Asst Secretary for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs to Retire Effective April 3

— Domani Spero

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs announced last week her retirement from from the State Department effective April 3.  Ambassador Jacobs was appointed  to the CA Bureau on 2008. Previous to this appointment, she was the U.S. Ambassador to Guinea Bissau, accredited at the same time to Senegal and was a resident in Dakar.  Excerpt from the announcement email sent to CA folks:

“It has been a wonderful thirty-plus years with the Department of State, serving in many different roles and in

English: Janice L. Jacobs

English: Janice L. Jacobs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

many different locations around the world. As many of you have heard me say, my almost six years as Assistant Secretary has been the most enjoyable and the most rewarding of all the positions I have held.  I am extremely proud of the role the Bureau has played as a trailblazer in the area of leadership, and now, management.  Our team is recognized by counterparts throughout the Department for our balanced approach, our smart goal-setting, and our wise use of resources.  I am confident that you all will continue to innovate to provide the best of government service.” 

Ambassador Jacob’s two immediate predecessors, Maura Harty and Mary Ryan were both career Foreign Service officers, but seven of the twelve appointees since 1953 had been non-career appointees.

A quick summary of this top CA position via history.state.gov:

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs”. From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

Here are the previous appointees.

The last political appointee assigned to the CA Bureau as Assistant Secretary was Elizabeth Tamposi under President George H. W. Bush . If you don’t remember the Bill Clinton passport files scandal, the NYT covered it here and here. More reading  here (Berry v. Funk) for some background and a separate judgement here, where the court granted monetary award to Ms. Tamposi for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and expenses.

If you  have time to spare, you might also want to read Sherman Funk’s Oral History interview here; he was the IG at that time.  All Oral History interviews referenced to here are available via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

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US Embassy Juba: An All-in-One Consular Officer on First Rodeo Works Out of a Storage Closet

By Domani Spero

The US Embassy in Juba, South Sudan started providing limited consular services in 2012.  The consular section is a one-person operation staff by a part-time, entry level officer. On his first tour.  According to the OIG report, the section processes official A and G visas only (diplomatic applicants and employees of designated international organizations), but also issue emergency passports, provides notarial services, and accepts passport applications.  But that’s not all. The consular officer operates out of a 9 x 7 foot storage closet; and the DCM has not done the required adjudication reviews.

Below excerpted from the OIG report on US Embassy Juba:

One part-time entry-level officer on his first tour staffs the section. He has done an outstanding job coping with the difficult environment and lack of consular infrastructure. His position is 40 percent consular and 60 percent political, but he spends the majority of time on consular issues.

There is no consular LE staff, so the officer also serves as consular cashier and prints visas and emergency passports. He does not have time to carry out regular consular business, set up consular systems and resources from scratch, prepare the first-ever submissions of the consular package and certification of consular management controls from Juba, and also handle his political workload. Lack of adequate training and operational support has led to deficiencies in internal controls and procedures.

As the sole consular officer at Embassy Juba, the entry-level officer is required to handle consular internal controls and accountability issues for which the Department provided him only limited training. To avoid serious consequences at post, it is essential that any sole consular officer receive adequate training prior to beginning his or her assignment.

Storage Closet as Office 

There is no office space available for a consular work area and no consular hard line or interview area. Consular space consists of a 9 x 7 foot storage closet that opens directly off the embassy cafeteria. The “consular closet” contains a workstation with consular peripheral equipment, an Automated Cash Register System machine, and a two-drawer safe holding all consular controlled items. The power connections are so limited that the officer cannot have the document printer and passport laminator plugged in at the same time.

Standard measurements of consular productivity do not apply in Juba. After the officer has collected documents and any fees from the applicant, he walks across the compound to the consular workspace, deposits the fee in the Automated Cash Register System machine, and processes the case. He then walks back to the compound access control building and delivers the materials to the applicant. This process is awkward and more time consuming than similar services would be in a more traditional section. The consular section has dealt with several complex high-profile cases in recent months, including an arrest case involving an American citizen with serious medical issues, which generated significant congressional interest; a death case in a remote part of the country; a medical evacuation of a patient on the verge of death; and a number of arrest cases. The lack of basic transportation and communication infrastructure and the limited capacity of the newly installed government make Juba one of the most challenging environments in the world for consular work.

Cats and Dogs – Haven’t You Heard of Telephones?

Embassy Juba processes only A and G nonimmigrant visas. Referrals for other visa categories go to Embassy Nairobi under a memorandum of understanding between the two embassies. There is a history of misunderstandings, missed travel, and recriminations between them, however. Embassy Juba has not always understood the requirements of the referral program and visa policy and appears to have attempted to intervene inappropriately in some visa cases. Embassy Nairobi has not always displayed an understanding of conditions in South Sudan.

Cool DCMs Do Visa Adjudication Reviews

The DCM has not been carrying out required adjudication reviews for nonimmigrant visa cases. This failure weakens oversight of the consular function. Such oversight is critically important at Embassy Juba, where a first-tour officer handles consular operations.

