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)



More on the Syria Dissent Channel Memo, and Chasing Down Concerning Rumors

Posted: 4:21 pm ET


According to Tuesday’s Daily Press Briefing, Secretary Kerry met yesterday with a small number, approximately 10 of the 51 signers of the Syria Dissent Channel memo for about a half an hour. The official spox said that “as you can imagine, the group is sizeable, so it wasn’t possible to meet with everybody. But he did have a collegial discussion with them this morning.” 

MR KIRBY: I’m – because the dissent channel memo and the contents of it are meant to be privately conveyed, so too I’m afraid are going to have to be the discussions around it. So I’m not going to be able to characterize the content of the Secretary’s conversation with them, because we want to respect the confidentiality of the process. It was, however – it was – I believe the Secretary came away feeling that it was a good discussion, it was worth having. He appreciated their views and just as critically their firm belief in their – in the opportunity that they have to express those views. And so they had a good 30-minute or more conversation.
MR KIRBY: Look, let me do this. So I can tell you a couple of things. He thanked them for expressing their views and for using the dissent channel. And he reaffirmed his strong belief in the value of the dissent channel, which we’ve talked about quite a bit here. So he thanked them for expressing their views, for using the dissent channel to do that. He made clear that he takes the dissent channel seriously and he took their views seriously, and also made clear that he read their message with sincerity. And, again, without talking about the specific detail of it, the Secretary also walked them through his own thought process with respect to this particular issue and the efforts that he’s been expending on this particular issue.
 I didn’t say and I won’t speculate as to discussions going forward with respect to what we’re doing in Syria or decisions that may or may not get made, either as a result of this message or as a result of ongoing routine discussions that have been had and continue to be had on alternatives. So I’m not going to speculate about the role that this message might play one way or the other.

But if you’re asking me, was this just a show for the Secretary, the answer is absolutely not. I mean, it – certainly he wanted to thank them and pay respect to the process because this is an important issue. But he also didn’t waste time in terms of hearing them out and asking questions and listening to their views and asking them to expound on them further. I mean, that’s the way this Secretary likes to conduct meetings and discussions and to inform himself. And again, I think he found the meeting useful in that regard. But I wouldn’t begin to speculate one way or another what this conversation today or that message did last week in terms of altering, changing any of the thinking going forward.  As I said last week, nobody is content with the status quo on the ground and the Administration has been looking at other options with respect to Syria for quite some time. This is not new. And yes, some of those options have included the potential for military initiatives. Again, that’s nothing new. So all these things —

The full DPB transcript is here.

Meanwhile, we had to chase down a couple of concerning rumors related to the dissent memo. We heard an allegation about Congressional pressure for a) the memo and b) the names of the signers.  Apparently, “word on the street” is that the Front Office of a certain geographical bureau is “providing names to the Hill in exchange for unblocking some nominations.” We must note that this bureau’s two chief of mission nominees had their confirmation hearing on Tuesday, June 21. There were no indications previously or at this time that these two nominations are subject to a Senate hold.

A State Department spokesperson, on background responded to our inquiry with the following:

“The dissent channel message has been provided to the Hill, but we did not include — nor will we — the names of the authors.”

We do not even want to imagine what a Congressional committee can do with the names or hearings in a partisan fight, in an election year.  So that’s one rumor debunked.

We also heard that the subject of this uproar, which appears to have SBU marking (“sensitive but unclassified”) has now been “retroactively classified.”

A State Department spokesperson, on background also told us that the cable was transmitted on the highside, and was classified confidential by the authors.”

Thanks X for debunking this other rumor.

The draft version published by the New York Times contains the SBU marking. It appears that the final version went out as “confidential” and was transmitted via the classified system.  What we still don’t know and may never know is how wide was the distribution of this “Dissent Channel” message and who purposely let this piglet out of the pen. We are still at a loss as to the leaker or leakers’ motive/s and perplexed at the calculation of sending a public message to a President with less than six months left in office.

