Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda

Updated 1135 am PDT

On January 2018, we posted about the nomination of Leandro Rizzuto to be U.S. Ambassador to Barbados (Prominent Businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr to be Ambassador to Barbados, But Wait – #ForgotSomething?). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and was resubmitted for renomination by the White House in 2019 (see White House Submits Some @StateDept/Related Agencies Re-nominations to the Senate). This nomination was sent to a GOP majority Senate in the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress with no action from the Senate.  The last actions according to congress.gov for PN136:
01/16/2019: Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
01/03/2020: Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate;
On May 27, 2020, Mr. Pompeo announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda, a post typically held by career diplomats. Actually, we could not recall a political  appointee at this level in more than a decade of blogging. This position does not require Senate confirmation, which means, they could chuck out the current consul general this week and have this guy packed out and  sent down to the island before the month is over.
Foggy Bottom’s top champion of diplomacy strikes again!
According to its website, “the American Consulate General in Hamilton plays an integral role in Bermuda’s political, social and cultural communities.  The main office is located at “Crown Hill,” a historic property, just outside the city of Hamilton, that is owned by the US Government.  Approximately 40 employees, including the Consul General, Deputy Principal Officer, Consul, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director and officers are assigned to the Consulate General.”
Updated: We understand that the Reagan Administration started the tradition of a political appointee in Bermuda (Thanks K!). In December 1981, Max L. Friedersdorf an assistant to the President for legislative affairs resigned and was announced simultaneously as the next consul general to Bermuda, “a post that usually goes to career Foreign Service employees rather than to political appointees.” 
In 2005, George W. Bush appointed Gregory Slayton as U.S. Consul General to Bermuda (Thanks K2). He was sworn in by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on August 15, 2005.
Note that Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. That’s right. The U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton is part of the United States Mission to the United Kingdom.
Anyone told Mr. Rizzuto, a billionaire that he will be reporting to another billionaire, Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson in London?
Also quick question, once Pompeo is done installing a political donor to USCG Hamilton, which post is next? The U.S. Virtual Presence Post in Wales may also be available. For the record, there are 75 more consulates general in the U.S. Foreign Service, and there are still 160 days till election day.
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Another Dual-Hatter? Marshall Billingslea Joins @StateDept as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control

 

Marshall Billingslea was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in June 2017. As of today, five days after the WH announcement, Mr. Billingslea’s bio is still up at the Department of Treasury website. Making folks wonder if this is another of those dual-hatted appointees, with Mr. Billingslea straddling two positions at State and Treasury.
State Department statement on the appointment of Marshall Billingslea:

President Trump has appointed Marshall Billingslea as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control.  In this role, Billingslea will lead arms control negotiations on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Mr. Billingslea most recently has been serving as Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the U.S. Department of Treasury since June 2017.  In that role, he has built international coalitions and led U.S. efforts to counter illicit financial activities.  In 2018 he was selected unanimously by the 37 member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing body — to serve as its President.  Mr. Billingslea also co-chairs the global Counter-ISIS Finance Group and multiple bilateral negotiating fora with friendly and allied nations.  He has deep expertise in arms control and broad experience in foreign policy and national security, having held senior positions in the private sector, NATO, the Department of Defense and on the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Billingslea holds a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University.

The United States remains committed to effective arms control that advances U.S., allied, and partner security; is verifiable and enforceable; and includes partners that comply responsibly with their obligations.  President Trump has charged this Administration with beginning a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control that moves beyond the bilateral treaties of the past.  The appointment of Marshall Billingslea reaffirms the commitment to that mission.

