RIP Tony Mendez #CanadianCaper #Argo

Posted: 3:34 am EST

 

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@StateDept Updates Its Polygraph Policy: Are Results Shared For Security Clearance/Assignment Purposes?

Posted: 1:26 am ET
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On September 1, 2016, the State Department updated its 12 FAM 250 policy on the use of the polygraph to examine Department employees (including employees on the General Schedule, the Foreign Service, on Personal Service Contracts, Limited NonCareer Appointees, and Locally Employed Staff).  

Per 12 FAM 251.2-2, the Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence (DS/DO/ICI) Counterterrorism Vetting Unit (CCV) administers the polygraph program and is responsible for hiring polygraph examiners, responding to requests for polygraph support, deploying polygraph examiners, and maintaining relevant records.

The update includes the following:
  • Streamlines the polygraph examination process by removing a requirement to seek pre-approval before a DS or OIG agent can ask an employee if s/he is willing to submit to a polygraph.
  • Authorizes a DS agent or Department OIG investigator to alert an employee or contractor, currently subject to a criminal, personnel security, or counterintelligence investigation, that s/he has the option to undergo an exculpatory polygraph examination, rather than limiting exculpatory polygraphs to cases where it is initiated by the individual under investigation.
  • Allow polygraphs of Department employees detailed to federal agencies (in addition to the NSA, CIA, and DIA) when the relevant agency requires a polygraph to be detailed to the position. Polygraphs of employees detailed to agencies other than the NSA, CIA, or DIA will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require approval from the Under Secretary for Management.
  • Limits the scope of polygraph examinations of Department detailees to other federal agencies to counterintelligence topics for all detailees.
  • Formalize existing processes for polygraph examination of certain locally employed staff, in accordance with the approvals specified in the polygraph policy

Back in May 2015, we questioned the use of the CIA’s polygraph exams of State Department employees (see AFSA Elections: What’s Missing This Campaign Season? Fire, Ice and Some Spirited Debates, Please).

Do you know that Department employees who take the CIA’s polygraph examination for detail assignments will have the  results of their polygraph provided to DS and HR for security  clearance and assignment purposes?  A source told us that “In and of itself, it does no  harm if the CIA retains them for its clearance purposes, but it can  have an unanticipated negative impact when indiscriminately released  by the CIA to third parties, like DS and HR, who use them in violation of the CIA’s restrictions to the Department  and assurances to the examinees.”  If this affects only a fraction of the Foreign Service, is that an excuse not to do anything about it, or at a minimum, provide an alert to employees contemplating these detail assignments?

We’ve recently discovered a newly posted grievance case dated March 2010. We don’t know why this is currently on display upfront on fsgb.gov.  In any case, this is related to the subject of polygraph examination.

On June 24, 2009, grievant, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, appealed to the FS Grievance Board the State Department’s (Department) denial of his grievance with respect to the use of the results of a polygraph exam he took in 2003 in conjunction with a detail to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Grievant claims the improper handling and use of the results of that exam violated the Department’s own regulations (12 FAM 250) and resulted in his having been denied a Presidential Appointment as a Chief of Mission (Ambassador).  The ROP includes some interesting interrogatories:

#1: Has the Department ever obtained a Department employee’s polygraph examination results from the CIA for a personnel security background investigation based on the employee’s SF-86 signed release? If so, please describe the circumstances under which this would occur.

The Department objected to answering this interrogatory on the grounds that is was overbroad, immaterial, and irrelevant.

IR #6e for Diplomatic Security Case Officer for the second background investigation: Have you ever requested an employee’s polygraph results from the CIA before? If so, under what circumstances‘?

The Department found this interrogatory overbroad, irrelevant, and immaterial.

Ruling on IR #6e: Under the more ample concept of relevance applied at the discovery stage, the Board finds that the information requested is sufficiently relevant to grievant’s claims or likely to lead to the discovery of information relevant to such claims to compel discovery. The information requested may help to clarify the Department’s practice in applying the regulations governing the use of polygraphs that are issue in this case. We do not find the request to impose such a burden on the Department as to outweigh the potential usefulness of the information requested. The Department is directed to respond.

