Suspending Embassy Operations: Post and Bureau Not Told, and FOIA Redaction Fail

Posted: 1:12 am EDT
Updated: 5:28 pm EDT
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On February 25, 2011, the State Department announced the suspension of U.S. Embassy operations in Libya (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Operations in #Libya, Withdraws All Personnel).  What we didn’t know then but we know now, thanks to the Clinton email dump, is that just a few days before that, neither the embassy nor the bureau was aware that they were suspending operations.

February 22, 2011 09:50 PM – HRC aide Jake Sullivan sent an email (partially redacted with FOIA b(5) code) to Janet A. Sanderson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near East Affairs, with subject line “Suspending embassy ops” and asking “Where do we stand?”

February 22, 2011 10:14 PM – Sanderson emailed Sullivan:

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Feb 22 22:18:23 2011 (10:18 PM) – Sanderson also sent an email to M/Patrick Kennedy and Kathleen T. Austin-Ferguson, M’s Executive Assistant:

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February 22, 2011 10:37 PM – Kennedy responded to Sanderson saying he “talked to cheryl and tom” and that “they are also unaware.”“Checking with Secretary. At this moment we are NOT suspending. Fully agree not possible to do tomorrow and also risks libyan blow back.”  Email must be referencing HRC Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.

Embassy Tripoli eventually suspended operations on February 25, three days after the start of this email chain.  These emails are part of the Clinton email dump and it shows just how messed up is the FOIA at the agency.

On Feb 22 22:40:17 2011 (10:40 PM) – Sanderson responded to the Kennedy email, adding Ronald Schlicher to the email chain. Ambassador Schlicher was previously assigned to Cyprus, and also served as a DAS at the Bureau of Near East Affairs. We are not sure what was his position in 2011, but he must have been attached to NEA to be looped in in this exchange. Ambassador Schlicher was Principal DAS at the NEA bureau, and he would have been Sanderson’s boss at the time.  Here’s a clip from that email:

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Now, take a look at the email below with the same time stamp and same addresses, released as a separate email by the FOIA office at State:

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Why, they’re the same email, except that they were released as separate documents, and in the second document, the email is redacted under the b(5) FOIA exemption, also known in the FOIA community as the “Withhold It Because You Want To” Exemption.  “Yael” must have been Yael Lempert who was assigned to Tripoli as consular section chief in 2009 and featured in the NYT here for the release of four New York Times journalists in 2011 in Libya.  She may have been the acting DCM at the time of the suspension of operations.  “Joan” is presumably Joan Polaschik who was DCM and then CDA of Embassy Tripoli. She is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.

Here is what DOJ says about the b(5) exemption:

Exemption 5 of the FOIA protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” (1) The courts have construed this somewhat opaque language, with its sometimes confusing threshold requirement, (2) to “exempt those documents, and only those documents that are normally privileged in the civil discovery context.” (3)

Here is what we are not supposed to read according to the FOIA ninjas, except that one of them forgot the Sharpie:

“I have just talked to post (Yael).She and Joan will work to reduce staff and send more out on ferry. Shd get down to 10- 12. She fully understands need for limited staff to stay to deal with community. Believes likely remainder will be position to leave in few days. Says situation is “worse than Baghdad in 2004-2005 “

No matter how you read the above passage, it is difficult to make the case that it fits the b(5) exemption unless you’re thinking of the “withhold it because you want to” exemption threshold.

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Emails in full released via FOIA below:

Suspending Ops Libya – February 22, 2011 11:05 PM: https://cloudup.com/cAlO_WHTfpc

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 7:59 AM: https://cloudup.com/cD33FlF7TCo

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 8:08 AM: https://cloudup.com/cjplOQtTEmw

 

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Can private lawyers hoard potentially classified information? Yes. No, It Depends. Wait, No?

Posted: 2:30 am EDT
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Related to Brown v. State Department: Another Day, Another FOIA Lawsuit, David Brown wanted to know “If it is now policy to allow private lawyers to hoard potentially classified information, the public is entitled to know the authority by which such policies are maintained, and who is permitted such generous treatment.”  

