US Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman on Reported “Favor” to Help Trump Reelection

 

Excerpt from HFAC letter to Ambassador Todd Chapman, a career diplomat who has been COM at the US Embassy in Brazil since March 2020. He was previously Ambassador to Ecuador from 2016 – 2019:

“We are extremely alarmed by a report in Brazilian newspaper O Globo yesterday which stated that while lobbying your counterparts on reducing ethanol tariffs, you raised “the importance for the Bolsonaro government of maintaining Donald Trump as U.S. President.” The article further stated, “Iowa is the largest ethanol producer in the United States…and could be a key player in Trump’s election. Hence the importance – according to Chapman – for the Bolsonaro government to do the U.S. a favor.”

These statements are completely inappropriate for a U.S. ambassador to make, and if true, would be a potential violation of the Hatch Act of 1939. We ask that you respond in writing by 5:00 p.m. EST on August 4th as to whether the allegations in the aforementioned article (attached to this correspondence) are true. Specifically, please provide us with a complete description of all conversations that you have had with Brazilian government officials in the executive and legislative branches with regard to ethanol tariffs and the U.S. presidential election. If you deny these allegations, please provide complete and unredacted copies of any and all documents referring or related to any discussions you have had with Brazilian government officials in the executive and legislative branches with regard to ethanol tariffs, to reassure Congress and the American people that our Ambassador to Brazil is truly representing the interests of the United States and not the narrow, political interests of President Trump.

The Des Moines Register printed a denial from the State Department:
“Allegations suggesting that Ambassador Chapman has asked Brazilians to support a specific U.S. candidate are false,” said a department spokesperson. “The United States has long been focused on reducing tariff barriers and will continue to do so.”
Allegations suggesting that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine …. oh, wait, that was different, silly.
But as Pompeo’s new motto insistently says dear ones, “distrust and verify”.
So what motivated the Brazilians for making this public? More than one source reported this on Brazilian media. Is Foggy Bottom saying they’re making this all up? To what end?
Look, Ambassador Chapman is a Senate confirmed career diplomat. As such, he has an obligation to respond to questions that U.S. senators may have on this issue.  But the  SFRC under GOP Senator Jim Risch doesn’t seem at all interested in asking further questions. No surprise there. The HFAC is asking questions, however, and we hope the ambassador answer those questions.
For folks in the FOIA business, if/if there were instructions related to this, there would have to be a paper trail from the State Department’s WHA bureau, the home bureau of U.S. Mission Brazil.  Ambassadors typically get their marching orders from their home bureau.

Uh-oh! @StateDept’s Travel Provider Gets Hacked, Pays $4.5M in Bitcoin

 

Reuters reported last week that CWT (formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel) was hit with a strain of ransomware called Ragnar Locker, which encrypts computer files and renders them unusable until the victim pays for access to be restored. “Hackers who stole reams of sensitive corporate files and said they had knocked 30,000 computers offline.”
Elsewhere it is reported that the hackers “may have stolen 2 terabytes of data, allegedly including thousands of global executives credentials. This is particularly worrisome given CWT provides travel services to as much as 33% of the Fortune 500.”
ITNews notes that “CWT, which posted revenues of US$1.5 billion last year and says it represents more than a third of companies on the S&P 500 US stock index, confirmed the attack but declined to comment on the details of what it said was an ongoing investigation.”
The news mainly talks about the 2 terabyte of sensitive files exfiltrated which supposedly include global executive credentials, but a CWT division, CWTSatoTravel is one of two contractors awarded a master contract by GSA “responsible for soliciting and managing travel for the U.S. military and government clients.” Government clients include the State Department where Carlson Wagonlit manages its travel management center.
According to GSA, the U.S. Federal Government is the largest consumer of travel services in the world.  ETS2, the government’s current Travel & Expense management solution, serves an active user base of over 1 million Civilian Government employees, and was used for 86 percent of all civilian agency travel in 2017.

ETS2 is a competitively bid master contract with two vendors providing agencies travel and expense software, hosting, and support services based on fixed-price transaction fees, which is a unique program within the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS).

Competitively bid ETS2 contracts were awarded to:

      • Concur Technologies, Inc., of Redmond, WA, in June 2012; and
      • CWTSatoTravel, of Arlington, VA, in September 2013.

CWTSatoTravel is the division of Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) responsible for soliciting and managing travel for the U.S. military and government clients. CWT is a global leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events.

