Tex Harris: What happens when crucial facts are ignored by your superiors? (Via ADST)

 

Via ADST

The tension between Harris and the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires came to a head with the discovery of a file on the planned Yacyretá Dam project, a hydroelectric dam to be constructed between several South American countries with EXIM [Export-Import Bank of the United States] financing for the involvement of an American company. However, Harris quickly noted something unusual about the Argentine manufacturer listed in the file he had borrowed. It had deep connections to the government regime, information that had not been shared with Washington.

In this “Moment,” Tex Harris describes the difficulties and the risk to his personal career he faced in spreading awareness of the dangers of U.S. involvement in the Yacyretá Dam project, highlighting the barriers to morality he occasionally encountered within the bureaucracy.

F. Allen “Tex” Harris’s interview was conducted by Charles Stuart Kennedy on December 10, 1999.

Read Tex Harris’s full oral history HERE (pdf).

Defying superiors: So Bill Hallman [the political counselor] came into my little airless office, like an overgrown closet, and he sat down and he talked about responsibility and team play and all the other kinds of things that we had to understand in the Foreign Service, that there was a responsibility to doing things in a collective way and that, even though we may feel strongly about something as an individual, we had to put things into perspective and [accept] the judgment of senior people and other visions and other ideas, and blend in. We had this long philosophical discussion. Bill was a wonderful, very thoughtful and conscientious Catholic probably trained in a Jesuit school. He was very intelligent and a fine Officer. So we had this very, very theoretical discussion about responsibility in the Foreign Service to be a member of the team and to fit your ideas into the fabric of an embassy’s reporting. Then, like a bombshell, he pulled out my letters and said that the DCM and he had requested me to withdraw these letters and not to send them in the pouch, that they shouldn’t go up as an official-informal with information that was as pertinent and as potentially disruptive to a major multimillion-dollar arrangement. It should be done in a considered way by the embassy. Well, I don’t get angry, I really don’t get angry, but I was really upset. I didn’t lose it, but I was really upset, and I told Bill absolutely not, I had considered this, and if the embassy wanted to send up a detailed telegram, it would get there certainly before the classified pouch got there. These were marked “confidential,” and these official-informal letters would come after the fact, and the embassy would send a telegram out in the next day or so, next day or two, and still put its considered view, and I refused to withdraw the letters and they should go in the pouch. So we talked for another half an hour, and then when it was all over, Bill then said to me, “I guess I’ve done one thing. At least we’ve missed the closing of the pouch for this day,” . . . it bought him some more time. This was before e-mails. This was when telephone calls were big deals, and the main thing was either pouch or cable. So Hallman left. I felt I had just been hit with about a three-hundred-pound stone. I went down kind of reeling to the “cobra,” to the pouch room, where you put your messages in the communications center. The guy was there and I said, “I’ve got to get these in the pouch. They were taken out by the DCM, but now I want to send them back.” He said, “I’m sorry. I can’t. We’ve closed the pouch.” So probably my greatest negotiation as a diplomat was to convince the communicator to open the pouch. After some conversation about the importance of this, he decided that he would open the pouch, which meant he had to redo all the seals and redo all the paperwork. He did it and put these two letters back in the pouch and closed them up. I didn’t say anything further to Hallman. I didn’t tell him that I had gotten them in the pouch. I just went back to my office with a feeling of satisfaction that I had overcome what had been a significantly bad event.

Facing the music: I got what was probably the worst efficiency report ever written on any individual. It was absolutely incredible: “not a team player, his own sense of values and priorities,” and so forth, and I got a fairly rigorous and tough but in a sense fair from his perspective [review] from the political counselor. There was a certain amount of negotiation involved in that. But the DCM, who was a very skillful writer, Max Chaplin, wrote a review that was absolutely an epitaph, just carved in stone. When this got back to Washington, I was identified for selection out. My tour was going to be a three-year tour, and the Argentine government had come to the ambassador, Castro, and said that they were going to PNG me [make me persona non grata], and Castro talked them out of that on the theory that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know, and if you send Harris back, then Derian will send someone else down here who may be even taller and worse than Harris. So Castro talked them out of that, and they didn’t PNG me, but things became so difficult in the embassy after this Yacyretá business. . . .

