2019-2020 Graduate and Undergraduate Scholarship Awards

 

On December 20, 2019, the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, a 1700-member association of foreign affairs professionals based in Washington D.C. announced the 2019 graduate and undergraduate scholarship awards. Foundation President Paul Denig’s announcement includes over$110,000 in graduate fellowships and over $95,000 in undergraduate scholarships as part of its annual education awards program. “The awards will benefit students currently enrolled or soon to enroll in graduate and undergraduate degree programs at 28 colleges and universities throughout the nation.”
The eleven 2019 recipients of the $10,000 DBHF Graduate Fellowships for the Study of International Affairs are currently enrolled in the second year of their master’s degree programs:
  • Samuel Ginty at The Fletcher School at Tufts University
  • Tamara Glazer at The Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago
  • McKenzie Horwitz at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
  • Hunter Hilinski at Colorado State University
  • Caitlin Keliher at the Kennedy School at Harvard University
  • Emma Myers at NewYork University
  • Emmett Orts at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies
  • MatthewR. Quan at the University of Southern California
  • JoAnna Saunders at American University’s School of International Service
  • Elizabeth Wright at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs
  • Anelise Zimmer at YaleUniversity
The Gantenbein Medical Fund Fellowship, a combined award of $30,000 ($25,000 tuition and $5,000 stipend) was awarded to Samuel Ficenec for the 2019-2020 academic year at Tulane University School of Medicine.
Recipients of the $6,000 DBHF Metro Scholarships to encourage the study of foreign affairs are currently enrolled at five universities. They are:
  • Sagar Sharma at George Mason University;
  • Virgil Parker at Howard University;
  • Christine Harris at ShawUniversity;
  • Efrata Wodaje at Trinity Washington University
  • Maya Montgomery at the University of Maryland
The Louis G. Dreyfus Scholarships for dependents of U.S. Foreign Service Officers at Yale University, the Foundation awarded a total of $35,000 to the following Yale students:
  • Adoma Addo
  • Alex Hoganson
  • Sophie Kane
  • Christian Lewis
The Foundation also awarded a $5,000 dependents scholarship to Emily Heimer, a student at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT.
In addition, the Foundation provides $40,000 each year through the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Scholarship Program to children of AFSA members whose parents are or were Foreign Service employees.
DACOR is “a private non-profit membership-based organization for foreign affairs professionals, fostering open, informed, and non-partisan dialogue about current foreign policy issues, and supporting the Foreign Service community through fellowship and outreach.” Through its philanthropic arm, the DACOR Bacon House Foundation, DACOR serves as the steward of the historic mansion (also known as the Ringgold–Carroll House and John Marshall House) located at 1801 F Street, NW, Washington D.C. The Foundation annually awards $250,000 in scholarships and fellowships to students pursuing careers in diplomacy, development and international relations.
Click here to read more about DACOR. To read more about their scholarship awards, click here.