Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

 

As far as we know, no one starts a job at the State Department without a security clearance. Diplomatic spouses working security escort or mailroom jobs are not even allowed to start work without a security clearance or an interim clearance.
So when NBC News Investigation reported that a senior political appointee at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations — a deputy assistant secretary (she’s one of the top three senior bureau officials)  made false claims and exaggerations, we were wondering what this means to the thoroughness of the background investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? Were the adjudicators aware of these issues prior to the issuance of the clearance? If not, why not? If yes, well, what in guacamole’s name happened here?

A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background — even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it — raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department.

An NBC News investigation found that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.

Whatever her qualifications, Chang had a key connection in the Trump administration. Brian Bulatao, a top figure in the State Department and longtime friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attended a fundraiser for her nonprofit in Dallas and once donated $5,500 to her charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.

As of this writing, her biography is still up on state.gov. Her Twitter account appears to have disappeared but her Instagram account is still online. Back in July 2019, she was also rumored to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, a report that was officially denied by US Embassy Manila.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS headed by Director Todd J. Brown), an office which resides under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (headed by Michael T. Evanoff), under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management (headed by Brian Bulatao), conducts personnel security background investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. After determining the candidate’s national security eligibility, DSS contacts the appropriate hiring authority.
According to Diplomatic Security, the national security eligibility determinations take into account a person’s:
  • Stability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Discretion
  • Character
  • Honesty
  • Judgment
  • Unquestionable loyalty to the U.S.
The organization she once served as CEO, Linking The World, has now posted a lengthy message on its website primarily defending its former CEO. It claims that “Mina has undergone 4 independent agency reviews, including the FBI, and ultimately garnered both Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.”
Item #8 says:

Mina obtained her position at the State Department on her own merit, at no time was Brian Bulatao part of her nomination / recruitment / review process.  An auction bid from 2015, is a despicable example of correlation with no foundation.  Anyone who reads her online articles would know that she has both supported and been critical of the current administration.  

Career diplomat George Kent who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the European and Eurasian Bureau and testified on Wednesday at the Impeachment Hearings — now, he obtained his position as a DAS at the State Department on his own merit.
A political appointee gets  a job through a political connection. Ms. Chang is a political appointee; are we to understand that she got her job on her own merit by knocking on Foggy Bottom’s door?  Or did she apply through USAjobs.gov? Should be interesting to know how she got to Foggy Bottom.
According to Linking the World, Ms. Chang’s nomination was also “not withdrawn by the Administration of anyone other than herself.”

“Mina’s nomination was not withdrawn by the Administration, or anyone other than herself.  Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays.  Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations.  Again, anyone who reviewed her recent past, with work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia, would know that this decision makes absolute sense.

This is, of course, contrary to reporting and public records that indicate the nomination was withdrawn by the President.  Ms. Chang was nominated in 2018 to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jonathan Nicholas Stivers (see PN2528).  On January 03, 2019 the nomination was  “Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.” The renomination was received by the Senate on January 16, 2019 (see PN115). On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Senate “Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.”
Deputy assistant secretaries do not require Senate confirmations. Appointments are typically not publicly announced.
So, now we’re left wondering if this case is an exception, or if there are any more cases like this in Foggy Bottom?

Advertisements

Mike Pompeo Insults Reporters Who Ask Questions He Doesn’t Like #OhGoodness!

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 70th Secretary of State, whose predecessors include John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Dean Acheson,  and George C. Marshall, glaringly shows how small his shoes are for this job.  He may think he got swagger — he’s the least swaggerific person we could think of — but this secretary of state somehow also doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with asking a prospective foreign recipient of U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent.  Close your eyes and imagine if this were a a president from a party you did not vote for making the same request, and see if you think this is okay. 
These reporters were doing their jobs, asking important questions of the day, but  instead of answering them, as Mr. Pompeo should — being a “public servant’ and all — he insulted them as being somehow working for the DNC? C’mon, that’s just lazy. He could not even get a little more creative with his insults? 
Were they too shy to call this part of the State Department’s “freethepress campaign? That is, he’s free to slam the press, if he doesn’t like the question? 
And then he said this to PBS’s Judy Woodruff:

Everyone keeps suggesting that somehow there was undue pressure.  I assure you countries all around the world every day call me to try and get America to behave in the way that’s in the best interests of their country.  They try to apply pressure to me.  And we work on it.  We work on it diplomatically to achieve good outcomes for the American people.  And the results – the results that President Trump has achieved with respect to our relationship with Ukraine I think will stand on their own as a hallmark of success of the State Department and what this administration has done.

