Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic For President Medina’s Inauguration

Posted: 3:12 am ET

 

President Obama designated Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez as lead in the Presidential Delegation to the Dominican Republic to attend the inauguration of  President Danilo Medina on August 16, 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The other members of the delegation include, Ambassador James W. Brewster Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and AA/S Mari Carmen Aponte, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

Hoy la delegación encabezada por el Secretario de Trabajo de los Estados Unidos, Tomás Pérez, también conformada por la secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Mari Carmen Aponte y por el Embajador James W. Brewster, está en la #JuramentaciónDanilo2016 en representación del Presidente de los Estados Unidos de América, Barack Obama. (Via FB)

 

#

Former US Ambassador to China’s MD House, a Chinese Tycoon and Other Oy! News!

Posted: 2:14 am ET

Gary Locke  was the United States ambassador to China from August 2011 until March 2014. He was the 21st Governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005 and served in the Obama administration as United States Secretary of Commerce from 2009 to 2011.

The Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Ethics and Financial Disclosure (L/EFD) “advises the Department and its employees on ethics laws and regulations applicable to Executive branch employees. These rules govern, inter alia, employee acceptance of gifts, participation in outside activities, avoidance of conflicts of interest, avoidance of appearance of partiality, and seeking and post-government employment.” L/EFD also manage the Department’s financial disclosure reporting program, including review and certification of the reports for Presidential Appointees and other OGE-278 and OGE-450 filers.

Via The Intercept:

Locke purchased the home, which has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, for $1,525,000 in 2009. The house went on the market June 20, 2013, and was initially listed for $1.75 million. By August, the house was marked down to $1.68 million, the price the Chen family paid in September. Zillow now estimates the home value at about $1.8 million.

Locke’s ethics statement for that year discloses that he sold his home in Bethesda but lists the transaction under “rents and royalties” rather than capital gains. He disclosed earning between $50,000 to $100,000 from the sale, though the Chen family paid $150,000 more than the price Locke paid in 2009.

Asked if the State Department reviewed the transaction, a spokesperson for the agency told us that “there is no requirement for any State Department official to clear the sale of his or her personal residence with ethics officials at the department, regardless of the value of the property. The department does not review or approve the terms of sale for an employee’s private residence.”

The sale nonetheless raised concerns among ethics experts.

“This is not appropriate,” said Richard Painter, a former White House chief ethics counsel from 2005 to 2007. “If I were the State Department’s legal adviser, I would be very unhappy with ambassadors selling their houses to foreign nationals of the country where they’re working without an independent appraisal to prove actual value.”

Craig Holman, the government ethics watchdog with Public Citizen, said the sale raised a number of flags. Locke, Holman said, was in a position to influence American policy decisions and needed to “steer clear of placing himself in a conflict of interest situation in which financial opportunities could be perceived as influencing his judgment.”

Locke’s financial disclosure statement, filed in 2009 for his Senate confirmation hearing to become secretary of commerce, reveals that he provided legal assistance to APIC prior to being nominated. In 2008, he provided legal consulting services to APIC and appeared at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an APIC-owned biofuels refinery in Shantou, a city in southern China. The facility imports soybeans from the U.S. and Latin America.

Since retiring from public office in 2014, Locke is again serving as an adviser to the firm.

#

#Olympics: Secretary Kerry in Rio With Presidential Delegation+, Plays Some Beach Volleyball

Posted: 3:34 am ET

On August 2, President Obama announced the designation of the Presidential Delegation to Attend the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

  • John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation

  • Liliana Ayalde, U.S. Ambassador to the Federative Republic of Brazil, Department of State
  • Mari Carmen Aponte, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State
  • Liz Allen, Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Deputy Communications Director
  • Ellie Schafer, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Visitors Office
  • Mr. Mark Spitz, nine-time Olympic gold medalist, one-time Olympic silver medalist, one-time Olympic bronze medalist, men’s swimming

