State/IIP Introduces New American Ambassadors on YouTube – Pick Your Favorite Now!

— By Domani Spero

The  State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) has rolled out several videos for its Ambassador Introduction Video Series on You Tube.  The videos are mostly in English (with one exception) or with some local language subtitles. The most viewed from this latest releases is the video of US Ambassador to Belgium Denise Bauer.  The only one in a foreign language (with an English version also available) is delivered unexpectedly not by a career diplomat but by non-career appointee Alexa Wesner, the new ambassador to Austria.  The most viewed in this series at 377,521 views is still the video introduction of the late Ambassador Chris Stevens originally published in May 2012 by america.gov and US Embassy Tripoli. A good number of these videos get less than a thousand views.

See Here Comes the Sun: U.S. Senate Confirms A Slew of New Ambassadors as It Runs Out the Door for the recent confirmations. We expect to see mored videos like these as the confirmed ambassadors start getting to posts.

AUSTRIA

U.S. Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner  

Deutsch Version – 6,254 views |   Meet U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Alexa Wesner English Version – 687 views

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Post … – Jun 27, 2013

BELGIUM

U.S. Ambassador to Kingdom of Belgium Denise Bauer 

Views: 34,261

Officially In: Denise Bauer — from Women for Obama to Belgium

DENMARK

U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford

Views: 9,974

Officially In: Rufus Gifford — From Obama for America to Denmark

ITALY

U.S. Ambassador to Italy John Philips

 English with Italian Subtitles – 105 views

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | July 9, 2013

CHAD

U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Chad James Knight

Views – 94

Officially In: James Knight, from Iraq to Chad

LEBANON

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale

Views – 60

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts – June 21, 2013

BURKINA FASO

U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Tulinabo Mushingi

Views – 41

Officially In: Tulinabo Mushingi, from S/ES to Burkina Faso

LAOS

U.S. Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune

Part Lao/Lao With English Subtitles – 25 views

Officially In: Dan Clune – From HR/BEX to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

UNITED KINGDOM

Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s Matthew Barzun

Views: 647

Special mention goes to the US Embassy in London for ditching the video formula and welcoming the new Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, Matthew Barzun by looking back at some of the former Ambassadors to London in Position Filled at Grosvenor Square! Ambassador Barzun was previously the chief of mission at the US Embassy in Sweden duringPresident Obama’s first term in office.

👀

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Senate Report on Benghazi Cites “Grievous Mistake” for Non-Suspension of Operations Despite Vulnerabilities

The Senate Committee On Homeland Security And Governmental Affairs on December 30, 2012 issued its Benghazi report, Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi.

The report says that the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy noted in a briefing for the Committee, that Libya and Benghazi were “flashing red” around the time of the attack.

And?

The follow-up query and the response must have fallen off the, well, what else, the cliff!

The “flashing red” went kaboom !!!

… and four men were dead.

Here is one of the findings:

“Despite the inability of the Libyan government to fulfill its duties to secure the facility, the increasingly dangerous threat assessments, and a particularly vulnerable facility, the Department of State officials did not conclude the facility in Benghazi should be closed or temporarily shut down. That was a grevious mistake.”

The Senate report refers to the Benghazi post as the “Temporary Mission Facility in Benghazi.”  The ARB refers to the Benghazi post as the “The U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi” or the “U.S. Special Mission compound (SMC) and Annex.”

According to the ARB, the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, established in November 2011, was the successor to Chris Stevens’ “highly successful endeavor as Special Envoy to the rebel-led government that eventually toppled Muammar Qaddafi in fall 2011.”

2 FAM 411.1 dictates that the assistant secretary for the requesting regional bureau prepares a written proposal requesting authorization to open, close, or change the status of a Foreign Service post.

Presumably, the request to open the SMC in Benghazi originated from State’s NEA bureau, which has jurisdiction over Libya.

According to 2 FAM 400, the final decision to open, close, or change the status of a consular post, consular agency, branch, or special office is made by the Under Secretary for Management.  The same person who noted the “flashing red.”

