Near, far, wherever you are, Benghazi will go on and on … oh, but do you want to buy a Benghazi thong?

— Domani Spero

The 60Minutes’ Benghazi segment with Lara Logan aired on Oct. 27, 2013 and reignited the Benghazi controversy once again. It included interviews with former US Embassy Libya DCM Gregory Hicks, and Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood. We’ve heard from Mr. Hicks previously and blogged about it here: “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” Features Former Embassy Tripoli DCM Gregory Hicks and Benghazi Hearing: No Kaboom as Promised, But More Details Fill Up the Dark Space of Sadness.

We’ve also heard from Colonel Wood once before: Benghazi Hearing: Looking for Truth Amidst a Partisan Divide, Outing OGA, Zingers

But we haven’t heard previously from this Morgan Jones fellow. That’s apparently a  pseudonym used by a former British soldier who has been “helping to keep U.S. diplomats and military leaders safe for the last decade.” He was reportedly the “security chief for Blue Mountain Security” in charge of the Libyan guard force.

Shortly after the segment aired, Media Matters cited Fox News correspondent Adam Housley as having said that he had previously spoken to the man “a number of times and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money.”

The same day that the 60 Minutes segment aired, Los Angeles Times’ Richard A. Serrano reported that two of theDOJ’s key witnesses in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack were summoned to the Oversight Committee earlier in October and “grilled for hours in separate legal depositions” conducted in “a highly guarded and secret interviews.”  The report identified the Diplomatic Security agents as Alec Henderson, who was stationed in Benghazi, and John Martinec, then based in Tripoli. Henderson was reportedly interviewed on Oct. 8 for eight hours and Martinec was interviewed for five hours on Oct. 10.  The report further says that Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa earlier had also demanded access to a third agent, David Ubben, who was seriously injured in the Benghazi attack. According to LAT, Mr. Issa learned the identities of the three agents from Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, who testified before the committee in spring.

On a related note, did you hear that Senator Graham is exceptionally pissed about Benghazi and has promised to block “every appointment in the US Senate” until the Benghazi survivors are produced?   Apparently, he did not know that two DS agents were right next door on October 8 for legal depos that lasted for altogether 13 hours.  Pardon me? Is it purely coincidental that there are bad news in the polls, and that a primary is potentially a headache? Well, is it?

Screen Shot 2013-10-28

In any case, on October 28, Julia Frifield, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs responded to Senator Graham’s previous September 24 letter concerning the Benghazi survivors availability.  Read the response here.

On October 29, Mr. Morgan’s book, The Embassy House published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster went on sale; available in hardcover, Kindle and Audible; the cheapest edition via Kindle currently selling at $10.99.

Previously, in September 2013, Deadline reported that Thunder Road has acquired The Embassy House to use as the basis for a feature about the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya,

“The film will be written by Taylor Sheridan, whose adaptation of Comancheria has Marc Forster attached. Thunder Road is producing Sheridan’s script Sicario, and they’ve set him to script a look at Benghazi that is one part Black Hawk Down and another Lawrence Of Arabia. //UK-based Luke Speed of the Marjacq Agency repped the book and Gersh’s Bob Hohman and Bayard Maybank and Elevate repped the scribe. Thunder Road used its own resources to buy the book and will fund development, and hasn’t yet enlisted a studio.”

Also in September, The Hollywood Reporter says that HBO has optioned another book, Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, with Jerry Weintraub on board to executive produce.  Under Fire is authored by former DSS Agent and Stratfor VP Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz and is “Based on the exclusive cooperation of eyewitnesses and confidential sources within the intelligence, diplomatic, and military communities” according to the book’s Amazon page.

If they start filming soon, will the movies be ready in time for the 2nd anniversary of the attack or the 2014 election?

On October 31, WaPo’s Karen DeYoung threw some more fuel on the Benghazi fire:

“[I]n a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night.

In Davies’s 2 1 / 2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, “we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.”

On November 1, The Cable’s John Hudson reported that Star Benghazi ‘Witness’ May Not Have Been an Actual Witness:

“In contrast with the 60 Minutes account, which saw him knocking out terrorists with the butt end of his rifle and scaling a 12-foot wall the night of the attack, the Blue Mountain report has Jones at his beach-side villa for the majority of the night. Despite an attempt to make it to the compound, Jones wrote that “we could not get anywhere near … as roadblocks had been set up.”

Further The Cable points out that “the book titled The Embassy House was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a part of CBS Corporation, which owns 60 Minutes — a fact not disclosed in the 60 Minutes story.

Oh, dear …. is that what’s called cross promotion or something?

On November 2, The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin and Eli Lake reported that Dylan Davies, aka: Morgan Jones denied writing the incident report cited by Karen DeYoung’s report in WaPo.  The Daily Beast had obtained a copy of the Blue Mountain Group 4-page incident report that lists Dylan Davies, “PM” as the “Name of Person Reporting.” The report is dated 13:00 hours, September 14, 2012, unsigned and the published copy does not include any indication whether the report was emailed or faxed to the Blue Mountain Group. See for yourself here via Josh Rogin/ScribD.

The Daily Beast report described Jones/Davies as a “Benghazi Whistleblower” and says that “Davies said he did not know who leaked the report to the Post but said he suspected it was the State Department, an allegation that could not be independently corroborated.” More below:

“A State Department official confirmed it matches the version sent to the U.S. government by Davies’s then-employer Blue Mountain Group, the private security company based in Britain, on Sept. 14, 2012, and subsequently provided to Congressional committees investigating the Benghazi attacks.
[…]
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview. Davies denied this charge. 60 Minutes has stood by its reporting.”

Continue reading  Benghazi Whistleblower Says He Was Smeared.

Media Matters and Fox News in a coordinated smear campaign?  If I were drunk at 10 o’clock in the morning, that still sounds crazy bad.

The Blue Mountain Group was snared early on in the Benghazi controversy. Remember that time when the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said this three days after the attack: “I can tell you that at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya – at no time.”  That turned out to be false. This was covered by Danger Room in September 2012:  Feds Hired British Security Firm to Protect Benghazi Consulate.

