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State/OIG Releases Investigation on CBS News Allegations: Prostitution as “Management Issues” Unless It’s Not

— Domani Spero

 

In June last year, CBS News’ John Miller reported that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off at the State Department. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples.

Memos showed that probes included allegations of:

  • A State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards
  • Members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
  • An “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
  • The case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.
  • Investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detail” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”
  • “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases … some of which never became cases,” said Aurelia Fedenisn, a whistleblower and former investigator for the Inspector General.

You may revisit that CBS News report here. At that time, State/OIG told us that “On its own initiative, OIG’s Office on Investigations has been conducting an independent review of allegations referred to it by our Office of Inspections.” In a statement to CBS News, State/OIG also said about the investigation: “We staffed it independently and appropriately and they were people hired specific for this review at the end of 2012. They are on staff. We staffed it with the best people we can find at hand to do the job.”

We’ve blog about this previously:

Yesterday, State/OIG finally released its long-awaited report to this investigation, excerpt below:

The allegations initially related to eight, high-profile, internal investigations. […]

In three of the eight internal investigations, OIG found that a combination of factors in each case created an appearance of undue influence and favoritism by Department management. The appearance of undue influence and favoritism is problematic because it risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders.

This review assesses the Department’s handling of those eight investigations. OIG did not reinvestigate the underlying cases. In conducting this review, OIG interviewed Department employees, examined case files, and reviewed 19,000 emails culled from the Department’s electronic communications network. OIG’s findings are not necessarily indicative of systemic issues affecting all DS cases. However, they reveal issues with current Department policies and procedures that may have significant implications regarding actual or perceived undue influence.

Handling “management issues” relating to a U.S. Ambassador

OIG found that, based on the limited evidence collected by DS, the suspected misconduct by the Ambassador was not substantiated. DS management told OIG, in 2013, that the preliminary inquiry was appropriately halted because no further investigation was possible. OIG concluded, however, that additional evidence, confirming or refuting the suspected misconduct, could have been collected. For example, before the preliminary inquiry was halted, only one of multiple potential witnesses on the embassy’s security staff had been interviewed. Additionally, DS never interviewed the Ambassador and did not follow its usual investigative protocol of assigning an investigative case number to the matter or opening and keeping investigative case files.
[…]
The Under Secretary of State for Management told OIG that he decided to handle the suspected incident as a “management issue” based on a disciplinary provision in the FAM that he had employed on prior occasions to address allegations of misconduct by Chiefs of Mission. The provision, applicable to Chiefs of Mission and other senior officials, states that when “exceptional circumstances” exist, the Under Secretary need not refer the suspected misconduct to OIG or DS for further investigation (as is otherwise required).2 In this instance, the Under Secretary cited as “exceptional circumstances” the fact that the Ambassador worked overseas.3 (underlined for emphasis)

DS managers told OIG that they viewed the Ambassador’s suspected misconduct as a “management issue” based on another FAM disciplinary provision applicable to lower-ranking employees. The provision permits treating misconduct allegations as a “management issue” when they are “relatively minor.”4 DS managers told OIG that they considered the allegations “relatively minor” and not involving criminal violations.

Office of the Legal Adviser staff told OIG that the FAM’s disciplinary provisions do not apply to Ambassadors who, as in this instance, are political appointees and are not members of the Foreign Service or the Civil Service.5

OIG questions the differing justifications offered and recommends that the Department promulgate clear and consistent protocols and procedures for the handling of allegations involving misconduct by Chiefs of Mission and other senior officials. Doing so should minimize the risk of (1) actual or perceived undue influence and favoritism and (2) disparate treatment between higher and lower-ranking officials suspected of misconduct.6

But the footnotes!

2* 3 FAM 4322.2 states that incidents or allegations involving Chiefs of Mission that could serve as grounds for disciplinary action and/or criminal action must be immediately referred to OIG or DS to investigate. This section further states that “[i]n exceptional circumstances, the Under Secretary for Management…may designate an individual or individuals to conduct the investigation.” No guidance exists describing what factors to consider in determining what constitutes “exceptional circumstances.”

3* In the SBU report provided to Congress and the Department, OIG cited an additional factor considered by the Under Secretary—namely, that the Ambassador’s suspected misconduct (solicitation of prostitution) was not a crime in the host country. However, after the SBU report was issued, the Under Secretary advised OIG that that factor did not affect his decision to treat the matter as a “management issue” and that he cited it in a different context. This does not change any of OIG’s findings or conclusions in this matter.

4* 3 FAM 4322.3.a provides that a management official “must initially determine whether he, she, or another management official should be the investigating official, or whether the matter should be referred to” OIG or DS for further action. This section further provides that if the official determines that the “alleged misconduct is relatively minor, such as leave abuse or failure to perform assigned duties, that official or another management official may handle the administrative inquiry” and need not refer the matter to OIG or DS.

5* After the SBU report was issued, the Under Secretary of State for Management advised OIG that he disagrees with the Office of the Legal Adviser interpretation, citing the provisions in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 which designate Chiefs of Mission appointed by the President as members of the Foreign Service. See Foreign Service Act of 1980, §§ 103(1) & 302(a)(1) (22 USC §§ 3903(1) & 3942(a)(1)).

6* During the course of this review, OIG discovered some evidence of disparity in DS’s handling of allegations involving prostitution. Between 2009 and 2011, DS investigated 13 prostitution-related cases involving lower-ranking officials. OIG found no evidence that any of those inquiries were halted and treated as “management issues.”

OIG to M’s “exceptional circumstances”  — what the heck is that?

“…OIG concludes that the Under Secretary’s application of the “exceptional circumstances” provision to remove matters from DS and OIG review could impair OIG’s independence and unduly limit DS’s and OIG’s abilities to investigate alleged misconduct by Chiefs of Mission and other senior Department officials.

Well, it’s shocking that M, DS and the Legal Adviser could not agree on a simple thing. We do think the OIG is exactly right here. Why have an oversight and investigation arm if some higher up can declare no investigation necessary under an “exceptional circumstances”clause, that’s not even spelled out.

The Inspector General is ranked equivalent to an Assistant Secretary.  According to the regs, he reports directly to the Secretary, the Board, the Commissioner and the head of any other organization for which the OIG is assigned oversight responsibility, or to the extent such authority is delegated, to the officer next-in-rank. But 1 FAM 053.2-2 Under Secretary for Management (M) (CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013)  put in place before the current OIG assumed office, also has this to say:

The Under Secretary for Management (M) is the Secretary’s designated top management official responsible for audit and inspection follow-up and the Secretary’s designee for impasse resolution when Department officials do not agree with OIG recommendations for corrective action.

We’ll have to watch and see how this turns out.  Must add that nowhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual does it say that the Inspector General may not/not investigate matters considered “management issues” under  “exceptional circumstances.”

 

Related item:

-09/30/14   Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-14-01)  [685 Kb] Posted on October 16, 2014

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Tomorrow’s News Today: This Week Could Potentially Be a Heck of a Mess!

— Domani Spero

 

 

The Googles tell me that For the Record is an investigative news magazine on TheBlaze. The show was created by Glenn Beck to “restore the truth” in journalism. We’ve never watched it but just so you know, the show is coming back this week.  It has released two three teasers on YouTube and Twitter; one on September 10, a second one on September 15 and another one on YouTube today.  All flashy clips alleging cover-ups and corruption in the State Department. If you’re an old time Foggy Bottom watcher, you will recognize many of the faces and the names. in these clips.

 

 

 

Here is one posted today on YouTube:

 

It appears from the short clips that this is related to the Richard Higbie case (see Higbie v. Kerry) and the still unresolved? non-public? ongoing? investigation on the CBS News allegations (see CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal).