There are 18 factors to consider in the books when opening or closing or changing the status of an overseas post. One of those factors, as may have been the case here considering the presence of OGA, is this:

(9) Expressed interest of U.S. Government agencies (other than the Department) in the maintenance of a post in the locality;

If you’re interested on how the final decision is arrived at, read up on 2 FAM 411.4.

Here are some other interesting parts of the Senate report:

  • U.S. government security personnel who were based in Tripoli had deployed to Benghazi by chartered aircraft after receiving word of the attack, arriving at the Benghazi airport at 1:15 a.m. They were held at the airport for at least three hours while they negotiated with Libyan authorities about logistics. The exact cause of this hours-long delay, and its relationship to the rescue effort, remains unclear and merits further inquiry. Was it simply the result of a difficult Libyan bureaucracy and a chaotic environment or was it part of a plot to keep American help from reaching the Americans under siege in Benghazi?

The host country government failed in its obligation to protect accredited members of the diplomatic corps, the least they can do is answer a few questions as to why security personnel were held at the airport for at least three hours.

A side note here. A second secretary at the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh was killed last March. Five men had just been sentenced to death for the diplomat’s murder. Saudi Arabia is a work destination for many Bangladeshis, so Bangladesh did not foxtrot around the death of a Saudi Arabian diplomat.

  • General Ham did not have complete visibility of the extent and number of government personnel in Benghazi in the event that a NEO was required. 88 If sufficient time had been available for such an evacuation, we are concerned that this limitation could have impeded AFRICOM’s ability to respond and fulfill its mission responsibility.

NEO interoperability between DOD and State has some challenges but we’ll have that for a separate post.

The Senate report further says:

States whose governments do not exercise full control over their sovereign territory, or that have a limited security capability, cannot be counted on to safeguard U.S. diplomatic personnel and facilities. This is usually true, of course, in the aftermath of a revolution or civil war – as was the case in Libya – where the provision of protective services by the host nations is unpredictable at best. In those instances, the Department of State must improve one or more of the other three protectors of mission security within its control: Marine Corps Security Guards, Diplomatic Security agents, or private security contractors.

There is already a move in Congress to increase the number of Marines to almost double its current size (1,200 Marine security guards currently assigned to more than 130 countries).

The State Department is also reportedly asking Congress for an additional $750 million to hire about 150 more security officers.

And the private security contractors could not be far behind.  Wired.com recently had a piece on the potential financial bonanza for security contractors for U.S. embassy security in the post-Benghazi era. The decision whether to continue spending cash on hired guards or to bolster the ranks of State Department employees that protect diplomats themselves will be one that must be tackled by the next secretary of state and soon.

The Senate report also has the following on funding and how they impact priorities:

Resourcing for security is a joint responsibility of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. The Department of State’s decisions regarding security at the Benghazi facility were made in the context of its budget and security requirements for diplomatic facilities around the world. Overall, the Department of State’s base requests for security funding have increased by 38 percent since Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, and base budget appropriations have increased by 27 percent in the same time period. Other security funding provided beyond that in supplemental appropriations bills has been nearly entirely for diplomatic facilities in just three countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.63 Less has gone elsewhere and very little is available to the temporary facilities such as the one in Benghazi.

Congress’ inability to appropriate funds in a timely manner has also had consequences for the implementation of security upgrades. RSO Nordstrom stated that Continuing Resolutions had two detrimental effects on efforts to improve security in Benghazi. First, the Department of State would only allow funds to be expended at a rate of 80 percent of the previous year’s appropriations level, so as not to risk a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act. Second, in the absence of a supplemental appropriations or reprogramming request, security funds for Benghazi had to be taken “out of hide” from funding levels for Libya because Benghazi was not included in previous budget requests.

To the congressional reps and their friends who insist that the Benghazi tragedy has nothing to do with funding, the conclusion is simple: Congress’ inability to do its job has real deadly consequences.

