SFRC Clears Bass (AFG), Manchester (Bahamas), King (Croatia), McFarland (Singapore), Gingrich (Holy See), and More

Posted: 1:30 pm PT
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On September 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominees. The nominations will now go to the full Senate for a vote:

John R. Bass, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Stephen B. King, of Wisconsin, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Czech Republic.

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore.

The panel also cleared Steve Mnuchin as U.S. Goveror for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the IMF:

Steven T. Mnuchin, of California, to be United States Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United States Governor of the African Development Fund, and United States Governor of the Asian Development Bank, vice Jacob Joseph Lew, resigned.

Steven T. Mnuchin, of California, to be United States Governor of the International Monetary Fund, United States Governor of the African Development Bank, United States Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank, and United States Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for a term of five years, vice Jacob Joseph Lew, resigned.

The following nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

Barbara Lee, of California, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Christopher Smith, of New Jersey, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Previously, the Senate panel also cleared the following nominees. As far as we can tell, these nominees are pending on the Executive Calendar and the full Senate has yet to put these nominations to a vote:

Callista L. Gingrich, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. Jul 27, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador. Aug 03, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations. Aug 03, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.



USCG Montreal Consul General Nina Maria Fite to be U.S. Ambassador to Angola

Posted: 2:12 am ET
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On September 2, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Nina Maria Fite to be U.S. Ambassador to Angola. The WH released the following brief bio:

Nina Maria Fite of Pennsylvania to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola. Ms. Fite, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1990. She is currently Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal, Canada, a position she has held since 2014. Ms. Fite is known for her leadership skills, knowledge of Angola, and strong record promoting United States trade and foreign direct investment, including as a negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. She has served at seven United States Missions overseas and in senior leadership positions at the Department of State. Ms. Fite earned an M.S. at the National Defense University, an M.B.A. at Thunderbird School of Global Management and a B.Arch. at Carnegie-Mellon University. She speaks Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Hungarian.


Photo via USCG Lahore/FB






Snapshot: @StateDept Presidential Appointee Positions Requiring Senate Confirmation

Posted: 12:48 am  ET
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POTUS44 nominated Hillary Clinton as the 67th Secretary of State in December 2008. She assumed office on January 21, 2009.  Rex Tillerson had to wait a couple of weeks to get to Foggy Bottom after inauguration day but finally assumed office on February 1, 2017.  Susan Rice was nominated as Ambassador to the UN in December 2008 and assumed post on January 26, 2009. Nikki Haley was confirmed on January 24, 2017.

By January 28, 2009, Jack Lew was at the State Department as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). The following day, Jim Steinberg had also assume post as Deputy Secretary of State (D). To-date, no deputy secretary has been announced and we understand that the D/MR position will not be filled.

The under secretaries in the Obama first term were at post by the following dates:

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs: Burns, February 29, 2008
Under Secretary of State for Management:: Kennedy, November 15, 2007 (retained)
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment: Hormats, September 23, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs: McHale, May 26, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs: Tauscher, June 26, 2009
Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights: Otero, August 10, 2009

The Obama White House rolled out its first dozen ambassadors in May 2009; the announcement includes the chief of mission positions for Argentina, Brazil, France, UK, Denmark, Rome, Iceland, India, Japan, Kosovo, and Sri Lanka (see White House Rolls Out First Dozen Ambassadors). The nominees for Sweden, Croatia, Belgium, Switzerland, Belize, etc, were not announced until mid June 2009.

To-date, the Trump White House has announced two ambassadorships (China, Israel). Below is a list of State Department positions, with a link to ambassador positions that require Senate confirmation.

Via CRS:

Full-Time Positions

Department of State 
Secretary – Rex Tillerson (confirmed 2/1/17)
Deputy Secretary
Deputy Secretary—Management and Resources
Under Secretary—Arms Control and International Security
Under Secretary—Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Under Secretary—Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Under Secretary—Management
Under Secretary—Political Affairs Tom Shannon (confirmed 2/12/16)
Under Secretary—Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Assistant Secretary—African Affairs (Although not guaranteed, most recent Assistant Secretaries—African Affairs also held the advice and consent part- time position as a member of the Board of Directors of the African Development Foundation)
Assistant Secretary—Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Assistant Secretary—Budget and Planning/*Chief Financial Officer (The chief financial officer (CFO) may be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, or may be designated by the President from among agency officials who have been confirmed by the Senate for other positions (31 U.S.C. §901(a)(1)).
Assistant Secretary—Conflict and Stabilization Operations
Assistant Secretary—Consular Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Assistant Secretary—Diplomatic Security/Director—Office of Foreign Missions112 Assistant Secretary—East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Economic, Energy and Business Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Educational and Cultural Affairs
Assistant Secretary—European and Eurasian Affairs
Assistant Secretary—International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Assistant Secretary—International Organization Affairs
Assistant Secretary—International Security and Nonproliferation
Assistant Secretary—Legislative Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Near Eastern Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Assistant Secretary—Political-Military Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Population, Refugees and Migration
Assistant Secretary—South and Central Asian Affairs
Assistant Secretary—Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador-at-Large—Coordinator—Counterterrorism Ambassador-at-Large—Global Women’s Issues
Ambassador-at-Large—Director—Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Ambassador-at-Large—International Religious Freedom
Ambassador-at-Large—War Crimes Issues
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Coordinator—Reconstruction and Stabilization
Coordinator—U.S. Global AIDS
Director General—Foreign Service – Arnold Chacon (confirmed 12/12/14)
Chief Financial Officer
Inspector General – Steve Linick (confirmed 9/17/2013)
Legal Adviser
Chief of Protocol

