U.S. Shuts Down Embassy Kyiv, “Temporarily Relocating” Operations to Lviv

Secretary of State Blinken on US Embassy Kyiv Operations /February 14, 2022 via state.gov:

“I have no higher priority than the safety and security of Americans around the world, and that, of course, includes our colleagues serving at our posts overseas. My team and I constantly review the security situation to determine when prudence dictates a change in posture. With that in mind, we are in the process of temporarily relocating our Embassy operations in Ukraine from our Embassy in Kyiv to Lviv due to the dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces. The Embassy will remain engaged with the Ukrainian government, coordinating diplomatic engagement in Ukraine.  We are also continuing our intensive diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis.

These prudent precautions in no way undermine our support for or our commitment to Ukraine. Our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We also continue our sincere efforts to reach a diplomatic solution, and we remain engaged with the Russian government following President Biden’s call with President Putin and my discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov. The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage in good faith. We look forward to returning our staff to the Embassy as soon as conditions permit.

In the meantime, I have ordered these measures for one reason — the safety of our staff — and we strongly urge any remaining U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately. U.S. citizens seeking emergency assistance in Ukraine should complete this online form, and the State Department will follow-up, as appropriate.”

WSJ reports that the State Department “ordered the destruction of networking equipment and computer workstations and the dismantling of the embassy telephone system” citing  U.S. officials familiar with the matter and internal communications reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.  “Those moves render the Kyiv embassy inoperable as a diplomatic facility.”
Remember that photo we posted about the closure of US Embassy Tripoli as they prepared to evacuate post in 2011? (see Photo of the Day: Sledgehammer Workout, No Joke). That’s that.
The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

The Regional Security Officer and two Assistant Regional Security Officers destroy electronics at U.S. Embassy Tripoli on February 24, 2011 as they prepare to evacuate the post. (Photo from Diplomatic Security 2011 Year in Review)

U.S. Senate Confirms C.B. Sullenberger III as Ambassador to ICAO



Chris Lu to be Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform

The fundraising campaign is closer to its goal today than yesterday, but it’s not quite there yet. We are grateful to the more than 450 donors who have supported our annual fundraising to-date. We will not run an indefinite campaign, just a few weeks out of the year.  Help us meet our goal so we can get back to our regular blogging programming without plugging our fundraising. If you are able to help, please pitch in at GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27. Thanks – DS


On April 27, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Chris Lu to be the Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, with the Rank of Ambassador. The WH released the following brief bio:

Chris Lu, Nominee for Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, with the Rank of Ambassador, Department of State

Chris Lu is currently a Senior Strategy Advisor at FiscalNote, a D.C.-based technology company, and the Teresa A. Sullivan Practitioner Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia Miller Center.  Previously, in a career of public service that spanned two decades, he served in all three branches of the federal government.  From 2014 to 2017, Lu was the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, having been confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. In this role, he served as the chief operating officer of a department with 17,000 employees and a $12 billion budget.  The son of immigrants, Lu was only the second Asian American in history to become deputy secretary of a Cabinet department.

Earlier, from 2009 to 2013, he was the White House Cabinet Secretary and Assistant to the President.  During the first term of the Obama Administration, Lu co-chaired the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Prior to his service in the executive branch, Lu worked for then-Senator Obama, first as the Legislative Director, and then as the Acting Chief of Staff. He also served as the Executive Director of the Obama-Biden transition planning efforts in 2008-09. His government experience includes serving as the Deputy Chief Counsel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a law clerk to Judge Robert E. Cowen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Lu is a graduate of Princeton University and graduate of Harvard Law School.