It was quite clear that my career was in deep trouble with this efficiency report. I had sent a copy of it to Derian and to Mark and asked them if there was anything they could put in the file to balance it off, and he put a very good—I think Mark may have signed it, Patt may have been out—and it was a very well done praise of the work I had done and the contribution I had made to American foreign policy. So the review board—after having been low ranked, I went to the review board—essentially gave me a censure. It wasn’t an official reprimand or anything where I lost pay or things like that, but essentially wrote me a letter of censure that I had to become a better team player, and of course I had been low-ranked. Now, I was the guy who had invented the grievance system. I had been there at the beginning with other people, and here was an efficiency report that was absolutely defective, but I was so emotionally unable, psychologically unable, to deal with the ramifications of going through all this pain that was associated with the report and my being identified for selection out, and all these other painful moments, that I ran away from it, which is a very standard psychological behavior of diverting from things that are difficult and hard and painful. It’s the way the body protects itself. So for year after year after year I couldn’t get promoted, because they’d open up the file and here was this low ranking, this selection-out procedure in the file, and this horrific report, and I was facing [the] time in class [deadline].

 

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US Embassy Brazil: Ambassador Chapman Takes “Precautions” After July 4th Lunch With Bolsonaro

 

State/WHA DAS Cynthia Kierscht to be U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania

The WH released the following brief bio:
Cynthia Kierscht, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
Ms. Kierscht, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Prior to that, she was the Director and Deputy Director of the Office of Canadian Affairs for the State Department.
Overseas, Ms. Kierscht served at the United States Embassies in Bogota, Colombia, Rabat, Morocco, and Cairo, Egypt, in the United States Consulate in Marseille, France, and at the United States Interests Section in Tripoli, Libya.  Among her other assignments at the State Department, Ms. Kierscht worked in the Executive Secretariat and the Operations Center, in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and in the Bureau of Counterterrorism.
Ms. Kierscht earned her B.A. from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and her M.P.P. from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.  She speaks Arabic, French, and Spanish.

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“Strikeforce Incursion” Announced Via Tweet Blows Up in Venezuela, Two U.S. Citizens in Custody

 

Top 10 Countries: @StateDept Repatriation of U.S. Citizens as of April 29, 2020

 

The State Department’s May 1st update notes that it has now coordinated the repatriation of 76,030 Americans on 810 flights from 126 countries and territories including  six flights from six countries in South and Central America repatriated approximately 800 U.S. citizens on April 30 and a charter flight from India carrying approximately 300 Americans arrived in the U.S. on May 1.
Based on the State Department’s data, Western Hemisphere countries based on number of U.S. citizens evacuated remain the top eight out of 10 countries.  India and Pakistan, both under the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) are the only non-WHA countries in the top 10 counties.

@StateDept Repatriation of U.S. Citizens: Top 10 Countries (As of April 5, 2020)

 

According to the Department of State, as of April 5 2020, 3:30 p.m. EDT, it has coordinated the repatriation of 43,116 Americans from 78 countries since January 29, 2020. The agency’s repatriation page including countries, the number of Americans repatriated and number of flights are available here. Based on its data, we have put together the top 10 countries by number of American citizens repatriated, and added the regional bureaus for each country.
The top seven countries by repatriation numbers are located in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA), followed by two countries in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Ghana from the Bureau of African Affairs (AF). Full list of countries and evacuees are available here.

 

Via April 3 Briefing, on Peru, and the State Department “looking at about 22,000 overseas still” from SCA and WHA.

QUESTION: Great. I was hoping you could give a little bit more clarification on the situation in Peru. I thought I heard you say that the last flight out would be on Monday but that you were going to continue to try to make arrangements for charter flights. So I was wondering if you could expand on that a little bit. And also, if you are aware of any countries where the last flights out are looming. Thank you.

MR BROWNLEE: Yeah, thank you, Carol. The situation in Peru is this. We had a hiatus yesterday, April 2nd. We had – were a number of flights up through April 1st. We had a hiatus yesterday. Flights resume today, April 3rd. We have several coming out today. We will have several running through the weekend and through Monday. We are talking to the Peruvian Government about getting permissions for subsequent flights if needed. And that’s an important caveat at this point, because we are finding that demand particularly in Peru seems to be fluctuating. I’ve mentioned to you guys before that we’ve had people show up at the airport literally with suitcases in hand and then decide to stay. As we put out calls saying is anybody else out there, we find new people coming in even now saying, “Well, yeah, I thought I’d bring myself forward.” It remains a somewhat dynamic number as to how many want to come out of Peru, and if need be, we will continue.