“A hallmark of success,” no doubt, just as as soon as Ukraine President Zelensky and President Putin “get together” and “solve” their “problem” which by the way, is the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. If some country were to invade, say Alaska, should we get together and solve that problem with the invading forces? No?
When asked if he has decided that there will be cooperation with the House impeachment, his response was a familiar Pompeo quip, there’s always “oh goodness” and he or somebody is always clear: “Oh, goodness, I’ve made clear.  I think the White House has made very clear.  We will ensure that we do everything we’re required to do by the law and the Constitution.  Every time.”
It’s so clear we could see though the mud, every day and twice on Sunday like old Vaudeville shows.
Also see the transcript of Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Nancy Amons of WSMV-TV or click below for the link to the uncut 7-min interview which includes the secstate smileon/smileoff display. This is how all interviews with the secretary of state ought to be conducted.

U.S. Diplomatic Spouse Suspect in Fatal Traffic Collision Departs UK Under Diplomatic Immunity

 

Media reports that an American diplomat’s wife suspected of involvement in a fatal crash that killed 19-year old Harry Dunn in Croughton, in central England has left the UK under diplomatic immunity.
An ITV report says that the American family had a home at RAF Croughton, a U.S.  communications base in Brackley.  Sky News says it has  been told there has been a special arrangement in place as early as 1994 between the UK and US for this particular base in Northamptonshire.
We have not been able to find a record of the diplomat-husband in congress.gov (FSOs require senate confirmations).  According to BBC, the US State Department said on Saturday that the incident involved “a vehicle driven by the spouse of a US diplomat assigned to the United Kingdom” but has not released the name of the individual involved in the incident.
BBC News writes that “Nick Adderley, of Northamptonshire Police, has urged the embassy to waive her diplomatic immunity.” Also that “the US State Department said diplomatic immunity was “rarely waived” but Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the US Embassy to reconsider” and the following:

The US State Department has said it is in “close consultation” with British officials and has offered its “deepest sympathies” to the family of Mr Dunn.

“Any questions regarding a waiver of immunity with regard to our diplomats and their family members overseas in a case like this receive intense attention at senior levels and are considered carefully given the global impact such decisions carry; immunity is rarely waived,” it added.

Publicly available report on US Mission in the United Kingdom notes that Embassy London’s information resource management office operates an extensive program that provides information management and information security, and supports Consulates General Belfast and Edinburgh and a U.S. facility at the Royal Air Force Base Croughton.  Employees at the Regional Information Technical Center, Royal Air Force Base Croughton is under the general direction of the management counselor of the US Embassy in London.
Outrage is building on social media about this incident. While there are official statements circulated in media reports, both US Embassy London and Ambassador Johnson @USAmbUK do not appear to have made any public statement about this fatal crash on their website or social media accounts. Ambassador Johnson’s last two tweets have been taken over with the public’s response to this death, and the hashtag #JusticeForHarry is quietly growing.

WaPo Editorial Board: Pompeo is enabling the destruction of U.S. diplomacy

 

Via WaPo Editorial Board:

Mr. Pompeo listened on July 25 while Mr. Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate that theory as well as the false story that Mr. Biden sought the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son. He listened while Mr. Trump slandered the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch — a dedicated Foreign Service professional — whose tour in Kiev Mr. Pompeo had cut short.
[…]
Mr. Pompeo’s claim that the conversation was “in the context” of long-standing U.S. policy is demonstrably false.

So, too, was Mr. Pompeo’s assertion that a request by House committees for depositions from Ms. Yovanovitch and other State Department officials was improper. Mr. Pompeo claimed the committees had not followed proper procedure or given the officials enough time to prepare. He insisted that State Department lawyers must be present at all depositions to prevent the disclosure of “privileged information.” The House committee chairmen correctly interpreted this bluster: Mr. Pompeo, they said, was “intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President.”

Fortunately, one of those witnesses, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt D. Volker, is due to testify on Thursday, and Ms. Yovanovitch has reportedly been scheduled for next week. They and other State Department professionals should not hesitate to tell Congress the truth about how Mr. Pompeo enabled the destruction of U.S. diplomacy.

Give this guy the “One Team” Award!