The contract is a curious one, of course, since security in the State Department falls under the Worldwide Security Protection (WSP) program which has core funding for the protection of life, property, and information of the agency. WSP funding supports not just domestic facilities but also  worldwide guard force protecting overseas diplomatic missions and residences.  Defense Industry Daily has a list of contractors for the 5-year $10 billion WPS security contract inked in 2010.  The Blue Mountain Group is not on that list.  One wonders, given the presence of OGA in Benghazi, if this was in fact an OGA contract, though  the paperwork does say it is a State contract. Or it is possible that none of the WPS contractors are allowed to operate in Libya, so State had to procure services from another provider?  But then, that does not explain why three days after the attack, the State spokesperson was adamant that “at no time did we contract with a private security firm in Libya.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-02

A redacted copy of the Blue Mountain Group contract has now been released after a FOIA by Judicial Watch and can be read/downloaded here.

One thing more. On October 14, 2012, UK’s The Telegraph reported about Blue Mountain, described as a small British firm based in south Wales:

“Blue Mountain, which is run by a former member of the SAS, received paper work to operate in Libya last year following the collapse of Col Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. It worked on short term contacts to guard an expatriate housing compound and a five-star hotel in Tripoli before landing the prestigious US deal.
[…]
But Blue Mountain’s local woes appears to have hampered a coordinated response by the compound’s defenders when the late assault kicked off.

Darryl Davies, the manager of the Benghazi contract for Blue Mountain, flew out of the city hours before the attack was launched. The Daily Telegraph has learned that relations between the firm and its Libyan partner had broken down, leading to the withdrawal of Mr Davies.
[…]
Abdulaziz Majbiri, a Blue Mountain guard at the compound, told the Daily Telegraph that they were effectively abandoned and incapable of defending themselves on the night of the attack.”

So far, no one has gone back to clarify or straighten out that story.

And because the Benghazi controversy simply refuses to die, CNN is reporting that a CIA operatives will testify behind closed doors at a classified Benghazi hearing on the week of November 11.

Then yesterday, Politico reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz  “slammed the source behind a report that revealed the real name of a British security agent in Benghazi, which was published in The Washington Post.”

“I don’t know who did it, but to release a covert agent’s name to endanger his life should be an absolute outrage in this town,” Chaffetz said Monday on Fox New’s “Fox and Friends” when asked if he thought the White House was behind the leak.

I was seriously looking for something like this to pop up because … hey, it’s too attractive to pass up if you want some screen time.  But now Morgan Jones/Dylan Davies is not only a “whistleblower”  he is also a “covert agent”?

Well, I’ll be …. the Oversight Committee hearing is coming soon.

Have you noticed that Benghazi is not only a popular subject with politicians, it has also gained popularity in the Amazon marketplace? The Benghazi tragedy has spawned not just books but also bumper stickers, a Benghazi album from Moon Records, Cover Up (The Benghazi Song), a Benghazi Memorandum Book,a Benghazi Record Book, whatevs.  There are also Benghazi cartoons, mousepads, coffee mugs, coasters, bottles, tshirts, a pinback button, and a Benghazi memorial license plate. There are more Benghazi-branded products available via Cafepress.com including  Benghazi underwear and panties; don’t  miss the Benghazi Blame and Good Riddance classic thongs. Benghazi products are also available at Zazzle.com; don’t miss the doggie clothing line.

If you’re renovating, there is even a Benghazi light switch cover for a 2 plug outlet.

And now my grey matter is seriously hyperventilating and need to drown itself in sorrow.

 

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Read and Weep: Congressional Committee Releases Report Questioning Benghazi ARB Investigation

— By Domani Spero

We know folks are kind of Benghazi’ed out.  We’ve lost count how many hearings Congress has done this past year on Benghazi.  The Republicans can be accused of being on persistent offense, but the Democrats can also be accused of persistent defense.  Meanwhile, our people are out there. Folks are still not talking much about the fact that over 50 personnel rescued out of Benghazi, only 7 were State Department personnel and the rest are OGA people.   How many of them have appeared before Congress to answer some questions?  By the way, for those interested, the Congressional Research Service has a couple of DS-related reports: Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch Initiatives, September 12, 2013 and Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues, September 12, 2013.

In any case, you might be Benghazi’ed out, and the House Oversight Committee could easily be accused of partisan witchhunt — because 2016 — but that does not mean that this report has no meat. While this might not be the entire story of what happened inside the State Department in the Benghazi fallout, this tells part of that story.  Mr. Issa’s report used the term “accountability theater” and we can’t say we disagree. It is also not surprising that who you know makes a difference inside the bureaucracy.  While Ambassador Boswell was given access to the classified portion of the ARB, Mr. Bultrowicz did not see the classified ARB until shortly before he appeared before the Committee. Mr. Maxwell did not see the classified ARB until about 6 months later. The classified portion referencing his performance was subsequently declassified. More than a couple of officials indicate confusion as to why Mr. Maxwell was put on administrative leave.  Lee Lohman, the Executive Director for NEA described as “unfair” the treatment received by Mr. Maxwell.

We’re sure senior people would claim they were just doing their jobs in a complicated situation. Or that they were doing the best they could under the circumstances. That maybe, but their best were not/not good enough.  When somebody orders you to do something you know is inherently wrong, would you follow that order or would you rather quit?  One senior official is on the record saying she did not believe Mr. Maxwell’s actions warranted removal as Deputy Assistant Secretary but when asked if she questioned anybody about that, the answer was “no.” So people simply did their jobs and did not ask questions.  That’s that.  Welcome to a lobotomized bureaucracy where smart people do stuff and no longer ask questions.  Quotes below excerpted form the report:

 

Eric Boswell | Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security — 

“To answer your question, there’s no appeal process that I know of. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t have a chance during the ARB, if they were coming to a conclusion, the conclusion that they did, to ask me about it and ask my views about that judgment. That would happen if you were being — in any other kind of review done by inspectors or GAO or whatever, you get an opportunity to comment. I didn’t get an opportunity to comment; I just saw the conclusion, surprised to see the conclusion.”

Scott Bultrowicz | Director, Diplomatic Security Service — 

“No, look. Here is my thing. I will take responsibility for the decisions I made based on the information I had at hand, okay. I mean, and I’m not looking to point the finger, you know. Accountability cuts a wide swath, I think. So I’m not saying I had nothing to do with this. I mean, it would be shame on me if I said I was completely oblivious to everything. I’m willing to take responsibility for the decisions I made based on the information I had. But, you know, to say, well, you should have managed person A more closely, or you should have been more proactive, that’s pretty general to me. And I mean, you know, it is what it is. I respect the members of that panel. They are all very distinguished officials. But yeah, I have a problem with it. I do. I don’t think it’s something that defines me after 27 years of doing everything I’m asked, or at least to say be more direct in the questioning with me when they had the opportunity.”

