US Embassy Yemen on Ordered Departure Once Again

— Domani Spero
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Updated 11/14/14: We were told by an official source a couple days ago that no  public statement was released since this is not a “new” ordered departure (OD) but phase two of original OD order. According to regs, once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).

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It looks like the U.S. Embassy is on ordered departure once again.  Most recently, the embassy underwent a reduction of personnel in September 2014 (see U.S. Embassy Yemen Now on Evacuation … No, on Temporary Reduction of Staff Status).

 

We’ve been unable to find the formal statement from state.gov or the US Embassy Sanaa website.  Below is the official spox talking about this further reduction of personnel from the Daily Press Briefing of November 10:

QUESTION: There were suggestions that ISIL had laid some bombs or planned to attack the embassy in Sana’a. Obviously, that attack didn’t go ahead, I guess, because we would have heard of it by now. But is that something that you’re aware of? Do you know the details of that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have specific details on that. I will say – and we put this out earlier today – that in response to changing security – the changing security situation in Yemen, we have further reduced our American personnel working in Yemen. And this ordered departure refers solely to the reduction in staff numbers due to unstable conditions in the host country. Obviously, we’ve all been watching what’s been happening on the ground there, but I don’t believe it was related to a specific threat.

QUESTION: If you’re reducing the staffing, you’d already reduced it once. Who was left to reduce? Who does it – who does this order cover?

MS. PSAKI: Well, for – let me be clear on one thing we – before I get to that point. We are operating on – we reduced it and then we returned staff.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So we’re operating with reduced staffing until conditions warrant a return, but we still – our consular services are continuing to run, the embassy’s continuing to operate normally, and even consular services have not been affected by implementation of ordered departure.

QUESTION: So it remains open?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: It is open?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Today —

QUESTION: And I wondered if I could ask also about – the U.S. Treasury unveiled some kind of sanctions against former President Saleh and two commanders from the Houthi.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that in response to the UN resolution or the UN move that was brought in on Friday? Or is it something that’s separate?

MS. PSAKI: It was, as you know, as a member country of the UN Security Council when they put in place sanctions. And obviously, as a member country, we would do that as well. So the Treasury release, which outlines the specifics of it, of course, makes clear that the action was taken in conjunction with the unanimous UN Security Council action that happened on Friday.

QUESTION: What practical effect will it have on —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: I mean, do they have assets in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically assess that in a public manner. I can go back to Treasury and see if there’s more. But it means that all assets of those designated that are located in the United States or in control of U.S. persons are frozen and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. But the fact that this was a UN Security Council resolution and these were names, of course, that were approved, means other member countries would likely be implementing this as well. So it’s not just the United States.

QUESTION: What was it that prompted this action particularly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d long, I think, in the UN Security Council resolution – or I should say information they put out, they made clear that this was about individuals who were undermining the political process in Yemen, obstructing the implementation of its political transition as outlined by agreements from November of 2011. So there had been the UN Security Council Resolution 2140 that had been passed to allow for this, and this was just that names were added to that list.

QUESTION: But that – that information that came out on Friday from the – at the UN was pretty specific and quite damning in suggesting that ex-President Saleh conspired with AQAP. Is that – I’m presuming, but I want to make sure, that that is the view of the entire Administration that this guy who Secretary Clinton went and met in Sana’a is actually actively conspiring with one of your – one of the top al-Qaida affiliates.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think if we look at the last couple of months in Yemen, we’re talking about specific actions that were taken by those who were designated over the course of that time that have prohibited the implementation of some of these transitions that had been approved some time ago. So we’re talking about recent actions, not actions from a couple of years ago.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the formation of the new government?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. We welcome the formation of a new cabinet in Yemen and commend the efforts of President Hadi, Prime Minister Baha, the country’s political leadership, and Yemen’s diverse communities to come together to form an inclusive government that can better meet the aspirations of the Yemeni people. We remain fully committed – firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis as they work to implement the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement, the National Dialogue outcomes, and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, which collectively form the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Yemen.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Yemen —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — I think the Treasury also calls Saleh one of the bigger advocates of violence and so on. But let me ask you, since this – the agreement that saw the transition way back then was brokered by the GC – yeah, the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC – do you expect them also to impose the same kind of sanctions on Saleh?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, individual countries make their decisions, but typically member countries of the UN will follow the UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: Because he has – I mean, he has investments and so on in all of these countries and personal loss of money and so on. So this – it’s an area where it can actually have a real bite.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is the impact of sanctions and why they’re serious when they come from the Security Council.

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State Dept Assistant Secretary Positions: How Far Back is “Recent Memory?”

— Domani Spero
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Recently, the State Department officially rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than to career foreign service officers.  The spokesperson of the State Department, a former political operative and herself, a political appointee, reportedly told Yahoo News via email the following:

“There’s never been a secretary of state more personally connected to the Foreign Service than Secretary (John) Kerry. It’s in his blood. It’s stamped in his DNA. He’s the son of a foreign service officer,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Yahoo News by email.

“It’s no accident that he has worked with President (Barack) Obama to build a senior team with more foreign service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, and no accident that he chose a foreign service officer to serve as the State Department’s Counselor for the first time in thirty years,” she added.