Here are more links to read:

Here’s an early summer bonus for the “security diplomats”!




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:



State/OIG: Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archives

Posted: 2:09 pm EDT


The Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Office of Evaluation and Special Projects is examining the State Department’s records preservation and the use of personal hardware and software by five Secretaries of State (Albright, Powell, Rice, Clinton, and Kerry) and their immediate staff. On March 4, State/OIG posted the OIG (Linick) – M (Kennedy) memorandum on classified material discovered in the archives and its removal for secured storage:

During the course of this evaluation, OIG searched unclassified archives and discovered records suggesting instances in which potentially sensitive material may have been transmitted via personal email accounts or other unclassified means to Secretary Powell or to Secretary Rice’s immediate staff. None of the material was marked as classified, but the substance of the material and “NODIS” (No Distribution) references in the body or subject lines of some of the documents suggested that the documents could be potentially sensitive. On October 19, 2015, OIG transmitted to the Department and separately to the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community (ICIG) for classification review 19 separate Office of the Secretary archival documents. The date range of the documents is from February 2003 through June 2008.
On December 29, 2015, the Department advised OIG that 12 of the 19 documents contain national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels based on a review by 9 Department bureaus and offices. Two of these documents were emails sent to Secretary Powell’s personal email account; the remaining were documents transmitted to personal or unclassified accounts belonging to a member of Secretary Rice’s immediate staff and another senior Department official.
State’s official response:  Office of the Executive Secretariat (S/ES) staff have removed from the Department’s unclassified network all of the email material identified as classified and placed it in secure storage. Additionally, retired electronic records provided to the Bureau of Administration that were initially stored in an unclassified system have b~enmoved to the appropriate classified system. With regard to paper records relating to former Secretaries Powell and Rice, the Department does not believe any action is warranted because these materials are currently stored in a facility certified to house classified Department record~up to the SECRET level.

Read the memo exchange here:


Related post:

Classified Material Discovered in Unclassified Archival Material | Posted On: March 04, 2016 Report Date: March 2016 | Report Number: ESP-16-02




Syria Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Hotline Fail: Ceasefire Violations in the Land of Pepsi (Updated)

Posted: 1:49 pm EDT
Updated 6:54 pm EDT


Via Ceasefire Violations in the Land of Pepsi

On Monday, Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid called the hotline number advertised by the State Department’s Twitter account (1-202-736-7829) to report a series of Russian airstrikes on villages in southern Hama province earlier in the day.

The first State Department employee to answer the phone told Osama, in stilted Arabic, that he had the “wrong number” before disconnecting the line.

Osama redialed the same number, and another employee answered the call.

“Ok sir, I’m a Syrian journalist and I’d like to report a breach of the hudna [ceasefire] involving multiple airstrikes in the countryside south of Hama city—at the area where Hama governorate meets northern Homs province,” Osama said. [For additional reporting on this reported ceasefire violation, the Hama News Agency’s coverage is here.]

During the four-minute phone call, the operator struggled to ask basic questions regarding the incident.

At one point, when attempting to ask Osama if the strikes had resulted in any casualties, the operator instead said what appeared to be an accidental string of expletives.

Osama explained that local residents believed that Russian planes were responsible for the airstrikes based on the “intensity of the strikes” and the “number of planes” participating. Following this detailed explanation, the operator replied: “Russian.”

During the call Osama told the operator the name of the village (Hirbinifsah) four times and spelled it out.

However, when Osama asked whether the operator knew where the village was, he responded: “Yes, Harb Bebsi,” the latter being the word for “Pepsi” in Arabic.

The incident above obviously made news and also made it to the Daily Press Briefing. So, it looks like the Syria Cessation of Hostilities  (COH) Team is running as a Task Force at the State Department. This was set up in such a hurry that  no one vetted the volunteers for Arabic proficiency? There’s a question of language but also time difference? And apparently, the phone number is not a free phone number? We feel bad for the volunteers at the Task Force Syria COH team but we feel even worse for the folks who called in, and were amazed, not in the good way, with their reception.