Raymond Maxwell | Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs —

There are people who will say that because they’ll say you’re still getting paid, and because you’re still getting paid, you don’t have any reason to complain. But you know, it’s not about the money. It’s about your reason for being, if you will. And, you know, frankly, I would have been better off had they said you are fired from the State Department. You go today. Your pay stops, and you’re out of here. I would have been better off because I could have contested that or–I mean, I would have contested it. It would have also been behind. It would have all been behind me and I could have started with the next thing. But as things now stand, I’m still employed. There’s still a possibility that I could come back, so it’s not like I can start something new.

I was scheduled to retire on April 30th, and I made the decision to withdraw my retirement request because I didn’t want to go out under this cloud of suspicion that maybe I had done something, that’s the cloud that–my fear of the cloud of suspicion no longer exists because I have embraced my administrative leave-ness, if you will, and it’s no longer a source of shame for me. It’s now–almost–it’s increasingly becoming a source of pride for me. So, it’s not that big a deal anymore. But now there’s a principle. Now there’s a principle that they did something improperly, immorally, maybe even illegally, and if I just take it laying down, guess what, they’ll do it to somebody else again.”

The House Oversight Committee report includes the following cast of characters in addition to the ARB Four, some with direct quotes from the congressional transcript. There appears to be no quotes from Ms. Lamb and Mr. Kennedy; a quick reading of the 100 99-page report did not indicate how many State Department employees appeared before the Committee, or who were requested to appear but did not.

Elizabeth Dibble

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Elizabeth Dibble is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. She is Elizabeth Jones’ deputy, and the second most senior official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Jeffrey Feltman

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Jeffrey Feltman was the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from August 18, 2009 until May 31, 2012. In December 2011, Feltman requested that Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy approve a continued ad hoc U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012. Kennedy approved.

Gregory Hicks

Deputy Chief of Mission, Libya

Gregory Hicks is the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya. He testified before the Committee on May 8, 2013, describing in detail the events on the ground and his interactions with Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012. The State Department assigned him to a desk job while he awaits an onward assignment.

Elizabeth Jones

Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Elizabeth Jones is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, the most senior official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Jones was the direct supervisor of Raymond Maxwell, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs.

Patrick F. Kennedy

Under Secretary of State for Management

Patrick Kennedy, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service, has served as the Under Secretary of State since 2007. Kennedy approved a memorandum that requested to continue the ad hoc U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012.

Charlene Lamb

Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs

The ARB cited Charlene Lamb for failing to provide the requested number of diplomatic security agents at the Benghazi mission and ignoring efforts by her subordinates to improve the staffing challenges at the mission. Lamb was placed on administrative leave in December 2012.

Lee Lohman

Executive Director, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Lee Lohman was the Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Lohman testified that Raymond Maxwell was not involved in any decisions pertaining to the security at Benghazi, and that Patrick Kennedy was highly involved with security decisions that affected Benghazi.

Raymond Maxwell

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs

Raymond Maxwell was the only individual in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs with whom the ARB found fault for the Benghazi attacks. Several witnesses testified that both the ARB and the State Department treated Maxwell unfairly. Maxwell was placed on administrative leave in December 2012.

Brian Papanu

Desk Officer, Libya

Brian Papanu served as the Desk Officer for Libya. He was responsible for obtaining temporary duty staff for Libya and served as a liaison between Washington, D.C. and Tripoli.

William Roebuck

Director, Office of Maghreb Affairs

William Roebuck is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs—the position previously held by Raymond Maxwell. He served as the Chargé d’Affaires to Libya from January to June 2013. Prior to that post, he served as the Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs, where he was one of the most knowledgeable policymakers on Libya in the State Department. Roebuck considered shutting down the Benghazi mission due to lack of security.

Issa — Kerry Paper Shuffling Saga: What’s With the 7-Month Administrative Leave?

— By Domani Spero

On July 31, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa fired another letter to Secretary of State John Kerry inquiring about the status of the four State Department personnel officially assigned blame over the disaster in Benghazi.  Diplomatic Security officials, Eric Boswell, Charlene Lamb, Steve Bultrowicz and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell were placed on paid administrative leave following the release of the ARB Benghazi Report in December 2012.  To-date, these officials have been on bureaucratic limbo with an end promised; though the “when” does not appear to be in sight.

We’ve lost count how many Issa letters are fluttering around the hallways of Foggy Bottom. And we’ve lost count how many pages of paper reportedly have been provided by the State Department to Congress. We heard pages and pages and pages of papers.  We trust that the papers provided actually contained or will contain relevant information, and not the telephone directories or photocopies of the Foreign Affairs Manual or the Foreign Affairs Handbook.

Seriously, we are pissed at this paper shuffling saga playing out between the State Department and Congress.  In a perfect world, the Oversight Committee should focus on what went wrong, what can be done to prevent another Benghazi from happening and forget about 2016.  In a perfect world, the State Department and the CIA should acknowledge their faults and shortcomings in what happened and help the American public understand the human cost of doing work in the dark corners of the world.   That is a naive view, of course.  In the real world, these folks are playing a game of mud, assuring the public that one mud is clearer and cleaner than the other. Frankly, that’s all horseshit, with apology to the horse. And while this game is playing on, there are real life consequences.

The DS bureau has been described as in a “hell of hurt” these days.  Not only because it lost three of its top officials in one messy swoop, but also because one of those officials was an important cog in the assignment wheel of about 1,900 security officers.  If the assignments of DS agents overseas have been a great big mess for the last several months, you may account that to the fact that Ms. Lamb, the person responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies including personnel, had been put inside a deep freezer.  While planning has never been a State Department strength, succession planning is altogether a foreign object.  No nominee has been announced to succeed Ms. Lamb as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs.  Robert Hartung, the Assistant Director for Threat Investigation and Analysis Directorate has been appointed the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs according to the DS website.  The State Department telephone directory, however, has not even bothered  to list Mr. Hartung as acting DAS for International Programs.