Secretary Kerry Poses For A Photo with the U.S. Men's Gymnastics Team U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Summer Olympics pose for for a photo with the U.S. men's Olympic gymnastics team on August 6, 2016, at Olympic Park in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Poses For A Photo with the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Summer Olympics pose for for a photo with the U.S. men’s Olympic gymnastics team on August 6, 2016, at Olympic Park in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry and Staff Tour the Men's Olympic Cycling Area Before The Start of a Race U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Senior Aide Jason Meininger walk along the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, as the Secretary and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation tour the men's Olympic cycling area before the start of a race on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry and Staff Tour the Men’s Olympic Cycling Area Before The Start of a Race
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Senior Aide Jason Meininger with Chief of Staff walk, along the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, as the Secretary and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation tour the men’s Olympic cycling area before the start of a race on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

Italian Prime Minister Renzi Speaks With Secretary Kerry As They Watch An Olympic Men's Beach Volleyball Game Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi speaks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Senior Adviser David Thorne - the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy - after they watched an Olympic men's beach volleyball game on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, as the Secretary and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation visit the Summer Olympics on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Italian Prime Minister Renzi Speaks With Secretary Kerry As They Watch An Olympic Men’s Beach Volleyball Game
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi speaks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Senior Adviser David Thorne – the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy – after they watched an Olympic men’s beach volleyball game on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, as the Secretary and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation visit the Summer Olympics on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry and U.S. Ambassador Ayalde Watch An Olympic Beach Volleyball Game U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde watch an Olympic men's beach volleyball game on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, while they and their fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation visit the Summer Olympics on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry and U.S. Ambassador Ayalde Watch An Olympic Beach Volleyball Game
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde watch an Olympic men’s beach volleyball game on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, while they and their fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation visit the Summer Olympics on August 6, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Plays with U.S. Women's Beach Volleyball Players U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plays with U.S. Olympic women's beach volleyball players on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, on August 6, 2016, as he and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation attend the Summer Olympics. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Plays with U.S. Women’s Beach Volleyball Players
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plays with U.S. Olympic women’s beach volleyball players on the Copacobana beach in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, on August 6, 2016, as he and his fellow members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation attend the Summer Olympics. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]


.

I've traveled around the world to 88 countries as Secretary of State, representing the values that make us the proud, diverse, exceptional nation that we are. U.S. athletes are some of our finest Ambassadors. And I can’t think of anything that unifies people as much as the common spirit of sportsmanship. #TeamUSA put countless hours into training for these games, and they are an inspiration to everyone working towards a goal that at times feels impossible. They are proof when you work hard, set your mind to something, and never, ever give up, great things can happen. As Muhammad Ali said, "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power that they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." Thanks for following along. – JK

A photo posted by U.S. Department of State (@statedept) on

#

Ambassadorship Pitch: Possible Countries — Anywhere in Europe Is A-OK

Posted: 4:14 am ET

 

It’s that time of year.  Related to a previous post, Self-Service: Debating the Merits of the Different Ambassadorships, here is an email pitching for an ambassadorship in 2012 for just about anywhere in Europe. The short bio includes places visited for work or pleasure.

  • Spain [REDACTED] New York), extensive travel throughout Spain for professional and personal trips. As a global financial expert, could be very helpful with Spain’s current economic crisis.
  • Belgium — worked on the current EU debt crisis as a global banker.
  • Netherlands —[REDACTED] Numerous visits to Amsterdam for work over the years.
  • Switzerland -[REDACTED] — numerous trips to Zurich and Geneva for work.
  • REDACTED, over 20 trips to Buenos Aires, extensive personal travel throughout the country. Fluent in Spanish.
  • Other European countries — Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg.

Heather Samuleson’s email to Abedin-Mills in December 2012 includes the following:

He noted his “package” is currently with Valarie, Jim Messina and Alyssa and was told by them that S’s recommendation would be a “gamechanger.”  Informed him we are just registering interest and sharing with the WH at this time as it is ultimately a WH decision …

 

A related note — while former ambassadors do not carry diplomatic passports for life  [*exception: courtesy diplomatic passports are a subtype of diplomatic passports and are issued to former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries of State, Deputy Secretaries of State, and retired career Senior Foreign Service Officers who attained the personal rank of Career Ambassador, and their spouses and widows/widowers], we’ve always thought that they get to carry their rank for life.  We were recently nudged to revisit the use of the honorific title of Ambassador by former ambassadors.  So we had to revisit the Foreign Affairs Handbook which says:

3 FAH-1 H-2439
(CT:POH-163; 08-18-2014)

b. An individual who has served as an Ambassador, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, may use the title of ambassador, as appropriate, upon retirement:

U.S. Ambassador, Retired; or

Ambassador-at-Large of the United States, Retired.

