Missing From the AFSA Memorial Plaque: John Brown Williams, First American Consul to Fiji (1810-1860)

Posted: 2:07 am ET
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On January 28, Judith Cefkin, our Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu tweeted this:

We were curious and a quick look online indicates that John Brown Williams died of dysentery on 19 June 1860. But there’s more.

Below is from The Life of John Brown Williams’, ‘The New Zealand journal, 1842-1844 of John B. Williams of Salem, Massachussetts’ an interesting read from the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum via the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection:

John B. Williams’s combination of commercial and consular activity dates from his appointment on 10 March 1842 by President Tyler to be United States consul at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Less than a month later he wrote Daniel Webster, the Secretary of State, posting a bond and declaring his intention to sail on the brig Gambia of Salem from that city about 20 July 1842. His departure apparently was somewhat delayed for he wrote to his brother Henry L. Williams of his arrival at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, on 25 December 1842 after 137 days at sea.

Even then, there were staffing issues!

Williams returned to Auckland in late June 1846 to prepare his semiannual report, only to find that he had been wrongly accused of aiding the Maoris in their attack upon the settlers at the Bay of Islands in 1844. A letter from the State Department of 12 December 1845 requested information on a query from the Foreign Office in London which, in turn, quoted a report from the Governor of New Zealand that the United States consul at the Bay of Islands had encouraged the natives to attack the colonists and during the uprising had sold them powder and bullets. The State Department indicated that, if the charge were true, Williams was in serious trouble. This letter, addressed to Williams, was acknowledged by Joel Polack who had been appointed by Williams to succeed Breed as vice consul at Auckland. Polack indicated that the consul was daily expected from Fiji and that a reply would be forthcoming. On 23 June, Williams not having appeared, Polack wrote a long and circumstantial report to Secretary Buchanan completely clearing Williams. The report showed that Williams was not in New Zealand during the Maori uprising, having left for the United States on 12 February 1844; his return was easily proved by his presence on Falco wrecked in Hawkes Bay on 27 July 1845. Polack pointed out that since the consulate had been moved to Auckland Williams had had difficulty in obtaining satisfactory vice consuls for the Bay of Islands.

Fijian history also notes the burning of Mr. Williams house in 1849:

Fijian society was highly stratified. Allegiances to clans and chiefs were complicated, and warfare, including cannibalism, was common as leaders competed for control of the islands.  […] Cakobau, a Fijian chief from the small island of Bau off Viti Levu, gained control of most of western Fiji. In 1849 the home of John Brown Williams, the American consul at Levuka, was burned and looted during a celebration. Williams held Cakobau responsible and ordered payment for damages. Other incidents followed and to pay the debts, Cakobau sold Suva to an Australian company in 1868. More Europeans arrived and many purchased land from the Fijians to begin plantations. Local disorder prompted the Europeans at Levuka to organize a national government in 1871. They named Cakobau king of Fiji. The disorder continued, however, and in 1874 Cakobau and other chiefs requested British annexation. The colony’s first capital was Levuka. It was moved to Suva in the 1870s. Suva became a main port of call between the west coast of the United States and Australia and New Zealand. It also became the headquarters of the British empire in the Pacific Islands.

Mr. Williams does not appear on the AFSA Memorial Plaque. Perhaps one of you can help get his name up on that plaque?

 

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@StateDept Marks Third Smedinghoff Death Anniversary, Internal Investigation Still Remains Classified

Posted: 9:35 pm PT
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Via state.gov/DPB:

In fact, today, April 6th, marks the third anniversary of the death of Anne Smedinghoff, a bright, rising star in the Foreign Service who was taken away from her family, her friends, and the department in an attack that took place three years ago in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. Anne was 25 years old and on her second tour as an FSO, Foreign Service officer, serving as a press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In Secretary Kerry’s words at the time, Anne was a, quote, “vivacious, smart, and capable individual,” end quote. And as he wrote in a note that went out to all State Department employees at the time – well, shortly after that tragic event he wrote, “that no one anywhere should forget for a minute that the work of our diplomats is hard and hazardous or that as you serve” – you being the diplomats – “serve on the frontlines in the world’s most dangerous places, you put the interest of our country and those of our allies and partners ahead of your own safety,” end quote.

We would also pay tribute, obviously, to the memories of the three U.S. soldiers as well as an Afghan American translator and an Afghan doctor who were also lost on that tragic day, as well as to those who were injured in that incident. We honor their memories and their service to the United States and Afghanistan.