116th Congress Regulations for the Use of Deposition Authority and 3 FAM 4170/10 FAM 130

The long-standing governing guidelines at the State Department for public speaking, teaching, writing, and  media engagement is 3 FAM 4170. The provisions of this subchapter apply to all public communications as defined in 3 FAM 4173, such as speaking, teaching, writing, and press/media engagement, including that prepared for electronic dissemination in an employee’s official capacity, or in an employee’s personal capacity if on a topic “of Departmental concern,” as defined in 3 FAM 4173. This subchapter makes no exceptions for special government employees (SGEs).
The most recent update for this subchapter was in March 2017 and it says in part:

The provisions of this subchapter are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by statute or executive order relating to: (1)  Classified information; (2)  Communications to Congress; (3)  Reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or (4)  Any other whistleblower protection.

3 FAM 4170 Overview notes:

The personal capacity public communications review requirement is intended to serve three purposes: to determine whether the communication would disclose classified or other protected information without authorization; to allow the Department to prepare to handle any potential ramifications for its mission or employees that could result from the proposed public communication; or, in rare cases, to identify public communications that are highly likely to result in serious adverse consequences to the mission or efficiency of the Department, such that the Secretary or Deputy Secretary must be afforded the opportunity to decide whether it is necessary to prohibit the communication (see 3 FAM 4176.4)

On March 14, 2019, the State Department also updated 10 FAM 130 REMARKS AND WRITINGS FOR THE MEDIA AND GENERAL PUBLIC.  This subchapter defines “official” as public remarks including speeches, congressional testimony, press statements, and remarks prepared for photo opportunities.
This subchapter’s policy also says that “Official appearances before the media or general public to give formal interviews, speeches, or remarks must be cleared with the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.  See 10 FAM 131.4.  See also 3 FAM 4174.2 and 3 FAM 4174.3.” And it says that “former employees remain obligated by law not to disclose classified information, and certain employees may be bound by nondisclosure agreements.  See also 3 FAM 4174.2 paragraph d.”
On the matter of noncompliance, last updated in July 2015 per 3 FAM 4177:  “Failure to follow the provisions of this subchapter, including failure to seek advance reviews where required, may result in disciplinary or other administrative action up to and including separation. … Publication or dissemination of classified or other protected information may result in disciplinary action, criminal prosecution and/or civil liability.
We dug this up due to the forthcoming depositions by State Department officials in the coming days. In one hand, the FAM says that 3 FAM 4170 is consistent and do not supersede, or conflict with an employee’s obligation related to communication with Congress, and yet 10 FAM 130 updated in March 2019, a couple of months after congressional rules on depositions was adopted, specifically notes that congressional testimony is considered “official” remarks and require clearance. Somebody would have to sort this out very soon. Or we’ll know soon enough.
The first depositions in the Impeachment Inquiry will start tomorrow with the scheduled appearance of former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker (described by NBC News as an “unpaid volunteer” and reportedly classified as a “Special Government Employee”).  Given that he is only the first to be deposed and we expect there will be many more before this is over, we thought we’d also dig up the rules for depositions in the 116th Congress.
Per section 103(a)(2) of House Resolution 6, 116th Congress, the following regulations regarding the conduct of depositions by committee and select committee counsel was printed in the Congressional Record on January 25, 2019. The Congressional Record version is available to read here, and in PDF file here. Perhaps most notable here is #3 regarding the presence of USG observers or counsels during depositions.
This is probably not a bad time to remind folks why Professional Liability Insurance is needed. Read here and here.

1. Notices for the taking of depositions shall specify the date, time, and place of examination. Depositions shall be taken under oath administered by a member or a person otherwise authorized to administer oaths. Depositions may continue from day to day.

2. Consultation with the ranking minority member shall include three days’ notice before any deposition is taken. All members of the committee shall also receive three days written notice that a deposition will be taken, except in exigent circumstances. For purposes of these procedures, a day shall not include Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays except when the House is in session on such a day.

3. Witnesses may be accompanied at a deposition by personal, nongovernmental counsel to advise them of their rights. Only members, committee staff designated by the chair or ranking minority member, an official reporter, the witness, and the witness’s counsel are permitted to attend. Observers or counsel for other persons, including counsel for government agencies, may not attend.

4. The chair of the committee noticing the deposition may designate that deposition as part of a joint investigation between committees, and in that case, provide notice to the members of the committees. If such a designation is made, the chair and ranking minority member of the additional committee(s) may designate committee staff to attend pursuant to regulation 3. Members and designated staff of the committees may attend and ask questions as set forth below.