So, contrary to what Mr. Toner says in the DPB, we understand that the Syria COH group is not/not a Task Force.   The Syria Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Team is run by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) as a “Coordination Team.”  We hope this is not run by the office who can’t even keep its own interns. Our Foggy Bottom nightingale calls this whole thing dumb asking “who exactly is going to be emailing or calling to report violations?” You really think people are going to be inclined to give Uncle Sam their phone numbers and email addresses? Seriously?

Via the DPB:

QUESTION: — over the weekend, you guys published this phone number, these contact numbers for people to call in or to write in and report violations of the ceasefire, and apparently, some reporters from one news outlet, who were actually calling not just to – they were actually calling to report what they said were violations, ran into some problems with – apparently with some limited – with the person on the other end not having particularly great Arabic. Is this something that you’re aware of and —

MR TONER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — if it is an issue, what’s being done to address it?

MR TONER: Well, so as you noted, we did – in order to help monitor the cessation of hostilities in Syria, we did set up an information hotline that was staffed 24/7 where violations could be reported I think via a number of different apps, also phone, email, text, WhatsApp, Telegram and Google Voice, and the information hotline was part of our broader Syria team, and it was staffed by State Department personnel, some of whom spoke or speak Arabic. We have received reports of violations and obviously added them to or fed them into the overall – the pipeline or the task force that is monitoring the ceasefire and reviewed every allegation. But as you note, there were some language issues amongst some of the volunteers. And granted, these are – these, again, are State Department employees who are doing this in addition to their usual jobs, but we are aware that there were some language issues, as you note, and we’re working to correct those, obviously, because it’s important that we have Arabic speakers who are able to field incoming calls.

QUESTION: Was that not a requirement?

MR TONER: It was, just – but given the time limits on setting this up, probably some of the language skills weren’t properly vetted. It just was people who couldn’t – they were having a hard time —

QUESTION: All right. And you said the people that are staffing this are volunteering their time to staff it?

MR TONER: That’s right.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, that’s interesting. But then again, I mean, as wonderful as that is, if they can’t speak the language then —

MR TONER: Agreed. We should have people who – we should have people – agree. So we’re working to address that.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: And why didn’t you set it up in the region in one of the embassies?

MR TONER: I’m sorry, the hotline?

QUESTION: This center, this hotline. With the time difference and the – with the language —

MR TONER: It’s a valid question. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that just given the – I have no idea. I mean, usually – I’m guessing that this is run out of the Ops Center which has all the phone banks set up, can easily take incoming calls, but – and has, frankly, the facilities able to put together a task force like this but —

QUESTION: Is it a free phone number? And if not, how many cents a minute does it cost to call from Aleppo, say?

MR TONER: I believe it should be a free phone number.


MR TONER: I’ll check on all this. This is good – these are all valid questions. I just don’t have a lot of information in front of me.

QUESTION: And if it isn’t?

MR TONER: I think it’s a free phone number. It has —


MR TONER: It’s not?


MR TONER: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Mark, are all of these staffers volunteers or is it a mix?

MR TONER: Yes. I believe they are volunteers. Is that what you’re questioning, or that they’re not?

QUESTION: I’m not (inaudible).


QUESTION: Mark, are you sure that they’re doing this in addition to doing their regular jobs? I mean, if you’re doing —

MR TONER: That’s what I was told, yeah.


QUESTION: Could I just follow up on the ceasefire itself?

QUESTION: Sorry, Said. What’s the number? Do you have that?

MR TONER: I don’t have it in front of me, sorry. I completely failed on this issue, I apologize.



