White House’s Macon Phillips To Get New Digs at State Dept’s Bureau of International Information Programs

— By Domani Spero

Macon Phillips, the Director of Digital Strategy at the White House will reportedly get new digs at the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.  That’s the same bureau involved with buying FB likes and almost plunking a $16.5 million contract on Kindles.

Mr. Phillips ran the new media program for the Presidential Transition Team (Change.gov) and served as the Deputy Director of the Obama campaign’s new media department (BarackObama.com). Prior to the campaign, Phillips led Blue State Digital’s strategy practice, working with clients like the Democratic National Committee and Senator Ted Kennedy. His WH bio says that he is “a proud Americorps*VISTA alum,”  is a Huntsville, Alabama native and a graduate of Duke University. He is on Twitter @Macon44.

According to WaPo, the Obama administration is launching a new strategy aimed at revamping America’s “digital diplomacy” efforts. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has reportedly hired Macon Phillips, the 2008 Obama campaign’s digital guru to develop ways to expand engagement with foreign audiences:

Now, Phillips will be taking over the Bureau of International Information Programs — also known as the government’s “propaganda arm” — at a time when disseminating messages is increasingly complicated.

“It’s a double-edged sword: It’s easier to get information out, but also harder to correct misinformation that’s out there,” Phillips said.

[snip]

But much of the department’s A-list digital talent has moved on: Katie Jacobs Stanton directs international strategy at Twitter, Jared Cohen runs Google Ideas and Ross is writing a book.

A challenge for Phillips and his team is not simply reaching foreigners, but persuading them to change their views about the United States.

[snip]

Another challenge for Phillips will be to change the culture at the tradition-bound information bureau. The inspector general’s report found that morale was low and that “leadership created an atmosphere of secrecy, suspicion and uncertainty.”

Administration officials said they’re counting on Phillips to turn the page.

Active links added above. The Ross the report is referring to who is writing a book is Alec Ross formerly a senior advisor to former Secretary Clinton.

Mr. Phillips will presumably take the Coordinator of the  Bureau of International Information Programs position, the job vacated by Dawn McCall this past spring.  He will take over a bureau that staff described to the OIG inspectors as suffering from “reorganization fatigue.”  The OIG report noted that “The coordinator believes she was hired with a mandate to “fix” IIP” with the following results:

IIP’s front office leadership has focused on reorganizing the bureau’s structure without adequate engagement in and oversight of administrative matters. The front office has paid insufficient attention to mission-critical management controls, particularly in the areas of performance management, contracting, and travel. Front office decisions and management style do not reflect the PD family’s leadership tenets, which emphasize two-way communication and esprit de corps. A more inclusive approach could have helped the coordinator achieve her large scale changes more easily and successfully.

As far as we know, the IIP Coordinator position is not an assistant secretary level position.  According to the 2013 OIG report, the 2004 OIG inspection report recommended that the Department designate the senior position in IIP as an assistant secretary, given the size of the bureau and the responsibilities of the coordinator. The Department cited a congressional cap on the number of assistant secretaries as the reason it did not act. However, the lack of an assistant secretary rank continues to limit the coordinator’s effectiveness and Department perceptions of the bureau.

The 2013 OIG report similarly recommended that “The Office of the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, in coordination with the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, should continue to seek legislative authority to designate the senior position in the Bureau of international Information Programs as an assistant secretary. (Action: S/ES, in coordination with R/PPR).”

We would not be surprised if this is the year when this position will be elevated to the assistant secretary level.  Obama White House alumni Heather Higginbottom has recently been nominated as Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources at the State Department.  Former Managing Editor of Time Magazine Richard Stengel has also  been nominated to the  Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.   Stay tuned.

👀

Stratfor Email Leak aka: The Global Intelligence Files — What’s interesting to read?

On February 27, WikiLeaks began publishing “The Global Intelligence Files” – more than five million purported emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011.  In a statement cited by CNN, Stratfor says it is outraged over the breach of its privacy:

“This is a deplorable, unfortunate – and illegal – breach of privacy” […] The company refused, however, to answer any questions about the information contained within them, saying: “Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic. We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

We’ve read through some of the emails on State Department-related topics and though they appear like trivial exchange, there are some interesting ones.