IR # 7h for Diplomatic Security: Does DS routinely request and receive polygraph examination results on all Department employees who have taken polygraph examinations at the CIA as part of their routine background security investigations?

The Department objected to this interrogatory as irrelevant and immaterial in all respects.

The Department was directed to respond to grievant’s Interrogatories 6e and 7h not later than 20 days after receipt of the order but we have been unable to find the decision on this case.

 

On June 24, 2009, grievant filed a grievance appeal, claiming improper use by the Department (Department, agency) of the results of a polygraph examination he had taken in conjunction with a detail from the Department to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  The grievant makes several specific claims:

1) that the CIA provided the results of the polygraph to a Diplomatic Security (DS) agent in the Department, in violation of Department regulations and CIA policy;
2) that the Department requested and/or received the polygraph results from the CIA, in violation of its own regulations;
3) that the Department improperly used the polygraph results in the course of security update investigations; and
4) that the Department improperly provided information drawn from the polygraph to the Director General (DG), which resulted in the DG withdrawing grievant’s nomination to be a chief of mission. The FSGB Board finds that it has jurisdiction over the claims presented by the grievant.

 

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Embassies Kabul and Bangkok Issue Security Message on Potential CIA Report Fallout

— Domani Spero
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Below is a follow-up to out blogpost last night (see Impending Release of CIA Torture Report Prompts Embassy Security Review (Again). As of 7:15 am PST, Embassy Kabul appears to be the only post carrying this security message per updates via OSAC:

U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should be aware that release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program could prompt anti-U.S. protests and violence against U.S. interests, including private U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations or confrontational situations.

***

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok has now released a similar message:

U.S. citizens in Thailand should be aware that release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program could prompt anti-U.S. protests and violence against U.S. interests, including private U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations or confrontational situations.

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Impending Release of CIA Torture Report Prompts Embassy Security Review (Again)

— Domani Spero
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Via LAT

The most extensive review of U.S. intelligence-gathering tactics in generations is set to be made public Tuesday, reigniting a post-9/11 public debate over the use of torture to combat terrorism.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s much-anticipated report comes after a years-long review of CIA practices and subsequent wrangling with the spy agency and the White House over whether its contents should be made public and, if so, which parts should be redacted.
[…]
As Feinstein finalized plans to release part of the report, Secretary of State John F. Kerry phoned her Friday to warn of the potential consequences of releasing the report at this time. The State Department called for a review of security measures at overseas missions as a precaution against possible demonstrations, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the administration has taken “prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place” at U.S. facilities around the world.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the chairman of the House intelligence committee said the release of the Senate report examining the use of torture by the CIA a decade ago will cause violence and deaths abroad. The same report quoted the State Department spox:

Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the State Department has “directed all of our posts overseas to review their security posture in light of … a release of this report, to ensure that our personnel, our facilities and our interests are prepared for the range of reactions that might occur.”

This has been a long delayed report, although it looks like it will finally come out tomorrow.

Back in August 2014:

Also in August 2014:

Back in September 2014:

Then today:

NPR notes that the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to release the 480-page executive summary of the report on the CIA’s interrogation policies during the presidency of George W. Bush. The entire report is 6,000 pages long but only the executive summary is expected to be released.

There could be violent responses in many expected and unexpected places:

There’s more:

Potentially violent reactions to the report could be directed not just on official Americans overseas but also American citizens in the wrong place at the wrong time. No security message or travel warning has been posted on travel.state.gov or via OSAC as of this writing. You all be careful out there!

