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Mystery Illness: @StateDept Raising Doubt About 14 China Cases #TheThing

 

We’ve blogged previously about the mystery illness that was reported to have afflicted USG employees in China (U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou – What’s Going On?Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs; Yo! The Thing. Still Going on in China?)

Last night, CBS/60Minutes did a segment on the health attacks in China. Back in July  2018, WaPo wrote about Mark Lenzi whose access to the building at post was reportedly restricted after he “began to speak up more forcefully about the treatment of his family.” Recap below: USCG Guangzhou Security Engineering Officer Mark Lenzi Disputes State Department Statement on Mystery Illness

On June 6, WaPo wrote about Mark Lenzi and his family who  started noticing noises in April 2017 at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China. “A few months later, the headaches started — pain that lasted for days at a time. Lenzi and his wife experienced the same symptoms, which soon included chronic sleeplessness as well. Lenzi says he asked his superiors for help but they dismissed his concerns. Consulate doctors prescribed painkillers and Ambien, which did nothing to address the underlying causes of the problem. And then, last month, Lenzi was shocked to learn another neighbor, a fellow Foreign Service officer, had been evacuated from their building and flown back to the United States for a thorough medical assessment, which soon determined that the person in question was suffering from “mild traumatic brain injury.”  

They gave him painkillers and Ambien but medevaced the FSO next door?

The State Department reportedly issued a statement but said it is unaware of any other cases — a point “strongly disputed by Lenzi, who insists he had repeatedly informed both the embassy in Beijing and State Department headquarters in Washington of his family’s predicament.”  Lenzi, who has reportedly called for the resignation of the US Ambassador to Beijing  told WaPo that the State Department “restricted his access to the building where he normally worked after he began to speak up more forcefully about the treatment of his family, essentially neutralizing his capacity to continue his work at the consulate”.

We understand that Mark Lenzi is a specialist who was assigned as a Security Engineering Officer (SEO) in Guangzhou until he and his family were evacuated from post. Given the reported restriction to post access for speaking out about this incident, this is a case that bears watching.

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60Minutes notes that “for reasons that are unclear, the State Department is raising doubt about the other 14 China cases. Click here for the transcript of the State Department segment.

In addition to Mark Lenzi, also on camera were U.S. Commerce Department trade officer Catherine Werner,  trade officer Robyn Garfield and wife Britta who were posted in Shanghai, and former NSA employee Mark Lenzi who believed that the weapon used is a radio frequency energy, in the microwave range.

A clue that supports that theory was revealed by the National Security Agency in 2014. This NSA statement describes such a weapon as a “high-powered microwave system weapon that may have the ability to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time without leaving evidence.” The statement goes on to say “…this weapon is designed to bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves.” The NSA disclosed this in a worker’s compensation case filed by former NSA employee Mike Beck.

Also:  “The State Department declined an interview, but in a statement to 60 Minutes it said, “We will continue to provide our colleagues the care they need, regardless of their diagnosis or the location of their medical evacuation.” A State Department official told us that the Cuba patients are victims of an attack. But State hasn’t made the same determination for the China patients. The department has asked the National Academies of Science to assist in the medical investigation.”

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@StateDept’s Chief Diplomatic Recruiter Seeks Diversity, Heads to a State With 91.1 Percent White Population

Posted: 4:01 am EDT

 

We’ve been ill, so we’re just catching up on this news.  One of the purported reasons for the secretary of state’s recent trip to Iowa is to recruit flesh blood to add to his “75,000 great warriors out around the world” doing, as best we could tell, diplomatic and consular work. We don’t know how the secretary and his smart people on the 7th Floor missed the fact that Iowa is actually overwhelmingly white. Like 91.1 percent white. Also, in January 2019, WalletHub notes that Iowa is not doing really great in bridging racial disparities –the state ranks 48th in racial integration, and number 50 on its racial progress ranking (Maine took the 51st spot, by the way).  WalletHub said it measured the gaps between blacks and whites across 22 key indicators of equality and integration in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  See link below.

We’d like to helpfully note that as of September 2018, at least 81 percent of the State Department’s career foreign service officers are white, at least 75 percent of the career foreign service specialists are white, and 60 percent of career civil service employees are white (see Snapshot: @StateDept Permanent Workforce by Ethnicity, Race, Gender, and Disability).  The agency has  0.10 percent Native Hawaiian representation, and 0.40 percent American Indian representation. Those numbers disappear at the senior ranks. Don’t mind us, but that trip to Iowa would have made more sense if it were a trip to Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or the areas with the largest American Indian and Alaska Native population.

During his trip, Secretary Pompeo told the Iowa Farm Bureau he wants to ensure “people from the heartland” serve within the Foreign Service. Okay, but if it’s important enough to warrant a trip, why have they not created a hashtag to go with it, hey?

