JW v. @StateDept: Huma Abedin’s Testimony (Transcript)

Posted: 3:47 am ET

 

Judicial Watch has released the transcript of Huma Abedin’s deposition in connection with the group’s FOIA litigation.

If you want to read the transcript, it is available below or read the original post here (PDF).

 

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Painless Process Exhibit: A Schedule C Employee Takes a Job at the State Department

Posted: 2:46  am ET

Remember in 2014,  when the State Department officially rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than to career foreign service officers? The official who rebutted that criticism was the spokesperson of the State Department, Jennifer Psaki, a former political operative and herself, a political appointee (see Political Appointee Rejects Criticisms of Too Many Political Picks at the State Department).

Below is part of an FOIA case filed by Judicial Watch that shows what happens when a Schedule C political appointee gets a job at the State Department. Let us not kid ourselves.  This has been going on for years and years.  This goes on with every new administration. But this is the first time, we get a look at the discussion that goes on behind the scene. It also shows just how deeply the political appointees moved into the bureaucracy in places like IRM where you would not expect to find one. Poor IRM folks did not even know what is a PAS.

Here are a few things we learned:

  • Somebody needs to write a position description (PD) that fits the Schedule C employee to be; no need for USAjobs.gov
  • The position description needs to be classified per OPM guidance for GS position. No worries, somebody will make that happened.
  • Once the position is OPM-classified, bringing the Schedule C employee onboard takes 2-4 weeks.
  • Schedule C pay will match current pay
  • Schedule C employee reports to a PAS; not a traditional supervisor/employee position.

Read the emails below:

 

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State/WHA Gets Mari Carmen Aponte as Acting Assistant Secretary

Posted: 12:05 am ET
Updated: 5:19 pm PT

 

On May 5, the State Department appointed Mari Carmen Aponte as the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (State/WHA).  Which probably means there won’t be a formal nominee for this position until after the elections in  November.  The assistant secretary is responsible for managing and promoting U.S. interests in the region by supporting democracy, trade, and sustainable economic development, and fostering cooperation on issues such as citizen safety, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, economic and social inclusion, energy, and climate change.

Previously, Ms. Aponte was the Ambassador of the United States to El Salvador from 2012 until February 2016. In 2015, President Obama nominated her to be the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States (OAS) with the rank of Ambassador. (PN628). That nomination has been stuck in committee since last year.

The WHA leadership is currently composed of career diplomat Paco Palmieri who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary; and four five deputy assistant secretaries (DAS): career diplomats John CreamerAlex LeeGonzalo Gallegos, and Kenneth Merten (who is also the Haiti Special Coordinator). The fifth DAS is former WH person staffer Juan Gonzalez who also previously served as Chief of Staff to the former WHA Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela.

Related posts:

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An Invitation to a Deposition: DC Court Judge Approves Extraordinary Procedure in FOIA Case

Posted: 10:18 am PT

 

On May 4, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted Judicial Watch to take testimony of former and current State Department employees in relation to an FOIA lawsuit related to the clintonemail. The Court notes that “discovery is rare in FOIA cases. Thomas v. FDA, 587 F. Supp. 2d 114, 115 (D.D.C. 2008) (Huvelle, J.) (noting that discovery is an extraordinary procedure in a FOIA action”). Discovery should be permitted, however, when a plaintiff raises a sufficient question as to the agency’s good faith in processing documents in response to a FOIA request.”

The Court writes:

[T]he circumstances surrounding approval of Mrs. Clinton’s use of clintonemail.com for official government business, as well as the manner in which it was operated, are issues that need to be explored in discovery to enable the Court to resolve, as a matter of law, the adequacy of the State Department’s search of relevant records in response to Judicial W atch’s FOIA request.
[…]
Having considered Plaintiff’s proposed plan, State’s response, Plaintiff’s reply, and the parties’ jointly proposed order, and recognizing that Defendant has not waived its objection to discovery, it is hereby ordered that:

The scope of permissible discovery shall be as follows: the creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action. Plaintiff is not entitled to discovery on matters unrelated to whether State conducted an adequate search in response to Plaintiff’s FOIA request, including without limitation: the substantive information sought by Plaintiff in its FOIA request in this case, which involves the employment status of a single employee; the storage, handling, transmission, or protection of classified information, including cybersecurity issues; and any pending FBI or law enforcement investigations.