We are also – and Hugo might be able to shed more light on this – we are talking to the commercial carriers about resuming direct bill operations into Peru in lieu of the State Department chartered flights. The bottom line: Got flights through Monday, talking about more, we might want to – we might go the commercial option. Hugo, do you want to say anything on that score?

MR YON: Absolutely. This is Hugo. Yes, in Peru that is correct. It is actually the Peruvian Government has – after we’ve done a number of these charter flights from the State Department, the Peruvian government has softened and are willing to let some limited commercial rescue flights go in, so we are in discussions actively now with our U.S. airlines to provide that lift in future days.

Let me also just give the number that Matt had asked about in terms of the commercial rescue flights, how many number. The number we’ve gotten from our airlines collectively is 166 flights that carried the over 17,000, and each day that does grow – 166 flights. Over.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks for doing this. Just a couple quick questions. First of all, Ian, when you say that you weren’t tracking the flight from Russia, that’s because it was a commercial flight, correct? And are you now going to have to start looking into different options to get Americans out?

Do you have an update to the total number of Americans still overseas who are asking for help, and then specifically on Peru, there are a lot of Americans in remote areas. Are you still doing busing or other ways of getting them to Lima or Cusco to get them out, and are you considering outside contractors to do some of that work, like Warrior Angel Rescue.

MR BROWNLEE: Sure. Let me go back to the Russia question. You’re absolutely correct, we were not tracking – I was not tracking that flight, but I’ve received an email since I was asked that question saying yes, it was a commercial plane. We don’t know – at this point know why it was literally on the tarmac taxiing when it was denied permission to take off. We don’t know why that would be. The Russian Government apparently denied it permission to take off. We will look at other options for helping U.S. citizens return from Russia now that that last commercial flight has been pulled down.

The total number we’re looking at overseas at this point is – and bear with me a moment – we are tracking approximately – we’re looking at about 22,000 overseas still. The greatest number of those – certainly the plurality of those – are in South and Central Asia, many of them in India. We’re also looking at a large number of people still in the Western Hemisphere – in WHA – and Africa. It’s really those three regions are the bulk of people who are overseas, but the total number we’re tracking is about 22,000.

In – with regard to Peru, yes, we’re still running what we call sweeper operations to bring people in from remote areas. In some cases this is by bus, in some cases we’re using the INL, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement plane. It’s a 15-passenger plane, so we’ve sent that out to a number of remote areas to bring people into Lima for repatriation. Other people are being brought in, as you say, by NGOs such as Angel Warrior. But we’re running a pretty effective operation, I think, pulling people out of the remoter areas. Over.

@StateDept to Continue Processing H-2 Visas, Program “Essential to the economy and food security of the United States”

 

On March 26, the State Department released a statement  regarding its intention to continue processing nonimmigrant, temporary visas under the H-2 visa program “as much as possible” and as “permitted by post resources and local government restrictions” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement notes that the H-2 program “is essential to the economy and food security of the United States.” The H-2 category allows temporary agricultural (H-2A) and non-agricultural (H-2B) visas for U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign workers to the United States.  In FY2019, the State Department issued 204,801 H-2A visas for temporary workers performing agricultural services.
Via state.gov:

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. 

The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions. Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview.  Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months, and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa.  We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview. 

Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic. We encourage applicants to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in order to confirm the level of services currently offered. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

Original statement posted here.

 

US Embassy Lima Works on Repatriating Thousands of Americans #StuckInPeru

Updated: March 28, 9:45 am PDT

A Health Alert from US Embassy Lima in Peru notes that post is continuing its operations and is “coordinating with the Peruvian Government to arrange repatriation flights over the next few days for U.S. citizens to return to the United States.”
Post’s Alert issued on Tuesday said that “As of March 24, approximately 700 Americans have departed Peru on repatriation flights. It also announced the departure from post of Ambassador Urs, and the travel to Peru of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung  “to support our aggressive repatriation efforts.”

“For medical reasons, Ambassador Krishna Urs departed Peru on March 20.  He continues to engage from Washington with senior Peruvian officials as well as to support the Department’s efforts on behalf of the United States.”