So geographic diversity is more important than diversity of thoughts? Yes? No?

Or it it that this time, for this specific trip, geographic diversity is kinda important?

A recent Miles With Mike blog/newsletter/scrapbook rolled into one alerted everyone that “In the next few weeks” he will be  “traveling around our country to meet and speak with Americans in numerous cities, to hear how we can best advance their interests.”

Very confusing. First, it was visit the farmers and the heartland, then also recruit for the State Department, and now it looks like he will be on a listening tour in numerous cities to um, hear how he can “best advance their interests.”

Anyway, this should be interesting. How is he going to ensure geographic diversity remains to be seen. Candidates still have to take the exam. Is the Foreign Service Board of Examiners going to start awarding points to Foreign Service candidates based on their states of birth, or states of residence? Or voter registration? We suspect that Congress would be interested on any potential changes specific to Foreign Service recruitment. Also, with our society being prone to litigation, if this geographic diversity selection ever becomes policy, how soon before the non-heartland people sign up for class action?

Source: WalletHub

 

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Pompeo Heads to Iowa, Texas, Kansas – And Where Else? That’s a Ridiculous Question!

Posted: 2:21 am EST

 

It looks like the State Department is dropping the #swagger hashtag for the moment.  There’s now a new hashtag #StateDeptStateside for trips to Iowa, Texas, Kansas, and who knows where else.  They’re also selling this as a recruitment trip, but doesn’t the secretary of state know that he already has Diplomats in Residence (DIRs), career Foreign Service Officers located throughout the United States who are responsible for providing guidance and advice to students, professionals and the community about Department careers? The DIR Midwest located in Illinois covers Iowa, and there is actually one located in Texas! Yay! But hey, nothing else is going on in the world, so yes, it absolutely makes perfect sense for the secretary of state to be doing stateside trips to recruit personnel for the State Department.

Listen, just ditch the plane, folks. Make this a whistle-stop tour; say it saves money. On the way to Texas he’ll get to stop at plenty states without even trying. He can chat with folks at every stop. Easy peasy lemon squeezy pitch.  Say come work at a national security agency that makes the world a better place; it’s such an important agency that they make half the people work with no pay while the other half are just sent home with no pay during a government shutdown. Also no one found the national security agency get out of shutdown free card until the 27th day of the shutdown, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is they found the card on the 27th day of the shutdown, and the money, so it’s all good now. No, it’s all great now! Sign up sheet to join over 75,000 warriors over there!

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SoS: Look, he did not say what he said. I know precisely what he said and you don’t — even if you saw his tweet

Posted: 4:24 am EST

 

Here is the 70th Secretary of State acting as the President of the United States’ universal translator. Transcript is available here. People say that a few more performances like this and they might have to start giving him a new nickname.

Coz, you know what that Orwell fella wrote: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense.”

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Former MI GOP Senate Candidate Makes 6-Minute Pitch on Fox News For USUN Ambassador Post #formalaudition

Posted: 2:26 am EST

 

Politico is reporting that John James appeared on Fox News Wednesday afternoon in what some White House officials viewed as a formal audition for the role. “He used the six-minute segment to pitch himself as an experienced businessman who could cut through the U.N. bureaucracy to deliver meaningful reforms, and also as someone who is willing to communicate the president’s “America First” vision. Trump has told advisers he wants someone in the job — recently downgraded from its Cabinet rank — who agrees with his foreign policy outlook and can be a ubiquitous presence on television.” Take a look.

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DHS/OIG Recommends Disciplinary Action For Ex-Deputy COS Christine Ciccone For Failure to Cooperate With State/OIG Review

Posted: 3:11 am EST

 

On February 13, 2019, Acting DHS/OIG John V. Kelly wrote a memo to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen concerning DHS Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone’s “failure to cooperate with Inspector General review.” Prior to moving to DHS, Ms. Ciccone served as deputy chief of staff to then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (also see Tillerson’s Redesign Chief Leaves Office After Three Months, Meet the New Redesigner-in-ChiefRex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, joined by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, left, and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, prepare for a meeting with U.S./Alaska Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10, 2017. [U.S. Air Force photo / Public Domain]

DHS/OIG Kelly also formally recommended that Secretary Nielsen “take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone for failing to cooperate with an Inspector General review.” Excerpt from memo:

Beginning in September 2018, our colleagues at the Department of State Office of Inspector General (State OIG) have been attempting to interview Ms. Ciccone. At the request of several congressional committees,1 State OIG is reviewing allegations of prohibited personnel practices that occurred while Ms. Ciccone was the State Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Ms. Ciccone is a key witness in State OIG’s review; however, she has been unwilling to schedule an interview despite repeated requests made to both her and her attorney over many months.
[…]
Pursuant to the Inspector General Act (IG Act), we have assisted State OIG in attempting to schedule an interview with Ms. Ciccone and have enlisted Acting Deputy Secretary Grady in our efforts. We very much appreciate the Deputy Secretary’s assistance and her instruction to Ms. Ciccone that she must participate in the interview. However, as of today, Ms. Ciconne has not scheduled a time to meet with State OIG staff. On Monday February 11, 2019, staff from State OIG, along with DHS OIG Deputy Inspector General Jennifer Costello, met with congressional staff to inform them of Ms. Ciccone’s failure to cooperate.
[…]
DHS has implemented the requirements of the Act in DHS Management Directive 0810.1, which in part states that DHS employees will be subject to disciplinary action if they refuse to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by the OIG. Ms. Ciccone’s handling of this situation is not consistent with her obligations as an employee under this directive. Further, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to comply with State OIG’s request for an interview sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants of the IG Act, with the potential to undermine our critical oversight function. Therefore, I recommend that you take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone under Management Directive 0810.1.

The HFAC statement notes that this review relates to the “ongoing State Department Office of Inspector General review of allegations of politically-motivated retaliation against career State Department employees.”

The HFAC statement provides a background:

  • Multiple whistleblowers have contacted our Committees to call attention to allegations of politically-motivated personnel actions during Ms. Ciccone’s tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department.  Chairman Cummings, Chairman Engel, and Ranking Member Menendez reported these practices to State OIG in multiple letters in 2018, as well as in letters to and hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • State OIG opened a review of politically-motivated personnel practices in response to congressional requests.
  • During the pendency of the Inspector General’s review, Ms. Ciccone left the State Department to join the Department of Homeland Security as the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.  Though she left her position at the State Department, she remains in federal service and is obligated to cooperate with the Inspector General’s inquiry, per the terms of her home agency’s management directive requiring that all agency employees fully cooperate with OIG reviews.
  • On February 11, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee received a briefing from State OIG regarding Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to State OIG’s interview requests.  State OIG stated that it was in possession of documentary evidence demonstrating Ms. Ciccone’s involvement in personnel actions against at least three career employees, but was unable to complete its review without Ms. Ciccone’s interview. State OIG noted that given her senior position, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to an interview was “unprecedented.”

According to the a DHS Directive, employees  will —

— be subject to criminal prosecution and disciplinary action, up to and including removal, for knowingly and willfully furnishing false or misleading information to investigating officials;

— be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by investigating officials or to provide a signed sworn statement if requested by the OIG, unless questioned as the subject of an investigation that can lead to criminal prosecution.

What should be most interesting to see is how DHS and Congress will deal with this case. It would send a signal to the rest of the bureaucracy how serious they are in their support of government oversight, and whether or not there are real consequences for failure to cooperate with Inspector General reviews.

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Secretary Pompeo Issues a Statement on SOTU #ButWhosFirst?

Big mystery.

On February 5, 2019 10:32 pm, the State Department’s Press Office released  an official statement from the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “On President Trump’s State of the Union Address”:

In his first two years, President Trump has strengthened America at home and abroad by putting the interests of the American people first and reasserting American leadership around the world. History will remember this period not only for what America has achieved on its own, but for the partnerships we have built with strong, sovereign, and independent nations and the contributions we have inspired from our partners. From making historic progress with North Korea, to confronting the regime in Iran, to supporting the Venezuelan people against tyranny, and more, President Trump’s diplomatic agenda has made America safer, more respected, and more prosperous.

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“History will remember this period …for the partnerships…” kind of does not really work when … what’s that? Recent bureau departures are attributed  to fears  that Trump will pull us out of NATO? Pardon me? Top ranking folks really did not want to be associated with that? But … but.. he said history …. okay, never mind.

Anyway, we had a hard time recalling any secretary of state releasing an official statement on the SOTU. Except it turned out, T-Rex also did a statement when Trump delivered his first SOTU on February 28, 2017.  On March 1, Tillerson released a 100-word statement.

Trump delivered his second SOTU on January 30, 2018. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not appear to release any statement prior to the SOTU but delivered a Remarks at the High-Level Opening Session of the Inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on the same day.

By the way, former Secretary of State John Kerry did not issue statements on President Obama’s SOTUs. We’ve looked.

So we should note that while Pompeo maybe one of the firsts to be out with the statement, he got some company (see DHS Secretary Nielsen’s statement, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s statement , Labor Secretary Acosta’s statement, Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s statement, and who knows who else?  Cabinet secretaries and public affairs people burning their late night oil to come up with these statements on the night of February 5.

But you know, folks really need to get these statement night-stamped, otherwise, how will Trump know which statement went out first or last?

It’s probably worth mentioning that Energy Secretary Perry released his state of the union statement on February 6!  February 6. He was the “designated survivor” and he is a day late with his statement?! That’s unforgivable. Yeah, so no cookies for him or his his PA people.