Note and question of the day:  “Diplomatic Security is under intense pressure following Benghazi so now all resources are put towards “high threat” areas.  Nevertheless, experienced and well regarded DS officers at overseas posts are finding it impossible to stay out – even when they are the first choice for the receiving post.  When it gets to the panel – DS management declines to allow the agents to be paneled for the job.  I’ve known experienced agents being turned down for Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq because they’ve “been out too long.”  This is not an issue for other Foreign Service officers so why is it for Diplomatic Security?”

Got that in our inbox today.  Don’t know the answer except perhaps to point out that there is no/no email inside the freezer.

In any case, Mr. Issa’s July 31 letter to Secretary Kerry provides some interesting items.

1.  Apparently, the Committee has heard testimony from all four individuals faulted by the ARB, as well as their supervisors and colleagues. Witnesses reportedly testified that the Department offered “assurances” to Boswell, Bultrowicz, Lamb and Maxwell that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department.  Those assurances  seem to indicate that  the firing is part of a PR strategy more than accountability. Did State expect all four officials to just stay quiet as rocks until the political storm blows over?   A side note — Gregory Starr, recently nominated to succeed Boswell as top boss of Diplomatic Security praised these officers before Congress for giving “their careers to diplomatic security as well and the security of the Department of State.”  They are all praiseworthy enough that seven months on and the Secretary of State still has no idea what to do with them.

2.  And because Mr. Issa is still enamored with the Benghazi Talking Points, his letter brings up former spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s “promotion” to be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  He also brought up former NEA PDAS Elizabeth Dibble who was recently appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission to London.  And Greg Hicks, former DCM at US Embassy Tripoli who was apparently unable to find a “comparable overseas assignment” ten months after curtailing from Libya.

3. The only person from the NEA Bureau officially assigned blamed by the ARB was Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell.  He was apparently singled out because he stopped attending morning meetings held to read certain intelligence material, which, according to witnesses interviewed by the Committee, contained no information that would have caused Maxwell or anyone else to adjust the security posture at Special Mission Benghazi.  The Acting NEA boss, Ambassador Elizabeth Jones, who supervised Maxwell, reportedly agreed with the ARB’s conclusion that it was inappropriate for Mr. Maxwell to stop attending the daily intelligence read-book meetings. She testified, however, that Maxwell’s failure to read the daily intelligence had no connection to the inadequate security posture of the U.S. mission in Benghazi.  So, of all the people working in the NEA bureau, how did Mr. Maxwell become “it”?

4.  Apparently, neither Ambassador Jones nor Eric Boswell viewed “administrative leave” as a common practice, and according to Mr. Issa’s letter, neither was aware of any prior use of such an extended period of administrative leave.  Neither of them ever heard of Peter Van Buren who was locked out of Foggy Bottom and placed on paid administrative leave for about a year? Well, that is interesting.

5.  Eric Boswell reportedly testified that a State Department senior official told him the period of paid administrative leave would be brief. So, not only temporary but also brief.  Damn, what’s the world coming to … if you can’t even trust a senior State Department official’s words of reassurance.  Mr. Boswell should have had in writing the meaning of the word “brief.”  Just saying.

Mr. Issa’s letter requires answers to the following 10 questions for Secretary Kerry; well he’s the Secretary of State, his staff or those same senior officials will obviously task worker bees to work on an acceptable response to Congress.

  • Who made the decision to place the four individuals named in the ARB report on paid administrative leave?
  • For each of the four individuals on paid administrative leave, when was the decision made and what were the specific reasons for the decision?
  • What is the State Department’s internal definition of paid administrative leave?
  • Please describe any steps the Department has taken to evaluate the respective performances of the individuals who were placed on paid administrative leave.
  • Besides the findings of the ARB, what information is being considered as part of the performance evaluation process?
  • Who is conducting the performance evaluation(s)? Who will make a recommendation regarding how the administrative leave status should be resolved?
  • Is the Department delaying a final determination due to the ongoing congressional investigation or any other ongoing review, including, but not limited to a review being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General? If yes, please identify the investigation or review that is delaying the final determination.
  • Does the Department intend to offer individuals placed on paid leave a formal opportunity to respond to the ARB’s criticisms of their conduct before making final decisions? Will their responses be made public?
  • How many times have you been briefed on the status of each of the four individuals placed on paid administrative leave?
  • Explain why you have been unwilling or unable to reach decisions on these important personnel matters.

Unfortunately, Mr. Issa did not ask the more important questions. What actions did these four individuals take that made them blamable for Benghazi?   What evidence did the ARB have against these individuals and why are those kept classified?  Was any one of them directly responsible for opening up the Special Mission in Benghazi? Was anyone of them directly responsible for whatever agreement the State Department-CIA had on the security and operation of the temporary mission?  Was anyone of them directly responsible for turning down the request for more security? Why were they given assurances that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department if an investigation was ongoing?  These assurances — do these assurances  show the predetermined  nature of whatever investigation? Because if there is an investigation, and no one as yet know how it will turn out, how can anyone make stupid promises like these?

Were these promises to the four individuals routinely made to FSOs in trouble like Peter Van Buren?  Peter — yohoo! Did anyone ever tell you  your admin leave status would be temporary and that you would return to a new assignment within the Department at the conclusion of your investigation? What? They padlocked the door after you?

Oh hey, is it true that folks in the upper echelons of the State Department — those who are looked up as leaders and as models of behavior by the rank and file — no longer even look in the mirror afraid of what they’ll see there? Ay madre de dios!

Below is Mr. Issa’s letter in full.  Click on the lower right hand corner of the Scribd screen to display the letter in full screen.   WARNING: Reading may put you on full jaded and sour mood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Dept on Issa Subpoenas: Received “Out of the Blue”… Witnesses “Need Time to Review and Prep”

—By Domani Spero

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa spells out his complaints on his June 24 letter to Secretary Kerry hereAccording to the Oversight Committee:

Issa details the Committee’s months-long efforts to arrange interviews with officials possessing direct knowledge of the events. On April 29, 2013, Committee staff contacted State Department officials to request their assistance in arranging interviews. The request was reiterated on May 17, 2013, however investigators have only been able to interview one of the 13 individuals with whom they requested interviews and the meeting was arranged without the State Department’s help.

The May 17 letter requested that the following former and current employees of the State Department be made available for a transcribed interview. This is the first time we’ve seen the list.  We have added the titles as best we can determine.