Mistakes were made that’s for sure.  But no one honorable has yet come forward to claim those mistakes as his or her own.

And so we are painfully reminded that success has many parents. But a mistake is an orphan, conceived in a vacuum with neither father, mother or extended relatives present at creation. 😥

domani spero sig

 

 

 

US Embassy Libya: Another Attack on Embassy Personnel

On June 6, there was an IED attack on the USG office in Benghazi:

U.S. citizens are advised that there was an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours of June 6. There were no casualties. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This incident is a reminder of the fluid security situation in Libya.

About a week later, there was an armed attack on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi where two individuals sustained injuries.

Yesterday, there was another armed attacked on a US embassy vehicle:

In the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination. This event underscores the uncertain security environment in Tripoli. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain vigilance at all times. The U.S. Embassy remains open for business.

Ambassador Stevens on a visit to Misrata, Libya, July 2012
(Photo via US Embassy Tripoli/FB)

Above is a photo of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens visiting Misrata in northwestern Libya, situated 187 km (116 mi) to the east of Tripoli.  Misrata is the third largest city in Libya and has been called the business capital of Libya. During the Libyan civil war, the city was shelled by artillery, tanks, and snipers, and for over 40 days and had its water supply shut off by Gaddafi’s forces (read more about the Battle of Misrata here).

Hard to say how many of the U.S. citizens who resided in Libya before the civil war are back in the country. While the US Embassy in Tripoli has been pretty good at posting their emergency messages to U.S. citizens online, like other U.S. missions there seems to be a wall between these emergency messages and the embassy’s social media digs.  Perhaps the wall is unintentional, but there is a lack of cohesiveness in the information stream; what gets on the official website, does not always gets amplified in its official Facebook or Twitter pages.

We should note that the US Embassy in Tripoli is looking to hire a bi-lingual Multimedia Specialist in its Public Affairs Office. That individual will be responsible for the analysis of social media sites and reports on trends in Post’s media summary. He/she will also manage the mission’s social media sites including engagement with “followers and coordinating with Washington-based colleagues.”

Which means, one day soon somebody will be able to deal with one of the embassy’s regular fans and fan of OBL who seems to write only one thing on the embassy’s FB wall repeatedly in poor chalk marks:

Selibya Libya We rule and we are all Osama bin Laden and the West knows that we are proud of pigs Qadatna death because they were martyrs, and that death increases our strength and determination to win the battle with al-Qaeda has not yet primitive, but these skirmishes

Well, provided, of course, that State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has a social media strategy for “engagement” with those on the other lane in this …. ongoing war of ideas, is it? Unless ignoring the “we are proud of pigs Qadatna” or letting him/her have a run of the FB wall is all part of that strategy. Or unless, posts are expected to come up with their own social media strategeries for the non-fans masquerading as fans.

Domani Spero

 

Photo of the Day: Who makes one of the best cappuccinos in ‪#Tripoli‬?

Senator John McCain was in Libya last week and tweeted this:

US Amb. to ‪#Libya‬ Chris Stevens – one of America’s finest diplomats also makes one of the best cappuccinos in ‪#Tripoli‬ http://lockerz.com/s/223075753

Photo via Senator McCain’s tweet – http://lockerz.com/s/223075753

US Embassy Tripoli took three photos of Senator McCain at the tarmac.  More photos from Senator McCain on his Libya trip here.

Domani Spero

US Embassy Libya: Ambassador Chris Stevens Introduces Self

The new US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens arrived in Tripoli on May 26 and presented his credentials the following day.

Via US Embassy Tripoli/FB:  U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens presented a copy of his diplomatic credentials to the Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Bin Khayal. Following this formal process, Ambassador Stevens now is able to begin his work forging stronger ties between Libya and the United States.

A couple photos here.On June 7, Ambassador Stevens also presented his credentials to National Transitional Council of Libya Chairman Mustafa Abd al-Jalil. Photos here.

Video introduction below:

Domani Spero