The Daily Beast last week reported that Clinton’s private lawyer got his way when he pushed back after being asked to delete all copies of a classified email—a level of deference an expert calls ‘far from the norm.’  State Department employees were also reportedly told “to develop a system that would let Kendall keep the emails in a State Department-provided safe at his law firm in Washington, D.C., where he and a partner had access to them” according to the Daily Beast.

Newly released documents, obtained by The Daily Beast in coordination with the James Madison Project under the Freedom of Information Act, include legal correspondence and internal State Department communications about Clinton’s emails. Those documents provide new details about how officials tried to accommodate the former secretary of state and presidential candidate.
[…]
“The arrangement with Kendall was far from the norm,” Steven Aftergood, an expert on classification and security policy at the Federation of American Scientists, told The Daily Beast. “There are a number of attorneys around who handle clients and cases involving classified information. They are almost never allowed to retain classified material in their office, whether they have a safe or not. Sometimes they are not even allowed to review the classified information, even if they are cleared for it, because an agency will say they don’t have a ‘need to know.’ In any event, the deference shown to Mr. Kendall by the State Department was quite unusual.”
[…]
While State Department officials initially may have felt that non-government lawyers were qualified to maintain classified emails at their office, they changed their tune as investigators began to discover more top secret information among Clinton’s communications.
[…]
The arrangement with Kendall has been previously reported. But the documents reveal new details about what was happening inside the State Department as officials moved ahead with the unorthodox setup.

 

Related item:

12 FAM 530 STORING AND SAFEGUARDING CLASSIFIED MATERIAL-June 25, 2015, pdf).

 

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Riding with HRC and what’s this about tolerable ambos?

Posted: 7:08 pm EDT
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Uh-oh! What’s this about”tolerable” ambassadors? HRC was Secretary of State from January 21, 2009 – February 1, 2013.  The email below was sent early morning on a Sunday, July 15, 2012.  According to history.state.gov, HRC was on travel from July 14-​16, 2012 in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt where she met with President Mohammed Morsi, Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, and Christian leaders. She also dedicated the Consulate General at Alexandria.

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Fobs For Everyone: 624,000 More Hours of Productivity at the State Department! Woohoo!

Posted: 4:33 pm EDT
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Not too long ago, State Department EFM Jen Denoia wrote about the reasonable expectation of family members to have access to the department’s online resources:

Eligible Family Members (EFMs) such as myself are still mired in the same backwards technology that existed when our family joined the State Department 15 years ago. Despite advances such as the development of fobs, a device many employees use to generate passwords for intranet access from off-site computers, EFMs have not been granted access to such tools. While we tend to do most of the post research, we are still reliant upon non-State resources in order to retrieve bidding information when we need it the most.

A year after Secretary Clinton arrived at State (and to this day), there is still no decent online access for family members of State Department employees.  The Foreign Service version of MilitaryOneSource for family members may remain only a dream for the foreseeable future.  In 2009, a senior adviser at the State Department helped justify the “fobs for everyone” by citing that the program “will produce new fewer than 624,000 more hours of productivity by end of year.”

On May 12, 2009, CIO Susan Swart wrote an email to Alec Ross, then State Department senior advisor for innovation:

I met with Pat today and we did discuss expansion of the fob program. He is supportive and asked that we do a decision memo to him. WE need this get decision on funding and longer term strategy but I don’t see this as slowing down an announcement the Secretary might make, we just need to coordinate timing.

A couple days later, Alec Ross sent an email to Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan:

We’re going to forward with the doubling of mobile access to email and productivity tools. It’s INSANE that fewer than 1 in 5 state Department are able to access their email or documents when they’re away from their desk.

It has contributed to the 9:00-5:00 culture here and exacerbates the disconnection between D.C. and the missions. This is a good short-term win and by my estimates will produce new fewer than 624,000 more hours of productivity by end of year one which I think is extremely conservative – it assumes just 1.5 additional hour online per employee per week.

Given that those being given the tools are principally foreign service officers and people more senior than the mean average DoS employee, I think this is very reasonable. Will put an evaluative instrument into this to see if I’m correct.

More detail on all this below if you want it.