The 2019 DOS Financial Report describes its Travel Systems Program

In 2016, the Department successfully transitioned to the next generation of the E-Government Travel Services (ETS2) contract with Carlson Wagonlit Travel. In 2016, the Department also implemented the Local Travel module allowing for the submission of local travel claims for expenses incurred in and around the vicinity of a duty station. The Department expanded the use of the Local Travel feature to also accommodate non-travel employee claims previously submitted through an OF-1164. In the Local Travel module, approvers will electronically approve claims and provide reimbursement to the employee’s bank account via EFT. The Department has completed this implementation for 118 posts overseas.

The Department continues to work with our bureaus and posts to identify improvements that can be made to the travel system. The Department also participates with other agencies to prioritize travel system enhancements across the Federal Government landscape. The Department worked with Carlson Wagonlit Travel to enhance the functionality of the Local Travel feature to more closely align with the temporary duty travel functionality for foreign currency and approver expense reduction options. The Department continues to work with Carlson Wagonlit Travel on enhancements to support integration improvements with our financial systems. The Department continues to work with Carlson Wagonlit Travel on enhancements to support the implementation of the Local Payments module domestically and has initiated work to implement mobile capabilities for approvals and reservations.

Somebody asked if anyone has  publicly acknowledged that the initial hack may imply a massive potential personally identifiable information  (PII) leak on the scale of the eQIP compromise.” 
The company released a statement to The Register saying “we have no indication that PII/customer and traveller information has been affected.”
Has Foggy Bottom said anything?

 

Open Technology Fund, et.al v. Michael Pack: Where the Accountability Rests – At the Ballot Box

 

OPEN TECHNOLOGY FUND, et al., Plaintiffs, v. MICHAEL PACK, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Defendant
For nearly 80 years, international broadcasting sponsored by the United States has served as a trusted and authoritative global news source, a forum for the expression of diverse viewpoints on the most pressing topics of the day, a model of journalistic excellence and independence, and a beacon of hope for those trapped within authoritarian regimes. Despite being funded by American taxpayers, U.S. international broadcasting has typically remained free of governmental interference. Indeed, its autonomy and its commitment to providing objective news coverage has often been viewed as key to its ability to advance the interests of the United States abroad. Our country’s commitment to this model of cultural export has largely been viewed as a rousing success, helping to undermine and topple some of history’s most oppressive regimes—including Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—by spreading freedom and democracy around the globe. The current Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of the United States Agency for Global Media (“USAGM”)—the defendant, Michael Pack—is accused of putting this legacy at serious risk. Since taking office less than a month ago, Pack has upended U.S.-sponsored international broadcasting. Most relevant to the current dispute, on June 17, 2020, Pack unilaterally removed the operational heads and directors of four USAGM-funded organizations—Open Technology Fund (“OTF”), Radio Free Europe (“RFE”), Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (collectively, “Networks”)1—and replaced the directors with five members of the current Trump Administration as well as an employee of Liberty Counsel Action, a conservative advocacy organization.
[…]
Pack’s actions have global ramifications, and plaintiffs in this case have expressed deep concerns that his tenure as USAGM CEO will damage the independence and integrity of U.S.- sponsored international broadcasting efforts. If they are correct, the result will be to diminish America’s presence on the international stage, impede the distribution around the world of accurate information on important affairs, and strengthen totalitarian governments everywhere. Yet, Congress has decided to concentrate unilateral power in the USAGM CEO, and the Court cannot override that determination. If Pack’s actions turn out to be misguided, his appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate points to where the accountability rests: at the ballot box. Based on an evaluation of plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the solution is likely not in this Court.
Read in full here:

https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2020cv1710-22

Foggy Bottom’s ‘Pot Meet Kettle’ Happy Hour #PleaseScreamInsideYourHeart

 

US Embassy Sofia: What’s Happening in Bulgaria?

Via Embassy Sofia/FB:
The challenge is on! Ambassador Mustafa and her diplomat band perform a favorite Bulgarian song, and challenge 3 Bulgarian musicians to respond. Who got the challenge? What’s the song? Will the challenge be accepted? Find out in our video!

US Embassy Beirut: Lebanese Judge Bans Media Orgs From Interviewing/Hosting Amb Dorothy Shea

 

Unable to Handle Question About Bolton Book, @StateDept Mutes Reporter During Free Press Briefing

It was a darn comedy hour in Foggy Bottom on Monday. The A/S for EAP David Stilwell had a press briefing on Chinese propaganda and the free press. When asked a question about Bolton’s book and whether allies in the region have been in touch, the State Department spox asked that the line be muted. A short while later, the spox called on Nick Wadhams of Bloomberg who asked A/S Stilwell “to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?”
A reasonable and necessary question on the free press.
The State Department spokesperson later blasted the Bloomberg reporter for  what she considered a “pretty offensive question” and claimed that they “take as many questions as we can.” and “have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.” That my friends we can tell you from experience is laughable; we still have unanswered questions waiting under mysterious cobwebs. And we’re definitely not the only ones to let out a guffaw upon hearing that remark.
Excerpt:

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL: Finally, as Secretary Pompeo has said, we’re not just comparing apples to apples.  The U.S. system guarantees press freedom while China subordinates the press to the Communist Party.  We are formally recognizing that fact in today’s action.  That’s – concludes the formal comments.  I’ll be happy to take your questions.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  Next up in the queue, David Brunnstrom, Reuters.