The court authorized Judicial Watch to seek the testimony of the following witnesses per court filing:

Stephen D. Mull Executive Secretary of the State Department from June 2009 to October 2012 and suggested that Mrs. Clinton be issued a State Department BlackBerry, which would protect her identity and would also be subject to FOIA requests. (Note that Ambassador Mull is a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland and the current Lead Coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation at the State Department).

Lewis A. Lukens Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat from 2008 to 2011 and emailed with Patrick Kennedy and Cheryl Mills about setting up a computer for Mrs. Clinton to check her clintonemail.com email account. (Note that Ambassador Lukens is a former U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau and currently Diplomat in Residence responsible for recruitment and outreach for the State Department in Montana, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and northern California).

Patrick F. Kennedy Under Secretary for Management since 2007 and the Secretary of State’s principal advisor on management issues, including technology and information services. (Note that Ambassador Kennedy is now the longest serving Under Secretary of State for Management in the history of the State Department.  Besides Ronald Ian Spiers who served as “M” from 1983–1989, Kennedy would be the only other  Foreign Service Officer appointed to this position).

430(b)(6) deposition(s) of Defendant regarding the processing of FOIA requests, including Plaintiff’s FOIA request, for emails of Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin both during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and after;

Cheryl D. Mills Mrs. Clinton’s Chief of Staff throughout her four years as Secretary of State

Huma Abedin Mrs. Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff and a senior advisor to Mrs. Clinton throughout her four years as Secretary of State and also had an email account on clintonemail.com

Bryan Pagliano State Department Schedule C employee who has been reported to have serviced and maintained the server that hosted the “clintonemail.com” system during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State);

 

The court filing says that Judicial Watch reserves the right to seek the Court’s permission to take the deposition of Donald R. Reid at a later time, and State reserves the right to object. Reid is Senior Coordinator for Security infrastructure, Bureau of Diplomatic Security since 2003 and was involved in early discussions about Mrs. Clinton using her BlackBerry and other devices to conduct official State Department business. (Note that Mr. Reid’s Information Security responsibilities include the management of classified information programs, oversight of the Department’s Special Security Office, the operation of the Industrial Security program, and the investigation/resolution of security violations). 

Judicial Watch is granted 8 weeks to conduct its discovery plus a possible July surprise:  “Based on information learned during discovery, the deposition of Mrs. Clinton may be necessary. If Plaintiff believes Mrs. Clinton’s testimony is required, it will request permission from the Court at the appropriate time.”

Read the court ruling below; use the side scroll or maximize arrow at the lower right handside of the Cloudup box below. You may also read it here.

 

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Throwback Thursday: An Election, an FOIA, and @StateDept in the Eye of the Storm

Posted: 1:48 pm EDT

 

In November 1992, Sherman Funk, the Inspector General at that time was joined at the State Department podium by Lawrence Eagleburger who was then Acting Secretary of State for a special briefing on the investigation into the passport files of then Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Bill Clinton, his mother, and independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.

The report blamed lower level State Department employees for beginning the search, with the assistant secretary for consular affairs as the highest bureaucratic casualty. The OIG report notes that “The genesis of the search may have been ordinary FOIA requests; the manner in which it was carried out was anything but ordinary. Although aspects of the search made headlines for a month and a half, the entire search lasted but two days.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-30

Click on image to watch the 1992 video via c-span.

Mr. Funk did an oral history interview for ADST (PDF) where he talked about his investigation of this incident. Quick excerpt below:

[I]n view of the enormous political potential of this, I called Eagleburger and said, I think this should be turned over to the FBI. Not that we couldn’t do it, but because of the unbelievable sensitivity in an election year when Bush was starting to run further and further behind, that this could look like a dirty trick like what was pulled back in the ‘72 campaign with Mr. Nixon. I also sent later that day a memo for record. I said this could be the October surprise to end all October surprises. We talked about it on the phone, as we did first thing in the morning, I pointed out that for the Republicans this could be a no-lose situation. If a letter like that could be found, Clinton was dead. There was no way he could become President if he at one time said he renounces his American citizenship, just impossible. On the other hand, if no letter could be found, and a charge could be made that the files had been tampered with, and that charge could have validity, that would make it appear that he had removed the letter surreptitiously from the files with the power of the presidency behind him. So therefore, whether or not the letter was written, if the story got out that we were looking at a tampering investigation, it would be a very dicey situation, particularly inasmuch as Jim Baker, the former Secretary of State, was now running the campaign for Bush. And I said I would not want to be in that position because obviously I had worked closely with Baker while he had been Secretary. So Eagleburger, personally I don’t think he was too happy, but he didn’t argue, he said Sherman you call it the way you want to. So I called the Attorney General, Bill Barr, whom I knew rather well, I had worked with him on a number of things before, and in fact helped him get the deputy attorney generalship. It’s a long story, but I had some working relationship with him. And I told him something that I had only read about in books before. He said is it important? I said, “Yes, Bill, this is a matter of national moment.”
[…]
[T]he Department was really coming to pieces. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. People would stop me in the halls with tears in their eyes, and say, “You’ve got to do something about this. We’re being taken over by politicians.” Because every day there were different leaks in the newspaper. Newspaper reporters are very aggressive, particularly during a campaign. So they go to some GS-4 clerk in the national archives and say, “If you don’t tell me what’s going to happen, we’ll put you all over the paper and your career will be dead.” Somebody actually told me this, and they’d be crying when they talked to the reporter. And some of the reporters, who were absolute shits on this thing, unbelievable bastards in the way they operated. There were some noble people. There were some excellent reports, particularly in the Wall Street Journal and to some extent the New York Times, and by and large, the Post wasn’t too bad. But the Washington Times, the Daily News, the New York Post. It wasn’t a matter of politics, it was a matter of just scandals and little journalism. And every night there was something on the evening news about this. And people honestly in the State Department began to think that the Department had been totally corrupted and had been taken over. I’ve never seen a man as devastated in my life as Eagleburger, who was a lame duck until the election was over, who wanted to end his career on a high note, had been a brilliant officer, I think. I happen to think immensely of the man. And here he was leaving on a note that was so low that he was totally despondent.

State/OIG was kind enough to dig up the 1992 report for us which should be required reading:

 

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Why the Secretary of State should be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens

Posted: 4:19 am ET

 

In case you have not seen this, here is a piece via Politico about the State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, a position that was created during the Clinton tenure and one that appears  to no longer exist under the Kerry tenure (Gary Hart is listed as Kerry’s Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues). Excerpt:

Government employees are typically restricted in their ability to receive outside income. But Hillary Clinton’s State Department expanded the use of “special government employees,” a relatively rare status originally created for scientists and others with unusual technical expertise that cannot be provided in-house. This allowed certain workers chosen by her or her staff, including Kelly, to receive money from private firms, including those who might potentially have business before the federal government.
[…]
After his appointment in September 2009, Kelly quickly staffed up by making an unconventional move and hiring five employees using money out of his own pocket. One used the title “deputy to the U.S. State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland,” and, according to his current bio, was tasked with “helping to drive investment to the region from U.S. corporations and facilitate bilateral trade.”

Another “adviser” to the economic envoy, was “responsible for executing a number special initiatives to help drive economic development in support of the ongoing peace process,” according to his current bio. And a third was named “senior counsel,” according to her LinkedIn profile, working with two additional employees to start up a mentoring program placing Irish fellows at American companies.

Despite job titles that sounded like State Department positions, and despite their regular interactions with official State Department staff and Irish diplomats, none of them were official government employees, and thus they had no constraints on their outside activities.

“The State Department does not have a record of these individuals being employed by the Department,” reads a State Department statement for this story.

Some of Kelly’s envoy office employees were also doing consulting work for Kelly’s private firm, listing Declan Kelly Consulting on their résumés. They would become among the first Teneo employees. Because they weren’t officially on the State Department payroll, their work would not receive the typical oversight given to State employees. It’s unclear whether they were required to file any sort of disclosure forms, and the State Department would not comment on what obligations they may or may not have had to meet.

Related items:

 

Following the Clinton tenure, the proliferation of special envoys, special representatives, coordinators and special advisors continued in Foggy Bottom. As of this writing, the State Department has 18 special envoys, 17 special representatives, 6 ambassadors-at-large, 15 coordinators, 7 special advisors, 1 senior advisor, 1 senior official, 1 personal representative, 1 senior representative in addition to the many functional and geographic bureaus in the department. In less than a year, most of them will be gone with  Secretary Kerry.  But we are certain that all will be replaced by new faces, and next BFFs (or old ones, as the case may be) parachuting into Foggy Bottom’s top floors in January 2017.

We agree with Senator Corker that every secretary of state should be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens/positions, most especially on their necessity to the effective conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.