State/OIG Reminds @StateDept of IT Contingency Planning Deficiencies

Posted: 12:59 am EDT


Last week, State/OIG issued a Management Assistance Report (MAR-PDF) reminding the State Department of continued deficiencies identified in information technology contingency planning at its overseas posts:

OIG identified IT contingency planning deficiencies in 69 percent (20 out of 29) of overseas inspections performed during FYs 2014 and 2015. The issues identified ranged from information management staff at posts not developing, updating, or testing IT contingency plans to plans that lacked appropriate key stakeholders and contact information as part of emergency preparedness, contrary to requirements set forth in 5 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1064, 12 FAM 623.7, 12 FAM 632.3, and National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-34. This report recommends that the Department take action to ensure that information management personnel are held accountable for IT contingency planning by making this responsibility explicit in their work requirements.

Recommendations from 2011 OIG Memorandum Report Unimplemented

OIG inspection teams continue to report IT contingency planning findings in overseas inspection reports, despite a December 2011 OIG memorandum2 to the Bureau of Information Resource Management with two recommendations addressing the topic. The memorandum identified IT contingency planning issues involving bureaus’ and posts’ lack of attention to developing and testing IT contingency plans as part of their emergency preparedness activities. The Bureau of Information Resource Management stated in compliance responses that it was planning to implement a tracking mechanism and develop a SharePoint site to capture risk scoring compliance for posts and bureaus. However, after 4 years the bureau still lacks a tracking mechanism and a SharePoint site as mentioned in their compliance responses. The September 2015 compliance response noted that the bureau is researching other alternatives to comply with OIG recommendations.

 So State/OIG is trying again with this MAR and a nudge on the Work Requirements of Information Management Staff

A review of Foreign Service employee evaluation reports for information management officers or the most senior information management personnel at embassies and consulates revealed that only 12 percent (32 out of 272) had a stated work requirement to develop and test IT contingency plans. According to 5 FAM 825 and 5 FAM 826, responsibility for the development and testing of IT contingency plans lies with the information management staff overseas.

Recommendation 1: The Bureau of Information Resource Management, in coordination with the regional bureaus, should include the requirement to complete and test information technology contingency plans in the work requirements for information management personnel. (Action: IRM, in coordination with AF, EAP, EUR, NEA, SCA, and WHA).

In related news:


Snapshot: Foreign Service Family Member Employment by Bureau and Geographic Distribution

Posted: 1:32 am EDT


Via (updated as of November 2015)

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Suspending Embassy Operations: Post and Bureau Not Told, and FOIA Redaction Fail

Posted: 1:12 am EDT
Updated: 5:28 pm EDT


On February 25, 2011, the State Department announced the suspension of U.S. Embassy operations in Libya (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Operations in #Libya, Withdraws All Personnel).  What we didn’t know then but we know now, thanks to the Clinton email dump, is that just a few days before that, neither the embassy nor the bureau was aware that they were suspending operations.

February 22, 2011 09:50 PM – HRC aide Jake Sullivan sent an email (partially redacted with FOIA b(5) code) to Janet A. Sanderson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near East Affairs, with subject line “Suspending embassy ops” and asking “Where do we stand?”

February 22, 2011 10:14 PM – Sanderson emailed Sullivan:

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Feb 22 22:18:23 2011 (10:18 PM) – Sanderson also sent an email to M/Patrick Kennedy and Kathleen T. Austin-Ferguson, M’s Executive Assistant:

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February 22, 2011 10:37 PM – Kennedy responded to Sanderson saying he “talked to cheryl and tom” and that “they are also unaware.”“Checking with Secretary. At this moment we are NOT suspending. Fully agree not possible to do tomorrow and also risks libyan blow back.”  Email must be referencing HRC Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.

Embassy Tripoli eventually suspended operations on February 25, three days after the start of this email chain.  These emails are part of the Clinton email dump and it shows just how messed up is the FOIA at the agency.