I should point out that Pat Kennedy and the CIO have been great. This has been one of several instances where they listened, they got it, and they’re moving forward. The CIO said she’d thought of it before, just didn’t know if she could handle the politics. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on our “corporate IT” but in obvious cases like this I’ll keep jumping in.

Last thing — this idea got a lot of attention on The Sounding Board. I propose that HRC respond to the staff (maybe in a quick 60 second video that we post there) saying in effect – Thank you for sharing your thinking. I heard you. Because of you we’re doing this.

Re-enforce that HRC is still listening to the staff.

That same day, Cheryl Mills forwarded the email to HRC:

FYI – we’re going to get a short video from you that we’ll put on our site announcing this. It’s also one of the ideas we can use for how we are reforming the department for the reform committee.

Secretary Clinton replied:

Sounds great but you’ll have to explain to me!

So then Ms. Mills sent the following:

sure — bottom line – you need a special security code to get on line from a computer outside the building. Only 1 in 5 of our employees has gotten the device (fob) that allows you to do this access.

This effort is making sure they get fobs into the hands of more (or all) employees so folks can work from home thereby increasing productivity substantially since the 4 in 5 essentially do no work from home once they leave the building until they get in again b/c they don’t have access to their email.

On May 14, 2009, at 10:20 PM, the Secretary replied:

Got it. Is the other matter fixed. Anything else going on?

Whatever it was she was asking about,  Ms. Mills told her, it was “fixed.”  The rest of the email chain is redacted. Click C05761923 (pdf) to read this emails via foia.state.gov.

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Benghazi Select Committee to Interview 60 Additional Witnesses, Are You On the List?

Posted: 2:38 am EDT
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The Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi released an Interim Progress Update on May 8, 2015. Below is an excerpt from the report including an item on its intent to call mid-level managers from the State Department:

 

  • In the coming months, an additional 60 witnesses representing current and former officials and employees from the State Department, the White House and the Intelligence Community will be interviewed.
  • The Committee is nearing the end of its first round of interviews with State Department employees. Information obtained from this first round of interviews has raised additional questions of current and former State Department officials. Upon completion of these interviews, the Committee will begin a second round of interviews with additional State Department employees. This second round of interviews will consist of mid-level managers at the Department, many of whom were and are responsible for making day-to-day decisions and implementing the policy that is set by State Department leadership.
  • The Committee also intends to interview current and former senior State Department officials. These officials include Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin, Susan Rice and Patrick Kennedy, among others.
  • [T]he Committee intends to interview former White House and National Security Staff personnel regarding their roles in the events prior to, during and after the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, former Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, former Deputy Strategic Communications Advisor Ben Rhodes, former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor, and former Director for Libya on the National Security Staff Ben Fishman. None of these individuals have previously testified before Congress regarding their role in and including knowledge of the events prior to, during or after the Benghazi attacks.
  • Beginning in June, the Committee intends to interview current and former Department of Defense employees about their role in the response to the Benghazi attacks. These individuals include Secretary Leon Panetta, General Martin Dempsey and General Carter Ham, among others.

The 11-page update is available to read here (pdf).

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Who’s Running Foggy Bottom? You Get Three Guesses. Wait, Four Guesses?

Posted: 2:27 am EDT
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In March, the State Department’s Chief of Staff David Wade left his post to start an adventure in parenthood. Secretary Kerry released a statement on his departure.

 

Two days later, Jonathan Finer was officially appointed as Chief of Staff. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

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The Travels With Secretary Kerry page indicates that he has travelled to 59 countries, logging 769,650 miles, and 339 travel days. So far, his total flight time is 1,671.18 hours or about 2.5 months spent flying around the world.

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What’s this question about who’s running Foggy Bottom?

There’s the Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken as Foggy Bottom’s stay-at-home dad. Wait, he’s often traveling, too.  As Secretary Kerry was on his way to Africa, D/Secretary Blinken was in Mexico:

But there’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR) Heather Higginbottom as Foggy Bottom’s stay-at-home mom, right? We thought that’s the main reason why the State Department asked for a second deputy, so one is always home to mind the shop. But as Number #1 was on his way to Africa and Number #2 was in Mexico, D/MR Higginbottom was in Paris to mark the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) fourth annual International Jazz Day:

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Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reported recently that when “Kerry crisscrossed the globe to various diplomatic hotspots during the first two years of his tenure, Wade rarely left Washington and instead consumed himself with the personnel and management decisions that go along with running a massive bureaucracy.”  A State Department official also told FP that “Finer, will continue to travel with the secretary, albeit less frequently than in his previous role as deputy chief of staff.”