China – Terry Branstad (nominated)
Israel – Friedman David M. (February 2017) pending at SFRC
Republic of Congro – Haskell, Todd Philip (January 2017) pending at SFRC
Republic of Guinea-Bissau – Mushingi, Tulinabo Salama  (January 2017) pending at SFRC

Full list of diplomatic missions below:

Foreign Service Officers (numerous commissions and promotions)

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
U.S. Permanent Representative and Chief of Mission—United Nations: Nikki Haley (confirmed 1/24/17)
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative—United Nations
U.S. Representative—United Nations Economic and Social Council
U.S. Alternate Representative—Special Political Affairs in the United Nations U.S. Representative—United Nations Management and Reform
U.S. Representative—European Office of the United Nations (Geneva)
U.S. Representative—Vienna Office of the United Nations (also serves as a representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency)
U.S. Representative—International Atomic Energy Agency
U.S. Deputy Representative—International Atomic Energy Agency
U.S. Representative and Alternate Representatives to sessions of the General Assembly and other United Nations Bodies—numerous positions (terms of office depends on length of session)

U.S. Agency for International Development 
Deputy Administrator
Assistant Administrator—Sub-Saharan Africa Assistant Administrator—Asia
Assistant Administrator—Europe and Eurasia Assistant Administrator—Food Safety Assistant Administrator—Global Health
Assistant Administrator—Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Assistant Administrator—Latin America and Caribbean
Assistant Administrator—Middle East
*Assistant Administrator—Legislative and Public Affairs
Assistant Administrator—Policy, Planning and Learning
Assistant Administrator—Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
Inspector General

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
U.S. Executive Director

International Broadcasting Bureau, Broadcasting Board of Governors

International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
Commissioner—three positions

International Monetary Fund
U.S. Executive Director (two-year term of office)
U.S. Alternate Executive Director (two-year term of office)

Inter-American Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (three-year term of office—The incumbent of this position also serves as U.S. Executive Director for the Inter-American Investment Corporation.)

U.S. Alternate Executive Director (three-year term of office—The incumbent of this position also serves as U.S. Alternate Executive Director for the Inter-American Investment Corporation.)

U.S. Trade and Development Agency

Organizations with Full- and Part-Time Positions

African Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (five-year term of office; full-time)
Governor and Alternate Governor (five-year terms of office; part-time)

Asian Development Bank
U.S. Executive Director (full-time) Governor and Alternate Governor (part-time)

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
U.S. Executive Director (two-year term of office; full-time—The incumbent also serves as U.S. Executive Director for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

U.S. Alternate Executive Director (two-year term of office; full-time—The incumbent also serves as U.S. Alternate Executive Director for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Governor (same individual as the International Monetary Fund Governor; five-year term of office; part-time—The incumbent also serves as Governor for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Alternate Governor (five-year term of office; part-time—The incumbent also serves as Alternate Governor for the International Finance Corporation and the International Development Association.)

Millennium Challenge Corporation

Chief Executive Officer (full-time)
*Member, Board of Directors—four (of nine total) positions (part-time; three-year terms of office)

Overseas Private Investment Corporation

President/Chief Executive Officer (full-time)
Executive Vice President (full-time)
*Member, Board of Directors—8 (of 15 total) positions (part-time; three-year terms of office)

Peace Corps

Director (full-time)
Deputy Director (full-time)
*Member, National Peace Corps Advisory Council—15 positions (part-time; political balance required; two-year terms of office)

Part-Time Positions

Advisory Board for Cuba Broadcasting (political balance required)
*Member—eight positions (three-year terms of office)

African Development Foundation, Board of Directors (political balance required)
*Member—seven positions (six-year terms of office)

African Development Fund

Governor and Alternate Governor

Broadcasting Board of Governors (political balance required)
Member—eight (of nine total) positions (three-year terms of office)

Inter-American Foundation, Board of Directors (political balance required)
*Member—nine positions (six-year terms of office)

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (political balance required)
*Commissioner—seven positions (three-year terms of office)


Congress Overturns Obama Veto of 9/11 Bill –There Goes Our Billion Dollar US Embassy in Baghdad #JASTA

Posted: 3:19 pm ET
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Congress has overturned President Obama’s veto of S.2040 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Here is a quick sumary of the bill:

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

This bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope of foreign sovereign immunity by authorizing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.

It amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims against a foreign state or official for injuries, death, or damages from an act of international terrorism. Additionally, the bill authorizes federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over and impose liability on a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a U.S. national.

Of course, sovereign immunity does not just apply to other countries like Saudi Arabia, it is also afforded the United States in other countries.  A senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Vox that “If you breach a state’s sovereign immunity, then the argument against your own sovereign immunity being breached is weaker.” Also:

As one hypothetical example, the Iraqi government could pass a law allowing its citizens to sue the US government for damages they suffered during the Iraq war. And if the US lost the lawsuit in the Iraqi courts, Gartenstein-Ross explained, the Iraqi government would legally be able to seize US assets in the country to pay the victims.

There goes our billion dollar embassy in Baghdad. Not to mention diplomatic posts in over 280 locations and 662 military overseas bases in 38 foreign countries.

Click here (PDF) for a good read on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act from the Federal Judicial Center.

And now this:

We could not locate the Congressional Research Service’s paper on JASTA but here is one on the specific claims against Saudi Arabia defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) that you might find useful.



US Embassy Bangkok Issues Security Message After Multiple Explosions in Thailand

Posted:3:31 am ET
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The US Embassy in Bangkok issued a security message to U.S. citizens in Thailand following several reported explosions in the country:

In the evening of August 11, two bombs exploded in a Hua Hin market area; a third bomb exploded near the Hua Hin clock tower in the morning of August 12.  Thai local law enforcement and media are reporting at least one death of a Thai woman and approximately 20 injured, including foreign nationals.  Other, smaller explosions also have been reported in Phuket, Trang, and Surat Thani, and the situation is developing with reports of additional possible explosions and suspicious fires elsewhere in southern Thailand.  Thai officials have identified no U.S. citizens among the injured victims.  The U.S. embassy is in regular contact with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens have been affected.


Turkish Military Announces Take Over, Declares Martial Law, @StateDept Advises Amcits to Shelter in Place

Posted: 2:39 pm PT
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SFRC Hearings: Yovanovitch, Pyatt, Hall, Silliman, McKinley, Silverman, Perez

Posted: 2:54 pm ET
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Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Time: 02:30 PM Location:
Senate Dirksen 419
Presiding: Senator Corker

Watch here


Panel One

The Honorable Marie L. Yovanovitch
Of Connecticut, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To Ukraine
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The Honorable Geoffrey R. Pyatt
Of California, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To Greece
Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony

Anne Hall
Of Maine, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Lithuania
Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony

Panel Two

The Honorable Douglas Alan Silliman
Of Texas, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Iraq
Adobe Acrobat DocumentDownload Testimony

The Honorable Peter Michael McKinley
Of Virginia, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Federative Republic Of Brazil
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Mr. Lawrence Robert Silverman
Of Massachusetts, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The State Of Kuwait
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Ms. Carol Z. Perez
Of Virginia, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Minister-Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Chile
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Dissent Channel Leak: Who Gains the Most From Flogging the Laundry Like This?

Posted: 3:46 am ET
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The most spectacular policy dissent within the Foreign Service happened  before the creation of the “dissent channel” and outside the then Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s “Open Forum Panel” (which was created in 1967).

According to retired FSO David Jones who wrote Advice and Dissent in the April 2000 issue of the Foreign Service Journal (PDF),  50 Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) sent a letter to then Secretary of State William Rogers in April 1970 protesting an anticipated invasion of Cambodia.

Mr. Jones cited Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson’s 1984 memoir, The Right Hand of Power:

In his book, Johnson acknowledges the legitimacy of the officers’ substantive complaint, but he faults their tactics in circulating multiple copies of the letter to secure additional signatures, which led to its leak to the media. Making matters worse, the letter hit the news just as the U.S. military assault was taking place in Cambodia.

Retired FSO Ted Eliot, Jr. who was then the Executive Secretary of the State Department wrote to the FSJ that the FSOs’ letter gave rise to “what was probably the greatest crisis of confidence ever between a President and the Foreign Service.” Nixon apparently instructed Secretary Rogers to fire all the signers. Secretary Rogers did not do that and instead had two of his most senior officers (U. Alexis Johnson and William Macomber, Jr.) meet with the signers. According to Mr. Eliot, during the meeting Mr. Johnson was told that the signers had not intended that their letter be made public. He told them, nonetheless, that it showed a lack of judgment on their part.