@StateDept Updates FAM For Individuals Serving as Designated Chiefs of Mission

One part of the ARB-Cuba report addressed guidance provided to the chief of mission (see ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge?):
The ARB report reveals: “In exploring the guidance given to the COM regarding his responsibility for the security of all executive branch employees, the Board learned the COM did not have a letter of instruction. Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed ambassadors all receive a letter of instruction from the President detailing their responsibilities. Typically the responsibility for the safety and security of American citizens and U.S. government employees features prominently in these letters. In other posts where a COM is not Senate confirmed, the Department sometimes issues a letter of instruction from the Secretary of State which serves a similar purpose.”
On February 19, 2021, the State Department updated 3 FAM 1420, the Transfer of Office for Chiefs of Mission and Other Principal Officers.  The updated regs actually is in referenced to “Designated Chief of Mission” positions.  Assignments as CdA a.i. to designated COM positions go to the D Committee for approval and are approved by either the secretary or deputy secretary.  See 3 FAH-1 H-2425.8-2(B).  The new updates also notes that Designated COMs must “receive a briefing on intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and confirm in writing that they have read and understood the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427).”
One section addresses the general policy:
(CT:PER-1028 ;  02-19-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees Only)
a. This policy establishes the roles, responsibilities, and processes for ensuring relevant statutory and other requirements are met when designating individuals to serve as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim (CdA a.i.) in the absence of the Chief of Mission (COM).  The requirements set forth in this policy apply regardless of the length of time the individual will be serving as CdA, a.i. This policy also addresses transfer of the principal officer at consulates and interest sections.
b. The term “transfer of office”, as used here refers to the permanent or temporary transfer of the authorities and responsibilities vested in the principal officer for the management of the post and the conduct of its operations.  A permanent transfer of office occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post and does not expect to resume charge of that post, or whenever directed by the Department.  A temporary transfer occurs whenever an officer relinquishes charge of a post with the expectation of resuming charge of the post.
c.  The legal authorities cited in 3 FAM 1421 support the practice of designating principal officers at certain posts as CdA, a.i., Consul General, or principal officer with COM authority.  These three categories are referred to as Designated Chiefs of Mission (List available at 2 FAH-2 H-112).  Incumbents in Designated COM positions are not appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and do not have the ambassador title.  They also do not receive a Letter of Instruction by the President. The policy in 3 FAM 1420 also applies to individuals serving as Designated COMs and provides guidance to those individuals on their responsibilities. Designated COMs, like other CdAs, a.i. need approval by the Under Secretary for Management (M) and required guidance and briefings, but because Designated COMs are not filling in during the absence of a COM, the transfer of office provisions in 3 FAM 1420 do not apply.
Another section addresses the criteria for individuals serving as CDAs.  This update says that individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment  or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i. See 3 FAM 1427 for guidance outlines responsibilities for CdA, a.i.s.
(CT:PER-1028;  02-19-2021)
a. Any individual serving as CdA pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act must be a career FSO.  This includes retired career FSOs recalled for service under section 308(a) of the Foreign Service Act. Recall appointments are approved by the director general of the Foreign Service and the individual recalled must also be approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M) in order to serve as CdA, a.i.  Individuals on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment  or a while actually employed (WAE) appointment, which is an appointment into the Civil Service, do not qualify as career FSOs and therefore may not serve as CdA, a.i.
b. Factors regional bureaus may consider when nominating individuals to serve as CdA, a.i. include: past experience as CdA, a.i. or DCM, experience managing multi-dimensional and complex teams, experience working with the interagency, relevant country and regional experience, number of years of service, and demonstrated ability to mentor and lead staff.
c.  Pursuant to Section 502(c) of the Foreign Service Act and Delegation 462, M approval is required in order for an individual other than a DCM or suitable senior officer at post to serve as CdA, a.i. The regional bureau’s assistant secretary must send an action memo to M identifying the individual identified to serve as CdA, a.i. and outlining the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual’s qualifications and the rationale for designating the individual as CdA, a.i.
d. Individuals who serve or are expected to serve as CdA, a.i. for more than 30 consecutive days, including Designated COMs, must also have authorization to access to Sensitive Compartmented Information. Additionally, he/she must receive a briefing on his/her intelligence oversight responsibilities from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).  If already at post, he/she should contact INR/OPS to receive a secure virtual briefing. 
e. Regional bureaus must ensure that the individual does not travel to post or assume charge until required briefings have been completed.
f.  Prior to departing for post, any individual who will be serving as CdA, a.i. must confirm in writing that he or she has read and understands the Secretary’s guidance to individuals performing the functions of a COM (3 FAM 1427).  If already at post, this written confirmation should be part of the notification process outlined in 3 FAH-1 H-1425.



Goodbye 2020, a Most Cruel Year!