Firts-tour officers are not known to complain or even know what to ask for. They’re just learning, they’re not supposed to go solo.  Still, they’re the only ones, in practice, who go on directed assignments to places few people put on top of the bid lists.  So, what can be done about the consular section working out of a consular closet pending the construction of a new embassy in 2018?  We don’t know, but certainly if the building has electricity, something can be done about that power connection so the poor sod can plug in more than one machine.

In FY2012, the Bureau of Consular Affairs generated approximately $3.14 billion in consular fee revenue, of which 78% or $2.45 billion was retained by the State Department and shared among its regional and functional bureau.  That’s in the official fact sheet.

It can afford to rewire that whole 9 x 7 foot storage closet where the mission’s only, consular officer works every day.  Ay, caramba!

Also, one of the OIG recommendations is for the Bureau of Consular Affairs to send a temporary duty consular officer to Embassy Juba to set up internal control systems and help prepare the consular package.  While at it, perhaps the same TDY officer ought to give a mandatory briefing on visa referrals for all embassy personnel authorized to write referrals for visa applicants processed at US Embassy Nairobi.

Anyone who skips the mandatory briefing should Google Alden Stallings.

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State Department’s Worldwide Caution, Etcetera — #Benghazi, So Soon Forgotten

On February 19, 2013, the State Department issued a Worldwide Caution to update everyone on “the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world.” The notice replaced the one issued on July 18, 2012 “to provide updated information on security threats and terrorist activities worldwide.”

Below is the relevant section from the Worldwide Caution, can you spot what’s missing? (the full notice is here):

MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA:  Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa.  The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.  Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).     Security threat levels remain high in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.  In September 2012, a mob of Yemeni protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy compound.  U.S. citizens have also been the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past (though none recently) and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity continues to exist there.  There are a number of extremist groups operating in Lebanon, including Hizballah, a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.  Iraq remains dangerous and unpredictable.  U.S. military forces departed as of December 31, 2011, but the threat of attacks against U.S. citizens, including kidnapping and terrorist violence, continues.  In Algeria, Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is active and operates throughout the country.  Terrorists sporadically attack westerners and Algerian targets, particularly in the Kabylie region, and near Algeria’s borders with Libya and Mali.  In January, terrorists attacked a natural gas facility at In Amenas resulting in the deaths of dozens, including three U.S. citizens.  Terrorists have also targeted oil processing plants in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.   Some elements in Iran remain hostile to the United States.  U.S. citizens should remain cautious and be aware that there may be a more aggressive focus by the Iranian government on terrorist activity against U.S citizens.   No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, large and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture. The conflict in Syria has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths with many thousands wounded and over one million displaced persons.

In September 2012, civil unrest, large scale protests and demonstrations as well as violent attacks – some of which were in reaction to an anti-Islamic video and cartoons – targeted U.S. missions and schools overseas including in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen.  U.S. citizens are warned that demonstrations intended to be peaceful can escalate into violent clashes.  U.S. citizens are also reminded that demonstrations and riots can occur with little or no warning.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations if possible and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration.

Frankly, we kinda stop paying attention to these notices because we pretty much follow the news, and these do not offer anything more than what is already available out there. But we recently got a note from one of our readers urging us to look for Benghazi in the latest Worldwide Caution released. Um, nuthin’ there.

A from a distant post sends:

 [T]here is not a single mention of Benghazi anywhere? The only reference is an oblique statement about generalized violence and attacks across North Africa in part related to the Mohammed videos. It does not mention Benghazi by name, nor the deaths of any USG personnel, nor explains the reasoning behind the attacks.  That seems like a startlingly blind omission given the political catfighting going on over the attacks, their cause, the timeline, and subsequent ARB.  

 It makes you wonder what the caution is supposed to be for.  Does it mean that it is safe for AMCITs to go to Benghazi? Or if it isn’t, how did this make it through the clearance process without someone saying “Uh, what about Libya? Maybe we should note that USG personnel were killed there less than 6 months ago?” 

Maybe we should. This is not crowdsourcing or anything but wouldn’t that make sense? We understand that the CA Bureau cannot be expected to cite all security threats and terrorist activities in the last six months in its Worldwide Caution notice, but given that U.S. personnel actually died there …

Dear Consular Affairs Bureau, four U.S. citizens died in Benghazi, one more than In Amenas. Shouldn’t that merit a mention in your latest Worldwide Caution?

We were also looking over its Libya Country Specific Information updated last on February 8, 2013 and below is part of what it says under the THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY section:

Recent worldwide terrorism alerts, including the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, have stated that extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East region. In June 2012, an unknown group of attackers detonated an improvised explosive device outside the compound of the U.S. embassy’s office in Benghazi. There have also been attacks on diplomatic vehicle convoys. Any U.S. citizen who decides to travel to Libya should maintain a strong security posture by being aware of surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, and varying times and routes for all required travel.