In November last year, the OIG told us that “the eight cases to which you referred continue to be under review.”

This past spring, we’ve revisited this investigation without much success. (see Murders in Juárez …. And What About That State/OIG Report on Diplomatic Security?). Also  State/OIG Is Hiring! One Senior Investigative Counsel Wanted for Complex/Sensitive Allegations and State/OIG Files Report to Congress, Wassup With the In-Depth Review Over CBS News Allegations?

Today, State/OIG told us that as per OIG policy, the office has no comments to make on the status of any possible, pending, on-going or future investigation.

So upfront we must tell you that we don’t know the disposition of these investigations. What we know is that the show will go on tomorrow, September 17 at 8 pm. Due to the titillating and salacious contents of the CBS allegations, we suspect that this will attract enough eyeballs to make it to next day’s news cycle.

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State/OIG Files Report to Congress, Wassup With the In-Depth Review Over CBS News Allegations?

— Domani Spero

 

The State Department’s Office of the Inspector General submitted its first semi-annual report to Congress under Steve Linick last March. The report which summarizes OIG’s work during the period October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014 was not published online until June 2014. Looking at the investigative data from the previous report ending on September 30, 2013, you will note that the OIG registered 182 less complaints this reporting cycle. Employee misconduct is steady at 4% while conflict of interest cases were down from 17% to 4%.  Embezzlement and theft cases went from 8% to 15% and contracts and procurement fraud went from 63% to 70%.

Extracted from Semi-Annual Report, March 2014

Extracted from Semi-Annual Report, State/OIG, March 2014

 

Below is the investigative data from the previous report ending on September 30, 2013:

OIG_SA_report Sept 2013

In the report ending September 30, 2013, State/OIG told Congress it was conducting an in-depth review of Diplomatic Security’s investigative process.  This was in connection with last year’s allegations that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off by senior State Department officials. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal).

The Office of Investigations (INV) is conducting an independent oversight review of certain investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence, Special Investigations Division (DS/ICI/SID). This is an in-depth review of the DS/ICI/SID investigations to assess the adequacy of the investigative process.

The current OIG report ending on March 31, 2014 makes no mention of the status or disposition of this investigation. That CBS News story broke in June 2013, so we’re now a year into this and still counting.

Oops, wait! A statement provided to CBS News by the Inspector General’s office on June 2013 said:

OIG does not comment on drafts of reports.

On its own initiative, OIG Office of Investigations has been conducting its own independent review of the allegations made. This is our standard procedure.

We staffed it independently and appropriately and they were people hired specific for this review at the end of 2012. They are on staff. We staffed it with the best people we can find at hand to do the job.

DS does not speak for us.

End of 2012 and isn’t it now July 2014?  So — wassup with that?

Mr. Linick’s report to Congress also notes that he has initiated the practice of sending out management alerts to senior Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) officials in order to identify high-risk systemic issues requiring prompt attention and risk mitigation. He told Congress that to-date, OIG has issued two management alerts: one addressing significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract files with a combined value of $6 billion and the other addressing recurring weaknesses in the Department’s information-security program.  That’s a great initiative; that means the senior officials will not have an excuse to say later on that they were not alerted to issues that need their attention.

He also writes that the OIG goal is clear — “to act as a catalyst for effective management, accountability, and positive change for the Department, BBG, and the foreign affairs community.”

And that’s a lovely goal and all,really, except that Mr. Linick’s OIG — all together now — no longer issue the Inspector’s Evaluation Reports (IERs) for senior officials during the IG inspections at overseas missions!

No more IERs included in the official performance files (OPF), no more IERs for review by promotion boards, thus, no more IERs to potentially derail promotions.

Ambassador Franklin “Pancho” Huddle who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan and spent five years as a senior OIG inspector at the State Department told us:

“When OIG dumped their IERs, they dumped their ability to make a real difference.” 

Boom!

When asked if we can quote him, he said, “I didn’t survive one of history’s deadliest skyjackings not to go on record.”

Ambassador Huddle and his wife survived the hijacking and the crash of  Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961, considered the deadliest hijacking involving a single aircraft before the 9/11 attacks.  He  said that he earned three promotions directly related to favorable IERs done by the OIG. He now trains special forces which “put a premium on honest appraisals.”

What he said about making a real difference — anyone want to top that?

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-03/31/14   Semiannual Report to the Congress October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014  [11136 Kb] Posted on June 23, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Embassy Construction Hearing: Witnesses Not Invited, and What About the Blast-Proof Glass?

— Domani Spero

 

Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on Examining New Embassy Construction: Are New Administration Policies Putting Americans Overseas in Danger? The congressional witnesses to the full committee hearing included Lydia Muniz, the Director, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations at the State Department (prepared statement here pdf), Casey Jones, the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) who oversees the Program Development, Coordination and Support and Construction, Facilities and Security Management Directorates. Previously, he was the Director of Excellence in Diplomatic Facilities, assisting the Department in launching its Excellence initiative (see prepared statement here pdf), and Grant S. Green, Jr., the State Department Under Secretary for Management from 2001 to 2005 and  panel chairperson of the State Department Report on Diplomatic Security Organization and Management.  The report which remains under SBU cloak was leaked to Al Jazeera in May 2014 but is available online here. Congress is apparently not happy that the report was not made available to them and that they had to print it out from the AJAM website.

The accompanying Al Jazeera report says:

A confidential government report obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit sharply criticizes the U.S. Department of State’s diplomatic security operations and raises serious concerns about an elaborate embassy construction program overseas.
[…]
The panel also delivered a stiff jab to another State Department entity, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), which supervises the design and construction of U.S. facilities abroad. The bureau is pushing a new design and building program that, department officials said, enhances the appearance of overseas facilities but also provides essential security for the safety of U.S. personnel.

But here is the part of that AJAM report that should have perked many ears in Foggy Bottom:

William Miner, the former director of the OBO’s design and engineering office, said the department began using Standard Embassy Design a few years after the East African bombings at two U.S. embassies in 1998. The buildings were constructed quickly and were “very secure, very safe.” He explained, “You needed to get people under cover and use a standardized approach to do that. OBO actually designed and built over 100 embassies using that strategy.”

On the other hand, Miner said, “we went overboard from a safety and security standpoint.” Now, with the transition to Design Excellence, he said he worries that “the pendulum will swing in the other direction with the design issues.” The challenge, he said, is to find “the right balance.”

Miner said he retired from the State Department in January, as did others who worked for him. He said the changes in the design program and a desire to pursue other professional interests were factors in his decision to leave after 28 years.

Miner said he registered his concerns over the design approach with senior OBO officials. “I was not alone in shouting in the wind,” he said. “The office of diplomatic security shouted even more forcefully,” expressing the view that the Design Excellence program was “a bad way to go.”

Discussing the development of the new London embassy, now under construction, Miner said that the planned curtain wall façade is “fragile,” adding, “You don’t want to beg for problems but this façade could be asking for trouble.”

Last month, CBS News reported on the Design Excellence with specific focus on the New London Embassy’s (NLE) blast proof glass:

The State Department has made design a priority for U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. New buildings must be better looking and more energy efficient. But CBS News has learned this is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars — while potentially keeping American officials in harm’s way.

A striking glass structure, set to open in 2017, will be the new U.S. embassy in London. But six months into construction, CBS News has learned, the project is already at least $100 million over the initial cost estimate, partly due to manufacturing challenges with the design’s six-inch-thick blast-proof glass.

