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?

 

Amb Pete Hoekstra Visits Ysselsteyn War Cemetery With “Waffen SS” Nazi Graves

 

In 2014, the Germany’s ambassador to the Netherlands was reported to be in attendance in a commemoration at the German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, located in Eastern Netherlands close to the German border, and where many SS soldiers are apparently buried.
This piece notes that “of the 32,000 German war graves at Ysselsteyn, an estimated 3,000 are for fighters of the ‘Waffen SS”, a Nazi elite unit whose men were responsible for the murder of countless Jews during the Holocaust.”
JTA reported that Ysselsteyn cemetery is also a place where neo-Nazis have gathered in the past to honor Nazi soldiers buried there.  Ysselsteyn is the largest German war cemetery in the world. According to WW2 Cemeteries, the war dead on this site include Germans, Dutch, Poles and Russians who fought on the side of the German military.
Last week, the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra not only visited the cemetery but also tweeted about his visit writing, “A terrible reminder of the cost of going to war and why we must always work towards peace.”

Via Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 22:
TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTEENTH DAY Monday, 30 September 1946
The Race and Settlement Office of the SS, together with the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, were active in carrying out schemes for Germanization of occupied territories according to the racial principles of the Nazi Party and were involved in the deportation of Jews and other foreign nationals. Units of the Waffen-SS and Einsatzgruppen operating directly under the SS Main Office were-used to carry out these plans. These units were also involved in the widespread murder and ill-treatment of the civilian population of occupied territories. Under the guise of combating partisan units, units of the SS exterminated Jews and people deemed politically undesirable by the SS, and their reports record the execution of enormous numbers of persons. Waffen-SS divisions were responsible for many massacres and atrocities in occupied territories such as the massacres at Oradour and Lidice.
[…]
Units of the Waffen-SS were directly involved in the killing of prisoners of war and the atrocities in occupied countries. It supplied personnel for the Einsatzgruppen, and had command over the concentration camp guards after its absorption of the Totenkopf SS, which originally controlled the system. Various SS Police units were also widely used in the atrocities in occupied countries and the extermination of the Jews there. The SS central organization supervised the activities of these various formations and was responsible for such special projects as the human experiments and “final solution” of the Jewish question.
[…]
…the SS was instructed that it was designed to assist the Nazi Government in the ultimate domination of Europe and the elimination of all inferior races. This mystic and fanatical belief in the superiority of the Nordic German developed into the studied contempt and even hatred of other races which led to criminal activities of the type outlined above being considered as a matter of course if not a matter of pride. The actions of a soldier in the Waffen-SS who in September 1939, acting entirely on his own initiative, killed 50 Jewish laborers whom he had been guarding, were described by the statement that as an SS man, he was “particularly sensitive to the sight of Jews,” and had acted “quite thoughtlessly in a youthful spirit of adventure,” and a sentence of 3 years imprisonment imposed on him was dropped under an amnesty. Hess wrote with truth that the Waffen-SS were more suitable for the specific tasks to be solved in occupied territory owing to their extensive training in questions of race and nationality. Himmler, in a series of speeches made in 1943, indicated his pride in the ability of the SS to carry out these criminal acts. He encouraged his men to be “tough and ruthless,” he spoke of shooting “thousands of leading Poles,” and thanked them for their co-operation and lack of squeamishness at the sight of hundreds and thousands of corpses of their victims. He extolled ruthlessness in exterminating the Jewish race and later described this process as “delousing.” These speeches show that the general attitude prevailing in the SS was consistent with these criminal acts.

 

Pompeo “Thrilled” to be Back in the Republic of Iowa (With Wife) #RealPostoftheMonth

 

 

Foggy Bottom’s ‘Pot Meet Kettle’ Happy Hour #PleaseScreamInsideYourHeart

 

Where Americans Are Not Welcome Due to USA’s Epic Failure in Containing COVID-19 Infections #RealPostoftheMonth

 

US Embassy Beirut: Lebanese Judge Bans Media Orgs From Interviewing/Hosting Amb Dorothy Shea

 

Unable to Handle Question About Bolton Book, @StateDept Mutes Reporter During Free Press Briefing

It was a darn comedy hour in Foggy Bottom on Monday. The A/S for EAP David Stilwell had a press briefing on Chinese propaganda and the free press. When asked a question about Bolton’s book and whether allies in the region have been in touch, the State Department spox asked that the line be muted. A short while later, the spox called on Nick Wadhams of Bloomberg who asked A/S Stilwell “to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?”
A reasonable and necessary question on the free press.
The State Department spokesperson later blasted the Bloomberg reporter for  what she considered a “pretty offensive question” and claimed that they “take as many questions as we can.” and “have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.” That my friends we can tell you from experience is laughable; we still have unanswered questions waiting under mysterious cobwebs. And we’re definitely not the only ones to let out a guffaw upon hearing that remark.
Excerpt:

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL: Finally, as Secretary Pompeo has said, we’re not just comparing apples to apples.  The U.S. system guarantees press freedom while China subordinates the press to the Communist Party.  We are formally recognizing that fact in today’s action.  That’s – concludes the formal comments.  I’ll be happy to take your questions.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  Next up in the queue, David Brunnstrom, Reuters.

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you very much for doing this.  I was wondering, slightly changing the subject to former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book —

MS ORTAGUS:  Hey, David, David, that’s not what this call’s about.  If you would like to ask about our new policy action today, we’re more than happy to take the question.  If not, I can move on in the queue.

QUESTION:  Well, I just wanted to ask whether any allies in the region have been in touch with —

MS ORTAGUS:  David —

QUESTION:  — the assistant secretary on this issue for clarification.