As of 5:00PM on March 25, post said it has  repatriated over 1000 Americans from Peru.
In video below released by Embassy Lima, the Chargé d’Affaires Denison K. Offutt says that there are currently over 5,000 Americans in Peru. We don’t know if all of them are asking to return to the United States, but if so, this would be one of the largest evacuations of U.S. citizens from overseas at this time. This is not as huge as the nearly 15,000 evacuation from Lebanon in 2006 but the  logistics of moving a large number of people to the United States with border closures and limited air traffic during a pandemic will be extraordinarily challenging.
According to Embassy Lima, the Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, 2020, at 8:00 PM Peru local time.  Under the state of emergency, Peru enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine, starting at 00:00 on March 16, 2020.  At 23:59 PM on March 16, 2020, the Peruvian Government closed all international borders (land, air, and maritime) and suspended all interprovincial travel within Peru (land, air, and river).
Update from post indicates unusual difficulties with host country in obtaining permission for these repatriation flights . First, the Government of Peru told Ambassador Urs on March 23 that it had authorized repatriation flights, only for the contracted airline to notify the embassy at night that the flights are not approved. The following day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to US Embassy Lima that no U.S. flights had been approved. Ambassador Urs then spoke to the Peruvian Foreign Minister at 6:45 a.m., during which time, he was reportedly assured that the permissions would be granted in time. The Peruvian government ultimately declined to provide the proper clearances for a LATAM flight to pick up Americans stranded in Cusco.  A charter flight operated by American Airlines departed Miami with a scheduled arrival at 12:30 p.m.  Embassy Lima said that the Peruvian government also declined to approve permits for the charter flight, so the pilot returned the airplane to Miami.
Something’s going on there, hey?
During the March 25 Special Briefing, CA PDAS Ian Brownlee called the logjam “a capacity issue on the part of the Peruvian Government” and that the “information didn’t efficiently trickle down to the people in the regulatory agencies that had to issue the permits, the landing permits for the planes.”
Embassy Lima’s update on March 25 said  that there were two flights scheduled today, but these are “booked with humanitarian priority individuals, including older adults, people with underlying health conditions, minors traveling without a parent or legal guardian, and other adults in need of medical assistance.” Also that “the U.S. Embassy is scheduling additional flights for this week pending Peruvian government authorization.” As of March 25, Embassy Lima was able to get its first flight from Cusco to Miami (via Lima) and is reportedly scheduling a flight from Iquitos to Miami. So that’s good news.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne confirmed that Canada received the go-ahead for 3 Air Canada flights to bring stranded Canadians home from Peru this week.
On March 21, Politico reported that a U.S. official familiar with the situation said the Peruvian government is not allowing Americans stuck in Peru to leave until the White House ensures thousands of Peruvians are given safe passage home.[…] “The government of Peru is basically holding these Americans hostage,” the U.S. official said. “They want the U.S. to fill planes with Peruvians before they’ll let the planes land to pick up Americans. But they’re not ready or organized in the United States to gather their people up, and they don’t want to pay for the flight.“
Could Peru wait this out or slow this down as Americans stuck in Peru fumes louder, and clogs congressional offices with complaints? Already Senator Rubio (R-Texas FL) has publicly scolded the State Department for Americans stuck in Peru “due to lack or (sic) urgency by some in mid-level of .”
Except that Peru apparently wants something from the White House not the State Department.
March 25 DOS Special Briefing with CA PDAS Ian Brownlee called the logjam in Peru a “capacity issue:”

The logjam there was a capacity issue on the part of the Peruvian Government. To reduce this to simplicity, we had commitment from the senior-most levels of the government – from the foreign minister, et cetera, the ministerial level – that yes, the flight yesterday Monday would be able to go forward – flights yesterday Monday would be able to go forward. That information didn’t efficiently trickle down to the people in the regulatory agencies that had to issue the permits, the landing permits for the planes, and so the American Airlines flight that was going into Lima literally turned around as it was preparing to enter Peruvian airspace because it didn’t have the permit necessary.

The difficulty arises there from the fact that there was some infections in the civil aviation authority and in the civilian side of the airport, and they just shut down that entire entity and they’re trying to run it on a bit of a shoestring from the military side of the airport. We’re helping them address this shortfall by – we’ve taken the INL, the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement hangar on the military side of the airport, taken everything out of it. We’re arranging chairs in there at socially distant appropriate spacing and we’re preparing to use that as a working space, a processing space to move people through. We’re also preparing to send down a flyaway team of consular officers and we have a senior officer from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs going down to assist as well. So we’re doing what we can to help the Peruvians fill that sort of capacity gap, and we hope – we hope – that this will keep things moving more fluidly in the future. Out.