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Clinton Email: Presidential Memo to Establish Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) Position on a Permanent Basis

Posted: 1:01 am ET

 

In 2009, President Obama nominated Melanne Verveer to be the first ever US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State.  Previously, she was Co-Founder, Chair and Co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international nonprofit that invests in emerging women leaders – pioneers of economic, political and social progress in their countries. Prior to founding Vital Voices, Verveer served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady in the Clinton Administration and was chief assistant to then First Lady Hillary Clinton in her international activities.

The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), is currently headed by Ambassador Catherine M. Russell who was appointed to the position in August 2013. Prior to assuming this position, she served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden focusing on military families and higher education.

 

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Email: IG Inspection of Embassy Kabul “Routine” and Always Includes Leadership/Mgt Survey of the Boss

Posted: 2:22 am EDT

Via foia.state.gov:

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.25.02 PM

This is an email from 2009.  State/OIG is independent from the State Department so LOL “at the behest of  the IG” to State/PA here?  There was no Senate-confirmed OIG in 2009. Howard J. Krongard who was appointed in 2005 left office in 2008.  PJ Crowley was then the official spokesperson for the State Department and the PA bureau boss. Mark Lander was then NYT’s diplomatic correspondent.

The State/OIG inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 8 and Octo­ber 9, 2009 and in Kabul, Afghanistan between October 15 and November 13, 2009. The official Report Number ISP-I-10-32A (PDF), is dated February 2010.

 

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CSIS Smart Women, Smart Power Event: A Conversation w/ America’s Ambassadors, 3/17 at 5pm

Posted: 2:34 am EDT

 

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative panel discussion and question and answer session will reportedly feature 45 current and former U.S. ambassadors. They will explore issues contributing to global insecurity, mass migration, refugees, war and conflict in regional hotspots, as well as tensions in the South China Sea. The 90-minute event is at full capacity but will be available to watch online here.  If everyone gets to talk, they’ll have a couple minutes each!  The ambassadors listed as participants in the event are below:

Hon. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Malta

Hon. Cynthia Akuetteh  
U.S. Ambassador to Gabon

Hon. Pat Alsup 
U.S. Ambassador to Gambia

Hon. Mari Aponte 
Former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador

Hon. Liliana Ayalde 
U.S. Ambassador to Brazil

Hon. Erica J. Barks-Ruggles 
U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda

Hon. Colleen Bell 
U.S. Ambassador to Hungary

Hon. Marcia Bernicat 
U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh

Hon. Piper Campbell 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia

Hon. Judith Cefkin 
U.S. Ambassador to Fiji

Hon. Maureen Cormack 
U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hon. Laura Dogu 
U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua

Hon. Kathleen Doherty
U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus

Hon. Catherine Ebert-Grey 
U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea/Vanuatu/Soloman Islands

Hon. Julie Furuta-Toy 
U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea

Hon. Jennifer Zimdahl Galt 
U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia

Hon. Nina Hachigian 
U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN

Hon. Pamela Hamamoto 
Permanent Rep. of the U.S. to the U.N. and Other International Organizations in Geneva

Hon. Patricia Haslach 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

Hon. G. Kathleen Hill 
U.S. Ambassador to Malta

Hon. Amy Hyatt 
U.S. Ambassador to Palau

Hon. Helen La Lime
U.S. Ambassador to Angola

Hon. Barbara Leaf  
U.S. Ambassador to the UAE

Hon. Dawn Liberi  
U.S. Ambassador to Burundi

Hon. Carmen Lomellin  
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States

Hon. Deb Malac  
U.S. Ambassador to Uganda

Hon. Jean Manes 
U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador

Hon. Deborah McCarthy 
U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania

Hon. Crystal Nix-Hines 
U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO

Hon. Virginia Palmer 
U.S. Ambassador to Malawi

Hon. Lisa Peterson 
U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland

Hon. Eunice Reddick 
U.S. Ambassador to Niger

Hon. Marcie Ries  
Former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria

Hon. Doria Rosen  
U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia

Hon. Dana Smith  
U.S. Ambassador to Qatar

Hon. Pamela Spratlen  
U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan

Hon. Karen Stanton 
U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste

Hon. Steph Sullivan  
U.S. Ambassador to Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)

Hon. Linda Taglialatela  
U.S. Ambassador to Barbados

Hon. Lucy Tamlyn  
U.S. Ambassador to Benin

Hon. Margaret Uyehara 
U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro

Hon. Shari Villarosa 
U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius/Seychelles

Hon. Alice Wells  
U.S. Ambassador to Jordan

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VPOTUS Swears-In New U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji

Posted: 2:53 am EDT

 

 

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