One might argue with the phrase “upon retirement” for noncareer appointees but the Transition Center of the Foreign Service Institute has a special note on how to address ambassadors (PDF):

Over the years, and recently as well, there has been discussion about the use of the honorific title of Ambassador by former ambassadors, both those who remain active in the Foreign Service and those who are retired. For years, Department regulations have forbidden this usage unless actually in the job of ambassador or for those few who retired with the personal rank of career Ambassador.

For current employees, long-standing custom and practice, however, has established a clear tradition in the Department and in the Foreign Service that persons who have served as ambassador after Senate confirmation may continue to use the title after such service in appropriate communications with others, may be referred to in communications and conversations by the title of Ambassador, and may be introduced to public audiences by the title.

The Department has also clarified the use of the title for persons who have retired from the Foreign Service or left government service who served as ambassador after Senate confirmation. An amendment to the various regulations permits the use of the title, “Ambassador, Retired,” for all such persons.

Unless the Protocol for the Modern Diplomat has been updated to say otherwise, it looks like the use of the honorific title of Ambassador by former ambassadors is permissible.

#

Officially In: Joseph R. Donovan, Jr. — From AIT/DC to the Republic of Indonesia

Posted: 3:02 am ET

On July 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Joseph R. Donovan, Jr., to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joseph R. Donovan Jr., a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Managing Director of the Washington Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, a position he has held since 2014. Previously, Mr. Donovan served as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon from 2012 to 2014, Associate Professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2012, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State from 2009 to 2011. He was the U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2009, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 2005 to 2008, and Director of the Department of State’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs from 2003 to 2005. Prior to that, Mr. Donovan was Political Section Chief at the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2000 to 2003 and Political/Military Unit Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 1997 to 2000.Earlier assignments in the Foreign Service include posts in Taiwan, China, South Korea and Qatar.Before joining the Foreign Service, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr. Donovan received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Joseph Donovan, the Managing Director of AIT’s Washington office, met with President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office on February 10, 2015. (Photo by AIT/Flickr)

Joseph Donovan, the Managing Director of AIT’s Washington office, met with President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office on February 10, 2015. (Photo by AIT/Flickr)

If confirmed, Mr. Donovan would succeed career diplomat, Robert O. Blake, Jr. who was appointed ambassador to Jakarta on July 30, 2013.

 

#

U.S. Embassy Juba: 47 Troops Ordered to South Sudan, 130 Pre-Positioned in Djibouti

Posted: 2:19 am PT

 

On July 13, President Obama informed Congress of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.

In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba. The first of these additional personnel, approximately 47 individuals, arrived in South Sudan on July 12, 2016, supported by military aircraft. Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed. Additional U.S. Armed Forces, including approximately 130 military personnel currently pre-positioned in Djibouti, are prepared to provide support, as necessary, for the security of U.S. citizens and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

On July 13, Embassy Juba also announced two charter flights that will depart Juba for Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday, July 14. Passengers are expected to make onward travel plans themselves. A security message issued previously notes that “seating is very limited”  and that the mission “cannot guarantee availability.”  Passengers are limited to one piece of luggage (20 kg/45 lbs) each.  Pets are not included in the charter flights.  Passengers who are not documented with a valid U.S. passport “will likely not be considered for boarding.”

 

Germany and the EU have completed the evacuation of its citizens on July 13.  The UK and India are in the process of also evacuating their citizens from South Sudan.