When HOGR had its hearing last week, the Committee did not invite Mr. Miner who left the State Department after 28 years of service. The Committee also did not invite anyone from Diplomatic Security. Instead the Committee invited Mr. Green who left the State Department in 2005, and Mr. Casey who was recruited by the State Department in 2012. Sometime after 2009, Ms. Muniz served as Principal Deputy Director at OBO prior to her appointment as OBO director in 2012.  Of course, Congress wanted hear from these witnesses; Mr. Green chaired the panel that did the report that was leaked to AJAM but did we really need the top two officials from OBO there? What’s with a hearing on “putting Americans overseas in danger” without Diplomatic Security (DS), the bureau “responsible for providing a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy” as a witness? And no one wants to hear first-hand from Mr. Miner why he and some of his staff quit OBO?

Our State Department source familiar with OBO work told us that this glass facade issue has been “an enormous point of contention between DS and OBO for a year or more,” but it hadn’t gotten into the press before the AJAM story in May.  Our source speaking on background as he/she is not authorized to speak for the State Department says that Mr. Miner headed all of OBO’s design and engineering work, and if he doesn’t think the London design will work for blast protection, then “I assume Congress may want to call him for a hearing.” So far, it doesn’t look like Congress is anxious to talk to him.

But here’s the kicker:

Our source said that the New London Embassy (NLE) “went into construction before its glass facade design was tested to confirm it will meet blast standards.”

This wouldn’t have the potential of leaving  OBO with a billion-dollar fiasco, would it?  Also — is this the kind of thing that would make a veteran official like Miner and some of his staff quit their jobs?

Our source explained that  the testing was needed only because the New London Embassy does not use known, familiar, window systems. The curtain wall apparently has no frames to ‘bite’ the glass and retain it under blast. That is a new technique for OBO we’re told, so the bureau reportedly had no basis to analyze the design.

Here is what Ms. Muniz said in May when the AJAM story broke:

Lydia Muniz, director of the OBO, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the London design meets DS safety and security standards. If there are any problems in testing for blast vulnerability, she said, steps will be taken to rectify the situation. Asked if an earlier test failed, she said, “We are still testing. We don’t make any final determinations until the completion of testing, including the full-scale mock-up, which has not taken place yet. I would not say that it failed.”
[…]
“Safety and security are not taking a back seat under this program,” she said. “There is no diminishing in any way the security standards that diplomatic security puts forward.”

Forgive us for not understanding this — how can anyone say that the design meets DS safety and security standards if  testing has not yet been completed?  Isn’t that a tad premature?  And, should we expect some quibbling about the meaning of these test results in the future?

Dear Diplomatic Security, we hope you have nordstromed yourselves!

It’s been a couple of months since that AJAM interview.  So, did the curtain wall/windows withstand the blast test yet?  Yes? No? Maybe? Are we all confident about the results? Might we learn more about this test results from the Congress, or State/OIG or GAO anytime soon?

New Embassy London

New Embassy London via Google Images

Now, the good news apparently is that the lower-level construction that’s going on now at the New London Embassy is separate from the curtain wall and windows.  We understand that is fine and chugging along to 2017. But allow us to be the curmudgeon in the room and say, what if …

…what if when completed, the tests indicates a blast vulnerability?

The New London Embassy cost approximately a billion dollars.

How much would it cost to “rectify the situation” for the curtain walls/windows for a building like this, if needed?

 

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Murders in Juárez …. And What About That State/OIG Report on Diplomatic Security?

— Domani Spero

We last blogged about the US Consulate-related slayings in Ciudad Juarez in February 2014. The victims of that tragic incident were El Paso County sheriff’s detention officer Arthur Redelfs, his wife Lesley Ann Enriquez Redelfs, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of Hilda Salcido who also worked at the consulate (see US Consulate Ciudad Juárez Murder Trial Now On Going in El Paso).

On April 22, SpyTalker Jeff Stein has Murders in Juárez in Newsweek with disturbing allegations.

David Farrington, a U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) service agent, has been vexed by a troubling question for the past several years. He has reason to suspect a colleague deliberately failed to warn an American working at a U.S. consulate in Mexico that she was targeted for assassination by a drug cartel.

Farrington, a former Marine and 10-year veteran of the State Department’s security service, was the first agent to get to the scene of the March 13, 2010, Juarez murders—another car carrying a consulate employee was attacked as well—and caught the case, as they say in police lingo. But his revulsion quickly turned to consternation, and then obsession, when he began asking questions about the whereabouts of the consulate’s chief security officer that day. Eventually, he was taken off the case, according to State Department emails obtained by Newsweek, relieved of his badge and gun, and ordered to undergo a psychological fitness review. But he hasn’t given up.
[…]
Documents show that the Juarez case was just one of a slew of episodes in which investigators charged that senior State Department officials deep-sixed investigations to protect careers or avoid scandal. In June 2013, CBS News aired a report by John Miller, a former FBI chief spokesman, based on an internal IG memo citing instances in which “investigations were influenced, manipulated or simply called off” by senior department officials.

Ugh! More allegations of nasty bizness here.

According to NYT, that OIG report became public “as a result of a civil suit filed in 2011 by Richard P. Higbie, a diplomatic security agent who accused the State Department of blocking his career. His lawyers sought the department’s internal documents after Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator who worked on the inspector general’s report, complained that the final draft had been toned down.”

For more of that case, see Higbie v. Kerry, Dist. Court, ND Texas 2014.

On June 10, 2013, the DOJ lawyers representing Secretary Kerry filed a Motion to Exclude Improperly-Obtained Documents (Doc. 79) — that OIG report. Court doc explains:

These alleged improperly-obtained documents relate to the Office of Inspector General’s (“OIG”) inspection of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (“DS”) offices. Defendant contends that these documents are privileged and irrelevant. Additionally, Defendant argues that these documents are not related to the Dallas Resident Office; rather, these documents concern the “policies, resources, and management controls of the DS office that conducts criminal investigations worldwide.”

However, on March 14, 2014, the District Court of Texas granted the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment; and denied as moot Defendant’s Motion to Exclude Improperly-Obtained Documents saying that “The court reviewed the alleged improperly-obtained documents and determined that nothing contained in the documents would change its ruling regarding Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

The last time we checked, State/OIG still has that CBS charges on deep-sixed investigations “under review.” In November 2013, State/OIG put out an ad for one senior investigative counsel for complex/sensitive allegations.  This latest allegation may put that review on the front burner.

(Also see CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal)

The Newsweek report says that “Farrington’s bosses quietly returned his badge and gun. Nothing more was said about his FFDE, but his applications for a new assignment—even in the most unpopular places—have all been turned down.”

But it also says that Cary Schulman, a Dallas lawyer who has represented Farrington (also Higbie and Fedenisn) had faxed over 100 pages of internal emails and other materials related to Farrington’s case to the House oversight and Senate foreign relations committees.

Let’s see what happens.

On April 24, DOJ announced that Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, aka “Benny,” “Farmero,” “51,” “Guero,” “Pecas,” “Tury,” and “86,” 35, of Chihuahua, Mexico, the Barrio Azteca Lieutenant who ordered the March 2010 murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee, was sentenced  to serve life in prison.

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Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 Days

— By Domani Spero

President Obama nominated Steve A. Linick as State Department Inspector General back in June filling a 1,989-day vacancy. (After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General). He will succeed Howard J. Krongard who announced his resignation on December 7, 2007.   Mr. Linick went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 30, 2013 (see video here).  During his confirmation hearing, he made the following pledges:

From a strategic and leadership perspective, I understand that the responsibilities of the position to which I have been nominated are great. Based on the significant issues facing the Department of State, it is clear to me that assuming the leadership role of Inspector General will be challenging and rewarding. I look forward to this task, if confirmed.