  1. David Adams, former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  2. *Eric Boswell, former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  3. *Elizabeth Dibble, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; rumored to be the next Deputy Chief of Mission for US Embassy London
  4. Jeremy Freeman, State Department lawyer, an expert in Congressional subpoenas (via NYT)
  5. *Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs
  6. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management
  7. Raymond Maxwell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  8. Cheryl Mills, former Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  9. Victoria Nuland, former Spokesperson of the Department of State; nominated as A/S for the EUR Bureau
  10. Philippe Reines, former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  11. William Roebuck, former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs, NEA Bureau; appointed Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya from January-June 2013
  12. Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  13. Jacob Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Currently National Security Advisor to VPOTUS

One name not on this list but was served a subpoena by the Issa Committee is Scott Bultrowicz, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (one of the four officials put on administrative leave pending further action).  Names with an asterisk have been issued a subpoena (see Not Going to Take It Anymore — Issa Subpoenas Boswell, Bultrowicz, Dibble and Jones).

In any case, Patrick Ventrell, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office and occasional person on the podium during the Daily Press Briefings was asked about the Issa subpoenas on June 25, 2013 and here is what the building says in a word cloud:

Word Cloud via WordItOut

Word Cloud via WordItOut

If you want to read the fine details, please see below. We particularly like the question, “to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?” We do not particularly like the dodgy response but somebody’s gotta say the blahs so folks have something to write about.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Patrick, today Chairman Issa’s issued subpoenas to four State Department officials. Will the State Department be cooperating with the subpoenas?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as we’ve consistently said, we’ve been cooperating with Congress on this matter going back many months. We’ve made available to Congress several department witnesses and briefers, as well as over 25,000 pages of documents. We understand that Chairman Issa has issued subpoenas for four Department employees. These four employees were already preparing to do voluntary interviews with the committee, and since the committee sent their initial interview requests, we’ve been discussing with them in good faith both the terms for the interview and the scheduling logistics. In fact, we had offered employees to be interviewed in early July. So this had been something that they were voluntarily willing to do.

QUESTION: But in that letter Chairman Issa claimed that State Department Chief of Staff David Wade has not been cooperating, that since mid-May they’ve been asking for these people. What exactly is the holdup then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we absolutely reject that. We’ve been cooperating all along, and the Department has shown unprecedented cooperation. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of man-hours complying with dozens of requests from Congress. We’ll continue to cooperate while reiterating our request that the Congress and the media shift from focusing on long-debunked myths to the real need to protect America’s diplomats and development experts serving their country overseas.

So on this particular case, ever since we received the interview requests, we’ve been in regular contact with the committee negotiating in good faith and it’s unfortunate that Chairman Issa, without warning, disregarded those discussions and issued subpoenas for witnesses who were willing to testify. This is a pattern that we saw with Mr. Pickering as well, something that – this is a tactic he’s used before. I can’t speculate on his motivations but it’s something that he’s done before.

QUESTION: And to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’ve been in discussion with the committee about providing the witnesses prior to receiving the subpoena. So we were working on the dates, working on the list of names, when this subpoena sort of suddenly arrived yesterday.

QUESTION: It’s been months, why hasn’t it happened?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as months. I mean, this is something that – I don’t have the date of the original request from Mr. Issa here in front of me, but ever since we received the – let me see if I have this here – I don’t have the date right in front of me, but ever since we received it —

QUESTION: Mid May.

MR. VENTRELL: — we’ve been in consistent and continual contact with the committee staff, and we’ve done so in good faith.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you think that this perceived stalling from Issa that it could be perceived that these witnesses are being coached or they’re getting – taking time to get their testimony or words right?

MR. VENTRELL: No, that’s absurd. We reject that. It’s certainly understandable that people need time to prepare for congressional testimony; witnesses take that very seriously, need time to review and prep, and that’s standard practice and normal. So we just reject that.

QUESTION: So it’s not the four people stalling, it’s perhaps the State Department or it’s Issa not being organized?

MR. VENTRELL: This is about getting them the best possible information, making sure the witnesses have time to be prepared to provide the best possible information. And we’re working with them in good faith and scheduling dates, so this sort of arrived out of the blue yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that you told Chairman Issa that you’ve given them everything that you have, and you have nothing else to give them? Is that —

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s not exactly —

QUESTION: In layman’s terms.

MR. VENTRELL: No, no, no. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. This was a specific request, Said, for witnesses. This was a —

QUESTION: Right. I understand what’s going. I’m just saying, what is your position? What do you tell them, that we have already submitted all these – we answered all these questions —

MR. VENTRELL: No. The point is that the cooperation has been ongoing, and in this case we were cooperating on providing witnesses. So we received a subpoena out of the blue.

Makes one wonder how long it took the one witness already interviewed by the Committee with no assistance from the State Department to “review and prep.”

(>x<!)

Not Going to Take It Anymore — Issa Subpoenas Boswell, Bultrowicz, Dibble and Jones

—By Domani Spero

 

On May 17, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa wrote to Secretary Kerry with a request to interview 13 former and current employees of the State Department. On June 24, he wrote another letter asking hey, it’s been a month and the Committee has only been able to interview one of the thirteen individuals identified on the May 17 letter. Apparently, that one interview was scheduled without the assistance of the State Department.

So he was not happy, particularly after learning that the interviews will not occur until the middle of July.

July! That’s like the middle of the summer transfer season!

Anyway, Chairman Issa will not take it anymore and says “The Department has left me with no alternative but to issue subpoenas to compel testimony from these important witnesses.

The following witness were reportedly issued subpoenas:

  • Eric Boswell, Former Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Diplomatic Security
  • Scott Bultrowicz, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service, Bureau of Diplomatic Security
  • Elizabeth Dibble, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
  • Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs

Click here to read Chairman Issa’s June 24 letter to Secretary Kerry.

(._.)

House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Benghazi-Related Documents To/From Ten State Dept Officials

On May 28, 2013, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced the issuance of a subpoena for  “documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” from ten current and former State Department officials.

Ah, yes – the irresistible talking points.

The letter and subpoena sets a deadline of Friday, June 7, 2013, for Secretary Kerry to provide all documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points, to or from the following current and former State Department personnel:

  1. William Burns, Deputy Secretary of State;
  2. Elizabeth Dibble, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
  3. Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs;
  4. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management;
  5. Cheryl Mills, Counselor and Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (departed post)
  6. Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary for Management (departed post)
  7. Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson (nominee for Assistant Secretary of EUR)
  8. Philippe Reines, Deputy Assistant Secretary (departed post)
  9. Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning (departed post, currently VPOTUS National Security Advisor)
  10. David Adams, Assistant Secretary for State for Legislative Affairs (departed post)

 

Click here to read Chairman Issa’s letter to Secretary Kerry.