Last year, there was this:

Then a couple of weeks ago:

“It is also unfortunate that the knowledge we gained while working in Qalat left apparently left with us. Before going any further, my partner, Dr. Ledet and I conducted research into improving education in the province.  Specifically, we were tasked with learning how the US should distribute learning materials to Afghans, and we did so by working with tribal, religious, and political leaders in the area.  Our report was distributed to the PRT, US military and the DoS working in the areas, and briefed to higher authorities. The senior Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE) representative for the province, and multiple leaders we consulted, provided us with the solution regarding how the US could help improve education. Our Afghan partners clearly and forcefully stated, US elements were not, under any circumstances, to provide books directly to Afghan childrenYet, Anne and the others died on a book delivery operation. WTF?…”

Read more:

Since the State Department is remembering publicly the death of Anne Smedinghoff, we’d like to — once more — call on the State Department to declassify its internal report of the Zabul attack.  The State Department spokesperson at that time said that no State rules were broken. If so, there should not be a problem with releasing that internal review.  It would be in the public interest to see how the agency’s internal review stack up against that scathing Army report.

There’s also nothing that precludes Secretary Kerry from declassifying the internal review and voluntarily releasing it considering that the U.S. Army had already released its own report.

But we know as we write this that the State Department is not going to release this report or it would have done so already following the Army report.

So the State Department will continue marking death anniversaries, and saying solemn words of remembrance for the dead.  And all the while, keeping under wraps its purported review of the incident that no one gets to see but for a few officials with “need to know.”

The question is — why?

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U.S. Embassy Cyprus Remembers Ambassador Rodger Davies Shot Dead 40 Years Ago Today

— Domani Spero
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On the 40th anniversary of their deaths, the U.S. embassy residence in Nicosia is named the “Rodger Davies Residence” after Ambassador Davies who was killed on  August 19, 1974 and the embassy personnel lounge is named “Antoinette Varnava Lounge” after the local employee killed in the same attack.

Via ADST Oral History:

On August 19th, 1974, recently appointed Ambassador to Cyprus, Rodger Davies, was shot dead during a Greek Cypriot protest outside the U.S. Embassy. The demonstration brought out over 300 people who were protesting against the U.S.’s failure to prevent the Turkish invasion of the northern part of the island the week before. Davies was seeking shelter in a hallway at the embassy building in Nicosia when a sniper struck him in the chest. When Antoinette Varnava—a Maronite consular employee—rushed to his aid, she too was struck dead, with a bullet to the head.

James Alan Williams, a Political Foreign Service Officer, was at the Embassy in Nicosia as events unraveled. He served in Cyprus from 1973 to 1975 — the height of the tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; the coup which ousted democratically elected leader Archbishop Makarios III; and the Turkish invasions — all of which define the sociopolitical landscape of the divided island today. He was interviewed by Ray Ewing beginning in October 2003.

WILLIAMS:
[it was the] morning of August 19th, [1974]. A sunny day, cloudless skies, as it almost always is in Cyprus, and I think it was around 9:30 or 10:00, I don’t remember. [You could hear a rumble], a large number of people. I [had] only heard that once before in my life, and that was when Ann and I were in Adana, Turkey, and the consulate was stoned by a mob. I think I mentioned that in an earlier session, 1966 that was. You never forget that once you hear it. And I heard it, and everybody else heard it. We thought the demonstration had been approved by the police or whomever some ways away.

Cyprus Demonstration Riots[It was] a large crowd. It wasn’t a mob yet. I think the focus of the discussion was criticism of the Americans for what had happened to them, what had been done to them, what they had suffered. And somehow, and I don’t know how because I wasn’t there, the crowd started moving toward the embassy. At this point, I think it gained a lot of hangers-on and other elements [which] might not have been in the original demonstration at all. By the time it reached the embassy, which was in about 10 minutes, they were throwing rocks and other things at the chancery. So, we immediately had the Marines and everybody else shove the wooden shutters so the glass would be protected, close the gate, get the teargas canisters ready and prepare to stave off what we thought was going to be an unfettered demonstration, but that was about all.[…]

The Ambassador’s office was shuttered and he and his secretaries came into the central hallway. The rest of us were in the central hallway on the second floor. The FSNs were there. It was very crowded. The air conditioning held up for us, so it wasn’t too hot, but it was a little sticky. [Our] offices which had been on either side of that hallway, particularly [those which] were facing the front, were sort of exposed to the brunt of the mob’s wrath, we thought. At some point, shooting started. I remember hearing pops or whatever, but did not think anything of it because I didn’t know what it was, and I’d never heard shots fired in anger. I don’t know how many shots were fired. Several pierced the water tanks on the roof because they were leaking. Again, there was no central direction, put your hands down and put your hands behind your head and hunker down. We were milling around.
[…]
Q: Do you think the shots were fired at the patio at the top of the residence because they had seen the Marines up there doing the teargas?