In February 1971, the State Department revised the Foreign Affairs Manual to give FSOs the freedom to dissent.

On April 6, 1971, the dissent cable that came to be known as the Blood Telegram was sent by U.S. Consulate General Dacca to the State Department.  In a transcript of conversation between Secretary Rogers and Henry Kissinger, then President Nixon’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Secretary Rogers referred to “that goddam message from our people in Dacca.” To Kissinger, he complained, “It’s miserable. They bitched about our policy and have given it lots of distribution so it will probably leak. It’s inexcusable.” Whatever was the public embrace or pronouncement of support, it was never the same in private when it came to dissent.

(NOTE: Read Dissent From U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan Cable (April 6, 1971); click here for the April 10, 1971 follow-up cable; click here for the State Department’s response drafted by Assistant Secretary of State Sisco and cleared by the senior leadership of the Department of State, USIA, and AID, to the charge made by the staff of the Consulate General that the U.S. had failed to condemn what it viewed as atrocities in East Pakistan).

No doubt Kissinger remembered this when he came to the State Department in September 1973.  A month after assuming charge of the Department, he issued his own guidance on the dissent policy. According to David Jones:

In October 1973, however, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (HAK) issued his own guidance about dissent. He said the dissent should be heard, but also expected “that all officers  will keep dissenting views in the channels provided for,” and observed that “expression of differing views will of course be subject to the ambassador’s control.” Kissinger’s less than wholehearted welcome of contrarian views may help account for the fact that the dissent channel, once it was established, did not stimulate an immediate burst of cable traffic protesting the war.

The Jones article was published in April 2000:

In the almost 30 years of its existence, the Dissent Channel has received over 250 messages, ranging from a high of 30 in 1977 to a low of 3 in 1997. Of the first 200 messages from 1971 to 1991, about 50 addressed “general,” non-foreign—policy topics such as housing allowance policy. None of the other 150 or so messages can be credited with reversing existing policy; instead, at best, the dissenting viewpoint may have received some senior level consideration. During the past decade, annual totals of contributions have averaged in the single digits.

Most of these dissent messages did not make the news or change official policy.  Ambassador Tom Boyatt who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso (1978) and Colombia (1980) and used the Dissent Channel to protest Kissinger’s interventionist policy in Cyrpus in 1974, however, cites the Yugoslavia dissent (Serbian ethnic cleansing) as may have been “the largest factor in changing our policy from dithering to intervening bringing about the Dayton Accords.”

Army colonel and later Deputy Chief of Mission in Sierra Leone and Mongolia Ann Wright, one of the three career diplomats who quit over Iraq, writes that she sent a dissent cable to Secretary of State Colin Powell expressing her “strong concerns about the Bush administration’s hot rhetoric about the need for regime change in Iraq and predicted the chaos that a U.S. invasion and occupation would have” in February 2003. Her dissent had “no effect on the Bush administration” and three weeks later on the eve of the beginning of the war on Iraq, she sent Colin Powell another cable –her resignation.

Former FSO Ron Capps says that he used the Dissent Channel to register his opposition to USG policy in Darfur, and like this newest message, his dissent was also leaked to the New York Times.

In September 2011, 2 FAM 070 was completely revised and includes this: “Freedom from reprisal for Dissent Channel users is strictly enforced.”  In the past, Dissent Channel cables were also marked “confidentialand “LIMDIS” for limited distribution. The FAM update in September 2011 notes that “Dissent Channel telegrams must not be labeled or identified by any other distribution caption (e.g., No Distribution (NODIS)Exclusive Distribution (EXDIS)State Distribution Only (STADIS), or Limited Distribution (LIMDIS).”  The draft version published by NYT is marked “SBU” for Sensitive But Unclassified. 

Leak Reactions

Ambassador Bill Harrop who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Guinea (1975), concurrently to Kenya and Seychelles (1980), Congo (1987), Israel (1991) and as Inspector General of the State Department (1983) told us that the Dissent Channel is a major asset of the State Department, and the articulation of strong, emotional disagreement with U.S. policy toward Syria is a perfect example of how it was designed to be used. He cited several purposes of the Dissent Channel:

  • a pressure escape valve for officers in disagreement with policy
  • a channel to inform the Secretary of what his staff truly believes
  • a step short of resignation for those in deep opposition to policy
  • a vehicle for keeping staff dissent within the Department, not publicly expressed

Ambassador Harrop also has some strong words concerning the leak:

They jeopardized an important institution, the Dissent Channel. Assuming most were FSOs, they were commissioned by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Their oath of office is to protect and defend the Constitution, but they are not free to debate publicly with their president. If they wanted to go public they should have resigned.