Stock up on popcorn folks.  “Talking Points” will not have a season finale for the foreseeable future.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

Benghazi Hearing: No Kaboom as Promised, But More Details Fill Up the Dark Space of Sadness

So there’s this ARB report on Benghazi, this Senate report on Benghazi, and this Interim Progress report on Benghazi.  Then Congress held hearings the last several months (see below, may not be a complete list):

House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa promised on May 8th that “This hearing is closed, but this investigation is not over.” Towards the end of the hearing Darrell Issa also asked, “Do we need other whistle-blowers to come forward?” All three witnesses answer in the affirmative.

The May 8 Oversight hearing with State Department whistleblowers, Gregory Hicks, Eric Norstrom and Mark I. Thompson went on from 11:30 am until after 5:00 in the afternoon.  We were off to a prior engagement which could not be rescheduled so we had to play catch up with this.  We’re not going to go through this blow by blow because we don’t have enough booze in the house.

First, we have to say that we were disappointed the kaboom promised did not materialized.  But we appreciate hearing additional details about that night.  Perhaps when the ARB mandate is updated by Congress, it should just be an open hearing on C-SPAN  where the American public can hear first hand what our diplomats do overseas in the service of this country.

We appreciate the fact the Mr. Nordstrom prepared a written testimony, as he did previously in the October 2012 appearance. We admire him for publicly questioning how the ARB fixed the blame on this incident at the lower level. A sentiment that we have heard from people inside the building since the ARB report was released. He also made an excellent argument about elevating both Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs to the Under Secretary level instead of where it current stands, under the Under Secretary for Management. We don’t think that this would happen but it shows that he was thinking through how things could be made better.

Gregory Hicks and Mark I. Thompson. Neither prepared a written testimony about Benghazi. In its place, both submitted biographic notes.  See Mr. Thompson’s here and Mr. Hick’s here.  Mr. Hick’s statement includes how he “became known as the Ambassador’s bulldog,” and how Charge d’affaires Larry Pope told him his performance was “near-heroic.”  Combined that with the now often repeated line about somebody with balls as in “a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military” — gave us an eeek feeling.  It might have been better if somebody else, not Mr. Hicks repeated those lines about himself to the Committee.  This led WaPo’s Dana Milbank to write, “And this whistleblower spent a good bit of time tooting his own horn.”  See? That’s what happens.

A few things of note —

Names:

During Gregory Hicks testimony, he named some of US Mission Libya’s staff. Except for David Ubbens, an RSO who was wounded in Benghazi, we are almost certain this is the first time that the names of those working in the mission have been made public. Are we going to now see these guys called before a congressional committee? There were actually more OGA folks than State personnel in Benghazi, but we’re not going to hear from those folks, are we?

  • Regional Security Officer (Tripoli) – John Martinec
  • Regional Security Officer (Benghazi) – Alec Henderson
  • Ambassador Stevens’ Agent in Charge – Scott Wickland
  • Political Section Chief – David McFarland
  • Embassy Tripoli Nurse – Jackie Levesque
  • Embassy Office Manager – Amber Pickens
  • Management Officer – Allen Greenfield
  • Lieutenant Colonel Phillips
  • Lieutenant Colonel Arnt
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gibson
  • Mark Si (Team Tripoli)


Quotables: 

Eric A. Nordstrom , the former RSO in Tripoli who gave us some of the best zingers in the October 2012 hearing did not disappoint.

“Is anything in writing, if so, I’d like a copy for post so we have it handy for the ARB?”

“Our posts in Benghazi and Tripoli were among those posts and the only two facilities that met no OSPB or SECCA standards.”

“[I]f the Secretary of State did not waive these requirements, who did so by ordering occupancy of the facilities in Benghazi and Tripoli?”

“The ARB’s failure to review the decisions of the U/S for Management and other senior leaders, who made critical decisions regarding all aspects of operations in Tripoli, to include occupancy of facilities, which did not meet the aforementioned SECCA and OSPB requirements, is inexplicable.”

“While Department employees are told that they may spend multiple tours in hardship and unaccompanied postings as part of the Department’s new ‘expeditionary’ diplomacy designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the Department has not made the appropriate organizational and cultural changes to keep pace with the work expected of its employees.”

The lesson State Department employees can expect to have taken from Benghazi: “Whether you’re at a mission, preparing for a hearing, or you’re standing on top of a building “surrounded by a mob […] the message is the same: You’re on your own.”

Gregory Hicks also gave us some quotes and additional details that we did not know previously.

“We have about 55 diplomatic personnel in the two annexes.”  [This is a lot more than what was previously reported]

“I think at about 2 p.m. the — 2 a.m., sorry, the Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone, and she asked me what was going on.”

“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed.”

Undersecretary of State Elizabeth Jones “told me I had to improve my management style and that some people were upset.”

“A phone call from that senior a person is generally considered not to be good news.”

“It’s a demotion […] foreign affairs officers… are desk officers. I’ve been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.”

“[Washington] asked me in one of the phone calls, when are you going to move [from the embassy] to the annex?” I said dawn, because none of our people had experience driving the armored vehicles.

Hicks says that Secretary Clinton “wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. The timing of this decision was important. Chris needed to report before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year… [and file] an action memo to convert the facility.”

Mark I. Thompson, the Deputy Coordinator for Operations for the CT Bureau who was careful to let us know in his bio-note that the position is equivalent to a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

The team “is designed… to get all the options on the table for the decision-makers.”

Later he said when he knew they couldn’t find the ambassador “I alerted my leadership.”

On why was FEST not called into action? “I do not know.”

A pretty good account of the hearing with timeline via the Guardian here if you want to read more.


Something DGHR might be interested in — Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California asked  Mr. Hicks where in the world he’d like to be posted next.

“The country that I would most like to go to and be assigned to…” Hicks says, then pauses. “I’d really want to talk to the chief decision-maker in my family, my wife, because her opinion is really more important than mine.”

“I think this committee will help you get a good onward assignment,” Speier says.