That’s raised concerns among some rank-and-file diplomats that no single point person will fully fill the role of Wade, leaving Foggy Bottom without a stay-at-home dad to make important decisions while Kerry’s abroad.

Hold it. No need to worry. More from FP:

A new key change, which hasn’t been previously reported, is Kerry’s appointment of two deputy chiefs of staff to assist Finer at home and abroad.

Tom Sullivan, the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, became the new deputy chief of staff for policy this month. Formerly serving as a liaison between the State Department and Congress, Sullivan will advise Kerry on policy and join him on most of his foreign travel. That will allow Finer to remain in Washington more often.

Still, Finer, unlike Wade, will still play a significant role in traveling with the secretary and aiding his policy decisions — including on a trip this week to Africa and South Asia, according to one official.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Stout, formerly the chief of staff to the undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, has been named deputy chief of staff for management. In that role, Stout will assist Finer in his day-to-day management issues in Washington.

“We felt that two deputy chiefs of staff was the best way to structure our front office to meet the big challenges and opportunities of the last two years, and to advance the secretary’s priorities on the road and in the building,” said a senior State Department official.
[…]
“Smart move in my view,” said Ilan Goldenberg, who recently left the State Department as a member of the Israel-Palestine negotiating team.

Traditionally, Goldenberg said, the deputy chief of staff has traveled with the secretary and been a key policy advisor. Meanwhile, the chief of staff runs the politics, messaging, and internal management of the department, he said.

The new set-up, Goldenberg said, will delegate much of the internal dealings to the deputy. That will free the chief of staff to “do more big picture policy instead of constantly being forced to deal with tough management questions,” he added.

Sigh. Everyone is looking at doing policy.

Here are the new folks reportedly running Foggy Bottom.

Jonathan Finer| Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: 03/08/2015 to present

Jon Finer is Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State, where he previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. He previously worked for four years at the White House, most recently as Senior Advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken. Before that he was Special Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa and Foreign Policy Speechwriter for Vice President Joseph R. Biden. He joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as a White House Fellow, assigned to the Office of the White House Chief of Staff and the National Security Council Staff.

Prior to entering government service, Jon was a foreign and national correspondent at The Washington Post, where he reported from more than 20 countries and spent 18 months covering the war in Iraq, embedding with the U.S. Marines during the 2003 invasion and based in Baghdad in 2005-2006. He also covered conflicts in Gaza (2009), Russia/Georgia (2008) and Israel/Lebanon (2006); the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign; and the 2004 Major League Baseball playoffs.

Before the Washington Post, Jon spent a year in Hong Kong as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, working as a reporter and editor at the Far Eastern Economic Review. He has a law degree from Yale, where he co-founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project; an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and an undergraduate degree from Harvard. He was born and raised in Norwich, Vermont.

Jennifer Park Stout | Deputy Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: 03/11/2015 to present (see YouTube Video via US Embassy New Zealand)

Jennifer Park Stout serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jennifer has served in a number of capacities both in and out of government. Most recently, Jennifer was Chief of Staff to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel.  Prior to that, she was Special Assistant to the President in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

From 2012 to 2013 as Vice President of International Government Relations for MetLife, Jennifer supported government and industry relations and international business segments in the Asia Pacific. From 2010 to 2012, she was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau at the State Department, leading the bureau’s public affairs and public diplomacy strategy.

Previously Jennifer was Senior Advisor and Director of Senate Affairs in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs at the State Department and spent 11 years on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative aide to then-Senator Joseph Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Senator Jim Webb, and Representative James Moran.

Jennifer holds a M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University and a B.A. from James Madison University.