If confirmed, I pledge to: 

  • Ensure that the Department of State Office of Inspector General (OIG) is an independent and objective organization that provides timely, robust, fact-based oversight, transparency, and accountability to the programs and operations of the Department of State; 
  • Consult stakeholders regularly (including the Government Accountability Office and affected communities)
  • Efficiently and effectively deploy OIG resources to those areas that present the highest risk to the Department of State; 
  • Collaborate with other inspectors general who have potentially overlapping interests, jurisdiction, and programs; 
  • Ensure whistleblowers have a safe forum to voice grievances and are protected from retaliation; and
  • Aggressively protect taxpayer funds against fraud, waste, and abuse.

 

On September 17, after a wait of almost three months, the Senate finally confirmed Mr. Linick. So for the first time in 2,066 days, the State Department has a Senate-confirmed watchdog.

Today, September 30, will reportedly be Mr. Linick’s first day at work as Inspector General of the oldest executive department in the union.

While we have not been following his work as IG for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), we understand that he was not shy in questioning publicly the large compensation packages for executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also told them off the bat that he would be no ordinary Washington regulator.  We are pleased with this appointment as State/OIG primarily because of that and because he is from outside The Building with limited Foreign Service connections.  With him as new watchdog in Foggy Bottom, we hope to see some changes in the way the OIG conducts its business.  We think our wishlist below is pretty reasonable.

1.  Redactions

One of our pet peeves, especially in the last several years is the redaction of OIG inspectors names from publicly available reports posted online.  The controversial OIG report on the IIP Bureau (Inspection of the Bureau of International Information Programs (ISP-I-13-28), similarly was stripped of names on who conducted the inspection.  The copy we were furnished did include the names of the team leader and deputy team leader but the rest of the names of the inspection team members were redacted.

When we inquired from State/OIG about this, we were told:

“It is marked as FOIA Exemption (b)(6) – “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Now, that there alone gave us a terrible headache. The OIG inspectors are conducting official business in the name of the American public. Why would it be an invasion of privacy if their names are revealed?

So we asked “Why”? And this is what we were told by State/OIG:

“There is recent case law that specifically protects inspectors and investigators from having their information disseminated. However, there is concomitant protection for auditors – so, we continue to release their names.”

Protects them from having their “information disseminated” — as if we were asking for their home address.  We just want the names public. So we tried again asking State/OIG for the case law and date that their official FOIA lawyer is citing.

State/OIG who is actually quite good with response time sent us a disappointing reply:

“I’m afraid I don’t have it – and today was her last day.”

Look, there is a a reason why the inspectors’ names should not/not be redacted.  Retired and active FS officers are part of the OIG staff.  Active FS officers who become IG staff eventually has to bid for other rotational Foreign Service jobs.  Since 1978, the Government Accountability has questioned the use of FSOs detailed to the OIG  office since they bid and return to regular FS assignments.

  • In 1978, GAO reviewed the IG’s inspection reports and questioned the independence of Foreign Service officers who were temporarily detailed to the IG’s office and recommended the elimination of this requirement.
  • In 1979, the GAO noted that Foreign Service officers detailed as inspectors for temporary tours of two years and then reassigned to activities which they may recently have evaluated has negative as well as positive aspects.
  • In 1982  GAO continued to question the use of Foreign Service officers and other persons from operational units within the department to staff the IG office. It told Congress that it believes the IG’s extensive use of temporary or rotational staff affects the IG office’s independence because (1) these staff members routinely rotate between the IG office and management positions within the organizations they review, and (2) major decisions affecting their careers are determined by the State Department rather than by the IG office.
  • In 1991, GAO examined whether the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG): (1) omitted references to itself in an annual oversight report to Congress in a deliberate attempt to conceal internal problems; and (2) inappropriately hired and paid experts and consultants.
  • In 2007 GAO reported to Congress that it continue to identify concerns regarding the independence of the State IG that are similar to concerns they reported almost three decades ago. GAO concerns include (1) the appointment of line management officials to head the State IG in an acting capacity for extended periods, and (2) the use of ambassador-level Foreign Service staff to lead inspections of the department’s bureaus and posts even though they may have conflicts of interest resulting from their roles in the Foreign Service.
  • In 2011, the GAO noted some improvements, specifically noting that while State/OIG continues to assign Foreign Service officers at the ambassador level as team leaders for inspections, four of the six officers are rehired annuitants unlikely to rotate to State Department Foreign Service positions. GAO remains concerned, however, about the OIG’s use of Foreign Service officers and the State Department’s need to rely on acting IGs for extended periods of time.

In 1986, Congress made the State IG a presidentially appointed inspector general subject to the Inspector General Act and prohibited a career member of the Foreign Service from being appointed as the State IG. That change did not prohibit the appointment of a career member of the FS as acting IG or deputy IG.  According to the GAO in 2011, State/OIG implemented a change to the succession planning for acting IG positions to exclude Foreign Service officers.

We have yet to see that in action.

While we have not been able to confirm the relevant case law that State/OIG cited in withholding the identities of inspectors, we were told that this “doesn’t sound implausible.”  Steven Aftergood (@saftergood on Twitter) who runs Secrecy News for the Federation of American Scientists posits that even if such an exemption from disclosure exists (which it probably does), then it would be discretionary, not mandatory.  It means that State/OIG would be “at liberty to disclose it even if there was no compelling legal obligation to do so.”

Given the nature of the assignments/rotations in the Foreign Service, and the persistent questions of potential impairments to independence, we look on Mr. Linick to lean on the side of disclosure. Mr. Aftergood suggests that “such disclosure would be a good practice to adopt, particularly in light of the variability of State OIG career tracks and the potential for subsequent conflicts of interest.” 

2.  Recusals

The GAO report dated April 2011 indicates that to address independence impairments the State/OIG relies on “a recusal policy where Foreign Service officers must self-report whether they have worked in a post or embassy that is subject to an inspection and therefore presents a possible impairment.”  The GAO insist that they “continue to believe that the State OIG’s use of management staff who have the possibility of returning to management positions, even if they are rehired annuitants or currently report to civil service employees in the OIG, presents at least an appearance of impaired independence.”

We have never seen any of the published OIG reports indicate whether any recusal was filed related to an inspection or audit.  We would like to see that information included in State/OIG reports and audits.

3.  A Note on Black Sharpies 

Remember the hard-hitting OIG reports on Luxembourg, Kenya, Malta? All made the news. All also have one other thing in common — the chiefs of mission at these three posts were all political appointees.  Then there were two other OIG reports on Pakistan and Lebanon that caught our attention, both under career diplomats, and both severely redacted, including one that talks about the leadership shortcomings in the front office. (State Dept OIG Reports: Oh, Redactions, Is Double Standard Thy True Name?).  We were told that the redactions in one case had to do with the “geopolitical situation” at one post.  Our main concern about this as we have said here in the past is two-fold: 1) the appearance of a double standard and 2) recycling FSOs with problematic leadership and management skills is not going to make another embassy greener or healthier nor make for better FSOs.  Without effective intervention, they’re just going to make another post as miserable as the last one and impairs the embassy mission and operation. We would like to see State/OIG apply one standard on its reviews of chiefs of mission performance. Not whether they are effective political appointees or effective career appointees but whether they are effective representatives of the President regardless of their appointment authorities.

4. Cobwebs Over Troubled OIG Memo

Finally – remember this past summer when there was a big kaboom in Foggy Bottom ? (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal.  The Cable’s John Hudson had an exclusive with Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence.  Some real serious allegations were made about cases that were reportedly “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” in the State Department.  State/OIG released a statement to CBS News here.

On June 10, 2013, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was on the podium answering questions about the CBS report:

QUESTION: First, what – I guess we can begin most broadly simply by asking what comments you have about the report that aired on CBS News this morning concerning State Department OIG Office.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the Department of State employs more than 70,000 dedicated men and women serving in some of the most challenging environments working on behalf of the American people at 275 posts around the world. We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the Department continues to take action.