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Quickie: Former FSO Richard Jackson on Missing the Point on Benghazi

Richard Jackson, former Foreign Service Officer, State Dept. director for Egypt and North Africa and president emeritus of Anatolia College writes in The Hill’s Congress blog about Missing the point on Benghazi:

The questions to ask, beyond finger-pointing and cover-ups, are therefore:

  • How, as a special CIA listening post for radical militias and al Qaida not yet re-designated as a consulate, the large Agency cohort in Benghazi was totally blind-sided by the 9/11 attack?
  • What circumstances could justify Amb. Stevens’ travel into a completely unprotectable situation on 9/11?
  • Given requests for additional security resources from posts throughout the region, including Libya, and worldwide, how under continuing resolutions could the Congress justify cutting from the President’s proposed budget the two major security accounts for the State Department, Embassy Security and the World Security Protection (WSP) program, by significant amounts in each of the past three fiscal years? It should be noted that a third, three-month rotation for a 16-person U.S. Army security team in Libya was turned down in mid-August, just weeks before the tragedy, because of the high cost of reimbursement to the Pentagon.
  • Finally, so that this is not just a rhetorical exercise and that we learn from the loss of four American lives, what will be the impact of this sad episode on the future operations of U.S. embassies and consulates, given that the presence of American diplomats on the ground is more important today than ever and that it would be prohibitive and probably impossible to safeguard our 285 worldwide installations against an Ansar al Sharia-style assault?

Read in full here.

– DS

 

 

 

Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Image from http://marklijek.com/index.php

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Robbins Memorialized in AFSA’s Plaque, Now Officially Claimed by the CIA

WaPo has an interesting piece on Barbara Robbins, a slain CIA secretary’s life and death.  She is listed in AFSA’s Memorial Plaque as a State Department employee killed in the line of duty.  Her name was apparently added in 1965.

Screen capture from AFSA’s Memorial Plaque

Last year, during the CIA’s annual memorial ceremony, then Director Leon E. Panetta paid tribute to Ms. Robbins, the first American woman killed in the Vietnam War, and the first Agency officer killed in Vietnam. Via YouTube/CIA: “CIA officer Barbara A. Robbins was killed on March 30, 1965, in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Her name was added to the CIA’s Book of honor, which lists Agency officers who died while serving their country.”

After 46 years, the CIA has now publicly acknowledged her as one of their own.

Excerpt below from the WaPo article:

The CIA director revealed only a few details about the 21-year-old woman, a secretary among spies. In the agency’s annual memorial service for employees killed on the job, then-Director Leon E. Panetta announced that a new name had been inscribed with calligraphy inside the CIA’s Book of Honor: Barbara Annette Robbins, who had volunteered to go to Saigon during the Vietnam War and died in a 1965 car bombing at the U.S. Embassy.

The private ceremony inside the agency’s main lobby last year marked the first time the CIA publicly acknowledged Robbins as one of their own. But the slain secretary holds enough historic titles to make her an object of curiosity within the CIA. Robbins was the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And, according to Panetta, she was also the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War.
[…]
In 1961, Robbins headed off to a secretary’s school at Colorado State University and, after two years, somehow got recruited by the CIA. She wanted to combat the rise of communism. When she went to Washington in 1963, Warren said the family knew she was working for the agency. But they thought her Vietnam posting was with the State Department.
[…]
The car bomb killed Robbins, another American and several Vietnamese, and injured at least 100 more. The secretary’s name and photo were splashed across the country’s newspapers: the Washington Daily News, Stars and Stripes, the New York Daily News — all describing her as a State Department employee.

Her body was flown back to Denver, and a funeral was held April 3, 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk each sent sympathy telegrams to the Robbins family.

That year, the State Department held a ceremony honoring Robbins, placing her name on a plaque in its main lobby.

Continue reading, Barbara Robbins: A slain CIA secretary’s life and death.

Click here to view some 20 photos related to Barbara Robbins, including old State Department, US Army and family photographs.

There is another interesting item in the WaPo article.  In the late morning on March 30, 1965, the CIA secretaries inside the U.S. embassy heard loud pop-pop sounds outside. Four of them ran to the deputy chief of station’s office to peer out the windows. “The enormous thud propelled everyone backward. The iron grates and windows shot out into the office like knives. The boxy air-conditioning units blew into the offices like little bombs.”

Thirty-three years later, on August 7, 1998, in the aftermath of a truck bomb at US Embassy Nairobi, the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report cited a similar window scene: “In the several seconds time lapse* between the gunshots/grenade explosion and the detonation of the truck bomb, many embassy employees went to the windows to observe what was happening. Those who did were either killed or seriously injured.”

Domani Spero