Thomas D. Sullivan |Deputy Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: ???
Mr. Sullivan does not appear to have an online bio at state.gov.  He is currently listed as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

According to FP,  Tom Sullivan is “the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser” Jake Sullivan.  The older brother previously served as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and also as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.   One other interesting connection here: like Jake Sullivan, the new Chief of Staff Jon Finer has a law degree from Yale.  Both have a M.Phil. from Oxford, and both were Rhodes Scholars.

Back to the younger brother —  Senator Amy Klobuchar, the  senior Senator from Minnesota gave a Tribute to Tom Sullivan during the 112th Congress on the occasion of his departure from the Senate and his move to the State Department.

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the exceptional leadership and dedication of my deputy chief of staff Tom Sullivan, who has been with me since my first days in the Senate and will soon be leaving to accept a senior adviser role at the U.S. State Department.

To say that Tom will be missed would be an understatement. Over the last 6 years, he has distinguished himself as an invaluable member of my staff, rising through the ranks and filling many key roles along the way. He started out as a legislative assistant, but it wasn’t long before he was serving as my deputy legislative director and, eventually, my deputy chief of staff.

In many ways you could call Tom the nerve center of my office–the utility player who can step in and perform virtually any task that is asked of him, regardless of whether it is press strategy or scheduling or legislative analysis. No policy was ever too complex for him, no assignment too daunting, no challenge too thorny.

Tom’s versatility is especially apparent in his knowledge of policy, which spans the full spectrum of State and Federal issues. He came to my office with a background in foreign relations but quickly became an expert in everything from energy to technology to health care, mastering and remembering even the most minute of details without losing sight of the forest for the trees. That is a rare talent, and Tom has it in spades.

 Mr. President, as you know, Senate offices often become like their own little family units. In the last 6 years, Tom Sullivan has become an esteemed member of the Klobuchar family, and he will be sorely missed–not just for his skill and expertise but for his composure, kindness, and unflappable good nature. We wish Tom well in his new position at the State Department and know that we can expect to see great things from him as he begins a new and exciting journey in public service.

We should note that the new COS Jon Finer is currently traveling with Secretary Kerry on his trip to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Djibouti.

Now we’re just waiting for the announcement of four new special assistants  assisting the two newly appointed deputy chief of staff.

So serious question. Who’s interested in addressing the “tough management questions” and fixing whatever is broken in the building? Anyone?

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Former State Dept DAS Raymond Maxwell Alleges Benghazi Document Scrub Pre-ARB Investigation

Domani Spero
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Today via  Sharyl Attkisson of the Daily Signal:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
[…]
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.

“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”

Continue reading, Benghazi Bombshell: Clinton State Department Official Reveals Details of Alleged Document Review. 

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A quick note: We’ve previously written about Raymond Maxwell in this blog; the latest was this oneThe Cautionary Tale of Raymond Maxwell: When the Bureaucracy Bites, Who Gets The Blame?  Last year, we also posted, with his permission,  his poem “Invitation“ in this blog.  (see Raymond Maxwell: Former Deputy Asst Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem

In Ms. Attkisson’s report, Mr. Maxwell criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including Secretary Clinton.  We actually see no point in the ARB interviewing Secretary Clinton, given that she tasked the ARB to do the investigation and that the report is submitted to her. The regs as it exist right now does not even require that the Secretary submits the actual report to Congress, only that the Secretary of State “report to the Congress on any program recommendations and the actions taken on them.”

12 FAM 036.3: The Secretary will, not later than 90 days after the receipt of a Board’s program recommendations, submit a report to the Congress on each such recommendation and the action taken or intended to be taken with respect to that recommendation.

So we’re not hung up on the fact that she was not interviewed  But who gets the actual ARB report is probably one more thing that Congress really do need to fix in the regs.

Mr. Maxwell also named other officials who allegedly were never interviewed by the ARB: 1) Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; 2) Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and 3) White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.

ARB Benghazi in its public report never identified all the people it interviewed in the conduct of its investigation. ABB Kenya/Tanzania did that and the list is online.   We still cannot understand why those names in the Benghazi investigation are not public. What kind of accountability is it when we can’t even tell who the ARB investigators talked to? Redact the names of the CIA people if needed, but the names of those interviewed should be public unless there is a compelling security reason not to do so. There is an opportunity here for the State Department to declassify that part of ARB Benghazi’s report.