#

Ambassador Nomination: Douglas Silliman — From Kuwait to Iraq

Posted: 1:23 am ET

On May 19, President Obama announced Douglas Silliman as his nominee for the next Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq. The WH released the following brief bio:

Douglas Silliman, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to the State of Kuwait, a position he has held since 2014.  Ambassador Silliman was a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2012 to 2013.  From 2011 to 2012, he was Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs in Baghdad.  Before serving in Iraq, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey from 2008 to 2011.  Ambassador Silliman was Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs from 2005 to 2007 and Deputy Director from 2004 to 2005.  From 2000 to 2004, he was Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1984, he has also served at posts in Haiti, Pakistan, and Tunisia.

Ambassador Silliman received a B.A. from Baylor University and an M.A. from The George Washington University.

Photo via USEmbassy Kuwait/FB

Photo via USEmbassy Kuwait/FB

Ambassador Silliman had his confirmation hearing at the SFRC on June 21.  If confirmed, he would succeed career diplomat, Stuart E. Jones, who was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Iraq on September 17, 2014.

 

Related posts:

 

#

Ambassador Nomination: Sung Y. Kim — From North Korea Special Rep to the Philippines

Posted: 1:21  am ET

On May 18, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Sung Y. Kim as his nominee to be the next Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines. The WH released the following brief bio:

Sung Y. Kim, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State, positions he has held since 2014.  Previously, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2011 to 2014, Special Envoy for the Six Party Talks with the rank of Ambassador from 2008 to 2011, and Director of the Office of Korean Affairs in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs from 2006 to 2008.  Mr. Kim was Political-Military Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea from 2002 to 2006.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1988, Mr. Kim has also held positions at posts in Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Kim was a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Mr. Kim received a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. from Loyola Law School, and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

US Ambassador to Seoul, Sung Kim with Psy (Photo via US Embassy/FB)

US Ambassador to Seoul, Sung Kim with Psy
(Photo via US Embassy/FB)

If confirmed, Ambassador Kim would succeed career diplomat, Philip Goldberg who was appointed chief of mission to the US Embassy in Manila in December 2013.

 

Related posts:

 

#

When Policy Battles Break Out in Public — Holy Dissent, What a Mess!

Posted: 8:26 pm ET

 

Also see “Dissent Channel” Message on Syria Policy Signed by 51 @StateDept Officers Leaks NYT Publishes Draft Version of @StateDept Dissent Memo on Syria Without the Names of Signers from 

 

Here is the DPB for today, June 20 with the State Department spox answering questions about the “it’s good” response from Secretary Kerry — apparently, he wasn’t referring to the punctuation:

QUESTION: All right, let’s start with Syria. Earlier today, in one of the events that you just mentioned, the Secretary told our colleague Abigail that he had read the dissent channel memo —

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: — and that he – that it looked good to him, or he said something like, “It’s good,” and that he would —

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

QUESTION: — he was going to meet them. Can you elaborate at all?

MR KIRBY: Well, I don’t know how much more I can —

QUESTION: Well, what does he mean when he said it’s good?

MR KIRBY: I think – I think —

QUESTION: I mean, does that mean he agrees?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’m – again, I’m limited in what I can talk about in terms of the content of a dissent channel message. I think what the Secretary was referring to was the – that he did read it and that I – that he found it to be a well-written argument. But I’m not going to talk about the content. And as for meeting with the authors, he has expressed an interest in meeting with at least some of them. I mean, there’s a lot of them, so I don’t know that we’ll be able to pull off a single meeting with each and every one of them there, but he has expressed an interest in talking to them, and we’ll do that in due course.

QUESTION: So when you say it was a – what did you say, it was a well-presented argument?

MR KIRBY: What I – what I —

QUESTION: Well-written argument?

MR KIRBY: What I think the Secretary was referring to was that he read the paper and thought that it was – thought that it was well written, that it was good in that regard. I won’t talk to the content or his views of the content.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, without talking about what the actual content was, when you say it was well written or the argument is a good one, does that mean that he is prepared to – whatever it says, I’m not asking you about content – that he is prepared to make the case for those – for the positions that are articulated in this cable —

MR KIRBY: Well, two – two thoughts there. First —

QUESTION: — within the Administration?