5. A deposition shall be conducted by any member or committee counsel designated by the chair or ranking minority member of the Committee that noticed the deposition. When depositions are conducted by committee counsel, there shall be no more than two committee counsel permitted to question a witness per round. One of the committee counsel shall be designated by the chair and the other by the ranking minority member per round.

6. Deposition questions shall be propounded in rounds. The length of each round shall not exceed 60 minutes per side, and shall provide equal time to the majority and the minority. In each round, the member(s) or committee counsel designated by the chair shall ask questions first, and the member(s) or committee counsel designated by the ranking minority member shall ask questions second.

7.  Objections must be stated concisely and in a non-argumentative and non-suggestive manner. A witness’s counsel may not instruct a witness to refuse to answer a question, except to preserve a privilege. In the event of professional, ethical, or other misconduct by the witness’s counsel during the deposition, the Committee may take any appropriate disciplinary action. The witness may refuse to answer a question only to preserve a privilege. When the witness has refused to answer a question to preserve a privilege, members or staff may (i) proceed with the deposition, or (ii) either at that time or at a subsequent time, seek a ruling from the Chair either by telephone or otherwise. If the Chair overrules any such objection and thereby orders a witness to answer any question to which an objection was lodged, the witness shall be ordered to answer. If a member of the committee chooses to appeal the ruling of the chair, such appeal must be made within three days, in writing, and shall be preserved for committee consideration. The Committee’s ruling on appeal shall be filed with the clerk of the Committee and shall be provided to the members and witness no less than three days before the reconvened deposition. A deponent who refuses to answer a question after being directed to answer by the chair may be subject to sanction, except that no sanctions may be imposed if the ruling of the chair is reversed by the committee on appeal.

8. The Committee chair shall ensure that the testimony is either transcribed or electronically recorded or both. If a witness’s testimony is transcribed, the witness or the witness’s counsel shall be afforded an opportunity to review a copy. No later than five days after the witness has been notified of the opportunity to review the transcript, the witness may submit suggested changes to the chair. Committee staff may make any typographical and technical changes. Substantive changes, modifications, clarifications, or amendments to the deposition transcript submitted by the witness must be accompanied by a letter signed by the witness requesting the changes and a statement of the witness’s reasons for each proposed change. Any substantive changes, modifications, clarifications, or amendments shall be included as an appendix to the transcript conditioned upon the witness signing the transcript.

9. The individual administering the oath, if other than a member, shall certify on the transcript that the witness was duly sworn. The transcriber shall certify that the transcript is a true record of the testimony, and the transcript shall be filed, together with any electronic recording, with the clerk of the committee in Washington, DC. Depositions shall be considered to have been taken in Washington, DC, as well as the location actually taken once filed there with the clerk of the committee for the committee’s use. The chair and the ranking minority member shall be provided with a copy of the transcripts of the deposition at the same time.

10. The chair and ranking minority member shall consult regarding the release of deposition testimony, transcripts, or recordings, and portions thereof. If either objects in writing to a proposed release of a deposition testimony, transcript, or recording, or a portion thereof, the matter  shall be promptly referred to the committee for resolution.

11. A witness shall not be required to testify unless the witness has been provided with a copy of section 103(a) of H.Res. 6, 116th Congress, and these regulations.

 

US Embassy Cairo and NYT Reporters Declan Walsh and David Kirkpatrick

 

 

#

John Lansing Resigns From USAGM to be CEO For National Public Radio (NPR)

 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM, @USAGMgov) will soon be without a chief executive officer. USAGM released a statement on the departure of its CEO John Lansing. He joined USAGM (then known as BBG) as CEO and Director in September 2015. Excerpt below:

After four years serving as the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), John F. Lansing will be leaving USAGM—an independent federal agency providing accurate, objective, and professional news and information worldwide—at the end of this month to start the next chapter of his career as the President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs also released a statement. Excerpt below:

“It’s important that when John steps down, there is continuity of leadership at USAGM. Changes in the law adopted in 2016 provided for a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CEO to lead the agency. But the Senate has not confirmed such a nominee and until it does so, the existing Board of Governors retains the power to name a replacement. I urge the Board to do so immediately, as we can’t predict when the Senate may act on the President’s nominee. This is too important a job to be left vacant for even a day.”

 

@USAID May Get a New Logo For ‘America First’ Era, Then What?

