Diplomatic Security Investigating as Many as 130 Former/Current @StateDept Officials Over Clinton Emails

 

In May 2016, State/OIG released its report on Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements.
WaPo recently reported about the investigation of email records by some 130 current and former State Department during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State includes a quote from an unnamed senior State Department official denying this has anything to do with who sits in the White House.

“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.”

Is this senior SDO anyone we know from Public Affairs?
Secretary Clinton left the State Department in 2013, over six years ago.  And the SDO said that This has nothing to do with who is in the White House?” 
Did the SDO say it with a straight face?
A side note, folks reading statements out of the State Department should be aware that the agency has ground rules for interviewing its officials. The ground rules are not new, but given the track record of this administration, it is worth taking a pause when they volunteer information.
SDO adds that “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.” And yet, the letter received by a former State Department employee was apparently received this past August, and begins with “Recently, the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security conducted a classification review of emails … (see letter below). What does “recently” actually means? What’s the timeline for this troubling project by Diplomatic Security? During Secretary Kerry’s tenure? At the beginning of Secretary Tillerson’s tenure? At the start of Mike Pompeo’s tenure? 
The WaPo report also includes an item about Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman who served as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2009 to June 2012, and went on to become Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the United Nations (2012-2018):

“I’d like to think that this is just routine, but something strange is going on,” said Jeffrey Feltman, a former assistant secretary for Near East Affairs. In early 2018 Feltman received a letter informing him that a half dozen of his messages included classified information. Then a few weeks ago he was found culpable for more than 50 emails that contained classified information.

“A couple of the emails cited by State as problems were sent after my May 2012 retirement, when I was already working for the United Nations,” he said.

Below is a link to a letter sent out by Diplomatic Security and posted on CNN’s website. CNN notes that “A former US official who left the State Department in 2012 received a letter in August informing him that dozens of his emails that had been sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were now being recategorized as classified.”
They’re doing retroactive classification and penalizing people for it.
They’re also asserting that a then UN official was  covered by US security classification?  Is this what a diplomatic squeegee looks like?
The letter published by CNN came from a little known office called “Program Applications Division” (APD) under Diplomatic Security’s Office of Information Security Programs. 
An earlier update of May 19, 2017 of 12 FAM 221.4 DS Personnel Authorized to Conduct Investigations notes:

Special agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, credentialed security specialists assigned to the Programs Application Division (DS/IS/APD), and credentialed special investigators assigned to the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) conduct investigations as authorized by statute or other authority. DS authorizes special agents in the field offices and RSOs abroad to open investigations and provides direction and guidance for conducting those investigations.”

Per 1 FAM 262.7-1(A), updated in September 2018, DS/IS/APD administers the Department’s information protection program. It also notes that it:

Administers the Department’s Security Incident Program and coordinates cases subject to disciplinary actions with the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER), the DS Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarding security clearance and special access concerns.”

A December 17, 2018 update of 12 FAM 558 marked Criminal Laws  say that Incidents involving intentional or grossly negligent release or mishandling of classified information may result in criminal penalties.  An illustrative list of criminal statutes establishing penalties of fine and imprisonment for the release of classified information is in 12 FAM Exhibit 558.”  

 

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Miles With Mike This Week: Level Three Orange Alert, and Nothing Remotely Good

 

Trump’s Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker Steps Down

 

Shortly after news broke last Friday of House Committees issuing subpoenas for State Department documents on Ukraine and a scheduled depositions for five state Department officials, news also broke on the resignation of the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker.  Ambassador Volker was a career diplomat from 1988-2009. It appears he left the Foreign Service  in 2009 following his stint as U.S. Ambassador to NATO.
Kurt Douglas Volker was born on December 27, 1964 (age 54) in Pennsylvania. His NNDB profile notes that he was an analyst for the CIA from 1986-88. He joined the State Department in 1988. (By the way, in June this year, he married Voice of America journalist and Georgia native Iya Meurmishvili). 