WILLIAMS: It’s the same time the shots were fired at the Ambassador’s office. I think there were two shooters. There would have had to be because the ones that came in from the side [his office], were way over there, and this shot was up here. And I always thought, and my memory’s a little hazy on some of this, but the rounds that came into the office of Ambassador Davies were concentrated in the area of his office where his desk was. The rounds that came into the other side of the building where the residence was were concentrated on the patio, and I think some at the window of his bedroom. I think that’s right, though I’m not sure of it. So whether or not they fired at the patio because they saw a Marine or because they thought the ambassador was up there or because they saw me or whatever, I really don’t know. But there were a lot of bullets that came up there. I always thought it was an effort to get the Ambassador because of the way the bullets had come in. By sheer dumb luck they did get him. It was a blind bullet came in through the shutter, the glass and the partition in his office and came down into the corridor where he was standing and they shot him through the heart.

He was [in the central hall], and he was dead before he hit the ground. Another bullet came in and ripped off the top of the skull of Toni Varnava, a Maronite local in the Administration section, and she was dead instantly. A steel jacket of one of the bullets that came in landed up in the thigh of Jay Graham, the economic officer. Those were the only causalities from the rounds. One of the older locals may have had a heart attack. Everybody else was intact but scared to death.
[…]
[Varnava] had [gone to Ambassador Davies’ aid]. She had been very close to him and she saw him fall. I was not down there, but those who were say she saw him fall and bent down to catch him and as she did her head was ripped open by the bullet, so they both fell.

The windows were appropriately shuttered. So, the bullets did not have to go through significant physical barriers to get to the Americans in the central corridor. I have no way of knowing whether the shooter or shooters knew that we would be huddled in that corridor as a safe place, but the wooden shutter over the window, the single pane of glass and the partition on the door of the wall of the office were not very thick.
[…]
It was a blind shot that got the Ambassador, no question about that. Toni was an incidental casualty, God rest her soul, and Jay Graham was also unlucky with that minor wound in his thigh.[…]

[The shooters] were on the periphery of the crowd in both cases. One of them was wearing the uniform of a Greek Cypriot policeman as I recall, although the weapon he used was not in the standard arms of the Greek Cypriot police. They were in the crowd on the periphery, but not in adjacent buildings. There was some more shooting of handguns I guess. I think though, soon after the heavy stuff came in and killed the ambassador, they couldn’t know at that time they killed the Ambassador, and hit the side where Mike and I and the Marines were, soon thereafter as I recall, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, time was really very strange as experienced in that day, the crowd started to disperse. Either its anger had been spent or the Greek Cypriot police had started to come in sufficient numbers to control it. Because what the Greek Cypriot authorities had approved as a demonstration had quickly gotten way out of hand and had to be stopped. I don’t know who was calling, our phones were still intact, I don’t know who called whom. I certainly was not calling anybody because I could still barely see, Mike wasn’t.
[…]
I remember I knelt down to Rodger and I just said, “Oh, Mr. Ambassador,” and I couldn’t say anything else because he was clearly gone. I think it had gone right through his heart so there was no question about saving him.
[…]
Q: Ambassador Davies did not have any family of his own at post?

WILLIAMS: He did. Dana is the daughter and John is her younger brother, and they had briefly come to post with Rodger and Ms. T, the family cat. Rodger’s wife had died tragically after a long struggle with brain cancer just that year. And so one of the reasons he wanted to go [to] Cyprus was to get away from Washington and the intense environment he’d been working and living in there, and also get away from, I think, some of the memories of Sally and what she’d gone through in the last years of her life.

Nicosia was going to be a way for the family to replenish itself, just relax and recover a bit. And tragically it did not work out that way. So John and Dana had been in the convoy that went south to Akrotiri [British Airbase in Cyprus] in late July and were in Beirut, and had to be told what had happened to their father on August 19th.

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Zabul Attack: Spox Says State Dept Did Its Own Review, It’s Classified, and There’s Now a Checklist! 

— Domani Spero

 

As can be expected, the Chicago Tribune report citing an army investigation into the death of FSO Anne Smedinghoff and four others in Zabul, Afghanistan in April 2013 made it to the Daily Press Briefing.

State Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki says that “No State Department officials, civilian personnel were interviewed for the military report.” Since State had concluded its “classified internal review,” how many military personnel did it interview for its report on that Zabul attack?

One, two, ten, the entire unit …how many?

We don’t know since the internal review is classified.

According to the Tribune, the army report says that the security platoon already had other missions planned for that day; that the soldiers did not know how many people they were going to escort, making their job harder; also that the civilians were not wearing the proper protective gear.  

What does State’s internal review say about this? We don’t know since the review is classified.

The initial blast was cause by detonation from “a remote-controlled bomb hidden under a pallet that was leaned up against the base’s southern wall.” On PRT Zabul base’s wall. The report also slams the “failure of the State Department team to properly coordinate this trip with military leadership.”

What does State’s internal review say about this? We don’t know since the review is classified.