[…]

QUESTION: — to borrow a phrase. You stated at one point early in your answer just now that all cases mentioned in the CBS News report were thoroughly investigated but that the State Department continues to take action on them. Did I understand you correctly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I did not mean to imply they were – the investigations were completed. Some are in process.

QUESTION: And when you talk about those cases being in process or in progress and action continuing to be taken on them, is that separate from the hiring of outside personnel that you also just referenced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not a hiring. It’s – it would be an investigation being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers. So I would refer you them for any more specifics on that or how that would work. That’s a decision, of course, they make.

The back and forth went on and on to a point of total uselessness.  But the official spokesperson of the State Department did confirm that all the cases mentioned in the CBS report were “thoroughly investigated or under investigation.”

So imagine our confusion when the State/OIG submitted its Semiannual Report to the Congress October 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013 which was posted online on June 19, 2013?   We could not find any of the eight cases alleged in the CBS news report. None are listed as either an ongoing or a completed investigation in this semi-annual report; they’re not in the report submitted six months earlier either. What happened to them?

The report to Congress ending on March 31, 2013 lists investigations on bribery, theft and embezzlement, false claims, and grant fraud. It includes four investigations under employee misconduct: 1) a DCM repeatedly used his government resources for non-official purposes; 2)  a passport specialist used her official position to access personal information of personal acquaintances from official passport databases; 3) a Foreign Service officer responsible for award and oversight of the grants failed to follow grant policy; and 4) a Department employee who was overpaid for workers’ compensation leave (WCL) after a work-related injury.

Any of that remotely resembles the cases described in the October 2012 memo reported on the news?

The report did include under Congressional Mandates and Requests the following item which also made the news at around the same time as the CBS news:

“On November 2, 2012, OIG received a request from Senator Rand Paul to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples, Italy. In its response, OIG noted that the complaints were referred to the appropriate offices in the Department and that the complainants were provided contact information for the offices to which the complaints were referred.”

So —

We would like to suggest that among Mr. Linick’s first order of business, and we expect that he will have a full plate, is to personally look into what happened to these eight cases alleged to have been deep-sixed.  If these cases had been “thoroughly” investigated as claimed, then there should be records.   If the individuals were cleared, there should also be records.  If these allegations were never investigated, or there are no records, then one needs to ask why. Of course, there is another “why” that we are interested in. Why would a retired investigator of the Service turn against her old office in the most public way?

How aggressively Mr. Linick tackle these cobwebs and get some answers would help tell us what kind of junkyard dog he is going to be.

Whew! That’s sorta long. We’ll stop here and get some sleep and see what happens, okay?

(o_o)

Related reports:

Intel Signs of Al Qaeda Plot in the Making: U.S. Embassy Closures — Sunday, August 4

By Domani Spero

Updated August 2, 8:08 am: Additional U.S. embassies/consulates closing on August 4: Khartoum (Sudan), Basrah and Erbil (Iraq) and Amman (Jordan).

Updated August 3, 10 pm:  Other posts included in the temporary closures for August 4: Dhahran and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Djibouti (Djibouti) and Dubai (UAE), bringing the total closures to 23 at this time. The US Tel Aviv Embassy post closure includes the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency.

 

As of this writing, 15 embassies in Africa, Near East Asia and South Central Asia have been ordered to close on Sunday, August 4 due to a security threat attributed to Al Qaeda. CBS News reports  that U.S. intelligence has picked up signs of an al Qaeda plot against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The intelligence does not mention a specific location, which is why all embassies that would normally be open on Sunday have been ordered to close.

According to CBS News, officials say that this appears to be a real plot in the making and not just the normal chatter among terrorists talking about attacks they’d like to carry out. But these same officials add they are missing key pieces of information.

An unnamed senior State Department official also told CBS News: “For those who asked about which embassies and consulates we have instructed to suspend operations on August 4th, the answer is that we have instructed all U.S. Embassies and Consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday to suspend operations, specifically on August 4th. It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well.”

Below is the message posted by the affected embassies; links to the emergency message are listed at the bottom of this post:

The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis.  The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.  However, beyond this announcement we do not discuss specific threat information, security considerations or measures, or other steps we may be taking.  

We are pleased to see that they are being prudent.  While we have not been glued to the news this past few days, we heard that hundreds escape from the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. There seems to be a whole lot of prison breaks  lately in other parts of the region.  While these incidents may not be connected, we find it disturbing and gravely unsettling.  We are also just a few days away from the 15th anniversary of the twin U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.  We might also remember that in the last several years, August has been a month of death and mayhem for our diplomatic posts overseas.

AUGUST 7, 1998 – EAST AFRICA BOMBINGS: Near-simultaneous truck bombs exploded and severely damaged the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, killing 291 people (including 12 Americans) and injuring nearly 5,000 (including six Americans) in Nairobi, and killing 10 people and injuring 77 (including one American) in Dar es Salaam.

AUGUST 7, 2004 – AL-JAWF, YEMEN: Angry local villagers opened fire on vehicles of the U.S. Embassy Force Protection Detachment.

AUGUST 21, 2005 – PAGHMAN, AFGHANISTAN: Assailants detonated an explosive device as a U.S. Embassy vehicle passed, wounding two Embassy employees and damaging the vehicle.

AUGUST 29, 2006 – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals detonated a remote-controlled bomb against a U.S. Embassy vehicle, damaging the vehicle but causing no injuries.

AUGUST 27, 2006 – AL-HILLAH, IRAQ: Four or five mortar rounds were fired at the Regional Embassy Office Hillah, injuring two U.S. soldiers, one U.S. contract employee, and four local employees.

AUGUST 28, 2008 – BASRAH, IRAQ: One of two rockets fired at Basrah Air Station penetrated the overhead cover of the Regional Embassy Office located at the station, and passed through two trailers before embedding in the ground. No injuries were reported.

AUGUST 26, 2008 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying the U.S. Consulate General’s principal officer to work. She and her driver escaped injury when the driver drove the vehicle in reverse, to the safety of the officer’s residence nearby.

AUGUST 3, 2011 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ: An explosive device detonated against a U.S. Embassy protective security team, injuring five persons and damaging one vehicle.

AUGUST 8, 2012 – ASADABAD CITY, AFGHANISTAN: Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives near U.S. provincial reconstruction team members walking near Forward Operating Base Fiaz, killing three U.S. service members and one USAID employee, and wounding nine U.S. soldiers, one U.S. diplomat, four local employees, and one Afghan National Army member.

 

Below is a list of August 4, 2013 U.S. Embassy Closures:

👀

 

 

 

 

 

It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Not Superman On a Nantucket Boat Or How to Make a Non-News Into Big News

— By Domani Spero

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Doha, New Delhi, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Amman, Jerusalem, and Bandar Seri Begawan from June 21 to July 2.  While overseas, he spoke about the events in Egypt during the press availability in Tel Aviv on June 30 but not during his stop in Brunei on July 1.  He had no public schedule on July 3. 

On July 3, @Mosheh@CBSThisMorning Senior Producer twitted this:

Screen Shot 2013

The State Department responded that Secretary Kerry was not aboard a boat on Wednesday and has spent the day working the phones on Egypt. Via politico.com:

“Since his plane touched down in Washington at 4 a.m., Secretary Kerry was working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “He participated in the White House meeting with the president by secure phone and was and is in non-stop contact with foreign leaders, and his senior team in Washington and Cairo. Any report or tweet that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate.”

Ms. Psaki made it sound as if he was Superman with no need for rest.

The same afternoon, U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by CNN saying “there will be consequences” if Egyptian military intervention is “badly handled.”  Later in the evening, the AP reported on Egypt military chief’s statement announcing President Morsi’s ouster.

On July 4, 2013, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey sang the National Anthem at the Washington Nationals versus Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park.

