Career Diplomat Lee McClenny Sworn-In as New U.S.Ambassador to Paraguay

Posted: 3:05 am ET

 

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US Embassy Cuba: New Mechanism For Brain Injury From an “Exposure of Unknown Origin”

Posted: 12:39 am ET

 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair was selected to coordinate the evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of 21 government personnel (11 women and 10 men) identified by the State Department and evaluated an average of 203 days following exposure to reported sound (described as “buzzing,” “grinding  metal,” “piercing squeals” or “humming”) and sensory phenomena (described as pressure-like or vibrating and likened to air “baffling” inside a moving car with the windows partially rolled down) at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba in late 2016.

“It’s like a concussion without a concussion.”

“Of the 21 individuals assessed at Penn, 17 reported cognitive or behavioral problems such as difficulty remembering, concentrating, or both. “It’s not that any patient can’t do a given task, but it requires way more effort,” said coauthor Randel Swanson, DO, PhD, a brain injury rehabilitation specialist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. “They don’t have as much cognitive reserve.”

The author and his coauthors signed a nondisclosure agreement with the State Department, “so they cannot discuss whether they know more about what happened in Havana than has already been made public.”

The study concludes that “The unique circumstances of these patients and the clinical manifestations detailed in this report raise concern about a new mechanism for possible acquired brain injury from an exposure of unknown origin.”

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U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley Resigns From the Foreign Service Over Trump Policies

Posted: 4:59 am ET

 

The Foreign Service Act and appropriate personnel regulations require three (3) commitments from candidates for appointment to the Foreign Service: availability for worldwide assignment, willingness to accept out-of-function assignments, and observance of Foreign Service discipline with respect to public support of established United States policy – is a condition of employment with the Foreign Service.  That third commitment refers to this:

In the official performance of their duties as representatives of the United States Government, Foreign Service members may be called upon to support and defend policies with which they may not be personally in full agreement. On such occasions, normal standards of Foreign Service discipline will apply. Ample opportunity is provided within official channels for discussion and dissent with respect to the development and conduct of United States Foreign policy.

On January 12, the U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, a 28-year veteran of the Foreign Service did the honorable thing and tendered his resignation over Administration policies he is no longer able to support and defend. The Panama assignment is Ambassador Feeley’s first as chief of mission. He was on the second year of a three-year assignment.

Below is a brief summary of his long career in the diplomatic service:

John Feeley was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Panama on January 15, 2016, and assumed his post in early February. He is a career diplomat who has focused much of his work on Latin American and Caribbean issues, both in Washington and in the region.

Ambassador Feeley most recently served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2012 to 2015, responsible for the daily management of regional policy implementation and the supervision of 50 diplomatic posts across the Americas.

Previously he was the State Department’s Summit of the Americas Coordinator, overseeing the substantive preparation for Secretary Clinton’s engagement in the 2012 Cartagena Summit, a role he reprised for Secretary Kerry during the 2015 Summit in Panama.

From 2009 to 2012, Ambassador Feeley served as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, where he managed a 37-agency country team that implemented the Merida Initiative. He has also been the Department’s Director for Central American Affairs and Deputy Director for Caribbean Affairs. From 2004 to 2006, Mr. Feeley served as a Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State, where he was responsible for managing information flow to Secretaries Powell and Rice, as well as coordinating their overseas travel.

A 2004 Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, Mr. Feeley’s overseas assignments include two tours in Mexico City, Santo Domingo, and Bogota.

Prior to joining the State Department in 1990, Mr. Feeley served on active military duty as a helicopter pilot in the United States Marine Corps. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is married to retired career diplomat, Cherie Feeley. The Ambassador and his wife speak Spanish. The couple has two adult sons and one grandson.