On Feb 22 22:40:17 2011 (10:40 PM) – Sanderson responded to the Kennedy email, adding Ronald Schlicher to the email chain. Ambassador Schlicher was previously assigned to Cyprus, and also served as a DAS at the Bureau of Near East Affairs. We are not sure what was his position in 2011, but he must have been attached to NEA to be looped in in this exchange. Ambassador Schlicher was Principal DAS at the NEA bureau, and he would have been Sanderson’s boss at the time.  Here’s a clip from that email:

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Now, take a look at the email below with the same time stamp and same addresses, released as a separate email by the FOIA office at State:

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Why, they’re the same email, except that they were released as separate documents, and in the second document, the email is redacted under the b(5) FOIA exemption, also known in the FOIA community as the “Withhold It Because You Want To” Exemption.  “Yael” must have been Yael Lempert who was assigned to Tripoli as consular section chief in 2009 and featured in the NYT here for the release of four New York Times journalists in 2011 in Libya.  She may have been the acting DCM at the time of the suspension of operations.  “Joan” is presumably Joan Polaschik who was DCM and then CDA of Embassy Tripoli. She is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.

Here is what DOJ says about the b(5) exemption:

Exemption 5 of the FOIA protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” (1) The courts have construed this somewhat opaque language, with its sometimes confusing threshold requirement, (2) to “exempt those documents, and only those documents that are normally privileged in the civil discovery context.” (3)

Here is what we are not supposed to read according to the FOIA ninjas, except that one of them forgot the Sharpie:

“I have just talked to post (Yael).She and Joan will work to reduce staff and send more out on ferry. Shd get down to 10- 12. She fully understands need for limited staff to stay to deal with community. Believes likely remainder will be position to leave in few days. Says situation is “worse than Baghdad in 2004-2005 “

No matter how you read the above passage, it is difficult to make the case that it fits the b(5) exemption unless you’re thinking of the “withhold it because you want to” exemption threshold.


Emails in full released via FOIA below:

Suspending Ops Libya – February 22, 2011 11:05 PM:

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 7:59 AM:

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 8:08 AM:


@StateDept Gears Up For Counterterrorism Messaging in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa

Posted: 12:45 am EDT


Last year, the State Department told us that the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) remains a stand-alone office reporting to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R), and has expanded to include a new counter-ISIL cell to the Center’s operation.  Following the departure of Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, the State Department appointed Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) in February 2015. Mr. Hussain previously served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Less than a year into his tenure as CSCC coordinator, Mr. Hussain left State to join the Department of Justice (see Another Coordinator Gone, What’s Next For the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications?).

Last week, the State Department announced the revamping of its counter-violent-extremist communications efforts (see @StateDept Announces Michael D. Lumpkin as Head of New Global Engagement Center).

A section of the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes the following items on countering foreign fighters and violent extremist organizations. It provides 1) funding to counter the flow of foreign fighters to countries in which violent extremists or violent extremist organizations operate including partnership with governments and multilateral organizations; and 2) reduction of public support for violent extremists or violent extremist organizations by addressing the specific drivers of radicalization through engagement and public messaging campaigns.

SEC . 7073.
(a) COUNTERING  FOREIGN  FIGHTERS AND  VIOLENT EXTREMIST  ORGANIZATIONS .—Funds appropriated under titles III and IV of this Act shall be made available for programs to—

(1) counter the flow of foreign fighters to countries in which violent extremists or violent extremist organizations operate, including those entities designated as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Public Law 82–814), including through programs with partner governments and multilateral organizations to—

(A) counter recruitment campaigns by such entities;
(B) detect and disrupt foreign fighter travel, particularly at points of origin;
(C) implement antiterrorism programs;
(D) secure borders, including points of infiltration and exfiltration by such entities;
(E) implement and establish criminal laws and policies to counter foreign fighters; and
(F) arrest, investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate terrorist suspects, facilitators, and financiers; and

(2) reduce public support for violent extremists or violent extremist organizations, including FTOs, by addressing the specific drivers of radicalization, including through such activities as—

(A) public messaging campaigns to damage their appeal;
(B) programs to engage communities and populations at risk of violent extremist radicalization and recruitment;
(C) counter-radicalization and de-radicalization activities for potential and former violent extremists and returning foreign fighters, including in prisons;
(D) law enforcement training programs; and
(E) capacity building for civil society organizations to combat radicalization in local communities.