Ambassador Chas Freeman who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia  (1989) told us he used the channel in 1978:

— to make a contrarian case in “Open Forum Magazine” — a classified journal not circulated outside the Department of State — for sticking with Taipei and forgetting normalization with Beijing, when it appeared that the concept of strategic rapprochement with China had bogged down. As I hoped would be the case, this elicited vigorous rebuttals from more senior officers who would otherwise have been silent. There was no leak.

Ambassador Freeman also said that “the channel can only work if it is “internal use only,”  i.e., it does not become part of the political diatribe or embarrass the administration.”

Of course, we’d like to hear the battles that are fought inside the bureaucracy. But we also recognize that the intent of the dissent channel is to inform the administration of the day and that these policy disagreements are not for public consumption.

Ambassador Freeman  told Alternet: “Someone decided to leak it … for whatever irrational reason, an action as blatantly incorrect as it is most certainly politically and diplomatically counterproductive.” The Alternet author concludes that “the cable will not produce the outcome desired by the diplomats. But even so, it serves to bring U.S. politics into the domain of diplomatic procedures.”

Not/not good particularly given the perception of the politicization of the State Department and the Foreign Service in recent years. This NYT piece suggests that “the disclosure of the memo could roil the waters in an election year.”  Questions have already been asked if this leak is intended “to boost Clinton’s narrative that she wanted a more robust attack on Damascus as early as 2012?” And if this is “a campaign advertisement for Clinton, and a preparation for her likely Middle East policy when she takes power in 2017?”

In the Alternet article, Ambassador Freeman also cites what’s probably most notable about this case —  that the signatories are arguing for rather than against the use of force. Over the past 40 years, diplomats have used the “dissent channel” to caution against a rush to war. Now these diplomats are asking for an intensification of war.

Ambassador Dennis Jett who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique (1993) and Peru (1996) told us “That there is distress over Syria is not surprising. It has become Obama’s Rwanda.” He further adds:

The dissent channel was set up to give people an opportunity to propose alternatives to existing policy without committing career suicide. I don’t know that anyone ever really thought that there was much of a chance over the years for policies to really be changed but it gave people a chance to blow off steam.  I think the dissidents had no illusions that their memo would move the president to act.  So they leaked it immediately with the hope that the publicity would. Or at least one of them did since the NY Times printed what they called a draft of the message.  It would have been preferable to give the system time to act, but I am sure the dissenters felt as much of a sense of urgency as of frustration

A trusted Foggy Bottom nightingale told us that he/she saw the earliest drafts of this memo but did not sign it because he/she “was convinced it was a waste of time.”

The nightingale also told us that he/she know most of the signers, “respect every one of them” and “hate” it that “they’ve been undermined by this having been released to the press.”

When asked about the leak, the nightingale says that  “at least among the signers they’re all saying none of them leaked it.”

We can’t say what happened individually, of course. But. Say, this is true — that none of the signers leaked the dissent message to NYT and the WSJ — who gains the most from flogging the laundry like this?

The NYT article went online after 6 pm EST on June 16.  The State Department spokesman acknowledged on June 17 that the agency received it the day before.  According to the FAM, the Director of Policy Planning (S/P), that is, Jon Finer who is serving concurrently as Secretary Kerry’s chief of staff is responsible for acknowledging receipt of a Dissent message within 2 working days and for providing a substantive reply, normally within 30-60 working days.

In this case, S/P was not even afforded 48 hours.  Did one of the 51 authors of the dissent memo leak it to NYT and WSJ at the same time it went to S/P?

And if the signers did not leak it, then who did?



Related items:


Related posts:



NYT Publishes Draft Version of @StateDept Dissent Memo on Syria Without the Names of Signers

Posted: 7:49 pm ET
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On June 17, the NYT published the draft version of a dissent memo filed with the State Department’s senior leadership.  The NYT cites “dozens of diplomats and other mid-level officials”  calling for military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The document was provided to The Times by a State Department official on condition that the names of the signers not be published. Also see “Dissent Channel” Message on Syria Policy Signed by 51 @StateDept Officers Leaks.

See NYT’s original post here or read below:



Below via the DPB:

Confidence on the Dissent Channel

QUESTION: John, you make a good case for the respect you have for this as an alternative source of opinions. If the authors of the dissent, though, were confident that the dissent channel was the right place to put this, why did they also leak it to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times?

MR KIRBY: I have no idea how this message made a way – made its way into the public domain. I have no idea how that happened.