August 11, 1988: His name appears on congress.gov (PN1205 — 100th Congress (1987-1988) on his appointment to be “to be Consular Officers and/or Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America, as indicated: Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on August 11, 1988.

1988-1994: ???.

On June 28, 1991: He was “Confirmed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent” for his appointment “as Foreign Service Officers of Class Four, Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America (PN433 — 102nd Congress (1991-1992).

His archived state.gov biography did not indicate where he served his first posts only that “his prior Foreign Service assignments include Budapest, London, and several positions in the U.S. Department of State.” His Wikipedia bio includes service in Budapest, London and Brussels and places these assignment in the 1994–1997 bracket. This could mean a one 2-year assignment at one post, and then two other single year assignments at two posts. Junior officers typically serve 2-year assignments for their first two tours.

1994-1997: Budapest, London, Brussels, State Department ???

1997-1998: He was a State Department Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate from 1997-1998, working on foreign policy matters for Senator John McCain

1998-1999: He was First Secretary at the U.S. Mission to NATO responsible for the Membership Action Plan and Partnership for Peace issues according to his USNATO bio.

1999-2001: He was Deputy Director of the Private Office of then-NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.

2001-2005?:  He was Acting Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC); He served at the NSC for four years, working as Director for NATO and West Europe according to his USNATO bio. If these are the correct years of his tenure at the NSC, it would have overlapped with Condi Rice’s tenure as National Security Advisor prior to her appointment as Secretary of State.

July 2005-June 2008: He was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (State/EUR).

January 10, 2008: President George W. Bush announced his intent to nominate Volker  as Permanent Representative to USNATO.

April 29, 2008: Volker was  confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote to be USNATO Permanent Representative (PN1179 — Kurt Douglas Volker — Department of State 110th Congress (2007-2008):

“Kurt Douglas Volker, of Pennsylvania, a Career Foreign Service Officer of Class One, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary”

October 2, 2008: Volker was confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote for “promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as indicated: Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor” (PN2000 — 110th Congress (2007-2008). 

May 2, 2008-May 15, 2009: History.state.gov indicates that Ambassador Volker served as U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO) from May 2, 2008 – May 15, 2009. Typical tours for career appointees is three years.

2009? Resignation/Retirement from the U.S. Foreign Service? His Wikipedia entry only says that “Volker went into the private sector in 2009 …” We have not been able to find any entry for him on  congress.gov after 2008.

December 18, 2009: Ambassador Volker was appointed as Independent Director of the Wall Street Fund, Inc.

May 24, 2012: He was named Executive Director of Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership.

July 7, 2017: Tillerson Appointed Volker as Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations . At the time of his appointment, Volker had been out of the State Department for several years. We don’t know how Tillerson picked him as special rep for Ukraine. But they had one shared connection — with the former secretary of state. CNN previously reported that Condi Rice was one of the Republican foreign policy veterans who “played a crucial role in convincing Trump’s team to select Tillerson to become America’s top diplomat.” Did Rice recommend Volker to Tillerson?

September 27, 2019: Volker resigned from post as Special Representative

 

New Yorker on Mike Pompeo’s Reinvention From Obscure Congressman to Whatever Trump Wants Him to Be

 

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GAO to @StateDept: Psst! Leadership Attention and Focus, Please!

 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report  on Tillerson’s redesign projects (although those projects were no longer called that).  GAO looked into the status of the reform efforts that the State Department reported to Congress in February 2018 and also looked at the extent to which State addressed key practices critical to the successful implementation of agency reform efforts.
GAO has determined that “State leadership has not provided the focus necessary to support the officials responsible for implementing all these reform projects.”
Uh-oh! Some excerpts below.

Remember the Listening Tour?