Below is the State Department’s FY2016 request (PDF) which includes an Overseas Contingency Operations Request for International Information Programs (IIP) for $6 million. Here is part of the request and justification:

The Department faces unprecedented and unanticipated Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program requirements, including countering the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The FY 2016 OCO Request for IIP activities supports increased organizational capacity to expand counterterrorism messaging in the key languages of Arabic, Urdu, Somali and English during hours of peak activity in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

  • Dedicated ISIL Content Group ($700,000): The request includes $700,000 for editorial content to produce and translate content specifically addressing ISIL. Resources will support production and translation of new content for Anti-ISIL efforts without sacrificing production on other enduring priorities.
  • U.S. Speakers Office ($400,000): The request includes $400,000 to dispatch U.S. speakers on short notice to engage key foreign audiences in specific target countries on emergent issues. IIP would partner closely with the relevant regional or functional bureau(s) to identify both the target countries and key audiences for each issue. In addition, IIP would leverage the expertise of these speakers through other types of programs, particularly virtual interactive discussions.
  • Digital “special forces” platform development team ($600,000): The request includes $600,000 to support formation of a team that has the capacity and ability to rapidly execute time-sensitive projects. This team of five, including one designer, two front-end developers, one back-end developer/engineer, and one production manager, would have the capacity to handle three to four concurrent projects.
  • Outreach Program ($750,000): The request includes $750,000 for outreach programs targeting non-governmental international partners in order to extend the reach of the Anti-ISIL campaign with a broader range of messages and messengers. Some of these would reach new audiences; others might have greater credibility with existing audiences. The Department currently lacks the capacity to perform the outreach necessary for such an effort. Funding would also support training to staff at posts in order to boost their capacity to conduct counter-messaging and outreach to foreign partners and contacts.
  • Digital Products ($1 million): The Department has several in-house audiovisual producers, but lacks the technical resources to produce original footage, complex animation, or mobile- phone/tablet applications. Extremist adversaries, including ISIL, exploit all of these techniques to garner recruits and support their operations. The request of $1.0 million supports augmentation of existing in-house production of mash-up videos and stand-alone banners with original films, animated clips and mobile apps. Because each of these genres would require significant up-front investment in production facilities and professional expertise, the funding will support commissioned products from proven leaders in the field.
  • Social Media Analytics ($650,000): Social media analytics can inform and shape content to make it relevant and engaging to target audiences. This new and evolving business practice can make the Department’s public diplomacy materials more effective and improve the Department’s ability to create policy content that is informed by data. The Department currently has access to only the most minimal tools for surveying and analyzing the social media environment. The Request includes $650,000 for a competitive suite of tools that would add value across the various platforms where the Department is active.
  • Liaisons ($600,000): The Department coordinates broadly across the interagency and with international partners. The request includes $600,000 for 3 dedicated positions (FTEs or equivalent), possibly in the form of reimbursable detailees, with the sole purpose of synchronizing and optimizing operations for maximum effect against the adversary.
  • Integrated Analysis ($1.3 million): The Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Integrated Analysis section (CSCC/IA) is currently minimally staffed by two Intelligence Community officers and two Department of State civil servants. The request includes $1.3 million to ensure CSCC work is informed by intelligence and coordinated with the work of the rest of the Interagency; measuring effectiveness; and managing research into emerging counter-radicalization and messaging trends and best practices. CSCC’s increased operational tempo related to the President’s 3-year plan against ISIL and the effort against violent extremism in general, necessitates additional personnel and resources. Three reimbursable detailee billets are needed to be filled by intelligence analysts from National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and Defense of National Intelligence Open Source Center, to ensure the highest-quality all-source intelligence support to CSCC planners and Digital Outreach Team operations. Additional funds are needed to research operations-applicable best practices and emerging technologies in the areas of counter-radicalization and target audience messaging.





Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct: Is it only the little people who are taken to task?

Posted: 12:48 am EDT
Updated: 3:07 pm EDT


In March 2012, AFSA’s General Counsel Sharon Papp reported about a State Department proposal related to the “state of affairs” in the Foreign Service ….no, the other kind of affairs:

In 2011, the State Department proposed disciplinary action against a handful of employees for off-duty conduct that it had not sought to regulate in the past (i.e., extramarital affairs between consenting adults). 

When we reviewed several sex-related grievance cases in 2012, we came to the conclusion that from the agency’s view, widespread notoriety is not required to demonstrate an adverse effect on the efficiency of the Service. Further, the potential for embarrassment and damaged to U.S. interests seems as weighty as actual embarrassment and damage. See: Sex, Lies, and No Videotapes, Just Cases for the Grievance Board

We recently received the following in our mailbox (edited to remove the most identifying details):

The married DCM at the embassy of a major Middle East ally slept with a married ELO whose husband worked for him. He blamed his alcoholism. As “punishment,” he was assigned as DCM at a significant high risk/high threat post. Next up? One of the top jobs at an embassy located in a Western European country.  Where’s the accountability at State? Is it only the little people that are taken to task? 

Well, that is an excellent question given another allegation we’ve received about another front office occupant involved in domestic violence overseas (another story we hope to write another day).

Extra-marital affairs, of course, are not mentioned anywhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual but below is what the regs say on sexual activity (pdf) and what constitutes, “notoriously disgraceful conduct.” Both sections were last updated in 2012, and applies to Foreign Service employees at State and USAID:

3 FAM 4139.1 Sexual Activity
(CT:PER-673; 04-27-2012) (Uniform State/USAID) (Applies to Foreign Service Employees) 

The agencies recognize that, in our society, there are considerable differences of opinion in matters of sexual conduct, and that there are some matters which are of no concern to the U.S. Government. However, serious suitability concerns are raised by sexual activity by an individual which reasonably may be expected to hamper the effective fulfillment by the agencies of any of their duties and responsibilities, or which may impair the individual’s position performance by reason of, for example, the possibility of blackmail, coercion, or improper influence. The standards of conduct enumerated in 3 FAM 4138 are of particular relevance in determining whether the conduct in question threatens the mission of the employing agency or the individual’s effectiveness.

3 FAM 4139.14 Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct
(CT:PER-673; 04-27-2012) (Uniform State/USAID) (Applies to Foreign Service Employees) 

Notoriously disgraceful conduct is that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor. Disqualification of a candidate or discipline of an employee, including separation for cause, is warranted when the potential for opprobrium or contempt should the conduct become public knowledge could be reasonably expected to affect adversely the person’s ability to perform his or her own job or the agency’s ability to carry out its responsibilities. Evaluators must be careful to avoid letting personal disapproval of such conduct influence their decisions.

One might argue that an extra-marital affair between two consenting adults is a private matter.  And in most cases, it is; who wants to be the sex police?  But. If the allegations are true, can you really consider it private, particularly in a case that involves the second highest ranking public official at an embassy and an entry level officer (ELO) assigned under his command? Even if the DCM is not the ELO’s rating or reviewing officer —  how does this not affect the proper functioning of the mission? Can anyone exclude undue influence, potential favoritism or preferential treatment?  Which section chief would give a bad performance review to a junior officer who slept with the section chief’s own reviewing officer? Even if not widely known outside the Foreign Service, can anyone make a case that this is not disgraceful or notorious?  For real life consequences when a junior officer has a “special relationship” and “unrestricted access” to an embassy’s front office occupant, read the walking calamity illustrated in this case FSGBNo.2004-061 (pdf).