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution and comply with local regulations when traveling in desert and border regions of Libya. Terrorist attacks in Algeria, the June 2009 murder of a U.S. citizen teacher in Mauritania, kidnappings of Western tourists in desert regions of Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 and 2012, northern Niger in 2010, and Mali in January 2009, and the terrorist activity of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa are indicative of a continued threat in the region.

Dear God! Has this job been outsourced to a robot with an outdated software? How else can you explain mentioning the IED attack on Benghazi in June 2012 but missed altogether mentioning the attack on September 2012.

Look it’s on Wikipedia!

The Diplomatic Security/RSO also prepared the Crime and Safety Report for Libya dated February 22, 2013 which includes three specific mention of Benghazi, but not the attack of the temporary U.S. mission there:

  • The majority of the 16,000 criminals released during the revolution remain free. Carjacking, robberies, burglaries, and thefts continue. Unlike in Benghazi, acts of terrorism, targeted assassination campaigns, and violence specifically against Westerners have not been characteristic of the Tripoli landscape.
  • Civil Unrest: Violent clashes between armed groups are possible, particularly at night. Clashes often include the use of heavy weapons. Public demonstrations occur frequently in the central squares of cities, such as Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli and Freedom Square in Benghazi.
  • Areas to be Avoided: Because of ongoing instability and violence, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Libya and strongly advises against all but essential travel to Tripoli and all travel to Benghazi, Bani Walid, and southern Libya, including border areas and the regions of Sabha and Kufra. The Department’s ability to provide consular services to U.S. citizens is extremely limited.

We don’t know about you but this is kinda hinky.   It’s as if the Benghazi attack did not even happen … have we forgotten that we took casualties there?  Or has Benghazi been purposely scrubbed clean from these products?  But why?

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Consular Work Enters 21st Century: US Citizen John McAfee Blogs from Guatemala Jail

Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the anti-virus software tycoon John McAfee who fled Belize to seek asylum in Guatemala. If not,  read Wired magazine’s piece, John McAfee, Unhinged: His Bizarre Breaks From Reality.

Anyway, Mr. McAfee has now been arrested in Guate, was refused asylum and will reportedly be sent back to Belize where authorities were looking to question him about the shooting death of American expatriate Greg Faull.

But because the Internet is the now public space, Mr. McAfee has an official blog (The Hinterland, the official blog of John McAfee) which is updated often.  He is on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  His tweets @officialmcafee has over 11,000 followers, about the same number of followers as @usembassyguate, the official Twitter feed of US Embassy Guatemala.

mcafee
And he’s blogging even in jail! About this being a “groundbreaking” activity and about speaking to a Duty Officer at the US Embassy in Guatemala.

Blogging from jail
Date: December 6, 2012 at 5:24 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 84    

I am in jail in Guatemala.  Vastly superior to Belize jails.  I asked for a computer and one magically appeared.  The coffee is also excellent. Only time will tell what will happen.  No one has a crystal ball.  However, I would be truly shocked if I did not conduct the press conference tomorrow as I had originally planned. Stay tuned. I believe, by the way, that blogging from a jail cell might be a groundbreaking activity.

The American Embassy Guatemala
Date: December 6, 2012 at 6:11 am- by John McAfee- Comment(s): 30    

I just spoke with the duty officer at the Embassy who said there is nothing that they can do.  I asked to be returned to the States, and again … nothing they can do.  So I will wait and see. P.S.  Anybody have friends in the State Department?

Late afternoon of December 6, Mr. McAfee made a plea to his supporters to email or tweet the President of Guatemala to “beg him to allow the court system to proceed, to determine my status in Guatemala, and please support the political asylum that I am asking for.”

Shortly after that, reports says he was taken to a hospital. But it was not a heart attack, just high stress.  ABC News who has a reporter in Guate writes that John McAfee has been returned to an immigration detention cell in Guatemala after being rushed to a Guatemala City hospital via ambulance and that he may soon be deported back to Belize.

We can’t remember a case of a US citizen arrested overseas who is, in the words of one journalist covering the State Department, “a walking television show.” And this one has a Twitter and blog account and is actively using them.  ABC News details the reported heart attack:

McAfee, 67 […] was reportedly found prostrate on the floor of his cell and unresponsive.  He was wheeled into the hospital on a gurney. Photographers followed in pursuit right into the emergency room, but as emergency workers eased McAfee’s limp body from the gurney and onto a bed and began to remove his suit, he suddenly spoke up, saying, “Please, not in front of the press.”

Please don’t laugh, this is actually quite sad.

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If you are the American Citizen Services Officer in Guate or Belize, our thoughts are also with you.  We’ve never seen any training material or murder boards for a walking/talking teevee show. But you’ll do fine, take a deep breath and swim, don’t sink.

If you are a Consular Officer somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, get ready; if he gets out of Guate, he may show up at your window.  If you follow him on Twitter, he might give a heads up.

If you are the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this is potentially, as Mr. McAfee says, “groundbreaking.” How should your Consular Officers deal with a detained citizen blogging/tweeting from jail?  This is the first one, but this may not be the last.  Is it time to update your ConGen training on the Republic of Z?

domani spero sig