 

Snapshot: @StateDept COVID-19 Cases as of April 3, 2020

The State Department updated its COVID-19 cases on Friday, April 3. 2020. From March 31 to April 3, the number of employees and family members overseas who were self-isolating went from 2,288 to 3,528, an increase of 1,240. The number of positive cases decreased from 149 to 108; while those who recovered went from 42 on March 31 to 79 on April 3, a difference of 37 new individuals recovered.
The April 3 update now includes the number of deaths. As of April 3, there were three deaths overseas from COVID-19, all three are noted as Locally Employed (LE) staffers. We learned previously that one LE staffer died in Jakarta, and another in Kinshasa. We do not know as yet, the location of the third casualty. In the April 3 briefing, Dr. Walters declined to identify the country where the third death occurred. Why? We can’t say. Obviously, the next of kin already know about the death. Co-workers at post already know about the death. We’re not sure why they’re refusing the even identify post; reporters are not asking for names. If Walters is going to cite the Privacy Act, deceased individuals and country names do not have Privacy Act rights. If there’s a real rationale for this, we’d like to know.
The April 3 update still do not include information on the number of medical evacuations (MEDEVAC), USG patients or places of origin. We can confirm at least one MEDEVAC from Burkina Faso, and that USG patient is on the road to recovery.
For domestic cases, the number of self-isolating employees went from 44 to 50 in three days, with positive cases going from 33 to 46 cases.  The report indicates that two domestic employees have recovered as of April 3, 2020.
See excerpts from April 3 briefing below.

 

As of April 3, 2020

As of March 31, 2020

 

Dr. Walters on April 3 Briefing:

Now moving on to the latest COVID-19 statistics for the Department of State, as of today, April 3rd, there are 108 confirmed cases overseas. There are 46 confirmed cases domestically, occurring in nine different cities. So far, there are no reported deaths domestically, but unfortunately there are now a total of three deaths overseas amongst our workforce.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. I just had a question about the number of State Department deaths and a testing question. The first is: Can you give us any more information about the employee, the third person who had died or what country that was in and any other information you can give us?

And second, does State currently have a standard policy on testing? Do – for example, people who think they may be – may have the virus but are not showing symptoms, are they able to get tested? What is the standard guidance on department employees getting tested? Thanks.

MR WALTERS: So as to the first question, I can tell you that it was a locally-employed staff member overseas. I don’t – can’t really go into any further detail because it becomes easier and easier to identify individual people when you do that, so I’m afraid I can’t.

With regard to testing, domestically we all exist within a broad public health architecture. From an occupational health perspective, we have a responsibility to protect the workforce, but we live within and work within the city of Washington, D.C., or in Virginia or Maryland, and ultimately testing and contact tracing is a local and state responsibility and authority. And so we cooperate very closely with the state and local and county public health teams to make sure that we keep the workforce safe and make sure testing is used appropriately.

QUESTION: Hi, there. Thanks. Sorry, I was – I missed part of the answer to Nick’s question because of Elmo, but – (laughter) – did you, Doc Walters, say that the third death was a locally employed staffer? And is it correct that there are still no American staffers overseas who have been —who have succumbed?

And then secondly, the – how many of the more than 400 flights that Ian is talking about were commercial flights that – for which the U.S. Government did not have to pay anything? Thank you.

MR WALTERS: Thanks, Matt. I can answer the first part and then I’ll hand over to Ian and DAS Yon for the last part.

Yeah, so locally employed staff member overseas – we are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness.

Folks, we hate to do this but this is a real pet peeve for us because. Very basic.  “We are not aware of any chief of mission personnel overseas who have succumbed to the illness?” The three Locally Employed (LE) staff members who died of COVID-19 are not chief of mission personnel? Good grief!
2 FAH-2 H-112.1 talks about Chief of Mission authority to direct, supervise, and coordinate all U.S. Government executive branch employees in the COM’s country or area of responsibility.  This includes U.S. Direct Hire (USDH) employees and Personal Service Contractors (PSCs), whether assigned permanently or on temporary duty or an official visit, and; all Locally Employed (LE) Staff regardless of hiring mechanism (whether a direct hire or hired on a PSA, PSC or other mechanism by the Department of State or another U.S. government agency – see 3 FAM 7121).