The report says that the State Department shared too much information with Afghan officials, and the group may have been targeted because specifics on the event’s exact time and who would attend “had leaked out.”

Um….we don’t know since the internal review is classified.

An embassy email referenced to in the report said that Qalat was picked because “we think the visuals would be nice” and it is a “the perfect place for a media tour.”

Months or years from now when the media and the public have forgotten about this — are we going to find out that the U.S. Army conducted its investigation without talking to State Department personnel, and that the State Department, as well, came up with an internal review without interviewing any of the military personnel in Zabul?

The spox brought up two items that made us — whisley-tango-foxtrot!

“Afghanistan is a war zone.”

Because we all need a reminder!

“[P]eople responsible for this tragedy were the extremists.”

Holy moly guacamole! Is that the best response we’ve got every time a sapling falls in a forest?

We have excerpted the exchange below.

QUESTION: So quickly on that Chicago paper report citing the army military unit investigation of the death of Anne Smedinghoff and other injuries there linked to State Department. The report makes a lot of accusations that point back to the State Department. “State says that there was coordination with DOD in advance of the mission.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Pentagon says Ambassador Addleton was a last-minute addition to the group, that this was a scramble, that while there had been planning in advance, there was a change to the established plan, a late add, and new requirements that required them to bring in additional military resources.

So when State says there was coordination in advance, was there additional coordination after the addition of this higher-level diplomat, Ambassador Addleton?

MS. PSAKI: Well, at every stage in the process, as you know, the decisions about whether movement takes place rests with the military commander at the base. I don’t have the level of detail about the specifics here, but we were closely coordinated at every point in the process. The State Department did our own review of the events that happened, and we have instituted since then a checklist in order to be as coordinated as possible at every step in the process. But from our own looking at the events and our team that was on the ground, we – every step taken, no rules or regulations were broken. Every step that was needed to be taken in that regard was taken.

And let me say first of all too, of course, that regardless of that piece, the attack on – that took the life of Anne Smedinghoff, an Afghan American translator, and three members of the U.S. military and severely injured several others was a terrible tragedy, and one that, as you all know, people across this building and across the world who work at the State Department remember every day. The only people responsible for this tragedy were the extremists opposed to the many brave Afghans and Americans who have sacrificed so much to help build a stronger, more stable Afghanistan. And what they were doing that day was participating in an outreach event that was part of a nationwide public diplomacy initiative highlighting cooperation between the United States and Afghans in a number of areas. And that’s a program that we’ve been proud of and was underway for weeks there.

QUESTION: The Pentagon says that the senior military commander – they agree with you that they were in charge, but say that they did call in additional resources. So when you’re saying that it’s really up to the military to make the call – go or don’t go – what you’re saying is while the commander was choosing to bring in more resources, he shouldn’t have chosen to go ahead with this at all? That’s where the fault lies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Margaret, I think where we are – we’re not about placing fault here. We’re about looking at this, as we have, and determining, with any event that happens around the world, what we should do moving forward. We work closely with the Department of Defense, with military commanders on the ground, whether it’s ISAF or otherwise, to make sure we take every step to keep our people safe. That doesn’t mean that tragic events don’t happen. Afghanistan is a war zone and we, of course, can honor the memory of Anne and the others who died that day by not only learning from it and what we do moving forward, but by continuing to do many of the programs that they were undertaking that day.

QUESTION: Can I ask you, now that the military unit on the ground has finished its review, will the State Department reconsider its initial review? Because per the State Department, the investigation of the incident happened immediately afterwards, before the military unit submitted its review and its account of what they saw happen on the ground. So —

MS. PSAKI: Well, just to be clear, Margaret —

QUESTION: And that’s why it didn’t go to an ARB.

MS. PSAKI: — this was an army field after action report that happened on the ground. And typically, what happens with these is that these reports are done by an investigating officer in the field. We understand that under DOD procedures, this field report would be transmitted through the military chain-of-command to be ratified and modified and further distributed. I’m not aware of that happening at this point. No State Department officials, civilian personnel were interviewed for the military report. We have done – the Department as well, through Embassy Kabul – has done our own review to determine what occurred and whether security procedures required adjustment. That review is classified. But there have been multiple investigations in this case, and we undertook our own review here.

QUESTION: But given that the Army’s review now is done and that they have pointed to fault in this building —

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, again, this is important —

QUESTION: — is it worth reconsidering?

MS. PSAKI: This is important because this is – again, this was a report done by an Army unit, an Army unit field report. It has to work its way through the chain of command. I’m not aware of that happening yet. I would, of course, point to the Department of Defense, and they can all take a look at that when that happens. But we’ve done our own review.

QUESTION: Yeah. They’ve said they’re not probing it further at this point, at the Pentagon level because (inaudible) —

MS. PSAKI: Well, but there’s still a process that it goes through regardless.

