Burn Bag: Diplomat Writes About “The Slog of Leadership” and Misses Attack Date By a Year+

Via Burn Bag:

What’s this? The worst day of Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley’s life isn’t the day five of her staff were killed in Saudi Arabia? How did she get the date so wrong in this NYTimes Op-Ed? The attack was December 6, 2004, not/not December 4, 2005.

Like every chief of mission around the world, then and now, I began and ended each day with the question: “What can I do to increase safety for my staff?” I had reason to worry because for several years, the security situation in Saudi Arabia had been perilous, with terrorists attacking and murdering Saudis, other Arabs and Westerners. Diplomatic missions were favorite targets and ours, the Consulate General in Jeddah, made up of approximately 50 Americans and 150 locally-hired employees, was particularly attractive. With the advice of my security team, we raised the height of our walls, topped them with glass shards and barbed wire and imposed travel restrictions on the staff. We armed our guards and, unlike most diplomatic compounds, allowed military patrols inside our walls.
[…]
One proposal, however, threatened to tear our community apart. My security chief wanted to require all non-American staff to pass through metal detectors to enter the compound. I understood the imperative for a careful screening. But for a community under siege, the feeling that “we were all in it together” was critical to getting us through each day. Disparate treatment was sure to corrode our cohesiveness and send a signal to the local staff that we distrusted them despite the fact that they, too, put their lives on the line every day by walking through our gates.
[…]
After it was installed, I made sure that I was the very first staff member to walk through the metal detector. I can’t say that we had a Kumbaya moment or that resentment of my decision ended immediately among my American staff.  I had to lead by example and trust that they respected my integrity even if they didn’t like my position.

Despite all our measures, on December 4, 2005, one of the worst days of my life, terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. After a long standoff, 10 of my staff members were injured, some terribly, and five were killed. These were colleagues with whom we worked alongside every day, and socialized with after work. And each and every one of them was a local staff member.

Read: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/05/15/diplomat-to-saudi-arabia-opens-up-about-what-got-her-through-one-of-the-worst-days-of-my-life/

Related posts:

Related item:

Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide (pdf)

 

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U.S. Embassy Malta: Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:19 am EDT
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On April 9, we blogged about the U.S. Embassy in Beirut issuing a fraud alert on scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon (see  U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert). On April 22, the U.S. Embassy in Valletta, Malta issued a similar alert to the Maltese public on scammers impersonating Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley.

 

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate U.S. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley and the U.S. Embassy in an attempt to get Maltese people to send them money. Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “Gina Abercrombie.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations or United Nations Ambassador of Peace. In similar scams, victims were then requested to send money to an office in London. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people. In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false. We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: http://ask.un.org/faq/14597

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Photo of the Day: Lights, Camera, Action!

Below is one of four photos posted in Facebook by US Embassy Malta of Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley filming her video message for the Maltese public.

Photo from US Embassy Malta/FB

Interestingly enough, the video message is posted here in Facebook but not in the embassy’s YouTube channel, which has not been updated since Nov 10, 2011.

Domani Spero

 

 

A ‘Rocking Affair’ and Finally Watching the Terror Attack on U.S. Consulate Jeddah

On April 19, WaPo reported that the State Department ceremony for the US ambassador to Malta was a ‘rocking’ affair:

The typical swearing-in of an ambassador is usually a somewhat dry affair. Not so with the ceremony Wednesday to formally install Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the United States’ woman in Malta.

We hear the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room on the State Department’s eighth floor was, and we quote an attendee, “rocking.” The event featured unusual entertainment: the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Men and Women of the Gospel choir performed traditional gospel tunes that had even a few of the most buttoned-up guests tapping their toes.

Not much to read, but go here if you’re interested. We knew that this affair occurred at 4:15 p.m. on April 18 with Deputy Secretary Burns officiating the swearing-in ceremony. No photo of the ceremony had been released by the State Department.

So we were looking for photos of this ‘rocking affair’ when we stumbled on a video showing the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah on December 2004. This is old but we have not seen this video before although its been online since it was aired by ABC News on December 2005.

Notable mention in the video – Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, formerl Consul General at USCG Jeddah and newly sworn-in US Ambassador to Malta. Also, Joseph Adam Ereli,  then Deputy Spokesman of the State Department (from 2003-2006) and currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

If you did not watch the video, the ABC News investigation has this item:

The secret State Department review concluded that no one breached his or her duty, but noted, “leadership problems in Jeddah,” and found that the officials in charge of security “received little support” from the consul general.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the consul general, is no longer posted in Saudi Arabia and declined to comment on the incident in an appearance in Cleveland last week.

The secret review found “a widespread negative perception among the consulate staff of the consul general’s degree for security,” which did not surprise Diebler, a former State Department security officer.

Her state.gov bio says:

Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley is the recipient of Senior Performance Pay, Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, including “For acts of courage during an attack on the U.S. Consulate General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 6, 2004 by al-Qa’ida terrorists.”

Her US Embassy Malta bio appears to have missed that.

Anyway, if you watch the video, you will see the Saudi guards running away, although they did take their weapons with them.  During the on-the-record briefing following the attack, here is part of what then Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said:

“There are many other stories of heroism about the events of yesterday. Heroism by our locally employed staff. Heroism by the marines, and by other American citizens, and heroism by the Saudis who were guarding our gates and took casualties in doing so. Our investigation is now under way. As President Bush said in comments yesterday, “The war on terrorism goes on. It will take time but the efforts are succeeding. It will take time.”

On the question: What are the benefits that will be provided to the families of those killed in this attack? then Consul General Abercrombie –Winstanley responded:

“There are very specific benefits that are available to any employee of the U.S. Government. I am happy to say that I am not extremely familiar with all of them, because, I hope never to have this happen to anyone that works for me again. But the staff is working very hard right now to figure everything out. We’ve obviously done condolence calls to all the next of kin of all those who have passed, and we will be doing visits to those who are injured. So as I said, there’s a very specific set of benefits, but I cannot get into details right now.”

The five Foreign Service National employees who died during the terrorist attack were Ali Yaslem Bin Talib, Imad e-Deen Musa Ali, Romeo de la Rosa, Mohammed Baheer Uddin and Jaufar Sadik. The casualties whose embassy service range from 18 months to 26 years came from Yemen, Sudan, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. Click here to read Survivors Detail Attack on U.S. Consulate Dec. 8, 2004.

There were two reports related to the Jeddah attack: an OIG report, “Review of the Management of Compound Physical Security Upgrades,” Report Number AUD/PPA-04-37, August 2004 and the Accountability Review Board report, “Jeddah Terrorist Attack, December 6, 2004.”  In State/OIG’s convoluted archiving system, it’s hard going hunting for old reports. We have emailed the OIG but have not heard any response. The eight-year old ARB report does not appear to be available anywhere online.

Why bother looking them up now? We were named the most curious student in school and we haven’t gotten over that — plus there was that rocking affair that started this off.

Also  on March 4, 2012,   AP says that Saudi Arabia’s  official news agency reported that it has begun trials of 55 suspected Al Qaeda members, some charged in a deadly attack on a U.S. Consulate in 2004. Apparently, six men came before the court on March 4, and the trial of another three began a day earlier. “The report did not say when the rest of the 55 would be tried, or how many of them were accused in connection with the consulate attack.”

Domani Spero