QUESTION: Could I just ask you on the diplomatic part of it – I mean, they say 50 diplomats. Are they diplomats the way we would understand diplomats to be, or are they just mid-level employees? I mean, what is the difference here in your definition? I want to understand.

MR KIRBY: Look, I’m not going to speak to the identities, obviously, of the authors or describe or characterize their employment here at the State Department. I think if you were to ask Secretary Kerry, he would tell you that all of us here at the State Department are diplomats in our own right, but I’m not going to get into characterizing each individual, what their job is, and characterizing that in terms of diplomacy.

QUESTION: And they are all sort of responsible for the Syria desk, or do they —

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to talk —

QUESTION: — do they cover —

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to provide any additional information about the authors of this message.

QUESTION: And let me just ask you to pontificate, if you would, I mean, on the issue of striking Syria or striking Assad. To what end, in your view? I mean, what would be – what is the desired outcome for such a —

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to talk to the content of the message that was sent forward. And as I said, separate and distinct from that, we continue to be focused on the core elements of our policy in Syria, which is to try to get the political discussions back on track, try to get a cessation of hostilities nationwide enforced, and get humanitarian assistance to so many desperate people in need. We continue to believe that a political solution is the best solution for the people of Syria.

Spox not speaking to the content

QUESTION: How is the State Department viewing the fact that this document was leaked to the press? Is it – are you guys okay with that or is there some kind of investigation pending into that?

MR KIRBY: I know of no investigation as to how it ended up in the public domain, and we don’t know how it ended up in the public domain. What I can tell you is the authors of this particular dissent channel message sent it forward through the dissent channel, and so we’re treating it accordingly, as we would any other dissent channel message.


QUESTION: John, how does the State Department deal with the ramifications of this memo being in the public arena from a foreign policy standpoint, especially in terms of relations with allies that are also engaged in Syria? There’s some initial reaction from the Russian foreign ministry, the deputy foreign minister reacting to the portion that showed support for strikes against the Assad regime, saying in his view this would be absolute madness. Considering these are rank-and-file people who work day to day on implementing the U.S. policy, and this shows some dissatisfaction at that level, how do you go forward and deal with allies with this out there?

MR KIRBY: Again, I’m not speaking to the content. I’m certainly not going to speak to the authors and how many —

QUESTION: Right (inaudible) speak —

MR KIRBY: — there are or who they are – I know where you – I know, just give me a second. That it’s in the public domain is beyond dispute now and people can react to it as they wish. What I can tell you is the Secretary continues to be focused on making sure that we get food, water, and medicine to the people that need it, get a cessation of hostilities that can be enforced nationwide, and that we get the political process back on track. That’s where his head is. That’s where his focus is. That’s where it’s going to remain.

Now, as I said I don’t know how many times earlier this week, we continue to explore other options. It would be irresponsible for us not to. But I’m not going to get ahead of that discussion in any way whatsoever.

No plans to make document public

QUESTION: When will you make this document public?

MR KIRBY: There’s no plans to make it public.

QUESTION: Will there be an official State Department response to the dissenters?

MR KIRBY: There typically is. According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, there is a process by which dissent messages are replied to, and we will be preparing the appropriate reply.

QUESTION: Will that be made public?

MR KIRBY: There’s no intent to make that public.


QUESTION: John, could I —


QUESTION: — follow up very quickly? I mean, you said since 1971 – that was the Vietnam War, a big catalyst for dissent. There are many issues that happened in between. The mechanism to do this, what are – somebody draft a petition, and they go around collecting signatures, is that what happens?

MR KIRBY: I have – I do not know the specific process by which this message was prepared. As I said, typically, in general they’re drafted by a single individual or sometimes small groups, but there’s no rule that says that there has to be a limit on the number of authors. And how the author or authors of a dissent message go about crafting and then delivering their views is up to them. I have – I wouldn’t have – I would have no idea how – what the physical process of preparing something like that would be.

Dissent Channel and Promotion

QUESTION: As you know, the Foreign Affairs Manual says that there shall not be retaliation or reprisal against people who avail themselves of the dissent channel to register their disagreement with policy. It’s one thing to sort of act against someone soon after this has happened. It’s another thing if use of the dissent channel is used in subsequent administrations or years or decades to prevent people, for example, from rising.

And I want to know what the Secretary thinks about whether the mere use of the dissent channel should ever be used to prevent someone from getting a promotion or getting another sensitive job or moving up in the hierarchy or becoming an ambassador.

MR KIRBY: I think it’s safe to say that Secretary Kerry would absolutely find abhorrent any intent or desire by anyone in this Department from holding against someone, for purposes of promotion or advancement, their right to use the dissent channel. I mean, that’s absolutely abhorrent. It’s not only against the Foreign Affairs Manual, it’s against all standards of ethics, conduct, and integrity, and he would never abide by something like that.