That’s when we just ahaha fell off the chair!  Has there ever been an instance when Congress successfully waded in on the onward assignment of a mid-level official in a State Department? We’d like to see that. We imagine that Congress can drive Assignments Officers literally as nuts as Jack Nicholson in The Shining. We suspect that the good representative from California had absolutely no idea how that works. Maybe they should hold a hearing about that, too, because why not?


He Said vs. He Said vs. They Said

Via Jonathan Karl/ABC:  The GOP reportedly said that Thomas Pickering – the co-chairman of ARB Benghazi refused to testify on May 8.  The State Department disagreed:  “Ambassador Pickering volunteered to appear,” a State Department official tells ABC News. “But Government Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell] Issa said no.” Issa spokesman then released a letter dated February 22 inviting Pickering (read them here) to the SubCommittee on National Security on March 2013.  State Department says Pickering is ready to go right now – and happy to testify on May 8.

Via Andrea Mitchell/NBC: Gregory Hicks said that Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills “was very upset” that the lawyer was barred from the classified briefing during the Chaffetz CODEL in Tripoli.  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Philippe Reines responded in a lengthy email to NBC News/MSNBC regarding the allegation that Mills was angry that a State Department attorney was excluded from meetings in Libya with republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, of the House Oversight Committee.

Via Thinkprogress and Foreign Policy  Gregory Hicks vs. Embassy Tripoli staff.  “Staff who served in Libya with Gregory Hicks, the GOP’s primary “whistleblower” in this week’s hearing on the Benghazi terror attacks, undercut his story that State Department officials demoted him as retribution for speaking out, instead telling ThinkProgress about a man who one described as “the worst manager I’ve ever seen in the Foreign Service.”  Another anonymous official told Foreign Policy’s Gordon Lubold that Hicks is a “classic case of underachiever who whines when big breaks don’t come his way.”

So — that’s that. Maybe we’ll have a separate post on Mr. Hicks and whistleblowing  later ….

For now, it looks like the famous “talking points” is the star of the press show again.

Meanwhile —

US Embassy Tripoli went on partial ordered departure yesterday with some personnel ordered to depart the country, while others continue the work they were sent out to do in Libya.  Tripoli according to Eric Nordstrom is one of the “two facilities that met no OSPB or SECCA standards” and yet we are there.  Has anyone asked to see Tripoli and Benghazi’s emergency plans?  Was there even one for Benghazi?  Who approved these posts without the required security waivers? Neither the ARB nor Congress knows despite the various reports and multiple hearings.  For now, the Marines’ Task Force Tripoli is reportedly on site on a six-month rotation.

At the same time, at a neighboring embassy (one of those breached in mob attacks last year) where the front office is seriously suffering from clientitis and on denial about security and the future of a seriously messed up country —  work on updating the mission’s emergency plan finally started.  But the country is falling apart and if you have not Nordstromed your requests yet, better start before it’s too late.

By the way, on the same day when  the Benghazi hearing was held, our U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford made a secret trip into northern Syria.  NPR reported that Ambassador Ford who is still accredited to the Syrian Government crossed into rebel-held territory at the Bab al-Salama crossing of the Turkish frontier without permission from the Syrian Government.

And so —

The work continues in over 285 posts around the world. If you know how these hearings have made our people overseas any safer or  better equipped to managed the risks they faced every day, please tell us because we’ve been depressed for a long, long time now.

— DS

Note: With apologies to our regular readers. We have currently disabled the comment section. We don’t have enough Prozac to help us deal with the ever excellent conspiracy theorists who came to leave us love notes.  So we will go hide under the bed with our favorite GAO reports and catch up on our reading.  

Is the State Dept’s Bureaucratic Firewall Crumbling? Former DCM Says Accountability Review “let people off the hook” …

Via CNN:

Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, told congressional investigators that the State Department internal review of the catastrophe at the mission in Benghazi “let people off the hook,” CNN has learned.

The Accountability Review Board “report itself doesn’t really ascribe blame to any individual at all. The public report anyway,” Hicks told investigators, according to transcript excerpts obtained by CNN. “It does let people off the hook.”
[…]
Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday on CBS that Hicks will testify Wednesday in a congressional hearing on the deadly attack in Benghazi.

“In our system, people who make decisions have been confirmed by the Senate to make decisions,” Hicks told investigators.”The three people in the State Department who are on administrative leave pending disciplinary action are below Senate confirmation level. Now, the DS (Diplomatic Security) assistant secretary resigned, and he is at Senate confirmation level.  Yet the paper trail is pretty clear that decisions were being made above his level.

Whom might Hicks be referring to? He specifically mentions Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

“Certainly the fact that Under Secretary Kennedy required a daily report of the personnel in country and who personally approved every official American who went to Tripoli or Benghazi, either on assignment or TDY (temporary duty), would suggest some responsibility about security levels within the country lies on his desk,” Hicks said.
[…]
The day after Rice’s appearance on the Sunday shows, Hicks says, he asked Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, ” ‘Why did Ambassador Rice say that?’ And Beth Jones said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Hicks said he didn’t think Jones “welcomed the question at all. … Both the sharpness of the ‘I don’t know’ and the tone of voice … indicated to me that I had perhaps asked a question that I should not have asked.”

Continue reading, Benghazi whistle-blower Hicks: Internal review ‘let people off the hook’.

If you missed this weekend’s Face the Nation, see the CBS Face the Nation Transcript, May 5, 2013, the first part is on Benghazi.

We have written previously how we were troubled by the ARB fixing the blame at the bureau level (see How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?; and These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …).

 We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested.

Back in December, we’ve also speculated at three future scenarios:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

It looks like scenarios #1 and #3 are now out.  Remains to be seen how scenario #2 plays out with this week’s Oversight hearing.  We suspect that one or more of the under secretaries will soon announce a desire to “spend more time with the family” or retire or whatever.

We understand that Mr. Hicks was the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli from June 2012 – October 2012.  We don’t know why this tenure was only for four months.  We have tried reaching out to Mr. Hicks but have not heard anything back. He presumably also became the charge d’affaires in the aftermath of Ambassador Steven’s death.  Mr. Hicks is an FS-01 Econ Officer with 22 years of service.

On October 11, 2012, retired FSO Laurence Pope assumed office as charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tripoli (see Officially Back: Ambassador Laurence Pope to Tripoli as Chargé d’ Affaires.