In response to the March 2017 Executive Order 13781 and the ensuing OMB memo, State launched a “listening tour” intended to gather ideas and feedback from State and USAID employees. As a key component of this outreach effort, State hired a contractor to design and administer a confidential online survey, which was sent to all State and USAID employees in May 2017. According to the contractor’s report, the survey had a 43 percent response rate, with 27,837 State employees and 6,142 USAID employees responding to the survey. The contractor also conducted in-person interviews with a randomly selected cross section of personnel, which included 175 employees from State and 94 from USAID.

17 Reform Projects Plus

The planning teams developed specific reform projects, listed below in table 2 (17 reform projects, see page7-8 of report), which State described in the fiscal year 2019 budget justification it submitted to Congress in February 2018.9  According to implementing officials, all these projects predated the Executive Order and OMB memo issued in the spring of 2017. They also noted, however, that the administration’s reform-related directives helped advance State’s preexisting efforts by focusing management attention and agency resources on these projects.  (9 In addition to these reform projects, State’s Congressional Budget Justification also reported seven changes related to its reform efforts that are complete or underway. State reported that it is (1) expanding employment opportunities for eligible family members; (2) implementing cloud-based email and collaboration; (3) increasing flexibilities for employees on medical evacuations; (4) streamlining the security clearance process; (5) simplifying the permanent change-of-station travel process; (6) improving temporary duty travel options and experience; and (7) integrating USAID and State global address lists.

Status: Completed-1, Continuing-13, Stalled-2, Discontinued-1

As of April 2019, according to State officials and status reports, State had completed one of its 17 reform projects; 13 projects were continuing; two projects were stalled pending future decisions or actions; and one project was discontinued.
[…]
According to State officials, as of April 2019, although 13 of the reform projects described in the fiscal year 2019 Congressional Budget Justification were considered by State to be continuing, some had been scaled back, slowed down, or both as a result of senior leadership’s shifting priorities and attention.

Leadership Focus and Attention

In February 2018, State reported to  Congress in its fiscal year 2019 budget justification that it was pursuing the reform projects we described above. In March 2018, the first transition affecting the implementation of those projects occurred when the President removed the then Secretary of State and nominated the then CIA director to replace him; in April 2018, the Senate confirmed the current Secretary. According to senior State officials, when the new Secretary took office, his top priority was ending the hiring freeze and restarting a concerted recruitment effort because vacancies in key positions and a general staffing shortfall would otherwise have led to what one senior official described as a “cataclysmic failure” at State. These senior officials noted that the new Secretary decided some of the existing reform projects were not well designed and that he wanted greater emphasis on cybersecurity and data analytics. They said he also wanted to pursue other initiatives, including a new proposal to create a Global Public Affairs Bureau by merging two existing bureaus. The senior officials told us that the Secretary authorized responsible bureaus and offices to determine whether to continue, revise, or terminate existing reform efforts or launch new initiatives. However, State did not formally communicate other changes in its reform priorities to Congress, such as its plan to no longer combine State and USAID’s real property offices.
[…]
State initiated another transition in leadership of the reform efforts in April 2018 when it disbanded the dedicated planning teams overseeing the reform efforts and delegated responsibility for implementing the reform projects to relevant bureaus and offices. As the planning teams finished working on their particular reform efforts and prepared to transfer these projects to the bureaus, some planning teams provided memos and reports on the status of their efforts and offered recommendations for the bureaus to consider when determining next steps in implementing the projects. Some implementing officials, however, reported that they received little or no direction regarding their projects or any other indication of continued interest in their project from department or bureau leadership aside from the initial notification that the project had been assigned to them.
[…]
Various State officials noted that the prolonged absence of Senate confirmed leadership in key positions posed additional challenges. We have previously testified that it is more difficult to obtain buy-in on longterm plans and efforts that are underway when an agency has leaders in acting positions because federal employees are historically skeptical of whether the latest efforts to make improvements are going to be sustained over a period of time

Leadership Transition Effects:

Taken together, the leadership transitions at State had two significant effects on State’s reform efforts. First, the transition of departmental leadership and lack of direction and communication about subsequent changes in leadership’s priorities contributed to uncertainty among implementing officials about the future of individual reform projects. Second, according to implementing officials, the transition of project responsibility from dedicated teams to bureau-level implementing officials resulted in fewer resources and a lack of senior leadership involvement and attention for some projects. Absent leadership decisions, implementing officials will continue to struggle with understanding leadership priorities with regard to State’s reform efforts. Similarly, for any projects that are determined to be leadership priorities, day-to-day implementation activities will continue to be hampered by the lack of a dedicated team to guide and manage the agency’s overall reform effort.

Don’t Forget USAID: Continuing Projects? Where? What?
GAO has not made any recommendations to USAID and yet, the agency has submitted a written response to highlight the State Department’s unwillingness to coordinate with them. What’s this about? (see Appendix III-Comments from the U.S. Agency for International Development – PDF/page25-26):

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Delayed Report Over Retaliation Against @StateDept Career Staffers Heats Up

 

In September 2018, we blogged about State/OIG and the Office of Special Counsel looking into political reprisals at the State Department (See State/OIG and OSC Reportedly Looking Into Political Reprisals @StateDept); Office of Special Counsel on Political Inquiries/Political Discrimination During Reassignments).
Via Politico:

The probe is expected to cover a wide array of suspected mistreatment of Foreign Service and Civil Service officers by Trump political appointees. The majority of the alleged improprieties are thought to have occurred under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but the accused include some political appointees who also served under Pompeo.

Among the allegations: that a political appointee made loyalty lists of career staffers she considered supportive or unsupportive of Trump; that numerous career employees, including high-ranking ones, were given low-level duties processing Freedom of Information Act requests to punish them for work they did under former President Barack Obama; and that one career staffer’s assignment to a top policy post was cut short because of her Iranian ancestry and her work on the Iran nuclear deal.

Revelations that outside conservative figures, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, may have played a role in targeting career staffers have fueled the anticipation of Linick’s findings.

Originally, one major report was expected, but Linick has said he decided to split it into two. The first will cover dysfunction in the State bureau that deals with international organizations. The second will cover the actions of top officials who report directly to the secretary.

We’ve asked State/OIG about this and here’s what the office told us:
“We submitted the draft report to the Department in July. As is always the case, we have given the Department the opportunity to submit a response to the report, and the Department has informed us that it wishes to do so. We have granted the Department’s request for two extensions for this report, and its response is due this week. We regularly grant extensions because, if at all possible, we believe that it is important to have the Department’s response to our conclusions. We anticipate publishing the report this month.”

 

Snapshot: @StateDept’s Redesign Timeline and USAID’s Suspended Cooperation

 

 

 

State and USAID submitted a joint reform plan to OMB in September 2017. According to USAID documents, USAID suspended its coordination with State in January 2018 because State could not articulate the objectives for the joint reform effort. GAO has ongoing work reviewing the status of USAID’s reform efforts.

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Rex Tillerson Talks to Congress About the Not So Shadow Secretary of State, and Stuff

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So @StateDept’s guidance is do whatever you want. EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole #PrideMonth

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On May 17, 2018, Secretary Pompeo just three weeks into his tenure as secretary of state issued a statement on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.  This year, the State Department statement marking IDAHOT was noticeably missing.

We understand from a source on background that there was guidance circulated within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) this past May saying that there will be no IDAHOT/Pride cable this year. The directive reportedly came from the 7th floor although it apparently also said, there is no change in policy, including on display of the Pride flag. “The best we can do is rely on last year’s cable and the statement that policy has not changed.”

The directive last year would have been sent by an Acting Under Secretary for Management as there was no confirmed “M” at the State Department since U/S Kennedy departed his position in January 2017.

On June 7, NBC News reported that the U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia have requested permission from the State Department to fly the rainbow pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, citing three unnamed U.S. diplomats.