QUESTION: Thank you for that answer. I asked the question because I’ve talked to two people in the building today already who talked about the fear that this could happen because Archer Blood never made ambassador and was, in fact, systematically prevented from moving up, as I understand it, and because Fred Hof, who is well known in this building and well known in the Syria – in the U.S.-Syria policy community, also talks about – in a public statement about how these people have risked their careers by doing this. So to the extent that there are anxieties out there that this is going to hurt these people and their careers, your view is the Secretary would not tolerate that?

MR KIRBY: Not one bit.


MR KIRBY: I can assure you that no one has risked anything by submitting a dissent message with respect to Syria or any other policy that the State Department pursues. That is the purpose for the dissent channel.

Leaking draft memo a violation of State Department rules?

QUESTION: Okay, a couple of other very quick ones. Is it your understanding – it’s my understanding that what was leaked was a draft, not the actual memo, and that it was leaked before it had gone through the classification process. Is it your view that leaking something while it’s a draft and before it’s been classified is a violation of the letter of State Department rules even if it isn’t a violation of the – even if it is of the spirit?

MR KIRBY: I couldn’t possibly speak to, again, the process by which this got into the public domain. We keep talking about leaks here. I don’t know that that’s what happened. We do not know and nor are we particularly interested in how the contents of this dissent channel message made its way into the public domain. What we are interested in doing is preserving the sanctity, the integrity of the dissent channel process through which this was submitted. And it was classified by the authors, I might add, and so we’re going to respect that, too. And just as critically – back to Brad’s question – we’re going to respect the process by preparing the appropriate response as we should.

Dissent Memo went to S/P the same time it went to NYT and WSJ?

QUESTION: And then just two quick ones. When did you – when did the Department receive the dissent channel? Was it yesterday as some of the published reports —

MR KIRBY: To the best of my knowledge, we received it yesterday.



Please Quit Dancing Around the Video Probe — You Need State/OIG On “Glitch-Gate” 216 Hours Ago

Posted: 2:33 am ET
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After calling the editing mystery of the video tape “a bit of a dead end,” and after Secretary Kerry called the doctoring of the Daily Press Briefing tape “stupid and clumsy and inappropriate,” the State Department informed the press on June 8 that the agency’s Office of the Legal Adviser (L) is now continuing to look into the matter. Also see Congress Wants to Know More About @StateDept’s “Casserole”, Then the DPB Goes Down the Rabbit HoleThat @StateDept Video “Glitch”? Not a Technical Glitch But “Deliberate Request to Excise Video”@StateDept Spox John Kirby Pens a Message to Colleagues in the Bureau of Public Affairs.

Here is Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner:

 I wanted to give you an update on the issue many of you have been seized with, which is the edited State Department video of December 2nd, 2013 daily press briefing. As you know, Secretary Kerry spoke out about this incident last week and highlighted his strong interest in determining what exactly happened, which is why the Office of the Legal Adviser here at the State Department is continuing to look into this matter.

The Office of Legal Adviser’s recently concluded review has been called a shoddy, good-for-nothing, incomplete, unworthy probe” and for good reasons. And now, the State Department has announced that the  same office will continue the probe.

The State Department should quit dancing around this issue and have the Office of the Inspector General look into this matter.

When this issue broke last month, and especially after Mr. Kirby officially announced that this was a deliberate act, this ought to have been quickly handed over to the OIG. Even as the PA bureau insists that no rules were broken. Because, well, what they say about perception. The “L” probe came across not only as a half hearted effort but almost as if folks did not really want to find out the who, and why.  But somebody decided that it was a “good enough” investigation, and also a “dead end” until Secretary Kerry  decided last week that he wanted “to find out exactly what happened and why.”

Secretary Kerry or his Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) Richard Stengel who oversees the Bureau of Public Affairs ought to have been first on the phone requesting an official review by the Inspector General. This is more than eight minutes of missing footage.  Neither have done that, but given the intense media scrutiny, and considering that HFAC Chairman Royce has already requested an investigation by the Inspector General, insisting that the in-house probe by the Office of the Legal Adviser continue is darn illogical. C’mon folks, think about it.

While State/OIG would not comment on whether or not there will be an investigation, we suspect that a request from the House Foreign Relations Committee chair could not be easily ignored and it is almost certain that there will be an OIG probe. And if the State Department insists on the continuing “L” bureau probe, we could be looking at dueling reports on this incident. There will potentially be an opportunity to compare and contrast.  Double the effort, double the pain.

Via the Daily Press Briefing, June 8, 2016:

QUESTION: I mean, you said that the Office of the Legal Adviser was continuing to investigate. But I thought that last week you had said that you had run into a dead end, and that if somebody else brought you information, you would look at it. So the investigation continues?