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you very much for doing this.  I was wondering, slightly changing the subject to former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book —

MS ORTAGUS:  Hey, David, David, that’s not what this call’s about.  If you would like to ask about our new policy action today, we’re more than happy to take the question.  If not, I can move on in the queue.

QUESTION:  Well, I just wanted to ask whether any allies in the region have been in touch with —

MS ORTAGUS:  David —

QUESTION:  — the assistant secretary on this issue for clarification.

MS ORTAGUS:  Thank you, David.  Okay.  AT&T, we can mute that line.  We’ll now go to Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Okay. Thanks, Will.  Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hi, I have two questions.  The first question is:  Can you – I think you answered this previously.  What are the specific numbers when you talk about each of the news organizations CCTV, CNS, People’s Daily, and Global Times?

And Dave, can I also get you to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL:  Hey, that’s pretty easy.  This one is focused on a guy from the East Asia Pacific bureau who could speak with great fluency to the topic at hand.  If you were to ask me the other, is – my answer would be a deflecting “I really don’t know.”  I got to tell you, I am not checking that story.  I am too busy working this particular issue, so – so I – again, I would rethink that approach to how we’re handling this.  You can ask anybody, especially those who are related to this, but for the subject at hand today in the short seven minutes we have left, I would like to talk about the subject at hand.

So you asked about numbers.  We don’t know.  That’s part of what this is going to identify is that these folks, we have allowed them to come into the country as journalists.  Now acknowledging the fact that they are not, we know what companies they work for.  They will then have to identify themselves as work – that they do work for these organizations.  And then from that, we will have a better accounting for who they are, who is on their personnel rosters, and what real estate holdings they have.  So it’s pretty straightforward.

It’s – as I said before, this is housekeeping, right?  We’re just cleaning up some broken glass and stuff that we hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to in the past.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  We’re already over time, so that’s going to have to be our last question of the day.  We will have a statement out around 3 o’clock, and that’s when our embargo will be lifted.  However, before I end the call, I do think it’s – I’m going to have to address what I consider a pretty offensive question by Nick Wadhams.

We strive every day to give all of you multiple briefings a day.  The Secretary goes to the podium once a week and we take as many questions as we can.  We try to be very quick over email in responding to what all of you need.  And so if there’s any question about any books by any officials or anything you may have, we’re – have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.  We like to focus these policy briefings on the policy, but any insinuation that we haven’t made ourselves available or responsive to your questions – Nick’s insinuation is offensive and I just would like to go on the record that that’s totally inaccurate.

HA! HA! HA!  There, she said it on the record, and media folks covering the Foggiest Bottom are dying with laughter.

Pompeo Calls Former NSA John Bolton a “Traitor” on Twitter, in Official Statement, Also Waves @MerriamWebster

 

@USAGMgov: Heads of MBN, Radio Free Asia, RFE/RL, and the Open Technology Fund Ousted

On June 16, the top two officials at the Voice of America resigned with the arrival of new Trump appointee Michael  Pack as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (see Top VOA Officials Resign as Michael Pack Assumes Charge as CEO of @USAGMgov).
On Wednesday evening, the news media reports the dismissal of the remaining heads of the four organizations under USAGM. OCB already has an interim director since 2018, and VOA was just vacated. For those unfamiliar with the agency, this used to be BBG prior to its “larger modernization effort”  in August 2018.

Via CNN:
The heads of four organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were all dismissed Wednesday night — a move likely to heighten concerns that new Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack means to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN.
“They let go all of the heads of the networks. It’s unprecedented,” an agency source told CNN.
A source familiar with the situation said at least two of the removals — that of RFE/RL’s Jamie Fly and MBN’s Alberto Fernandez — were unexpected. The head of the Open Technology Fund, Libby Liu, had resigned effective July, but was still fired Wednesday evening, one of the sources said.
[…]
In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, an ally the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is expected to be named to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

 

@StateDept Reactions: Americans Convicted in Moscow (Outrage) and Manila (Silence Now Concern)

Updated: 10:45 am PST