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Related post:
US Embassy Lima: Avianca Airlines May Have Outbound Flights For #StuckinPeru Americans

US Embassy Lima: Avianca Airlines May Have Outbound Flights For #StuckinPeru Americans

 

According to the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Peru, with 13 hospitalized.
For Americans stranded in Peru, the embassy provided a link to Avianca Airlines’ sign up page for travelers interested in departing Lima. It looks like there are flights for March 19 and 23, 2020 from Cusco to Lima, and Lima to Miami, as well as to other non-US destinations. Avianca’s sign-up page says that the airline is trying to program new flights based on the request of embassies with nationals in the country. Travelers are asked to complete a short form to  confirm their interest in purchasing a flight.  “In case there are enough passengers confirming interest in flying, we will notify you so that you can purchase it through the different Avianca channels. In case the flight does not operate, we will also contact you” (rough translation).
As of March 19, one social media account tracking the number of those stranded in country estimates there are over 1,660 U.S. citizens in the country from 48 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Below via US Embassy Lima:

Avianca Airlines notified the U.S. Embassy it has created an online signup page here for travelers to express interest in flights departing from Lima and Cusco to destinations including the United States.  If you are interested in this offer, please respond immediately through the link.  You are encouraged to keep contacting your airline for reservation and flight updates.  To contact major airlines with flights from Peru to the United States, below are their customer service telephone numbers:

  • The Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, 2020, at 8:00 PM Peru local time.  Under the state of emergency, Peru enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine, starting at 00:00 on March 16, 2020.  At 23:59 PM on March 16, 2020, the Peruvian Government closed all international borders (land, air, and maritime) and suspended all interprovincial travel within Peru (land, air, and river).  American Citizens who remain in Peru should arrange lodging for the duration of the quarantine period and plan to limit their movements.  Limited quarantine exemptions include movement to obtain food and medical care.  Travelers currently in country should consult iPeru for the latest guidance for tourists.  The Embassy will provide a daily update on this page as this situation develops.
  • As of March 17, Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima is closed to the public.  Please contact your airline carrier for updates on flight information.
  • The Peruvian government issued a decree on March 14 suspending the docking of all cruise ships in Peruvian ports for 30 days.
  • American Airlines announced via its website on March 14 that it will suspend service from Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami to Lima, Peru effective end of day March 16, after flying all legs scheduled through the end of that day.  This suspension will last through May 6.
  • On March 13 the Peruvian government issued a decree to suspend all flights to and from Europe and Asia, beginning on March 16, for 30 days.
  • On March 12 President Martín Vizcarra announced the suspension of classes at university and vocational educational institutions, following his March 11 announcement suspending primary and secondary school classes through March 30.

 

US Embassy Jamaica Employee Reportedly Tested Positive of COVID-19, Routine Consular Services Suspended

 

Local media in Jamaica reports that the second COVID-19 case in the island is a U.S. Embassy Jamaica employee who recently returned from the UK.  Jamaican Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Chris Tufton tweeted confirmation of the second case on March 11.
The US Embassy released a statement acknowledging the media reports but cites “privacy concerns” in declining to share additional information. It has, however, announced the suspension of routine consular services until further notice and that the “Embassy is in the process of sanitizing the premises to prevent further outbreak.”

Kingston, Jamaica – We are aware of reports of a COVID-19 case related to an Embassy Kingston employee.  Due to privacy concerns, we are not able to share additional information.

The U.S. Department of State has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas and locally-employed staff.

In coordination with Jamaican authorities, Embassy Kingston is implementing all appropriate measures to help control the spread of COVID-19.

The Embassy is in the process of sanitizing the premises to prevent further outbreak.

Our Consular Section will not be providing routine services – including visa processing and American citizens services – until further notice.  U.S. citizens who require emergency assistance should call 876-702-6000.

U.S. citizens who decide to travel to Jamaica  should review and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus, read the Travel Advisory and Country Information Page for Jamaica on travel.state.gov, and enroll their travel plans in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP.state.gov).

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