FSN Recognition Day: Gratefulness and Celebration, So Now They’ll Finally Get an Ombudsman?

 

Nova Scotia’s @TreeforBoston Takes Another Journey to @CityofBoston #HalifaxExplosion1917

Via Nova Scotia Premier’s Office statement:
A special tree received a heartfelt farewell today, Nov. 16. The 45-foot white spruce is a thank-you gift to the people of Boston for their immediate support following the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

“Nova Scotia will never forget those who were lost and injured as a result of the explosion, and the support from the people of Boston,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “This year’s Tree for Boston is dedicated to health-care workers, honouring both the 1917 response and those taking care of us on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thankful for the compassion and kindness shown in times of need.”

Quick Facts:
  • 2020 marks the 103rd anniversary of the Halifax Explosion
  • the explosion occurred on Dec. 6, 1917 when the Norwegian vessel SS Imo collided with the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, in the Halifax Harbour
  • 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 more were injured as a result of the explosion
  • the tree will be transported from Halifax to Portland, Maine, on a container vessel, then Portland to Boston, Massachusetts
  • Heather and Tony Sampson, who live in Dundee, Richmond Co., donated this year’s tree
  • the 45-foot white spruce tree is from Grande Anse, Richmond Co.

MikeyPo Shows Once More His Smallness as Secretary of State #ByePompeo

We’re not sure why people expects anything better from the 70th secretary of state. If you were shocked, you have not been paying attention. This secretary of state has shown repeatedly, despite a much touted swagger, that he was not the man for this job. Why do you think he needed that swagger?  But swagger can only take one so far. Reality eventually catches up with you. He will go down in history not only as the most political secretary of state in modern times, but also the worst one by far.
No, we haven’t forgotten about Rex Tillerson, but the 69th secretary of state was not an  ideologue nor an opportunistic hack like his successor. SecState 69th was also his own man, and he recognized a moron when he saw one. Unfortunately, this is something we cannot say about the soon to be former secretary of state otherwise known as ‘a heat-seeking missile’ for … oh, golly, you undiplomatic, you!
Folks may complain in the future about other secretaries of state, but we expect it will always come down to the threshold question — is he or she Pompeo-bad?
The leadership behavior at State appears to be trickling down. A senior security official at the US Embassy in Kabul recently called the U.S. election on social media, a “fraudulent election”, called President-Elect Joe Biden, a “senile idiot” and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, “a woman that claims to be black, but she’s not.” As if that’s not offensive enough, this senior career official also writes, “Oh and did I mention, so much for the economy, when this stupid fucking moron appoints Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to his cabinet. Watch it all collapse and then you’ll wonder what happened to our country. Obama fucked it all up and Trump turned it around. Now it all goes to shit again.”  Meltdown at the Kabul aisle!
This is not only unacceptable and outstandingly bad behavior for a senior official overseas, this is also against the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, see 3 FAM 4123.3  for Political Activities for starters. But given the tolerance for bad behavior in Foggy Bottom, will US Embassy Kabul, DGHR, or the State Department clean up or just look away with a sigh?
There are some good news though; come January 20, Mr. Pompeo (and his buddies), whether he accepts the Biden reality or not, will have to step down from his job. And oh, my gosh!  He also must leave the USG-provided housing he now occupies (one flag officer says yay!) and return to … well, we’re not sure exactly where that might be. Maybe Kansas where he almost run for the Senate and could have won a six-year term.  It doesn’t matter, really, does it?  He’ll be working on his 2024 project unless somebody crashes it.  Somewhere, we imagine, he will be grilling a journalist or two with blank world maps. And he needs to walk and scoop after Sherman and Mercer.
Also on January 20, please fumigate swagger from Foggy Bottom and get moving. There is much work to be done. We hope folks will pour their energies in the rebuilding and strengthening of our institutions. But we also hope they won’t forget to write down their memos to file documenting their last four years of organizational life. May y’all remember because the world will not go back to what it was as the Kabul incident shows.  Something broke here. And it will take many long years to repair. But it’s important to remember, and uphold — as Sheila S. Coronel of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism wrote in “A warning from the Philippines on how a demagogue can haunt politics for decades” — uphold “a truthful record of history” even as some of these people swagger into the sunset.