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Coming Soon – Accountability Review Board Havana For Mysterious Attacks in Cuba

Posted: 3:34 am ET

 

The State Department’s new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein  did a press gaggle on January 9 and was asked about the convening of an Accountability Review Board for the attacks against American diplomats in Havana. He said that he expects announcements of the chair and the members of the board available for release within the next week. He also told the press “We believe that the Cuban Government knows what occurred, and so what we’d like them to do is to tell us what occurred so we can ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

He told members of the media that the USG “is not considering restoring the staff” at US Embassy Havana, and that the State Department is “providing extensive medical care to people that need it,” and that the agency “have also made it clear that if people do not want to serve in that particular embassy, they do not have to.”

When asked about Senator Marco Rubio’s comments that it’s against the law that it took –rather than 60 or 120 days– almost a year to stand up ARB Havana, U/S Goldstein responded:

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. Well, I – we have great respect for the senator, and he shares our concern about trying to reach resolution on this matter. It took time to set up the accountability review board because we were hopeful that we would be able to know what occurred. We were – the investigation has taken longer than we anticipated, and – but it is now time to go forward. And again, we would expect the – I would expect the names to be announced over the next several days. I do have the names, I just can’t – I’m not – I want to make sure that the people have been notified.

QUESTION: — by failing to announce or create this review board back in July, that the – that you had confirmed that people were seriously wounded by March or May, that the law requires if you know that a State Department personnel is seriously wounded, that you create a review board within 60 days or tell Congress why you’re not doing so. That is the clear letter of the law. You did not follow it. That’s what he claims. What is your response to that?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: Right. We don’t agree with that. The assistant secretary today made clear, and we have said too, that it took us time to get the investigation in place. The investigation is continuing, and we believe that we have the – had the authority to determine when the accountability review board should be set in place. I think let’s not lose focus here. There’s 24 people that had injuries, and those people are receiving treatment, and we’ve had over 20 conversations with the people of Cuba. We’ve – the government investigators have been down four times; they’re going down again within the next few weeks. And so our primary goal at the present time is to find out why this occurred, to prevent it from happening again in Cuba and the embassy of Cuba or in any other place where American citizens are located.

When an ARB should be convened is in the rules book once it was determined that the incident was security-related with serious injury.  For folks who want a refresher, per 12 FAM 030, the Accountability Review Board process is a mechanism to foster more effective security of U.S. missions and personnel abroad by ensuring a thorough and independent review of security-related incidents.

Security-related incidents are defined as “A case of serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a U.S. government mission abroad, or a case of a serious breach of security involving intelligence activities of a foreign government directed at a U.S. mission abroad (other than a facility or installation subject to the control of a U.S. area combatant commander), and which does not clearly involve only causes unrelated to security.”

(See U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Sonic Attacks: As Serious as Mild TBI/Central Nervous System Damage?)

12 FAM 032.1 updated in October 2017 notes that the ARB/Permanent Coordinating Committee will, “as quickly as possible after an incident occurs, review the available facts and recommend to the Secretary to convene or not convene a Board.  (Due to the 1999 revision of the law requiring the Secretary to convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such period may be extended for one additional 60-day period, the ARB/PCC will meet within 30 days of the incident if enough information is available.) In addition, the ARB/PCC will meet yearly to review the ARB process, existing policies and procedures, and all past ARB recommendations, and ensure that any necessary changes are effected.”

So we gotta ask an uncomfortable question for the Tillerson State Department — is it possible that no ARB Havana was convened because the eight positions who are members of the PCC, an entity tasked with making recommendations to the Secretary was not filled or only partially filled?

Did the ARB/PCC meet on the Havana incidents last year? What recommendations were made to the Secretary? Why are they convening an ARB just now?