On June 10, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told NBCNews that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “respects the dignity of every individual” but did not believe other flags should fly alongside the American flag at U.S. embassies.

In an interview with NBC News, VPOTUS said that the Trump administration had “put no restrictions” on the pride flag or other flags flying elsewhere at U.S. embassies. When pressed, he also said, “We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies.”

Another official who is LGBT speaking on background told this blog that flying the Pride flag on the flag pole with the U.S. flag has always been controversial.  This same official told us that while he/she personally does not believe that they should fly the Pride flag on the flag pole, there are others who have cited the Flag Act to justify flying the pride flag:

4 U.S. Code § 7 – Position and manner of display
(f) When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the latter should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag’s right.

This same source indicated to us that his/her understanding was that the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao has not approved flying the Pride Flag on the same staff as the U.S. flag at State Department federal buildings within the United States and overseas (Mr. Bulatao was officially sworn into office in late May). We were told that this process is usually done via a decision memo and that this year, there was no cable in or out;  which confirmed the circulated guidance reportedly from DRL in May. This official also told us that his/her understanding is that posts are free to display the pride flag everywhere and anywhere, or to light up embassies in the pride colors, or do anything else they want to mark Pride month.  EXCEPT fly the Pride Flag on the pole.

We should note that in previous years, some posts, not all, have marked Pride Month with a rainbow flag on the flagpole or hanging the rainbow flag on the side of the embassy building. Others participated in local pride parades, or lighting up the embassy in rainbow colors. Social media indicates that our overseas posts are marking Pride month in a similar manner (poles excepted) this year, but they have not/not been prevented from marking or celebrating the event (if post is preventing you from marking Pride Month, holler, please).

Also typically, on June 1st or within the first week of June, the Secretary of State also releases a statement marking LGBTI Pride Month. Pompeo did that last year on June 1st.  The year before that, his predecessor Rex Tillerson released a similar statement on June 7, 2018. This year, we’re still waiting for a similar statement from Secretary Pompeo; 18 days to go before the days of June runs out. Write faster, folks!

Here is the official spox addressing the “except on the pole” issue:

Related posts:

 

The Havana Syndrome in the News, and Some Questions For Foggy Bottom’s New “M”

 

The Havana Syndrome remains a mystery and a subject of interest. But the latest report via Buzzfeed suggests that “much of the early research into the mystery may have been botched or biased.”

The initial investigation was confined to two competing sets of researchers, both eager to publish studies on their own work, and whose findings have been at odds with each other. In one case, researchers were also seeking to promote their own newly approved medical device as a diagnostic tool. And until now, the effort has lacked broader oversight by an institution capable of cross-disciplinary research.

“The fundamental problem is you can’t trust anybody here,” said medical ethicist Sergio Litewka of the University of Miami, who has written about the political cloud of secrecy and distrust surrounding the diplomats’ injuries. “Not the US State Department and not the Cuban government.” (BuzzFeed has filed a lawsuit with the State Department requesting its communications related to the medical research into the injuries, after the agency denied a request for them on medical privacy and ongoing investigation grounds.)

Can somebody please ask the new “M” Brian Bulatao what’s his plan about this matter going forward?  Can an “America First” policy over everything afford to have this medical mystery just go unsolved? What happened to the Accountability Review Board reportedly convened by the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The ARB process doesn’t stop when the secretary of state is fired via tweet, does it?  What happens to those affected? What happens to those affected who were not employed by the U.S. government (spouses and children)? What happens if those affected leave their jobs voluntarily or involuntarily?  What arrangements are made in terms of medical care? What’s the plan if a similar incident were to happen at another part of the globe?

We missed this 4-part report from Canada:

The Havana Syndrome, Part 3: Insiders say ordeal has ‘struck a nerve’ in Canada’s diplomatic community

The Havana Syndrome, Part 4: What it could be and how experts will try to crack the case