MS ORTAGUS:  Thank you, David.  Okay.  AT&T, we can mute that line.  We’ll now go to Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Okay. Thanks, Will.  Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg.

QUESTION:  Hi, I have two questions.  The first question is:  Can you – I think you answered this previously.  What are the specific numbers when you talk about each of the news organizations CCTV, CNS, People’s Daily, and Global Times?

And Dave, can I also get you to comment on the message you think it sends to foreign journalists and other people who would be listening to this call that you guys are not willing to take questions on the John Bolton book when you’re also talking about a message of ensuring freedom of the press in the United States?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY STILWELL:  Hey, that’s pretty easy.  This one is focused on a guy from the East Asia Pacific bureau who could speak with great fluency to the topic at hand.  If you were to ask me the other, is – my answer would be a deflecting “I really don’t know.”  I got to tell you, I am not checking that story.  I am too busy working this particular issue, so – so I – again, I would rethink that approach to how we’re handling this.  You can ask anybody, especially those who are related to this, but for the subject at hand today in the short seven minutes we have left, I would like to talk about the subject at hand.

So you asked about numbers.  We don’t know.  That’s part of what this is going to identify is that these folks, we have allowed them to come into the country as journalists.  Now acknowledging the fact that they are not, we know what companies they work for.  They will then have to identify themselves as work – that they do work for these organizations.  And then from that, we will have a better accounting for who they are, who is on their personnel rosters, and what real estate holdings they have.  So it’s pretty straightforward.

It’s – as I said before, this is housekeeping, right?  We’re just cleaning up some broken glass and stuff that we hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to in the past.
[…]
MS ORTAGUS:  Thanks.  We’re already over time, so that’s going to have to be our last question of the day.  We will have a statement out around 3 o’clock, and that’s when our embargo will be lifted.  However, before I end the call, I do think it’s – I’m going to have to address what I consider a pretty offensive question by Nick Wadhams.

We strive every day to give all of you multiple briefings a day.  The Secretary goes to the podium once a week and we take as many questions as we can.  We try to be very quick over email in responding to what all of you need.  And so if there’s any question about any books by any officials or anything you may have, we’re – have proven to be available 24/7 to all of you and we will always answer them.  We like to focus these policy briefings on the policy, but any insinuation that we haven’t made ourselves available or responsive to your questions – Nick’s insinuation is offensive and I just would like to go on the record that that’s totally inaccurate.

HA! HA! HA!  There, she said it on the record, and media folks covering the Foggiest Bottom are dying with laughter.

Flash: Mike Pompeo Dishonors the State Department (Via NYT) #mileswithmike

 

@USAGMgov: Heads of MBN, Radio Free Asia, RFE/RL, and the Open Technology Fund Ousted

On June 16, the top two officials at the Voice of America resigned with the arrival of new Trump appointee Michael  Pack as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (see Top VOA Officials Resign as Michael Pack Assumes Charge as CEO of @USAGMgov).
On Wednesday evening, the news media reports the dismissal of the remaining heads of the four organizations under USAGM. OCB already has an interim director since 2018, and VOA was just vacated. For those unfamiliar with the agency, this used to be BBG prior to its “larger modernization effort”  in August 2018.

Via CNN:
The heads of four organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were all dismissed Wednesday night — a move likely to heighten concerns that new Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack means to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN.
“They let go all of the heads of the networks. It’s unprecedented,” an agency source told CNN.
A source familiar with the situation said at least two of the removals — that of RFE/RL’s Jamie Fly and MBN’s Alberto Fernandez — were unexpected. The head of the Open Technology Fund, Libby Liu, had resigned effective July, but was still fired Wednesday evening, one of the sources said.
[…]
In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, an ally the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is expected to be named to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

 

@StateDept’s Pompeo Muscle Desperately Throws Kitchen Sink at Ousted IG Steve Linick

Since the U.S. Senate majority doesn’t take anything seriously these days, State/OIG Steve Linick will officially be terminated on June 15, 30 days after Trump sent his congressional notification. And yet, on June 8th, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao fired two letters – one to Linick’s lawyers, and another to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency ( CIGIE) asking for an investigation into the conduct of the soon to be former inspector general. As a CNN reporter pointed out, the State Department could have requested the CIGIE investigation at any point before Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick. It did not. The State Department is asking for it now, the week that Linick officially leaves his job.
Why?
It looks like the State Department is throwing the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes at IG Linick, hoping one of those dirty dishes would hit him on his way out. We’re just waiting for one of these champions of diplomacy to turn around and say from the podium, “see, that dirt on his shirt? That’s the reason no one should pay attention to whatever he was investigating before he was fired.”
Apparently, faulting Linick for not promoting Pompeo’s professional ethos statement did not quite do the trick. So the 7th floor folks, they’re hoping this one would work, ey? Has somebody there already created a PowerPoint presentation on “How to be an Agile  Champion of Diplomacy Watchdog and Just Cover Your Eyes?”
We’d like to see that, please.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate yawns and scratches its bum. During his tenure as State Department watchdog, Linick has probably alienated enough Democrats in Congress during the email mess, and alienated enough Republicans in Congress during the Ukraine mess. So, that’s that.
Unfortunately, in the constant breaking news cycle we are currently living, the world will move on in short order. Media folks will report on other outrages, big and small that occurs on a daily basis.  Our country’s march towards a full blown banana republic continue. Still. We won’t forget that Mr. Linick was fired for doing his job. We’d take his word over any character from this 7th Floor of the Foggiest Bottom.

The Bulatao- CIGIE letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465038049/CIGIELetter-June82020

The Bulatao-Linick’s lawyer letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465025243/Bulatao-Linick