US Embassy Chad: Where You Can Manifest But You Can Never Leave #StuckInChad

 

Remember in 2017 when Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries? One of those eight countries was Chad.  BuzzFeed reported at that time: ” Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.”
In response to travel ban, Chad withdrew hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. See Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions.
At that time, we also wrote that “the USG’s action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember.”
Maybe this is just coincidence, but here we are:
On March 26, 2020, the US Embassy in Ndjamena, Chad announced  that  the U.S. Embassy “received information on a possible flight that could leave as early as tomorrow” and that “the flight will be making other stops in Africa before going to Washington, DC.”
On March 27, Embassy Ndjamena announced  that “There will not be a flight leaving Chad tomorrow, Friday March 27.  We have no further information on when a flight will be available, but efforts continue.”
Later on March 27, Embassy Ndjamena announced that the U.S. Embassy “was informed that there will be a flight on Sunday for U.S. citizens to depart Chad. The Embassy has also been informed that there will be a very limited number of seats available, with limited luggage, and no pets.  We have no information about any other future flights.”
Update #4 on March 27 notes that “The U.S. Embassy manifested a limited number of passengers for the flight on Sunday. Unfortunately, if you did not receive an email stating that you had been manifested, there were not enough seats to allocate one for you.”
By March 27, that flight was off again, and the embassy announced that “The U.S. Embassy regrets to inform U.S. citizens that  Sunday’s flight has been cancelled because the Chad MFA denied the request for flight clearance.”
On March 29, Embassy Ndjamena said “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad.”
On March 30,  the announcement said, “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad.”
On March 30, update #6 said, “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
On March 31, the statement remains “There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
On March 31, update #7 said: There are now 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chad. There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.”
As of this writing, the latest update posted online is dated  March 31, 2020, 11:00 WAT: ” There are now 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chad. There are no updates to report on flights to depart Chad, although efforts continue.
Chad is a Level 3 Reconsider Travel country since October 2019 “due to crimeterrorism, and minefields.” The advisory also notes that “The U.S. Government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Chad as U.S. Government employees must obtain special authorization to travel outside of the capital, including the Lake Chad Basin.”
Below via Diplomatic Security’s 2020 Safety and Security Report for Chad:
  • The U.S. Department of State has assessed N’Djaména as being a HIGH-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The potential exists for terrorist activity throughout Chad. Violent extremist organizations (e.g. Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, ISIS-Libya, and al-Qa’ida-affiliated groups) can easily cross borders and target Westerners, local security forces, and civilians in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel.
  • The U.S. Department of State has assessed N’Djaména as being a HIGH-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Chad’s recent history is one of political tensions, rebellions, and coup attempts. The current Chadian government has a strong executive branch, headed by President Idriss Déby Itno and dominated by his Zaghawa ethnic group, which controls the political landscape.
  • Border security remains elevated. Chad’s borders with Libya and Sudan are generally off-limits without specific permission from the Government of Chad. The Chad-Libya border is an active conflict zone. New mines may have been laid in secondary roads in 2019, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains from the Chad-Libya conflict.
  • Medical care is limited within N’Djaména, and difficult to find outside of major cities. Chad has limited and extremely expensive public ambulance services. In case of emergency, consider transporting the patient with private vehicles.
  • The Chadian government and people are generally friendly towards U.S. citizens, but violent extremist groups in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel have expressed or signaled their intention to target Westerners.
As far as we are aware, US Embassy Ndjamena is not on any type of evacuation status (with the exception of the Global Authorized Departure issued on March 14). But even if it were to go on ordered departure now, the flights are not going anywhere.

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Pompeo Reads the Data Set Every Morning But Can’t Get @StateDept COVID-19 Casualty Details Right

 

On March 30, the number two official respectively from the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Bureau of Medical Services held another joint Briefing on Updates On Health Impact and Assistance For American Citizens Abroad. When asked, “Are you aware of any deaths among the State Department staff due to coronavirus?”, MED’s Dr. William Walters responded:

So the department is aware of two locally employed staff – I don’t have locations and wouldn’t be able to provide further details – that have died overseas in their own country related to coronavirus.  I don’t have any further details that I can pass on.  There have been no deaths domestically or with any U.S. direct hires.  