Then this happened. Ugh!

Screen Shot 2013

Screen Shot 2013

Look, the Joint Chiefs was in a ball game on July 4th when Egypt had its revolution, coup, or whatever you agree to call it.  Did anyone complain that he was not glued to his secret phone?  Secretary Kerry just came back from a 12-day trip. We think people would have understood that he needed some down time. Did we really expect him to be holding the phone line to Egypt when DOD has more influence than DOS there? We certainly did not.

When CBS tweeted/reported/asked whether the secretary was on the boat, the appropriate response from the State Department professionals should have been the truth.   Had they said “yes” that would have been the end of the story.  Backlash? Really. Would the public really begrudge its public officials needed rest as if they were Superman?

Secretary Kerry on his boat would have been a very short-lived news.  Instead, the spinsmiesters contorted themselves with crafting a statement about how the secretary “was working all day” on Egypt and how the report is “completely inaccurate.”  Not even leaving a sliver of chance for error or confusion there.  Caught in a lie, the Spokesperson of the State Department had to release another statement acknowledging her boss “was briefly on his boat.”  Self-inflicted. Made their own mountain out of a mole hill.

“While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day including participating in the President’s meeting with his national security council,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, naming a series of Egyptian and international officials Kerry had spoken with on Wednesday.

CBS News was “completely inaccurate” because it did not mention “briefly?”

Perhaps the State Department statement should have included the line, “Any official report or official tweet denying that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate.”  A public  apology would have been nice, but government officials no longer do that, do they?

On July 6 , Secretary Kerry released a statement addressing the violence in Egypt.

But wait, there’s more!

Also on July 6, the Office of the Spokesperson tried to make it better by releasing the following statement:

Over the days since the unrest in Egypt intensified, Secretary Kerry has been in constant contact with the national security team, regional partners, and his counterparts. In addition to participating in a secure call with the National Security Council today to review the very fluid situation in Egypt, he has been in hourly touch with Ambassador Patterson and in the last two days he has also spoken with Mohamed Elbaradei, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, Omani Sultan Qaboos, Emirati Foreign Minister bin Zayed, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

In all these calls with his counterparts, Secretary Kerry reiterated the call for the violence in Egypt to cease and for all parties — the Muslim Brotherhood, opposition, and military — to ensure that those expressing their views do so peacefully. Secretary Kerry also reaffirmed U.S. support for democracy and the protection of universal human rights for all Egyptians, reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people, and respect for the rule of law. He stressed that the United States wants to see Egypt’s civilian transition succeed, and that the United States will do all it can to help encourage that effort.

Double ugh!

Folks,  you forgot, “Thou shall not get caught.” Now, apologize and move on or no dinner tonight!

Unless you folks want to release Secretary Kerry’s log calls, too, so we can count how many manhours he really spent working on Egypt.

👀

HFAC Chairman Ed Royce Demands Explanation Over Alleged Misconduct and Interference of DSS Investigations

— By Domani Spero

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, demanded an explanation from Secretary of State John Kerry regarding allegations of misconduct within the State Department and interference by senior State Department officials in the subsequent investigations.

“I am deeply troubled by the allegations made in a recent CBS News story that senior State Department officials prevented the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) from investigating reports of administrative and criminal misconduct within the Department.  This story further alleged that the Department’s Office of Inspector General produced an October 2012 memorandum that contained eight specific instances in which DSS investigations were “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off.” 

Congressman Royce writes that in light of the possibility that the Department interfered with the independence of DSS investigations, he asked that Secretary Kerry provide the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff with a briefing as soon as possible and answer the following questions in writing:

1.      Did any State Department official instruct the Diplomatic Security Service not to pursue any of the eight cases identified in the October 2012 OIG memorandum?

2.      If so, please indentify the individual(s) and the nature of their influence on these DSS investigations.

3.      Has the Department taken any actions in response to either the OIG February 2013 Inspection report and/or the CBS News report?  If so, please detail them.

Please also produce all documents and communications referring and/or relating to the eight cases cited by the October 2012 OIG memorandum.

The congressional request comes with a deadline no later than 5:00 p.m. on June 25, 2013.

The full letter is here.

 

(._.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Psaki’s June 10 Press Briefing: No Sex, No Drugs n’ Too Much Rock n’ Roll

— By Domani Spero

By now you’ve seen the CBS News report about a State Department memo that reveals possible cover-ups and halted investigations. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal).

So, of course, it was a central piece during the June 10 Daily Press Briefing with State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.  That portion of the DPB is lengthy (because lots of running around the room) but we have republished it below for your enjoyment. Basically Ms. Psaki’s made the following points from the podium:

  • All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation,” but she could not say how many were completed and how many are ongoing.
  • She also said that “Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review by outside experienced law enforcement officers” and that the “investigation [is] being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers.”  Wow! Lots of outside law enforcement officers, but can’t say if these outsiders are Will Smith’s Men in Black.
  • She made sure it’s clear, “I’m not suggesting that the IG is uniting with DOJ or the FBI. We would refer any criminal case, of course, to DOJ, as would be standard. But this is not that.”
  • About that firewall, she said, “we’ve disputed the notion of the issue of the firewall with the OIG office.” For good measure, she also added, “The Department would never condone any undue influence on any report or investigation.”
  • Oh you foolish people — wait she actually did not say that, but she did say, “I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case – in any case is preposterous.”
  • Asked if there’s anything in the CBS News report that she would dispute, she answered, “I don’t think I’m going to get into parsing this CBS story here.” The reporter who asked the question got the record to reflect that “I didn’t ask you to parse anything, I just asked if you had any problems with the accuracy of the report.”
  • The record did not reflect if Ms Psaki blinked when one of the reporters asked a Gotcha! question about an ambassador at the end of the press briefing.

One of the allegations in the CBS News report is that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. The OIG inspected US Embassy Beirut in 2011 and on February 29, 2012 released a severely  redacted  report (see Inspection of Embassy Beirut, Lebanon (ISP-I-12-10A). This report as indicated by its title has an accompanying security annex not available to the public.  The compliance follow-up review (CFR) was conducted on the first quarter of 2013 and on May 31, 2013, the OIG released its CFR similarly with redactions (see  Compliance Follow-Up Review of Embassy Beirut, Lebanon (ISP-C-13-27A). This also contains a classified security annex.

The May 2013 CFR has as one of its key judgments this line: “The acting regional security officer (RSO) is proactive and widely respected.” There’s gotta be a reason why this merit special mention. What is it?

And because our readers enjoy giving us puzzles, we heard that this alleged Beirut “sex scandal” has a US Mission Egypt connection.  What is it?

Hey, to rephrase the DHS campaign — if you saw something, say something!

While waiting for these “outside law enforcement officers” to find out what really, really happened, please enjoy Ms. Psaki’s ‘no sex, no drugs, and too much rock n’ roll’ word cloud and awesome briefing below:

Made with WordItOut

Made with WordItOut

QUESTION: First, what – I guess we can begin most broadly simply by asking what comments you have about the report that aired on CBS News this morning concerning State Department OIG Office.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the Department of State employs more than 70,000 dedicated men and women serving in some of the most challenging environments working on behalf of the American people at 275 posts around the world. We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the Department continues to take action.

Finally, the Department has responded to the recommendations in the OIG report regarding the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence. Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review by outside experienced law enforcement officers on top of the OIG inspection so that officers with law enforcement experience can make expert assessments about our current procedures.

QUESTION: Okay. There was a lot in there. And let me see if I can untangle it —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s see. We can go back and forth untangling.

QUESTION: — to borrow a phrase. You stated at one point early in your answer just now that all cases mentioned in the CBS News report were thoroughly investigated but that the State Department continues to take action on them. Did I understand you correctly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I did not mean to imply they were – the investigations were completed. Some are in process.