MR KIRBY: Two thoughts there. First, as you know, the policy planning staff will be preparing a response, as is required. That response is not yet finished, and we don’t publicize – any more than we publicize the contents of dissent channel messages, we don’t publicize the response. But the response is being prepared. As for any espousal of the ideas before, during or after the fact of them being proffered in a dissent channel message, the Secretary very much keeps private his advice and counsel to the President on policy matters, and we’re going to – obviously, we’re going to respect that.

QUESTION: Well, since this became public last week, you will have noticed numerous articles, numerous – or numerous reports saying outright and suggesting strongly that, in fact, the Secretary agrees with many if not all of the points made in this cable. Are you not – are his comments today not indicative of that?

MR KIRBY: His comments today – I would not characterize his comments today as being indicative of a full-throated endorsement of the views in this particular dissent channel message. Again, I can’t speak to content. What I can tell you is a couple of things. One, obviously, whatever views, advice and counsel he presents to the President need to remain private, and they will. And so I won’t get into that. But then also, as I said Friday, he has made no bones about the fact that he is not content with the status quo in Syria. We are not content with the status quo in Syria. Too many people are dying, too many people are being denied basic life-sustaining material – food, water, medicine – and there’s been too little progress on the political track.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MR KIRBY: But if you also look – but if you also look at what else he said this morning – I mean, I know that Abigail shouted out a question, but if you look at the transcript of what else he had to say to those college students, he talked about how important it is that we continue to work through a transitional governing process in Syria, and that that is the best way forward – a political solution is still the preferred path forward.

QUESTION: Right, but when you talk about how no one – you’re not, he’s not, no one is satisfied with the status quo – this is a bit of what is actually going on on the ground in Syria – clearly, no one is. But this isn’t a question about the status quo on the situation in Syria. This is a question about the status quo of the policy. So are you not in a position to be able to say that the Secretary is not – that he doesn’t like the status quo, the policy status quo, the U.S. policy status quo?

MR KIRBY: Nobody’s happy with the status quo of events on the ground, and that is why —

QUESTION: Yeah, but what about the policy?

MR KIRBY: — but – I’m getting there.

QUESTION: All right.

MR KIRBY: That is why, as – and I mentioned this Friday – that is why we do consider – we are considering, we are discussing other alternatives, other options that may be applied, mindful that we are, that the current approach is, without question, struggling. But as the President said himself, none of those other options – be they military or not in nature – are better than – in terms of the long-term outcome, are going to be better than the political solution we’re trying to pursue.

QUESTION: Okay. This will be my last one. I – because I’m just a – the – so you – you’re – what you’re saying is that his comment, “It’s good,” refers —

QUESTION: Very good.

QUESTION: Sorry?

QUESTION: Very good.

QUESTION: It’s very good – sorry, it’s very good – that refers to how it was put together, like the grammar and the sentence structure, and not the actual content? Because that strikes me as being a bit —

MR KIRBY: No, I’m not saying he was talking about punctuation. I mean, I —

QUESTION: Oh, okay, so —

MR KIRBY: Obviously – obviously, he read the memo and found it to be a well-crafted argument, well enough that he feels it’s worth meeting with the authors. Now, what exactly did he find in Abigail’s shouted-out – quote, “Very good,” I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him about every element of it. And again, I’m not going to talk about the content of it from here.

QUESTION: Well, so you can’t – you’re not in a position to say that the “It’s very good” means that he is prepared to make those same arguments within the – as the Administration deliberates?

MR KIRBY: No, I’m not prepared to – I’m not prepared to say that.

#

“Dissent Channel” Message on Syria Policy Signed by 51 @StateDept Officers Leaks

Posted: 2:52 am ET
Updated: 3:55 pm ET

 

The State Department’s Dissent Channel was created “to allow its users the opportunity to bring dissenting or alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues, when such views cannot be communicated in a full and timely manner through regular operating channels or procedures, to the attention of the Secretary of State and other senior State Department officials in a manner which protects the author from any penalty, reprisal, or recrimination.”  Note that management, administrative, or personnel issues that are not significantly related to matters of substantive foreign policy may not be communicated through the Dissent Channel according to the Foreign Affairs Manual.