 

Jamaica: A U.S. Ambassador’s Apology and One Convoluted Story About That Twitter Wrestling

 

The Twitter Wrestling news out of Jamaica continue to distract us from our never ending woes, (see Top US Diplomat in Jamaica Wrestles With Random People on Twitter).  The tweets have now been deleted with no explanation.
We have it in good authority that the Jamaicans were plenty upset about this. The Twitter spectacle apparently resulted in a telephone call between the Jamaican Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith and Ambassador Tapia.  The Foreign Minister also tweeted “I have spoken with the Ambassador and he is aware that the engagement was not appropriate for a diplomatic representative.”
Ouch!
Ambassador Tapia on the other hand has now given an interview to Cliff Hughes Online where he said “I take full responsibility for what took place”  but that it wasn’t him who did the wrestling on Twitter.  That sounds a lot like “I take full responsibility. It’s not my fault” doesn’t it?   It wasn’t the intern either, thank goodness! The ambassador, a political appointee, also told the interviewer that the individual, (a he) will be “leaving shortly, because it was inappropriate” according to the interview with Cliff Hughes Online posted here.
In that interview, Ambassador Tapia discussed the employee who purportedly sent the offensive tweets under his account and was asked “What do you mean by rotating him out?”
Ambassador Tapia responded with extreme helpfulness (pardon our attempt at transcription, the zigzagged response made us frankly, dizzy):
“Which means that he will be leaving by going back to the U.S.”
Then Ambassador Tapia added, “He just got here, just about 3 or 4 weeks ago …. so he will normally stay …. he’s married … he goes home … we tried to rotate him every two months so that he can go home and be with his family but he will be, I will say he will be leaving sooner than the rotation.”
What the what?
So we are to believe that a Public Affairs officer (typically in charge of media), a career employee trained in media and public relations just decided one day to throw his career to the Caribbean winds, and go on an insult spree directed at his host county nationals?
Seriously? Why would he do that?
And that now this purported rogue officer is to be rotated out? Rotated out after four weeks in country?
If the employee assigned to Embassy Jamaica just got there 3 or 4 weeks ago and is now directed to return to the United States, that’s not called a rotation. That’s a curtailment, a shortening of the assignment, and presumably an involuntary one.  An ambassador can initiate that if he/she declares loss of confidence on any employee.
How it is that this employee just got to post 3 or 4 weeks ago, but that they  also “tried” to rotate him every two months so that he can go home and be with his family? How did that work?  And pray tell, what kind of employment schedule is this?
We’re not liking this story one bit, folks; it’s not hanging well together even at the thin seams.

 

 

Top US Diplomat in Jamaica Wrestles With Random People on Twitter

US Ambassador to El Salvador Ronald Johnson Tweets Stuff

 

Uh-oh! @StateDept’s Travel Provider Gets Hacked, Pays $4.5M in Bitcoin

 

Reuters reported last week that CWT (formerly Carlson Wagonlit Travel) was hit with a strain of ransomware called Ragnar Locker, which encrypts computer files and renders them unusable until the victim pays for access to be restored. “Hackers who stole reams of sensitive corporate files and said they had knocked 30,000 computers offline.”
Elsewhere it is reported that the hackers “may have stolen 2 terabytes of data, allegedly including thousands of global executives credentials. This is particularly worrisome given CWT provides travel services to as much as 33% of the Fortune 500.”
ITNews notes that “CWT, which posted revenues of US$1.5 billion last year and says it represents more than a third of companies on the S&P 500 US stock index, confirmed the attack but declined to comment on the details of what it said was an ongoing investigation.”
The news mainly talks about the 2 terabyte of sensitive files exfiltrated which supposedly include global executive credentials, but a CWT division, CWTSatoTravel is one of two contractors awarded a master contract by GSA “responsible for soliciting and managing travel for the U.S. military and government clients.” Government clients include the State Department where Carlson Wagonlit manages its travel management center.
According to GSA, the U.S. Federal Government is the largest consumer of travel services in the world.  ETS2, the government’s current Travel & Expense management solution, serves an active user base of over 1 million Civilian Government employees, and was used for 86 percent of all civilian agency travel in 2017.

ETS2 is a competitively bid master contract with two vendors providing agencies travel and expense software, hosting, and support services based on fixed-price transaction fees, which is a unique program within the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS).