MR TONER: So you’re absolutely right; I did say that last week and – which is why I came out and offered this change, if you will, in our assessment. And that is basically because the Secretary said he wants to dive deeper into this, look more into what happened, and try to get to the bottom of what happened.

And so what our Office of Legal Adviser did was go back and look at what are other areas where there could be information. And again, some of that is emails, and we talked about that last week. So we’ve – again, we’ve – we’re trying to collect emails of – that are pertinent or relevant to the issue at hand and go through those systematically.


QUESTION: Why – look, the people in the Legal Adviser’s Office are very smart and highly qualified people, and they choose to work in government rather than making many, many, many multiples of their salaries in the private sector. But in at least two signal respects, it seems that they failed to do things that you would assume anybody seriously interested in looking into this would have done.

One, they didn’t, until the question got raised in public, look at phone records, right? You guys didn’t even look into that until we asked you about it. And it turns out you don’t have phone records from three years ago. Fine, but they didn’t even, apparently, ask that question.

Secondly, they didn’t, in the course of their review, didn’t even look at emails. So why is it that theirs is the office that where this review or investigation should now be – they missed two obvious things right off the bat, so why should they carry out the —

MR TONER: So a couple of —

MR TONER: Right. Well, I think – so a couple of responses. First of all – and we talked about this last week – is that in spite of the fact that this was an ill-advised action that was taken, there were no rules broken. This was – and we talked about this – the fact that there was nothing governing the editing of State Department video at the time. We have remedied that going forward so that it will never happen again. But the fact was that, as unfortunate as this incident was, it didn’t break any known regulations or policies.

That said, based on an individual coming forward to say I was the person who was contacted about this, they did interview that person. There are always other leads you can follow, and you raised many of them last week when you were asking questions about this. And so given the Secretary’s strong interest, given Congress’s strong interest, and given the media’s strong interest, we’ve decided to continue to look at that.

And we also said last week that as new information does become available, if it does become available, we would certainly pursue that as well.

QUESTION: But why – I still don’t understand why – why you do not —

MR TONER: Why them and why not us?

QUESTION: — why wasn’t – well, two things. One, why wasn’t a more rigorous review conducted in the first place, right?

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION: And then second, given that the original review carried out by the Legal Adviser’s Office does not appear to have been as rigorous – well, manifestly was not as rigorous as it might have been – why have them do it? Why not find somebody —

MR TONER: Well, they are – they are an outside entity not within the Bureau of Public Affairs.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But the Bureau of Public Affairs —

MR TONER: And they’re —

QUESTION: — is not the whole world. They’re part of the State Department.


QUESTION: Mark, can you tell us – you said looking at email records from people in the Public Affairs Office. That includes the spokesperson, the deputy spokesperson, or is this just staff? I mean, how are you defining the parameters?

MR TONER: Sure. We’re looking at leadership at the time, so people who were in leadership positions. I’ll put it that way.

QUESTION: And have you – and in the search so far, you’ve found no record of any request for this or interest in this —


QUESTION: — or any evidence of tampering so far?

MR TONER: No, no.

QUESTION: Then can you be more explicit about who leadership is? Does that mean the assistant secretary? Does that mean the DASs in the bureau? Does that mean the spokesperson? Does that mean the deputy —

MR TONER: We’re looking at all – all the relative people who were occupying leadership positions. So spokesperson, deputy spokesperson, assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries at the time who would have had purview over the video. So – and again, while we’re looking at all of this, let me again be very clear that both the spokesperson at the time and the deputy spokesperson at the time both came out strongly with statements publicly that they had nothing to do with it, no knowledge of it, and we’ve found nothing thus far to – that in any way indicates otherwise.


QUESTION: And who – was only one person interviewed? You said “the person who was interviewed.” Was only one person interviewed as part of their review?


QUESTION: So again, and I don’t meant to belabor this, but I don’t understand why you feel that a sufficiently rigorous review is going to be carried out by the office – estimable though many of its lawyers are – is going to be carried out – they interviewed one person. They didn’t look for phone records. They didn’t look at emails. Why on Earth don’t you get somebody who will go at this with greater rigor and independence rather than give it to the office that didn’t do three pretty obvious things?

MR TONER: Well, look, Arshad, again, they’re the ones who have carried out the initial examination of this incident. They’re able to take this as far as we’re able to take it. But we can only follow the leads that are viable and we can only look at the records that are available.

QUESTION: But they didn’t follow the leads or look at the records that were available when they initially looked at this.

MR TONER: But we’re doing that now.

QUESTION: They talked to one person.

MR TONER: Who came forward. Yes.

QUESTION: Who came forward. This is not looking high and low.