Look … if widespread notoriety is not required to demonstrate an adverse effect on the efficiency of the Service for the lower ranks, why should it be a requirement for the upper ranks?  It’s not? Well, how else can we explain a good number of senior officials who allegedly looked the other way?

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Can’t you see I’m busy? Besides I did not/did not see anything!


We went and looked up the Foreign Service Grievance Board cases related extra-marital affairs or related to notoriously disgraceful conduct. Here are some quick summaries.

  • In 2011, the State Department handed down a 30-day suspension to a junior officer for “off-color and offensive emails about women he dated, which were widely disseminated” after his private email account was hacked.  State said this constituted “notoriously disgraceful conduct.” (pdf)
  • Another case in 2011 involves an FSO who was told by the State Department: “Given the nature of Foreign Service life, you are aware that you are on duty 24/7. These multiple extramarital affairs involving sexual relations with an estimated 13 women during two separate assignments overseas without your spouse’s knowledge show poor judgment for a Foreign Service Officer.” (pdf) (note: two separate assignments could mean 4-6 years; untenured tours at 2 years, tenured tours typically at 3 years).
  • A Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agent was suspended for three days for Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct arising from a domestic violence incident with his spouse. (pdf)
  • A married FP-04 Information Management Specialist (IMS), received a 20-day suspension, subsequently reduced to 10 days, for improper personal conduct and failure to follow regulations. The employee served at a critical threat post, and admitted having an extramarital relationship with a local embassy employee as well as engaging in sexual relations with two “massage techs.” (pdf)
  • An untenured FP-04 Diplomatic Security (DS) agent was disciplined for poor judgment and improper personal conduct. The employee brought a  woman to his hotel room and engaged in sex with her. Although the employee voluntarily disclosed the incident and asserted that the woman was not a prostitute, the Department contends that the incident at a minimum gave the appearance of engaging in prostitution and as such violated 3 FAM 4139.14 or Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct. (pdf)
  • A married FS-02 Information Management Officer (IMO) with seventeen years in the Department, with numerous awards and no disciplinary record, was found in his personal vehicle that was parked in an isolated area, and in a dazed condition with injuries suggesting he had been assaulted. He stated that during the prior night he had picked up a woman unknown to him, shared wine with her while driving, pulled over to the side of the road and then had no recollection of what followed, presumably because she had introduced a substance into his drink. During the ensuing investigation, the employee revealed he had picked up four or five women on previous occasions over a four-month period and had sex with them without the knowledge of his wife.  As a result, the Department proposed a ten-day suspension based on the charges of Poor Judgment and Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct. (pdf)
  • An FP-04 Diplomatic Security (DS) agent was given a five-day suspension without pay on the charge of Improper Personal Conduct. The charge is based on an incident in a criterion country in which employee (an unmarried person) engaged in consensual sex with a local woman and gave her $60.00 after the sexual activity had concluded. There was no evidence that the woman was a prostitute and there were no witnesses to their encounter. The employee self-reported the incident immediately to his supervisors, who took no disciplinary action. Eighteen months later, the Department opened an investigation and eventually suspended the employee. The deciding official concluded that employee’s conduct had violated two regulations governing behavior subject to discipline: 3 FAM 4139.1 (Sexual Activity) and 3 FAM 4139.14 (Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct). (pdf)

So —

We have so far been unable to locate FSGB cases of “notoriously disgraceful conduct” involving senior Foreign Service officials; certainly nothing at the DCM or COM level. It could be that 1) our search function is broken; 2) the folks are so risk-aversed and discreet that there are no cases involving a single one of them, or 3) potential such cases were swept under the rug, nothing makes it to the public records of the Foreign Service Grievance Board.

Which.Is.It? Will accept breadcrumbs …