QUESTION: And – but at this point, is it fair to say the State Department is not moving ahead since, in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are exempted from going to the ARB level of investigation? And there was a decision not to go to that level because they didn’t have —

MS. PSAKI: Well, but we did our own review regardless —

QUESTION: — when they had the meeting, they decided not to there —

MS. PSAKI: Regardless of that, we did our own review. Yes, Afghanistan is a war zone, so it falls under different requirements, but we still did our own review regardless of that.

QUESTION: But at this point, it is a closed matter? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: It’s never a closed matter in the sense that you’re still remembering the memory of the people who lost their lives.

QUESTION: Of course.

MS. PSAKI: And you’re still learning from the experience, and I mentioned a checklist we’ve put in place. And we’ll continue to evaluate on that basis. But again, our efforts now are focused on continuing to coordinate with the military at the operational and tactical level in these situations, and if for some reason the military unit is unable to meet the provisions of our checklist, our personnel will not participate. So you do take what you’ve learned, you adapt it moving forward, and you do everything you can to honor the memory of the lives that have been lost.

But there’s more.

On April 10, 2013, McClatchy  filed a lengthy report: Witness: Anne Smedinghoff, other Americans killed in Afghan bombing were on foot, lost.  Five days later, then State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied that Smedinghoff’s party was lost:

“Media reports suggesting that the group was lost are simply incorrect. They were going to a compound across the street from the PRT,” he said in written responses to emailed questions.
[…]

Ventrell said the purpose of what he called the “mission” that led to Smedinghoff’s death was a news conference featuring the senior U.S. official in southern Afghanistan and the Zabul governor to promote a book donation project and the “growth of literacy.”

Ventrell called “highlighting Afghanistan’s ongoing progress for both national and international media” an “integral part of our work.”

“This is what we do, and we believe in it,” he said. “Our diplomats believe in getting out beyond the wire to reach people. In this case we were engaging with the people of Afghanistan AND the local government.”

According to the State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, reports suggesting that the group was lost are “simply incorrect.”

The Army report now confirmed that the party “had the wrong location for the school.” 

That official word from the State Department was never retracted.

So the Smedinghoff party was not/not lost, but they had the wrong location for the school? What kind of story is this?  Is there another meaning for the word “lost” that we have yet to learn?  We know about “get lost!” so no need to email us.  Mr. Ventrell is now the Director of Communications for the National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
On April 24, 2014, McClatchy’s Mark Seibel writes:

“It’s unclear whether there’s been much soul searching at the State Department. In the Tribune story, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki sounds unrepentant. “The only people responsible for this tragedy were the extremists opposed to the mission,” the Tribune quotes her as saying, then adds that “a classified internal review of the day was conducted, . . . and the department determined no State rules were broken.”

We have folks who complained to us — either that the State Department or Embassy Kabul was thrown under the bus in this army report. Well, we only have the army report to go on.

Army report excepted, we know three things from the State Department: 1) they named a courtyard after Ms. Smedinghoff at Embassy Kabul; 2) there is a new checklist in place; and 3) the internal review of the Zabul incident is still classified.

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US Mission Sudan: USAID Employees’ Convicted Killer Currently in Prison Designated a Terrorist

—By Domani Spero

We blogged previously about the challenge of holding the killers of USAID Officer John Granville and FSN Abdel Rahman Abbas accountable in the Sudanese judicial system. After their 2010 escape from Khartoum’s max security prison, one is reportedly dead, one is back in jail and two remains at large three years after their escape.  These two have a $5 million bounty on each head.  The State Department has now designated the third and last of the convicted murderers as a terrorist under E.O 13244.  The individual is back jail, so not sure why this designation is happening now.  Unless this is in preparation for when Hamza gets to escape again.

The U.S. Department of State has designated Abd Al-Ra’Ouf Abu Zaid Mohamed Hamza under Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. As a result of this designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Hamza has any interest is blocked and any assets he may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him.

Hamza, with three co-conspirators, participated in an armed attack in Khartoum, Sudan on January 1, 2008, which resulted in the deaths of a U.S. diplomat serving with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), John Michael Granville, and a locally employed U.S. Embassy staff member, Adbelrahman Abbas Rahama. The attack occurred when Granville and Abbas were leaving a New Year’s Eve party in Khartoum. Granville worked on democracy and governance programs for USAID.

The four men were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a Sudanese criminal court in 2009. In 2010, the four men escaped from a maximum security prison, killing a Sudanese police officer and wounding another in the process. Shortly thereafter, Hamza was recaptured and is currently in prison in Khartoum. Another escapee was reportedly killed in Somalia in 2011, and the other two remain fugitives at large. These two fugitives, Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad and Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed, were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under E.O. 13224 on January 8, 2013 and remain at large. The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program has authorized rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the capture of the two fugitives.