At the heart of this latest bombshell on Benghazi is that the weekend document session, according to Mr. Maxwell, was reportedly held “in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.”

This would be the 21st Street entrance; and the room is underneath the jogger’s entrance [insert room number for prospective Foggy Bottom visitors].  We understand that FOIA has had offices there in the past but that most of the FOIA offices moved to SA-2.  Apparently, the only office the A organization chart shows to be in the Harry S. Truman basement are B2A61 the Facilities Managment Office and B258 the Office of General Services Management.  But which office is called the Emergency Management Operations Center?  Some media sites are already calling this the “boiler room operation.”

We have generally been disappointed with the Benghazi investigations.  The fact that it has become a political football to throw back and forth with all the offense and defense attendant of the game makes us cringe; even more so, every “new” book  or revelation gave us a sad.

But we think this one is a most serious allegation and cannot be swatted away by a  State Department spokesman simply calling the implication that documents were withheld “totally without merit.”  A State Department spokesman also told Ms. Attkisson that “it would have been impossible for anybody outside the Accountability Review Board (ARB) to control the flow of information because the board cultivated so many sources.” So, hypothetically, if folks scrubbed through the documents as alleged, then an instruction went down to IT to removed those docs from the system — that could not really happen, could it?

If this is not true, if no document scrub happened in the basement of the State Department as alleged by a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, then we’d like the agency spokesman to say so clearly and call out Mr. Maxwell on this.   Security access records should also indicate if these five individuals were at the State Department that weekend, when this alleged “review” took place.

So, let’s hear it people. But. Without the word salad, please.

In any case, now that this allegation is out in the open, the individuals named or positions cited in the Attkisson report are presumably candidates for an appearance before the Benghazi Select Committee:

1)  two officials, close confidants of Secretary Clinton (Congressman Chaffetz said that he was told then-Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan were there and overseeing the operation)

2) one office director (??? from NEA bureau)

3) one intern (??? about to become the second most famous intern in Wash, D.C.)

4) State Department ombudsman (Office of the Ombudsman – Ombudsman Shireen Dodson)

One entity not included in the report but potentially a candidate for an appearance in the Select Committee is the Office of the Inspector General. In September 2013, State/OIG under the then acting OIG issued a report on the “process by which Accountability Review Boards (ARB/Board) are established, staffed, supported, and conducted as well as the measures to track implementation of ARB recommendations.”

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Interim Win For Diplomats Slows Down March To Another War. For Now.

— Domani Spero

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and US Secretary of State John Kerry,, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister

(L to R) British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU’s Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister (Photo via US Mission Geneva)

Here is the Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program released by the WH on November 23.  You might also want to read Jeffrey Lewis’ piece on FP asking, if we can’t ease sanctions in exchange for concessions, what was the point of pressuring Iran. He is the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Lots of articles coming out right now on the Geneva deal, but there are a couple you don’t want to miss.  The Associated Press reported on the cloak and dagger diplomacy that happened behind the klieg lights with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, and National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar. See Secret talks between U.S., Iran set stage for historic nuclear deal.  As well, see Al-Monitor’s Exclusive: Burns led secret US back channel to Iran.

Of course, now folks will start wondering what’s real in the public schedule posted on state.gov.

But please — a toast to the diplomats and the support staff!  For every foreign minister present in the photo above, there were numerous nameless individuals who made the work in Geneva possible. Bravissimo for a win that did not involved a drone, a gun, or a deadly karate chop! Diplomacy still works and it did not wear combat boots this time.

Also, yesterday, Reuters reported that former hostage Bruce Laingen, the US chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1979 favors diplomacy, “despite humiliation, solitary confinement and having a gun held to his head during the U.S. Embassy crisis in Iran three decades ago.” The report notes that “Former hostages who were diplomats appear more in favor of rebuilding a relationship with Iran than those who were military personnel at the time.” See  Former Iran hostages: amid rapprochement they still want apologies.   

Apparently, some pols are livid about this Iran deal, lining up before microphones, furiously writing op-eds, plotting the next moves and …..

Oh, hey, accuweather says the East Coast winter storm will snark Thanksgiving travel.  Safe travel peeps!

* * *

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