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U.S. Embassy Havana: Doctors Identify Brain Abnormalities in Cuba Attack Patients

Posted: 1:10 am ET

 

AND NOW THIS —

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@USAmbCanada Kelly Craft Makes Splash Over “Both Sides of the Science” #ClimateChange

Posted: 12:39 am ET
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Trump Nominates Career Diplomat Lisa A. Johnson to be U.S. Ambassador to Namibia

Posted: 2:16 am ET
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On October 5, President Trump announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Lisa A. Johnson to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Namibia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Lisa A. Johnson of Washington to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Namibia.Ms. Johnson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1992. She is currently Chargé d’ Affaires at U.S. Embassy Nassau. As a senior official at the State Department, National Security Council, and Vice President’s Office, Ms. Johnson demonstrated leadership of interagency teams, crisis management expertise, and a breadth of experience. She has served at six U.S. Missions overseas, including two in Africa. Ms. Johnson earned a M.S. from the National War College, a M.I.A. from Columbia University, and an A.B. from Stanford University. Her languages are French and Portuguese.

Career diplomat Lisa A. Johnson assumed office as Chargè d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Nassau  in July 2014 after the departure of career diplomat John W. Dinkelman who served as CDA from November 2011 until July 2014 following the departure of Ambassador Nicole Avant in 2011. In May this year, Trump nominated the first U.S. Ambassador for the Bahamas since 2011 (see Trump to Nominate San Diego Developer “Papa” Doug Manchester to be Ambassador to The Bahamas). The nomination has been cleared in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and currently pending in the Executive Calendar.

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@StateDept Expels 15 Cuban Officials Over Failure to Protect U.S. Diplomats

Posted: 11:40 am PT
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US Embassy #Cuba Now on Ordered Departure Over “Attacks of an Unknown Nature”

Posted: 2:26 pm PT
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On September 29, 2017, the State Department placed the U.S. Embassy in Havana on “ordered departure” status, making the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members from Cuba mandatory. This follows the earlier declaration for an “authorized departure” over Hurricane Irma, and after months of these reported “sonic” attacks. The State Department has also issued a new Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Cuba: “Because our personnel’s safety is at risk, and we are unable to identify the source of the attacks, we believe U.S. citizens may also be at risk and warn them not to travel to Cuba.”

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US Embassy Caracas Updates Staff Policy Due to “Recent Kidnapping of Embassy Personnel”

Posted: 3:06 am ET
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On September 25, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas issued a Security Message updating its policy on embassy staff and family members’ movements in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela:

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas informs all U.S. citizens in Venezuela that the policy regarding the movements of U.S. citizen diplomats and their family members in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela has been updated.  As always, the Embassy encourages all U.S. citizens living in and traveling through Venezuela to remain vigilant at all times and to practice good personal security.

Effective immediately, Calle A (through La Alameda neighborhood, the intersection of Calle B/Calle A to the Centro Commercial Santa Fe)is ano travel zonefrom “dusk to dawn” daily for all diplomatic personnel until further notice.

Travel in groups is highly recommended.  Travel outside the Embassy’s housing area by U.S. diplomats between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. must be conducted in armored vehicles or in groups utilizing at least two vehicles.  Group travel may be conducted with unarmored vehicles.

This decision was made due to increased concerns surrounding the recent kidnapping of Embassy personnel traveling in a diplomatic-plated vehicle on this road and other incidents.  This policy is subject to review in 30 days.

Makes one wonder if these kidnappings are now specifically targeted against embassy personnel.

Diplomatic Security’s Venezuela 2017 Crime & Safety Report issued in back in February is excerpted below:

Venezuela remains one of the deadliest countries in the world with increasing violence and criminal activity in 2016, at times reaching unprecedented levels. The government of Venezuela often attempts to refute claims of increasing crime and murder rates; however, their claims are widely rejected by independent observers. Official crime figures are not released by government officials, but unofficial statistics indicate that most categories of crime increased in 2016, despite unprecedented levels in 2015. The majority of Caracas’ crime and violence remains attributed to mobile street gangs and organized crime groups. Caracas is notorious for the brazenness of high-profile violent crimes (murder, robbery, kidnapping) committed in neighborhoods across the city, at all hours.
[…]
U.S. Embassy locally employed staff often report being victims of armed robberies and carjacking. There is no indication that American citizens or U.S. Embassy-affiliated personnel are specifically targeted for crime because of their nationality or official status.

Read the full report here.

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