About Jared Cohen, formerly with the State Department and now Director of Google Ideas at Google

Stratfor Insight into USG public diplomacy and the genesis of movements.org

Some back and forth on the CIA’s chief of station in Athens, Richard Welch who was gunned down on 23 December 1975 outside his residence in front of his wife and driver in a 17N’s attack.

Decades old rumor that Welch was set up by an Embassy FSN.

An email exchange on the US Embassy Athens RPG hit in 2007

[DSonlineforum] Alledged Leak of 260,000 Classified and Sensitive State Department Cables – shows a state.gov email addy.

About Wikileaks and the State Department Documents

Thought–Re: wikileaks cablegate – disappearing cables  — and old cronies @ State

Re: wikileaks cablegate – disappearing cables or how “The Foggy-Bottom Bow-Ties have their panties in a knot over a specific Iraq cable outed”

Yep, the purported email really did say “panties in a knot.”

An email titled, FBI SAIC comment on WikiLeaks (internal use only pls) says “nobody knew better than us how those State Department people write….”

One purported email from a Senior Eurasia Analyst dated September 2011 had awful things to say about Ambassador McFaul:

“On McFaul: everyone in CE hates dealing with him. He is deluded. He believes that Russia can actually be pulled into being an ally with the US. McFaul wants to use Regan’s gameplan. He constantly quotes Regan. On a sidenote, in McFaul’s office there is a large (really large, like4x3) photo blown up above his desk of McFaul, Obama, Medvedev and Putin all sitting around the lunchtable smiling. However, the way I heard it was that McFaul was scared to death of Putin and stuttered the entire time.”

Then there’s a source in Mexico dubbed MX1 with concerns about Wikileaks and afraid to “get fired when those cables are leaked.”  The 2010 email exchange citing the same MX1 source also includes the following:

“MX1 says that this is a bad thing because it is already difficult to get Mexicans to be frank about how much GOM sucks. First you have the nationalism issue, then the fact that many just don’t like Americans, and now the ones that want to be frank are afraid they’ll lose their job when GOM finds out they said Calderon has his head up his ass and that the Consul General is taking money from the Zetas.”

Among the purported Stratfor emails released by Wikileaks are speculations about UBL’s non-burial at sea. Asked about that during a Daily Press Briefing, the State Department’s Mike Hammer had this to say:

“All right, as far as I understand, as far as my colleagues at the State Department go, excuse me, the Department of Defense, they have already clearly stated that the report is false and quite ridiculous.”

Elsewhere online, firstpost.com notes that “The latest leaked emails, spinning fanciful theories about bin Laden’s body disposal, are almost certain to feed the liveliest imagination of conspiracy theorists, of whom there is no dearth.”

No doubt.

And before you say “oh, dear!” — here is Trevor Timm, an activist at Electronic Frontier Foundation about rumors with no second source:


Sounds like an excellent question…

By the way, Stratfor’s VP of Intelligence  is Fred Burton, a former deputy chief of the counterterrorism division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

Domani Spero

State Dept’s Top Twitterati Jared Cohen Moves to Google

Photo from Children of Jihad

This news is going to make our blog friend, The Skeptical Bureaucrat sad.  According to Politico’s Laura Rozen, the State Department’s top twitterati, Jared Cohen is moving to Google, not to Mountain View but to New York. Excerpt:

State Policy Planning staff official Jared Cohen informs colleagues of his last day after four years at State for a new job with Google.

E-mail below:

    From: Jared Cohen
    Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 6:21 PM
    Subject: Jared Cohen Next Steps and New Contact Info
   
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

    Last Thursday, September 2nd, was my last day in government. After four years on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, I have accepted a job as the Director of a new entity at Google called “Google Ideas”. I will also serve as an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Google Ideas will combine the models of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a think tank, and a private sector company, with resources to implement. In this sense, Google Ideas will be a think/do tank that strives to bring together diverse perspectives from multiple industries to generate new ideas, approaches and solutions to security, social, economic and political challenges in the world. At the Council on Foreign Relations, I will focus on counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, and 21st century statecraft. Please see my interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, which describes Google Ideas in greater detail: http://tinyurl.com/2ateola

Read the whole thing here.

You can still follow him at: http://twitter.com/jaredcohen