QUESTION: And when you talk about those cases being in process or in progress and action continuing to be taken on them, is that separate from the hiring of outside personnel that you also just referenced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not a hiring. It’s – it would be an investigation being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers. So I would refer you them for any more specifics on that or how that would work. That’s a decision, of course, they make.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any further details you can share about who these outside investigators are or what they’re expected to accomplish?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the IG’s Office, which is as you know is independent, would be conducting this investigation, something we thoroughly support. But for any questions about that, I would naturally refer you to them.

QUESTION: So when you say that not all of these cases have been completed, some are still in progress, and that the State Department continues to take action, you’re saying that those pending cases are unfolding underneath the aegis of the State Department, not with respect to OIG?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And there would be taking a look – and again, I don’t want to parse what their investigation is for them – but looking into current procedures, which is something that we fully support them doing.

QUESTION: As you know, one of the allegations in this story concerns a United States Ambassador who is still in that post said to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with minors as well as prostitutes. And I think you could understand the concerns that all Americans would have if one of our top diplomats overseas were engaged in that kind of activity and what that would do for the United States image abroad if credible allegations to that effect were, in essence, covered up. Can you assure the American people that no U.S. Ambassadors are engaged in that kind of inappropriate conduct, or that where there have been such credible allegations they have been fully investigated?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I can confirm they would be fully investigated. I’m not going to talk about specific cases, but I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case – in any case is preposterous. And we’ve put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior. There is record of that. Ambassadors would be no exception. But of course, we would be – we are conducting investigations of all of these cases, and I don’t have anything further to speak to the process or status or anything along those lines.

QUESTION: Can I just – I want to clarify something, because there seem to be three different things going on here. One is the memo that the story reports on, which has to do with Diplomatic Security special investigations. You’re saying – and you said in answer to James’ question – all the cases that were mentioned in that story, which presumably is most of the ones or at least those are ones that are in this document, this memo, have either been investigated and they’re over or they’re still in the process of being investigated by DS.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, secondly, you have an IG report or audit or inspection of the investigatory department, that – of all of DS, I guess, but including that agency or that branch of it, which said that there is the perception, at least among some in DS, that investigations have been or can be influenced. Are you aware – because the IG report doesn’t actually come out and say that there has been any of this undue influence or improper influence. Is that still the case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – am I aware personally? No.

QUESTION: Well, is the building – does the building think that this is a significant enough concern that the procedures should be changed, or is this something that is purely going to be done by the third strand of this, which is this outside review of the DS chain-of-command or the DS process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me see if I can explain this a little further. In the memo – there was an original memo that CBS was referring – there’s another IG memo that is public from February. And one of the issues that was raised in there was the lack of a firewall, which is what you’re referring to, I believe, if I’m understanding your question. And we have disputed this finding in a number of engagements with the OIG. The Department would never condone any undue influence on any report or investigation. But again, we took the extra precaution of asking – or I should say DS did – of asking or supporting – IG makes their own decisions – an investigation to look into the processes. And that’s what they’re doing so.

QUESTION: Okay. So in fact, there was a response to the OIG report, which said that there was this potential problem in the way that the structure in DS – that’s the process – there was a potential problem with the way it was structured and the investigatory process. And you said no, you don’t think that there is, but we’re going to go and bring in these outside people to look at it to make sure; is that —

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And when was that outside – there was some suggestion that it was as a result of questions being asked about this that the outside investigation or the outside review was commissioned. How long ago was that?

MS. PSAKI: No, I can’t – I don’t know the exact timing, but I can assure you it was long before we were contacted by CBS.

QUESTION: Can I – there’s something I don’t understand here, Jen. First of all, the outside people who are being brought in, they’re —

MS. PSAKI: And just to be clear, sorry to interrupt you —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — they’re not being brought in here.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: This is an independent IG process.

QUESTION: Right, so that’s the first thing I want to understand. So in other words, the State Department Inspector General has made a decision to bring in outside people to look into that issue?

MS. PSAKI: The process, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The process, good.

MS. PSAKI: And procedures, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Second, it’s not clear to me, and maybe you said it precisely, but I thought I heard it both ways – are those outside people who are being brought in by the IG to look at the process – are they current law enforcement officials, or are they people simply with law enforcement backgrounds?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. Experienced law enforcement officials – the IG would be able to – office would be able to define them more clearly for you.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned it, though, I think it’s an important distinction to make, and ideally for you to clarify. Because if they are law enforcement officers working for another agency, right, like the Department of Justice or the FBI, whose jobs it is to investigate criminal malfeasance, then —

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want you to combine a DOJ or FBI investigation with this independent IG investigation.

QUESTION: But that’s exactly why I’m asking, because if you’re not explaining who these people are – and I’m not looking for details, but I do think it’s important to understand whether these are people who have brought in – been brought in from other arms of the government whose job it is to investigate alleged malfeasance, or whether it – I don’t know, there may be consultants, there are lots of them that exist, that happen to have had law enforcement background, but are independent consultants who don’t work for the U.S. Government formally now.

So can you clarify that one point for us?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t have that level of detail, but I also just want to be very clear: I’m not suggesting that the IG is uniting with DOJ or the FBI. We would refer any criminal case, of course, to DOJ, as would be standard. But this is not that. So —

QUESTION: Okay. I think it’s important to understand, are these contractors with law enforcement experience, or are these law enforcement officials who have been brought over by the Inspector General? So if you can clarify that for all of us, I would appreciate it.

MS. PSAKI: Again, the IG’s office is the best place, but I understand your need for clarification.

QUESTION: Well, I’m confused now. Is the IG office – whose process are these outside investigators looking at? DS’s, right?

MS. PSAKI: The OIG, the Office of the Inspector General, is working with law enforcement.

QUESTION: The IG has hired these outside people to come in and look, or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have the level of detail of how they’re working together.

QUESTION: It’s the IG and not DS that’s done that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. DS prides itself on being a federal law enforcement department. How is it that they can’t figure out what the proper way to structure these things is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve also – they’re also conducting investigations, as would be standard in any case of misconduct, on these cases as well. So this is just a separate investigation by an independent body looking into the processes, something we fully support.

QUESTION: Do you know, of the cases mentioned in the memo or the CBS report, how many have been resolved —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, and I also would —

QUESTION: — and how many are still under investigation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I would be able to provide that information.

QUESTION: Well, surely you could say that if any criminal activity was uncovered, do you know how many of them resulted in – because there are such things as allegations that turn out not to be proven, not to be true.

MS. PSAKI: There are. There certainly are.

QUESTION: So do you know how many were – turned out not to be true, or how many —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of information.

QUESTION: Well, I think that it would be quite nice if we could figure out exactly —

MS. PSAKI: If there’s something we can share on that, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Because if all of these cases have been thoroughly investigated and there was no indication of criminal activity or that they were handled administratively, there was something short of criminal activity, it would be good to know. Because the impression from the report left out there is that the State Department is just ignoring really serious violations of the law.

MS. PSAKI: I think I made clear that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Well, that is the impression.

QUESTION: Can you address one particular allegation that’s in this original memo, which is the effect that the use of prostitutes by members of the Secretary of State’s detail, security detail, has been endemic over the years? That’s the word that was used, endemic.

MS. PSAKI: Again —

QUESTION: Is that something you can assure the American people, that the Secretary of State’s protective detail hasn’t been out cavorting with prostitutes in every port of call?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I started off by talking about how many people work for the Department of State around the world. Last year alone, the detail accompanied then-Secretary Clinton to 69 countries with more than 10,000 person-nights spent in hotels abroad. So I’m not going to speak to specific cases, as I said at the onset, for obvious reasons. But it is hardly endemic. Any case we would take seriously and we would investigate, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

QUESTION: What is (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: He asked me if the incidents of a couple of individuals soliciting prostitutes would be – would show that it was endemic.