Fast forward March 31, the Secretary Pompeo made remarks to the press, excerpt:

And lastly, you asked a question about disinformation in the moment here with the COVID-19 challenge.  I see it every day.  Every morning I get up and I read the data set from across the world, not only the tragedy that’s taking place here.  We’ve had a State Department official pass away as a result of this virus, one of our team members.  We now have 3,000 Americans who have been killed.  This is tragic.  My prayers go out to every American and every American family impacted by this.

This data set matters.  The ability to trust the data that you’re getting so that our scientists and doctors and experts at the World Health Organization and all across the world who are trying to figure out how to remediate this, how to find therapies, how to find – identify a solution which will ultimately be a vaccine, to determine whether the actions that we’re taking – the social distancing, all the things that we’re doing, limiting transportation, all those things we’re doing –  to figure out if they’re working so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired.

This is the reason disinformation is dangerous.  It’s not because it’s bad politics.  It is because it puts lives at risk if we don’t have confidence in the information that’s coming from every country.  So I would urge every nation:  Do your best to collect the data.  Do your best to share that information.  We’re doing that.  We’re collecting, we’re sharing, and we’re making sure that we have good, sound basis upon which to make decisions about how to fight this infectious disease.  That’s the risk that comes when countries choose to engage in campaigns of disinformation across the world.

That made news, of course, but subsequently corrected, because as it turned out —  it was not accurate.
By afternoon, the State Department clarified that there were two employees killed by COVID-19, as revealed in the March 30 briefing. Both were local employees, one from Indonesia (on our list but until now unconfirmed), and another from Democratic Republic of Congo (we previously asked post and FSI about one DRC case, but both were mum as a clam in mud at low tide).
So the secretary of state told everyone at the briefing that “data set matters” and that every morning, he reads the data set from across the world.  Then he talked about one State Department official’s death — “one of our team members” — when THERE WASN’T ONE, and failed to mention during the briefing the death of TWO local employees from COVID-19, non-U.S. citizen members of the State Department family.
Uppercase voice used since he could not even get the casualty details right.
At the end of this story, Pompeo in a belated statement, cited the two local staffers from Jakarta and Kinshasa who died from COVID-19 and expressed “deepest sympathies and condolences.”

@StateDept Official Touts “Robust Health Care System”, Talks BioFire FilmArray For COVID19 Testing at FS Posts

 

Via SSDO Special Briefing, March 24, 2020

QUESTION:  Hi, guys.  Following up a little bit about what Matt was talking about, when it comes to these embassies overseas, I want to clarify something we talked about yesterday.  It sounds to me like, for the moment, these staff members are completely reliant on local healthcare infrastructure for testing and treatment should they get ill.  Is that correct?  And are you planning to stand up any kind of medical capacity at these embassies or is the plan to just try to bring them home and treat them here if we need to?  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Okay.  Well, working overseas for the State Department or for any government agency in a country that may have poor medical resources has been challenging all along.  We have a process in place that generally we try and make sure that people with underlying medical conditions would only go to places where they have local resources that could take care of them.  Obviously COVID presents new challenges.

We do have, like I said earlier, a robust health care system, a medical program.  We have doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses deployed at almost every mission around the world.  We rely also heavily on local staff that we employ in our health units.  And they’re the frontline.  I mean, they’ll see the patients first, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s anything else, and either provide care directly or to find the best local care available.

In COVID obviously, as health infrastructure overseas breaks down, it’s more of a challenge.  In terms of testing, we have up to now relied on local sources, local – maintain facilities for testing.  I’m not sure if we’ve actually sent back samples to the CDC in Atlanta, but that’s an option as well.  But I heard news today that there’s been approval for a use of a device called BioFire FilmArray, which is an apparatus that we actually have in a number of embassies overseas, so lab testing machines doesn’t require – it requires expertise, but it doesn’t require a special license to use.  And BioFire company just had their approval given for use of – for creation of a cartridge to test for COVID.  So going forward, we anticipate we’ll be able to do a lot more of our own monitoring and testing.  Thank you.