This has been a difficult year for us but harder for those who are facing empty chairs across their tables this year and harder still for those who will never get to hug their loved ones again. We have been lucky that while a few loved ones contracted coronavirus earlier this year, they all mercifully recovered from the illness.
However, the dark clouds hovering us all as we watch the deaths continue to set gruesome records have been inescapable. Of course, it is not just the coronavirus though, and it’s not just just one thing happening, but many things happening all at once. And none of them any good.  How did we get to become a full candidate for the Banana Republic Pageant? We try not to blog while angry, and holy moly macaroni, it turns out that’s really hard!
Thank you to everyone who took the time to check how we’re holding up and for helping keep our spirits up.  We are grateful for your kind thoughts even if we have not been the best of correspondents the last several months. Frankly, we don’t know yet what to do next year.  In about another three months, we would have been blogging for 13 years. We are wondering if we can still make a difference or if we have reached the end of the line here.
For readers sending us stuff even for the Burn Bag, please do not send us attachments unless we have agreed in advance to accept them. We regret that unsolicited attachments will not be opened for prudent reasons.
For readers looking for jobs with the incoming Biden Administration, please direct your inquiries to the Biden Transition website. This blog has no official connection to the Transition and we are not able to respond to every query.

Also the Consular Affairs Saga Continues

Meanwhile, at the State Department, a CA-EX-Special-Assistant announced that Mora Namdar “will serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau until a new Assistant Secretary has been appointed.” Career FSO Ian Brownlee apparently will continue to serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. So with just 20 days to go to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Pompeo’s State Department had to bring in someone from the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to become Acting Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs! Makes you turn your head sideways and asks, why, the why is this even happening? (Also see Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint, Sept 29, 2020 PDF).
The less-than 50 word announcement was actually missing a crucial part. The acting assistant secretary is a political appointee and will be required to step down by January 20 when the Biden administration takes office. Somebody please correct this asap before folks get the wrong impression (Also see CA’s Carl Risch Reportedly Quit Over the Weekend, Decamps to DOJ).

@StateDept Gets Yin and Yang on China

And while the outgoing secretary of state has been talking China, China, China on social media, we understand that the State Department has been fairly quiet about the treatment of U.S. diplomats and family members returning to their assignments in China. U.S. diplomats are apparently not allowed to home quarantine. We understand that all returning staff must spend 2 weeks in a Chinese government owned hotel, with families separated with men put in one room and women and children in another — “one dirty hotel room for two weeks” with apparently, no kitchenette, or laundry. This is just one more test to show how USG employees can make the best of a bad situation? Excuse me, even small children and babies must learn to make the best of a bad situation, too? 
State Department employees and family members going to China are reportedly required to get both a nasal swab and antibody blood test within 48 hours of leaving the United States. They are tested again upon arrival at the airport by the host government;  then tested again on the 13th day of their quarantine. The question then becomes — why are our diplomats not allowed home quarantine? Is the United States placing Chinese diplomats on USG quarantine upon arrival here for their diplomatic assignments?  
OFM’s Diplomatic Note 20-162 notes that the United States suspended entry of individuals from China but “Notably, the entry suspension is not applicable to individual foreign mission members seeking entry into or who are transiting the United States on A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visas. However, even with respect to exempted individuals such as the visa holders listed above, such individuals may be medically screened, and where appropriate quarantined for up to a 14-day period to prevent the spread of the virus.”
CDC guidance for international travelers as of today says that “CDC does not require that international travelers undergo mandatory federal quarantine, but does recommend travelers do the following after an international flight-Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel; Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days; If your test is positive or you have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected and follow public health recommendations; If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.”
So why is the State Department fine with subjecting our diplomats to Chinese quarantine? Is somebody just filing this under the “needs of the service” folder? Psst! Wake up!

The New Kid in the Block Is Still Happening? 

Did we hear correctly that there is a congressional hold for the creation of a new bureau of Crisis and Contingency Response (CCR) at the State Department? Oh, but alas, the State Department hasn’t really paid that much attention to Congress, has it?  So just nah, apparently, they went ahead with the creation of this new bureau in the waning days of Pompeo’s Foggy Bottom tenure? What the what? Real oversight in the Senate has been almost non-existent the last few years. Do not be shocked if the GOP somehow keeps the majority, and the good senators suddenly find their jello spines miraculously strengthened in the new season. There may even be righteous orations from those exercising their vocal cords and flexing their secret/not so secret ambitions. (Also see New @StateDept Bureau to Take $26 Million, Plus 98 Staffers From the Medical Services  Bureau).