In January 2013, a career FSO took over running the embassy from Ambassador Pope (see US Embassy Libya: New Chargé d’ Affaires William Roebuck Assumes Office.

On March 19, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Deborah Jones as the next ambassador to Libya (see  Officially In: Deborah K. Jones, from MEI Scholar-in-Residence to Libya).  Ambassador Jones is scheduled to have her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

Mr. Hicks is scheduled to testify at the House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 8. We have a prior engagement that day so we’ll be late.

— DS

 

Oversight Committee Announces Names of Benghazi Hearing Witnesses: Mark Thompson, Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom

Via the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee dated May 4, 2013:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today announced three witnesses who will appear at a full committee hearing, “Benghazi:  Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 11:30 AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee.  They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed,” said Issa.  “Our committee has been contacted by numerous other individuals who have direct knowledge of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but are not yet prepared to testify.  In many cases their principal reticence of appearing in public is their concern of retaliation at the hands of their respective employers.  While we may yet add additional witnesses, this panel will certainly answer some questions and leave us with many new ones.”

Witnesses:

Image via House Oversight Committee

Image via House Oversight Committee

 

In October 2012, the Oversight Committee held the first hearing on the Benghazi attacks, which exposed denials of security requests and forced the Administration to acknowledge that the attacks were not sparked by a protest of a YouTube video, contrary to claims made by Obama Administration officials.

*** NOTE: Press seating will be reserved, but limited. Please arrive early (hearing room will open to press at 10:30 AM) to guarantee a seat. An overflow area will be available. ***

Hearing Details:
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage
Full Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa, (R-CA)
11:30 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building and streaming live at oversight.house.gov.

 

We can’t seem to find the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism  in the State Department directory.  The Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) is headed in an acting capacity by  Ambassador-at-Large & Coordinator Jerry P. Lanier.  The directory also list Mark I. Thompson as Deputy Coordinator for Operations  (teldir dated May 3,2013 p.OD-16). We can’t say if this is the same person referred to in the Oversight announcement.

Mr. Hicks is running for State VP in the AFSA elections; we cannot locate him in the phone directory so we can’t say what his current assignment is in the State Department.  When the State Department sent  some  embassy personnel back to Tripoli to reopen the embassy in September 2011,  Joan Polaschik was the DCM (see Modest Diplomatic Footprint Returns to Tripoli Without Ambassador Cretz).  So Mr. Hicks must have succeeded Ms. Polachick sometime in 2012. We’re trying to track down when was his exact tenure at US Embassy Tripoli.

Mr. Nordstrom has previously testified at the Oversight Committee on July 26, 2012.

It’ll probably be standing room only.  Come prepared.

— DS

 

 

 

 

Congressional Reps Inspect Diplomatic Facilities, Guess Where They Went?

The Federal Times reported recently that seven members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were on a mission inspecting security arrangements for State Department personnel in various diplomatic posts in the Middle East. Apparently the aim is to better evaluate the commitments of host nations’ to keeping American embassies and consulates secure.

Woohoo! Excerpt below:

To better protect its diplomatic personnel abroad, the United States must better evaluate the commitments of host nations’ to keeping American embassies and consulates secure, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., said during a tour of the Middle East on Wednesday.

DesJarlais is one of seven members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee inspecting security arrangements for State Department personnel in the region as part of its ongoing inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others dead.

“You want to ensure against future loss of American life,” DesJarlais said as he spoke with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on a conference call from Cyprus. Issa is the committee chairman.

So far, the group has inspected American facilities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in Israel and in Turkey and Lebanon. Issa said plans call for three more stops but for security reasons could not reveal the destinations.

“We’re seeing quite a diversity in the needs of the different embassies,” DesJarlais said.
[…]
The United States, DesJarlais and Issa added, also needs to evaluate the locations of some of its diplomatic outposts. Some places, they said, may just be too fraught with security risks.

As for what’s needed from Washington, both members downplayed calls for new major spending on embassy security, even though Democrats have complained about Republican appropriators failing to meet the Obama administration’s recent annual budget requests for embassy security by amounts ranging from $90 million to $300 million.

Read in full here.

The Tennessean also reported that the group is not stopping in Benghazi itself, since apparently, according to Congressman DesJarlais, aerial photography and other means have already shown what the problems were there. But here is the important detail:

“In addition to visiting American facilities, the congressional delegation is talking to key officials in the host countries as part of their assessment of those nations’ commitment to using their own resources to protect embassies and consulates.”

How come this guy DesJarlais sounds familiar? Oh …

Anyway – the congressional delegation reportedly went and visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in Israel, and also visited Turkey and Lebanon.  Possibly Cyprus and 2-3 more posts not revealed for “security purposes.”  Yes, the delegation did not stop in Benghazi, and we don’t know if they have plans to stop in Tripoli or the US Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen or the US Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, or the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. And Khartoum.

Khaaaartoum, anyone?

Hey, are we to understand that the delegation were also in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus for some inspection?  Any recent anti-U.S. demos and mobs attacking our American facilities there?

So here we are supremely perplexed.  Have you ever heard of an incident where the Government of Israel allowed protesters to over run our diplomatic compounds in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv without an appropriate response?  No?  Have you ever heard of an incident where the Government of Turkey took 4-6 hours to respond to a mob attack in Ankara or Istanbul or Adana? Or that they never showed up?  Nope, we don’t remember that happening either. Well,  have you?

So why the foxtrot are these congressional folks wasting taxpayer dollars visiting Israel and Turkey to assess “those nations’ commitment to using their own resources to protect” our embassies and consulates?

We did have problematic responses from host countries in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Sudan as evidenced by damages from the September 2012 embassy attacks. Is the CODEL visiting those countries and talking to host country officials about rapid response in protecting our diplomatic facilities there?

Or for that matter, why the heck are they not inspecting all the newly designated 17 high threat posts of the State Department and assessing those countries commitment to protecting our people and facilities? There’s a good number of garden posts to choose from — Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. Why not visit those?

Pardon me?

Well — if they’ve got second thoughts about visiting and inspecting Afghanistan, they should listen to Mr. Farahi quoted in the NYT: “Afghanistan is a country very suitable for attracting tourists …. It’s a place where tourists can have all their wishes come true.”

Seriously, if it’s a place suitable for tourists, dammit it should be suitable for a CODEL visit, too.

 

 

 

 

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