In making this designation, the Department seeks to emphasize to the public and, in particular, to the Granville and Abbas families, our commitment to justice prevailing in this case.

Active links added above.  Check out the Rewards For Justice rogue’s gallery here.

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USAID Foreign Service Officer “Toni” Beaumont Tomasek Killed in Haiti

—By Domani Spero
USAID’s Rajiv Shah released the following statement on the death of USAID officer in Haiti:

On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Kerry and the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Antoinette “Toni” Beaumont Tomasek, a USAID Foreign Service Officer who died in Haiti on Saturday, June 29, 2013. Toni had been in a car accident on June 26. Toni, age 41, was a Community Health Specialist with an expertise in water, sanitation, and cross-cultural education. She brought years of experience designing and implementing health programs, from working with migrant and seasonal farming communities in the United States to serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and, later, in Washington, D.C., as the health lead for the Inter-American and Pacific region.

Toni joined USAID in 2009, completing her first tour as a Development Leadership Initiative Officer in Indonesia, where she established a groundbreaking program that offered grants to local organizations working to prevent and treat tuberculosis. She was also one of the principal authors of Indonesia’s Global Health Initiative strategy, which continues to guide the work of the USAID/Indonesia Mission.

Although Toni only arrived in Haiti in May, she had quickly become a highly valued member of the Mission. She was driven by the passionate belief that individuals can make a difference. Her work helped give Haitians — particularly children — the chance to survive and thrive, and her inspiration will be felt for decades to come.

Fluent in Spanish, Indonesian, French and Guarani, Toni was born in California. She is survived by her husband, Adam and two children: a son, Alexandre, and daughter, Amelie.

Toni’s tremendous passion and enthusiasm reflects the commitment of her colleagues, who will continue to carry her work forward every day around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones in this difficult time.

 

According to the AP, the July 1 statement was issued after an inquiry from The Associated Press.  As of this writing, the US Embassy in Port-Au-Prince has made no statement on the death of a member of a U.S. mission nor has it linked to the official statement from USAID.

(;_;)

 

 

May 3, 2013: Foreign Affairs Day to Honor Eight Employees Killed in the Line of Duty

Via the State Dept:

Each year on the first Friday of May, the Department of State observes Foreign Affairs Day, the annual homecoming for our Foreign Service and Civil Service retirees. This day also commemorates the members of the Foreign Service who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives serving the United States overseas. Both a solemn occasion and a celebration, Foreign Affairs Day recognizes employees of foreign affairs agencies and their dedication and service as they address foreign policy and development challenges around the world.

Over 400 retirees are expected to return to the Department of State on May 3 to participate in a morning program of remarks and seminars with senior officials to discuss key foreign policy issues, with a special keynote address from Secretary of State John Kerry. Hosted by the Director General for Human Resources, the Department will also present the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup to W. Robert Pearson and the Director General’s Civil Service Cup to Janice S. Clements, both of whom have distinguished themselves in their State Department careers and afterwards in service on behalf of their communities.

Alongside the seminar program, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association and union of the Foreign Service, is hosting its annual ceremony honoring colleagues who were killed overseas in the line of duty or under heroic circumstances. Known as the AFSA Plaque Ceremony, the event centers around the plaque in the Department lobby that lists the names of 236 fallen colleagues going as far back as 1780.

This year AFSA is honoring eight individuals whose names are being added to the plaque, bringing the total to 244 names. The family and friends of these eight heroes will be in attendance as the engraving of the names of their loved ones will be unveiled for the first time. Relating events in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s to more recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Libya, this year’s honorees on the AFSA plaque are: Anne T. Smedinghoff, J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Patrick Smith, Ty Woods, Glen A. Doherty, Ragaei Said Abdelfattah, Joseph Gregory Fandino, and Francis J. Savage.

Vice President Joe Biden will preside over the ceremony and will be joined by Secretary of State Kerry and AFSA President Susan Johnson. Finally, on behalf of President Barack Obama, the Department is conferring the Thomas Jefferson Star Awards and Medals, as well as the Secretary’s Awards, in a private ceremony the same day. This year’s Foreign Affairs Day programs are a particularly special tribute to the increasingly challenging nature of diplomacy and development.

image from afsa.org

screen capture from afsa.org

Per 22 USC § 2708a, the  Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service is awarded to any member of the Foreign Service or any other civilian employee of the Government of the United States who, while employed at, or assigned permanently or temporarily to, an official mission overseas or while traveling abroad on official business, incurred a wound or other injury or an illness (whether or not the wound, other injury, or illness resulted in death)—as the person was performing official duties; as the person was on the premises of a United States mission abroad; or by reason of the person’s status as a United States Government employee.