QUESTION: No, I thought he asked – and maybe I’m wrong, but I thought he asked, is the use of prostitutes by the Secretary’s detail endemic.

MS. PSAKI: I think we just said the same thing, and I just said —

QUESTION: And – well, no, you said he asked whether a few instances suggested that it was endemic, whereas I think his question was, “Is it endemic?” And is your —

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, are you saying that there are a few instances of this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not at all.

QUESTION: Well, you just said that.

MS. PSAKI: He was asking me about a report that is being investigated.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. PSAKI: And I don’t have anything further on that specific report. So he —

QUESTION: All right. So that is one of the ones that is still being looked at?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything specific for you on the status of any of these cases.

QUESTION: Well, I think you – but you opened the door to this line because you said – you hardly – you think that a few isolated – or whatever you said – a few —

MS. PSAKI: Alleged, Matt, alleged.

QUESTION: Okay. Alleged, all right, so it is still – it is alleged.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into, again, just to repeat, the specific incidents or the specific cases. But I did think it was worth making the point of how broad the Diplomatic Security issue – office is, how many men and women serve proudly and bravely every day.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you just one more thing on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you comfortable speaking – declaring something not to be true for 70,000 people?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think —

QUESTION: I mean, are you comfortable, when you’re asked, can you assure the American people that something, whatever it is, is not endemic, you’re pretty confident when you say no, it’s not —

MS. PSAKI: I do feel comfortable —

QUESTION: — even though you’re talking about a large, large universe of people?

MS. PSAKI: — and after I said we have 70,000 employees, I said we take – we hold every employee to the highest standard. We take every allegation of misconduct seriously and we look into it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask you, do you take issue with any of the instances that were mentioned in the CBS report that are being or have been examined by the Diplomatic Service and the IG? There was – the one we’ve mentioned, we talked about the prostitutes, there was always – also an issue about drugs being sold at the Baghdad Embassy. Do you – does the Department take issue with any of those cases that were mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I just – I understand the desire to know more about each case, but I just can’t go into specifics for ongoing cases. I just made a broad point for the purpose of talking about Diplomatic Security as a whole, but I’m not going to go into specific cases.

QUESTION: So you can’t tell us whether each of those cases mentioned in the CBS is actually something that has been looked into by the IG?

MS. PSAKI: I did say at the beginning that they’re all being investigated or have been investigated, but I’m not going to go into specifics of the status of what they —

QUESTION: No, but you could confirm if those cases are factually correct, as in the CBS report.

MS. PSAKI: It is not at all confirming they’re factually correct. These are allegations in a memo. So obviously, as I stated at the beginning, they have been – all these cases are being looked into. They were already in the process of being looked into prior to the memo, and again, I don’t have any update on status, or I don’t want to break down what is happening internally.

QUESTION: And can you tell us how they came to the notice of the IG? What triggered —

MS. PSAKI: I can’t. You’d have to ask the IG office that question. It was an IG memo.

QUESTION: So then just for clarification, none of these cases have been resolved, then? Because you said they’re all —

MS. PSAKI: Again, I didn’t —

QUESTION: You said you can’t comment on cases that are in an ongoing process. So —

MS. PSAKI: Just to alleviate all confusion, these – all these cases have been looked into or are being looked into. I’m not breaking down which have been concluded, which haven’t. That’s not something —

QUESTION: Can you – I mean, you said you’re —

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: — not allowed to talk – I’m just clarifying —

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: — you’re not allowed to talk about cases that are in process, but —

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t mean —

QUESTION: — are you able to talk about cases that are resolved?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on any of the specific cases.

QUESTION: And you would dispute the notion that any of these cases that have been – that are being looked into, that there was any kind of political pressure or other kind of pressure put on the investigators? You would say that that is not correct, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. This is obviously – we’ve taken —

QUESTION: So the memo, the allegations in the memo, according to this building, are wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’ve taken the extra step. The DS office has taken the extra step —

QUESTION: But the allegation in the memo that —

MS. PSAKI: We will let that process unwind.

QUESTION: Because if someone – fair enough, but I mean, the whole idea is that the investigations – that people might be being pressured into terminating an investigation or dropping it just because they’re told to improperly. So, you could say —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve – well, what I said —

QUESTION: — that all the cases are being investigated, and —

MS. PSAKI: — earlier, so let me point back to this, Matt —

QUESTION: — both could be true.

MS. PSAKI: — is that we’ve disputed the notion of the issue of the firewall with the OIG office.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We would never condone this. As an extra step, the DS has asked them to look into this.

QUESTION: I understand, but I just —

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let this play out.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure and clear that you deny the allegation in the memo that there was political or some kind of pressure put on investigators to drop cases or to —

QUESTION: Undue pressure.

QUESTION: — undue pressure to —

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything —

QUESTION: That’s not correct.

MS. PSAKI: — more to add than what I’ve already added on this case.

QUESTION: Can I ask just two sort of housekeeping questions on this? Number one: Is there anything in CBS News reporting this morning, either on TV or online, that the Department of State disputes?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to get into parsing this CBS story here. I think I’ve laid out what our position is, the steps we’ve taken. Some of that wasn’t included in the report, so I would – in the report this morning, so I would point you to that.

QUESTION: Let the record reflect I didn’t ask you to parse anything, I just asked if you had any problems with the accuracy of the report. As you know, your colleague, Mr. Ventrell, seated to the side of the podium today, has on certain occasions – and all spokesmen from time to time find it within their rights to say when they think something has been inaccurately reported. I wasn’t asking you to parse anything, but let the record also reflect you have nothing that you want to raise as an issue with the CBS News reporting on this subject, unless you interrupt me to the contrary.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I just said, to answer your question, is that there was information, including the fact that we have been looking into these cases, what we’ve asked the IG to do and to undertake, that are important, relevant components of that. I’d have to look back closely at the story, but those are important pieces for everybody to note in their reporting moving forward.

QUESTION: Lastly, you stated earlier that the decision to retain these outside law enforcement types was one that was taken officially long before the Department of State was contacted by CBS News.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said. What I said – and sorry, I know this is – there’s a lot of details here in that the Department – Diplomatic Security had been looking into these cases. Separately, they had also asked – has taken the further step of asking for an additional review by outside, experienced law enforcement officers on top of the OIG investigation, so working with the OIG investigation —

QUESTION: And that latter —

QUESTION: This is what —

QUESTION: Excuse me. Excuse me. That latter decision to retain those outside types, you stated earlier in this briefing, was made, quote, “long before we were contacted by CBS News.” That’s what you said.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: When were you contacted by CBS News?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to get into that from here.

QUESTION: Hold on a second.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This is why I wanted to clarify this right after Arshad’s last question. It is not the OIG that is contracted or otherwise arranged with this law enforcement – outside law enforcement to do this review. It is DS itself. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: No, I believe it’s the IG is working with these —

QUESTION: All right. Because that’s not what you just said.

MS. PSAKI: It was perhaps phrased in a confusing way. So I apologize for that.

QUESTION: So it is —

MS. PSAKI: But the IG is doing the independent report on this. They are working with outside law enforcement folks.

QUESTION: So if – so in other words, DS still thinks there’s no problem?

MS. PSAKI: DS continues to look into these cases where relevant.

QUESTION: Right, but they think there’s no problem. As you said, they dispute the finding of the IG.

MS. PSAKI: They support the effort —

QUESTION: So they —

MS. PSAKI: — to do the additional investigation.

QUESTION: Does the fact that the Ambassador in Belgium is still in place speak to where the case is and what progress?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that.

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