During the briefing, the SSDO said, “ COVID obviously, as health infrastructure overseas breaks down, it’s more of a challenge.”  True, but he did not really answer  the “is the plan to just try to bring them home and treat them here if we need to?” part of the question, did he? 
Also the maker of the BioFire® COVID-19 Test said on its website that it is yet to be submitted for Emergency Use Authorization in the second quarter of 2020, while the BioFire® Respiratory 2.1 Panel us expected to be submitted to the FDA for EUA in the third quarter of 2020:
BioFire® COVID-19 Test

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, BioFire Defense is developing a fully-automated, sample-to-result assay for the specific detection of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. This assay is designed to run on both the BioFire® FilmArray® 2.0 and BioFire® FilmArray® Torch Systems and will deliver results in about an hour. The BioFire COVID-19 Test is being developed on an accelerated timeline, with submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) anticipated in Q2 of 2020.

BioFire® Respiratory 2.1 Panel

In parallel, BioFire Diagnostics is developing new SARS-CoV-2-specific assays for addition to the BioFire® FilmArray® Respiratory 2 (RP2) Panel. This new panel will be named the BioFire® Respiratory 2.1 (RP2.1) Panel and is being developed for both the BioFire® FilmArray 2.0 and BioFire® FilmArray Torch Systems. In addition to the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the BioFire RP2.1 Panel will detect 21 additional respiratory pathogens to help clinicians quickly rule in and rule out other common causes of respiratory illness in about 45 minutes. Development of the BioFire RP2.1 Panel is also occurring on an accelerated timeline, and submission to the FDA for EUA and 510(k) clearance is anticipated in Q3 of 2020.

In the meantime, SSDO also said, “In terms of testing, we have up to now relied on local sources, local – maintain facilities for testing.”
What happens in places where there is no local testing?

Did US Embassy Bangui Go on “Ordered Departure” Without Telling Anyone? (Updated)

Updated 3/28/2020, 8:20 pm PDT | US Embassy Bangui’s Health Alert dated March 26, 2020 says “On March 18, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. personnel in Bangui.”
We learned last week that the US Embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic “just went on ordered departure.” Apparently this was less about Covid19 and more about a flare-up of violence in the country. To-date, neither the State Department nor the US Embassy has made an announcement about this post’s evacuation status.
On March 20, US Embassy Bangui released the following statement about reduced staffing:

The U.S. Embassy in Bangui announces that it is reducing its staffing in response to increasing travel restrictions, limited health infrastructure and potential disruption of supply chains for essential goods in the Central African Republic.

We call your attention to the State Department’s Global Travel Advisory issued March 19, 2020

The State Department has issued a global travel advisory advising all U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.  In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.  Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.  Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips.  If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

U.S. Embassy in Bangui does not provide visa or citizen services  to U.S. citizens in CAR.  U.S. citizens in need of assistance there are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Note that the Central African Republic is on a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory “due to crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping” as of December 12, 2019. The Travel Advisory has not been updated to indicate its evacuation status as of this writing.
A source at a neighboring post is similarly perplexed as they know from colleagues in Bangui that the embassy has gone on ordered departure despite the lack of public announcement.  We were asked if it is possible to have an internal ordered departure and Foggy Bottom knows it but it’s not ‘official’?
These days anything is possible, it seems, but we don’t know how that works without running afoul of 7 FAM 050 No Double Standard Policy. “Generally, if the Department shares information with the official U.S. community, it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals.”
7 FAM 053(f) includes a reminder: “Remember that if post concludes it should warn, or has warned, its personnel or any U.S. Government employees beyond those with a strict need-to-know, whether permanently stationed or on temporary duty abroad, about a security threat, post should share that same information with the non-official U.S. community under the “No Double Standard” policy (see 7 FAM 052).