The first two names on this list, Francis J. Savage and Joseph Gregory Fandino died in Vietnam in 1967 and 1972 respectively. We have not been able to find anything on Mr. Fandino, but on April 18, Congressman Tom Reed of New York spoke about the late Mr. Savage in the House of Representatives:

Mr. REED. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the life of Francis J. Savage. A resident of Olean, New York, Mr. Savage served his country admirably across the world for the better part of two decades as a member of the Foreign Service and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mr. Savage’s career in the Foreign Service began with an assignment in Iceland in 1950, but he was subsequently transferred to Marseilles, France where he met his wife, Doreen. The two continued to serve across the world, specifically Greece, Trinidad, Tripoli, and Libya.

Following his tenure with the Foreign Service, Mr. Savage began to work for the USAID. It was during this time that his work took him to Vietnam as a Provincial Representative. Tragically, Mr. Savage was mortally wounded at the My Calm bombing in 1965. To honor his sacrifice, President Lyndon Johnson posthumously awarded Francis Savage with the Secretary’s Award at the White House with his surviving wife, Doreen, and two children in attendance.

It is with great privilege that I announce Francis J. Savage will be honored on May 3, 2013, Foreign Affairs Day, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Mr. Savage’s service and sacrifice to this great nation deserves such recognition and I am proud to represent the district Mr. Savage once called home.

Mr. Reed’s statement is on the Congressional Record here.
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Zabul Attack: Walking But Not Lost, More Details But Not Official; Plus Update on Kelly Hunt

On Friday, April 12, the AP citing a senior State Department “not authorized to speak to the news media” reported that the initial reports that members of the group were in vehicles, as well as subsequent media reports that they were lost, are incorrect.

The official reportedly provided the details on condition of anonymity.  This report contradicted the eyewitness account of an Afghan reporter cited by McClatchy news on Wednesday, April 10.

You may read the full AP report here.

Last weekend, The Skeptical Bureaucrat  (TSB) posted about this here:

It’s quite bad enough already, judging by the details that have come out so far. Let’s see … the book donation visit to the Sheik Baba Metti school by a team from the U.S. Embassy and PRT Zabul was announced to the press one day in advance. But, despite that lack of operational security, the team was allowed to walk to the school from the PRT’s base at FOB Smart rather than use protected vehicles. The roughly 100-meter long route to the school evidently wasn’t swept before the team’s walk, or blocked to traffic during the movement. The team’s military escort didn’t know which gate to use to enter the school – a school that the PRT itself funded and regularly visited – which required the team to double back to FOB Smart and further expose themselves to attack.

Lastly, the attack reportedly involved a roadside bomb as well as a suicide driver in a bomb-laden vehicle. If that’s true, it means that the Taliban were able to plant a command-detonated bomb in the street immediately outside FOB Smart despite the surveillance that street was undoubtedly under by both the U.S. and Afghan military.

There is reportedly an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI investigates bombings in the U.S. and overseas where incidents were acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or interests. But this is the war zone. Was there also an FBI investigation on the suicide bombing that killed a USAID officer and wounded an FSO in Kunar Province last year? (Update: We’re told by a blog pal in Afghanistan that the FBI investigates a lot of different incidents in Afghanistan and that there is “nothing unusual” with them investigating the April 6 attack.  Was also asked about an ARB for Camp Bastion.  Camp is under military control so that’s a clear exception to ARB regs; nothing to keep DOD from pursuing its own inquiry but we haven’t heard anything moving on that direction. Read this piece by Rajiv Chandrasekaran on the Taliban attack that resulted in the deaths of two Marines and the largest loss of allied materiel in the 11-year-long Afghan war).

No way to tell right now if there will be an Accountability Review Board. As TSB pointed out, there is a limited exception for convening an ARB if the security incidents involving serious injury or loss of life occurs in Iraq or Afghanistan. We found an exemption for incidents between October 1, 2005-September 30, 2009. In December 2009, that exemption remained in effect through September 30, 2010.

Following the findings of “accountability” from the ARB on Benghazi, we are not holding our breath on an ARB on this latest incident. After not seeing any ARBs convened for several attacks on embassy properties with significant damages last year, we’re starting to think that an ARB in its current authority is not the best use of time/resources to assign accountability.

The notion that an ARB is convened to investigate security incidents that result in “serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property” and then keep the result secret and the interviewees secret is absurd. Add to that the fact that the Secretary of State did not even convene an ARB for all the mob attacks last year which resulted in significant destruction of embassy properties, makes one think that the ARB on its present form is not as useful or effective as it should be.  It also leaves the recommendation on whether or not the Secretary of State should convene an ARB on the hands of the Permanent Coordinating Council in the State Department, staffed by people who answer to their chain of command.

So – we’d much rather see the FBI conduct these investigations.

Also last Thursday, Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team commander released the following statement via FB:

We recently lost three of our nation’s finest warriors. They were sons, brothers, one was a father, and all were men who lived, served and died with honor. They gave to their country and their brothers and sisters in arms the last full measure of their courage. 