Competitively bid ETS2 contracts were awarded to:

      • Concur Technologies, Inc., of Redmond, WA, in June 2012; and
      • CWTSatoTravel, of Arlington, VA, in September 2013.

CWTSatoTravel is the division of Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) responsible for soliciting and managing travel for the U.S. military and government clients. CWT is a global leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events.

The 2019 DOS Financial Report describes its Travel Systems Program

In 2016, the Department successfully transitioned to the next generation of the E-Government Travel Services (ETS2) contract with Carlson Wagonlit Travel. In 2016, the Department also implemented the Local Travel module allowing for the submission of local travel claims for expenses incurred in and around the vicinity of a duty station. The Department expanded the use of the Local Travel feature to also accommodate non-travel employee claims previously submitted through an OF-1164. In the Local Travel module, approvers will electronically approve claims and provide reimbursement to the employee’s bank account via EFT. The Department has completed this implementation for 118 posts overseas.

The Department continues to work with our bureaus and posts to identify improvements that can be made to the travel system. The Department also participates with other agencies to prioritize travel system enhancements across the Federal Government landscape. The Department worked with Carlson Wagonlit Travel to enhance the functionality of the Local Travel feature to more closely align with the temporary duty travel functionality for foreign currency and approver expense reduction options. The Department continues to work with Carlson Wagonlit Travel on enhancements to support integration improvements with our financial systems. The Department continues to work with Carlson Wagonlit Travel on enhancements to support the implementation of the Local Payments module domestically and has initiated work to implement mobile capabilities for approvals and reservations.

Somebody asked if anyone has  publicly acknowledged that the initial hack may imply a massive potential personally identifiable information  (PII) leak on the scale of the eQIP compromise.” 
The company released a statement to The Register saying “we have no indication that PII/customer and traveller information has been affected.”
Has Foggy Bottom said anything?

 

Fourth of July 2020: Who’s Doing What Where During This Global Pandemic?

 

U.S. Embassy Brasilia, Brazil

U.S. Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

U.S. Embassy Belgrade, Serbia

U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, Cambodia

U.S. Embassy The Hague, The Netherlands

U.S. Embassy Seoul, South Korea

U.S. Embassy Athens, Greece

 

U.S. Embassy Singapore, Singapore

U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

US Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan

(Same stock photo used by US Embassy Prague, attributed here to Getty Images).

U.S. Embassy Banjul, The Gambia

U.S. Embassy London, UK

U.S. Consulate Thessaloniki, Greece

U.S. Embassy Kolonia, Micronesia

U.S. Consulate Calgary, Canada

 

U.S. Embassy Managua, Nicaragua

U.S. Embassy Lusaka, Zambia

 

U.S. Mission Italy

U.S. Embassy Antananarivo, Madagascar

U.S. Consulate Milan, Italy

U.S. Embassy Podgorica, Montenegro

U.S. Embassy Mexico City, Mexico

U.S. Consulate General Toronto, Canada

US Embassy Sofia: What’s Happening in Bulgaria?

Via Embassy Sofia/FB:
The challenge is on! Ambassador Mustafa and her diplomat band perform a favorite Bulgarian song, and challenge 3 Bulgarian musicians to respond. Who got the challenge? What’s the song? Will the challenge be accepted? Find out in our video!

@StateDept Senior Leadership “Requests” US Embassy Seoul to Take Down BLM Banner

On June 13, we posted this: US Embassy Seoul Displays Giant #BlackLivesMatter Banner In Support of Fight Against Racial Injustice.
US Embassy Seoul’s BLM banner that went up on Saturday came down on Monday. CNN reports that senior State Department leadership asked the embassy in Seoul to take down the Black Lives Matter sign that Ambassador Harry Harris had hung from the building’s façade . A spokesman for the embassy confirmed to CNN that the large Pride flag has also come down. Via CNN:
“The request from the department’s 7th floor — where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s offices are located — cited as its reason the fact that Black Lives Matter is a non-profit organization and that the US government does not encourage contributions to the group or promote any specific organization, the source said. It is not clear why the Pride flag — which was hung in late May, according to the embassy’s Facebook page — was removed and no explanation has been offered yet.”
According to Bloomberg “on Monday, after the banners were removed, the embassy said that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris did not intend “to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”