There is a reason we don’t hear often about the messages sent through the “dissent channel”:

Freedom from reprisal for Dissent Channel users is strictly enforced; officers or employees found to have engaged in retaliation or reprisal against Dissent Channel users, or to have divulged to unauthorized personnel the source or contents of Dissent Channel messages, will be subject to disciplinary action.  Dissent Channel messages, including the identity of the authors, are a most sensitive element in the internal deliberative process and are to be protected accordingly.

Neither the identity of a Dissent Channel user nor the contents of any Dissent Channel message may be shared with anyone outside of the procedures as outlined in 2 FAM 074.1paragraph (b)

We understand that in 1977, the Executive Secretariat logged in some 32 Dissent Channel messages. By contrast, in 2005, you apparently could count by the fingers of one hand the number of Foreign Service professionals who used the Dissent Channel.

In 2009, USA TODAY (October 12, 2009) publicly reported the use of the dissent channel on a USAID program in Pakistan (see Dissent Channel: USAID/Pakistan Program.

Probably, one of the more famous use of the dissent channel was one signed by 20 diplomats on the U.S. policy toward East Pakistan, also known as the Blood Telegram, the subject of the book by Gary Bass.  Archer Blood was our top diplomat in Bangladesh.  He was the Consul General to Dhaka, East Pakistan and was famous for sending the strongly-worded dissent telegram protesting against the atrocities committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War. [See cable: Dissent From U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan Cable (PDF); Also see Wanted: Patron Saint for Dissenting Diplomats).

On June 16,  NYT’s Mark Lander reports that dozens of diplomats have signed a dissent memo over the administration’s Syria policy, and that a State Department official provided a draft of the dissent memo to the newspaper:

More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.

The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”

So, what happens next?

According to the regs, the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff (S/P) is responsible for management of the Dissent Channel, including receipt, storage, distribution, and acknowledgment of all Dissent Channel messages received, and drafting, clearance, and timely transmission of all Dissent Channel responses.  Note that Jon Finer, is Secretary Kerry’s Chief of Staff and also the Director of Policy Planning

Immediately upon receipt of all incoming Dissent Channel messages, S/P distributes copies to the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary (Blinken), the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (Higginbottom), the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Shannon), the Executive Secretary, and the Chair of the Secretary’s Open Forum (who is not identified on the state.gov website). The director of S/P may distribute the dissent message to other senior officials in the Department, both for information purposes and for help in drafting a response.  No additional distribution may be made without the authorization of the S/P director.

The Director of Policy Planning is also responsible for acknowledging receipt of a Dissent message within 2 working days and for providing a substantive reply, normally within 30-60 working days.  At the discretion of the Director of the Policy Planning, S/P may also clear replies with other senior Department of State officials.

Will this change the policy on Syria? Don’t count on it.

According to Kal Bird in Dissent in the Foreign Service, the first dissent cable was filed by Jack Perry, protesting the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam in 1972, on the eve of the Nixon-Brezhnev summit. Perry’s arguments had no impact on the Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam policy. Also this:

The first major test of the dissent channel as a means of not only venting views, but changing policy, came in Cyprus in 1974. In that year of the CIA-sponsored coup d’etat in Nicosia, Thomas Boyatt filed a dissent cable protesting Kissinger’s interventionist policy. Within days Boyatt was fired from his position as director of the Office of Cypriot Affairs. His dissent cable was not answered for five months, and even then, the response was merely an acknowledgment of receipt.

(Note: The Blood telegram is dated April 6, 1971, so while we do not have a date for the Perry cable protesting the 1972 bombing of North Vietnam, the Blood dissent appears to predates the Perry dissent).

Mr. Bird’s article notes that “precisely because few dissent cables have ever changed policy, use of the dissent channel is considered a desperate last resort.”

A “desperate last resort” and might just be the reason why this dissent channel memo was leaked to the New York Times.

#

What a dissent cable looks like — read Dissent From U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan Cable via National Security Archive/GWU:

 

#