We are less for this loss. 

Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

DOD identified the three soldiers killed in the April 6 attack but to-date the identity of the DOD civilian who perished in the same attack had not been released. Who was he/she? Did he/she leave behind a family?

On April 14, Staff Sgt. Chris Ward was buried at Oak Ridge. According to knoxnews.com, Maj. Gen. Jeffory Smith, commander of Fort Knox, Ky., presented  the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star to Ward’s mother. The passing of these casualties was heartbreaking  to their loved ones, fellow soldiers and largely ignored by the public. The death of  three  soldiers in the battlefield of Afghanistan … not much was said.

On April 18, knoxnews.com also reported that Kelly Hunt, the State Department employee wounded in the attack arrived earlier this week at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington.  Friends of Ms. Hunt at her home state are organizing a fund-raiser online to help the family.  You can check it out here. We have been looking but have not been able to find a contact email for the organizers.  The family Friends of Ms. Hunt have also put up a Facebook page – Kelly Hunt’s Road to Recovery , it includes updates from Dinah Hunt, Kelly’s mother.

 

— DS

 

Updated on April 22@1720 PST with info on ARB

Updated on April 22 @21:41 PST with FB page correction; page put up by friends not family.

 

 

 

 

Remembering Anne Smedinghoff: In lieu of sending flowers …

The Remembering Anne Smedinghoff website went online the last few days. It includes the statement from her parents, Tom and Mary Beth, and  asked that representatives of the media continue to respect the privacy of the family during this time.

According to the website, her final journey will be on Wednesday, April 17 at St. Luke Catholic Church in River Forest, Illinois.  In lieu of sending flowers, the family asked that you consider supporting four organizations that work in Afghanistan:

The Smedinghoff family has been touched by the outpouring of support from people around the world looking for ways to help continue Anne’s work. In lieu of sending flowers, we ask that you consider supporting organizations that are engaged in the same great work that Anne dedicated herself to so selflessly.

Visit Remembering Anne Smedinghoff for the names and links to the suggested organizations. The website also accept comments, so those who want to send their condolences to the family or share their memories of Ms. Smedinghoff may do so at http://annesmedinghoff.com.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday InBox: Anne Smedinghoff – Department Memorial Service

Mail received on April 10 at 8:00 pm PST from an FSO:

I knew Anne well. I am sending you this as the Department has been actively recruiting her friends and coworkers to talk to the press or to write about her even while no Department memorial service will be held. Kabul held one, as did Caracas, and I understand the regional bureau did as well. Some posts voluntarily lowered flags to half mast, but no order was sent. I actually understand the flag issue, we don’t lower the flag for every member of the armed forces lost, and Ambassador Stevens, for whom we did lower the flag, was after all the personal representative of the President.

Friends of Anne have been in contact with AFSA to potentially hold a memorial this Friday in their space due to the failure of the Department to provide a time and space. I have to ask why the same Department that actively kept people from talking/writing about Ambassador Stevens even while publicly hailing him is taking this tack now.  I and others, have been bothered by what frankly seems like a blatant use of her story for unclear purposes. The fact that the details emerging are now very different from what was originally released, even accounting for the fog of the situation, is also bothersome.

Hoping you can broach the subject. Feel free to email me but I’d appreciate not being named, even by pen name.

An official memorial service at the State Department is not unheard of.  On September 11, 2009, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at  a Memorial Service on 9/11 for Terrence Lee Barnich who was killed in Iraq.

On May 17, 2010, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at a Memorial Service for State Department employees lost during the Haiti earthquake from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Most recently, at the US Embassy in Ankara, Secretary Kerry attended and delivered remarks at a Memorial Ceremony in Honor of Embassy Guard Mustafa Akarsu while he was on a trip there.

I understand there was a service on Monday at Dover that was kept private at the request of Ms. Smedinghoff’s family. I think her State Department family also needs a memorial service to collectively honor and remember her.

 

Update –– one of our readers was quick to note that all the memorial services mentioned happened well after the tragic events occurred. “This is so the family of the people who died can attend. As you might imagine, the Smedinghoff family is busy with their own services this week.”

That is an excellent point, of course. Thank you. I understand that people who are burdened with grief this week may not be thinking clearly beyond the here and now.  Perhaps the Casualty Office can put some information about any future plans for  a Department-wide memorial service in the  intranet?

Update 2 –  I have just been told that there will be a small memorial for Ms. Smedinghoff at FSI  tomorrow, Friday. There will also be a memorial service at AFSA tomorrow.  I don’t have the specific time for either one. Please contact afsa.org or FSI directly for further details.

There is also an annual memorial ceremony on or around May 3 to honor the fallen during the year.  That is traditionally attended by the Secretary of State.

–DS