Pray Tell, Who/What Lighted the Damn Fire Under State/OBO?

Well, the sale of the ambassador’s residence made news back in summer. But why was State/OBO in a hurry to sell this property? We were told recently, “We do not have a new residence to replace it.  We are paying for a splendid suite at the King David in the meantime.” Oh, golly, something else for State/OIG to look into, hey?  Wait, the THIRD acting inspector general had also left? How many inspectors general and acting inspectors general have now been lost in the span of just 12 months? This is a record to beat, yes?
It’s a good thing we just have a few more days to go. We can’t stand any more darn records to break!
This was a close call, wasn’t it?  Let’s hope 2021 will be a kinder year, and will not make our lives any shorter than it already it.  Stay well. Sending air hugs to all who needs it!




Help Former Diplomat Richard Boly Get to SXSW2020 For Migration Crisis Project

Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.  SXSW remains a tool for creative people to develop their careers by bringing together people from around the globe to meet, learn and share ideas. The 2020 SXSW Conference & Festivals will be on March 13-22 in Austin, TX
Former U.S. diplomat, Richard Boly has a proposal to be in the Festival.  Proposals will be open to the public for voting and commentary from August 5-23, 2019.
PanelPicker is a session proposal platform that gives the SXSW community a significant voice in programming conference activities (presentations, panels, discussions, demonstrations, etc.) for SXSW and SXSW EDU. Prospective speakers submit their session ideas to PanelPicker, then the community, SXSW Advisory Board and SXSW staff choose the best proposals.
Public voting accounts for about 30% of the decision-making process for SXSW and SXSW EDU programming. Feedback from the SXSW Programming Committee (or the SXSW EDU Advisory Board) and SXSW staff is also taken into account, with a weight of 40% and 30% respectively.





Maduro Breaks U.S. Diplomatic Relations, PNGs Diplomats But — USG Now Recognizes Guaido as Venezuela President

Posted: 1:05 pm PST


What happens next?

On January 23, 2019, Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro  decided to break diplomatic relations with the U.S. government. Apparently, the U.S. diplomats in Venezuela have  72 hours to leave the country. The announcement follows President Trump’s recognition of the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. As one diplomat points out, if the United States remove its remaining diplomats within 72 hours, that would be a recognition that the Maduro Government is still in power. But if the U.S. doesn’t, what happens then? What protection does the mission gets from the host government that it no longer recognizes?

For now, it looks like there are protests breaking out, and a battle on the Wikipedia page on who is the president of Venezuela is ongoing. This could easily spin out of control beyond that.

The US Embassy in Caracas is currently headed by Jimmy Story, the Chargé d’ Affaires, a.i. who arrived in Caracas in July 2018 from Rio de Janeiro where he served as Consul General.  His previous assignments include Office Director of the INL for the Western Hemisphere, Director of INL Office in Bogota, Colombia, Senior Civilian Representative to in Southeastern Afghanistan, and Political-Economic Chief and Deputy Principal Officer in São Paulo, Brazil.

On January 16, 2019, the State Department issued a “Level 3 Reconsider Travel” advisory for Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. Also the folowing:

There are shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 3 ‘Avoid Nonessential Travel’ notice on May 15, 2018 due to inadequate healthcare and the breakdown of the medical infrastructure in Venezuela. Consular access to detained U.S. citizens who also have Venezuelan nationality is severely restricted by the Venezuelan government and the U.S. Embassy may not receive access in these cases.

Security forces have arbitrarily detained U.S. citizens for long periods. The U.S. Embassy may not be notified of the detention of a U.S. citizen, and consular access to detainees may be denied or severely delayed.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services in certain neighborhoods in Caracas as U.S. government personnel and their families are subject to travel restrictions for their safety and well-being.

to be updated in a bit …

RIP Tony Mendez #CanadianCaper #Argo

Posted: 3:34 am EST


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Pens Farewell Message to Pentagon and Troops

Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit


On June 29, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia James Melville announced on Facebook his intent to retire from the Foreign Service after 33 years of public service. See US Ambassador to Estonia James Melville Pens Resignation on FB Over Trump Policies.  On October 3, WaPo published his op-ed explaining his departure.