 

 

#

Mike Pompeo’s Kansas Run: He’s Running, He’s Not …He’s Running, He’s … He’s …

 

We don’t usually post about politics but since it’s about Secretary Pompeo, we’ll make an exception. Bloomberg is reporting that “Republican political donors have been told to hold off contributing to the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Kansas in the expectation that Secretary of State Michael Pompeo may decide to run, according to two people familiar with the matter.” 
The Kansas run was reportedly ruled out in late winter, but by mid-summer, it appeared to have been re-opened.
Bloomberg adds that “While Pompeo has been equivocal about a possible run, his actions and speeches have only fueled speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for a Senate bid — and possibly a presidential run in 2024.”

U.S. Secretary of State MIchael R. Pompeo and Mrs. Susan Pompeo wave as they depart, Brasila, Brazil, January 2, 2019. Secretary Pompeo is on travel to Brasilia, Brazil, and Cartagena, Colombia, from December 31, 2018, to January 2, 2019. [State Department photo by Ron Pryzsucha/ Public Domain]

Ballotpedia says that voters in Kansas will elect one member to the U.S. Senate in the election on November 3, 2020.  The election will fill the Class II Senate seat held by Pat Roberts (R). Roberts was first elected in 1996.  Apparently, some folks in the GOP are concerned that former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius will run — and win — if Kobach is the GOP Senate nominee.” Yeah, that guy.
Senator Roberts was reelected in 2014 with 53.1% of the votes.  Senator Jerry Moran, the junior senator from Kansas was re-elected in 2016 with 62.2% of the votes.  Roberts has held his seat for 22 years, Moran for 8 years. So.
Basically Mr. Pompeo has two glaring choices: stay and face the possibility of firing by a tweet, by a volatile, thin-skinned president, or run for an almost sure seat with a 6-year term extending from January 3, 2021 until January 3, 2027.  If elected to the U.S. Senate, could he run for president in 2024?  Well, he could. We don’t know if he’d win but sixteen senators went on to become presidents. Four of them served just three years in the U.S. Senate before running for president: Obama, Barack (2005-2008); Nixon, Richard M. (1950-1953); Harrison, William Henry 1825-1828; and Jackson, Andrew  1797-1798; 1823-1825. Senate.gov says that G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama moved directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House.
On the other hand, only six secretaries of state went on to become presidents (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Van Buren, Buchanan).  The last one elected president was sooo long ago, the 17th Secretary of State  James Buchanan. He served at the State Department from 1845–1849 and eight years later became the 15th President of the United States and served one term from 1857 – 1861. So.
The candidate filing deadline is June 1, 2020 with the primary election scheduled for August 4, 2020. Let us know when he’s make up his mind, will ya?

@StateDept Policy Planning’s Kiron Skinner Reportedly Out Over “Abusive” Management Style

 

In late June, Bloomberg reported on the impending resignation of Chief of Protocol  Sean Lawler over allegations of discrimination and harassment. Bloomberg said that he was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including reportedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office. (see @StateDept’s Protocol Chief Sean Lawler to Quit Before G-20 Summit #horsewhip #wherearethehorses).
Also in June, we posted U.S. Embassy Gabon: State/OIG’s Ode to All Things Dreadful in a Small Post. In that case, the embassy’s top two officials departed post prior to the release of a State/OIG inspection report.
On August 2nd, Politico reported that Kiron Skinner, the head of Policy Planning at the State Department has been “fired over ‘abusive’ management style.” Just a year ago, Secretary Pompeo described Dr. Skinner as “a national security powerhouse” and “a one-woman, strategic thinking tour de force” in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “I’m confident that she will enhance our influence overseas, protect the American people, and promote our prosperity,” he said.  Politico said it learned of the firing from a Trump administration official. A senior State Department official reportedly confirmed the firing to Politico, saying that several members of Skinner’s staff had threatened to quit if she wasn’t removed.
In July, Secretary Pompeo appointed Skinner as head of the executive secretariat of the controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights.
On August 11, Newsmax, the conservative website has a piece on Skinner that includes her denials, and multiple quotes from friends and allies. She will reportedly return to teaching at Carnegie Mellon University and will also rejoin as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution
According to the state.gov website, S/P members include 22 staffers and two staff writers. As of this writing, Skinner is still listed as director of S/P. The State Department’s telephone directory (though not always current) also has a different version of the office’s composition as of August 9, 2019.