See Political Appointee Rejects Criticisms of Too Many Political Picks at the State Department

So, because we’re a tad obsessive, we wanted to find out if what Ms. Psaki told Yahoo News is actually true.  If her “at any time in recent memory” includes only the the Clinton tenure, then sure, Secretary Kerry, indeed, appointed five FSOs career employees (four FSOs and 1 Civil Service) out of seven assistant secretaries, which is two more than former Secretary Clinton who appointed three FSOs out of seven assistant secretary positions at the regional level. (WHA’s Roberta Jacobson is reportedly a CS employee; history.state.gov incorrectly lists her as a foreign service officer). *Corrected graphic below.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 3.24.22 PM

 

Secretary Rice under the second Bush term, appointed five FSOs and three political appointees as assistant secretaries at the geographic level. If we go back all the way to 2001 then, Secretary Kerry has appointed as many FSOs as Secretary Rice but not “more,” at least at the geographic level. If “recent memory” includes the appointments under the Clinton, Rice and Powell tenures, the spox’s claim would not fly.

We hope to look at the functional bureaus separately, time permitting; maybe that’s the appointment universe the spokesperson is talking about?

The Powell appointments at the geographic level are sort of weird. It looks like he inherited one A/S from the previous administration (C. David Welch) and that appointee continue to served until 2002. In all, stats from history.state.gov and Wikipedia indicates that Secretary Powell appointed  three FSOs and seven non-career appointees to the seven geographic bureaus. AF, WHA and IO had two appointees each during the Bush first term.

We should note that if you’re a career FSO, the chance of getting an assistant secretary (A/S) position at the regional level is highest at Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), European Affairs (EUR), African Affairs (AF). Statistics compiled by AFSA from 1975 to-date indicates that 92.3% of all A/S appointments to the NEA bureau were career diplomats.  That percentage of FSO A/S appointment is 75% for the EUR bureau and 58.3% for the African Affairs bureau.

However, if you’re a non-career political appointee, the chance of getting an assistant secretary position at the regional level is highest at International Organization (IO) and East Asia Pacific (EAP).  Statistics compiled by AFSA from 1975 to-date indicates that 80% of all A/S appointments to the International Organization Affairs bureau went to non-career appointees. Ranked a distant second is EAP appointments at 57.1%.  The A/S appointments for South Central Asia Affairs  has been 50/50 according to the AFSA statistics.

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 Updated on 11/10/14 @ 8:52 am to correct listing of appointees during the Powell tenure and to clarify the total between FSOs and non career appointees.

@1531 added clarification that current WHA A/S is a career CS employee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Dept Spox: U/S Sherman has superhuman abilities in diplomacy, no/no costume

— Domani Spero
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A bunch of back and forth during the Nov. 3 Daily Press Briefing on U/S Sherman being dual-hatted as “D” and “P,” who is also one of the top eyeballers of the ongoing Iran negotiation. This is the official word, and the State Department spokesperson never did offer an understandable reason why despite the agency being previously informed that Bill Burns was leaving, and the fact that his retirement was twice postponed, no successor is exactly ready to be publicly announced at this point. Excerpt below:

 

QUESTION: — and the announcement that was just made about Ambassador Sherman taking over, at least temporarily, as deputy. Does the President or does the Secretary intend to have a permanent – someone nominated and confirmed by the Senate to take over from retired Deputy Burns?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So not necessarily her?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of any process or speak about personnel from here, which should come as no surprise, unless we’re ready to make an announcement.

QUESTION: Okay, I didn’t ask that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just asked if this means that she is going to be eventually nominated, or is anyone going to be eventually nominated to take over that position?

MS. PSAKI: This means that Under Secretary Sherman will be the acting Deputy Secretary of State. There is every intention to nominate a —

QUESTION: Okay. Which may or may not be her?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. And then how long does one stay – I mean, doing two jobs, both of which are pretty big, is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, nor the most efficient, probably. I’m not taking anything away from her skill, but I mean, being the number two and the number three at the same time, it will be taxing, to say the least. So do you have any idea about how long it will be before either she is nominated and someone else takes over as number three, or a new permanent number two is nominated and she can go back to only dealing with the under secretary job?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction on timing. I will just say that the fact that she was named Acting Deputy Secretary of State just reflects the Secretary’s trust in her, the trust of the building, the trust of the President, and obviously, her wealth of experience on a range of issues. So —

QUESTION: Jen, isn’t it just a time-space —

MS. PSAKI: — of anyone, she can certainly handle it.

QUESTION: But that’s a time – it’s just about a time-space continuum. I mean, Deputy Secretary Burns had a full portfolio and Under Secretary Sherman has a full portfolio. So just to Matt’s point, I mean, how long can this Department run on one person being the kind of Secretary’s second and third in command?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, you all know Under Secretary Sherman. She has superhuman abilities in diplomacy and obviously, I’m not going to get ahead of a personnel process or the timing on that.

QUESTION: Can I ask a process —

QUESTION: She has superhuman abilities? (Laughter.) Does she wear a costume too? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: She does not. She is a very talented and experienced diplomat. That was – I was kidding.

QUESTION: It’s not about her diplomatic skills.

QUESTION: But can you assure us that she is not going to be taking her eye off the Iran nuclear ball?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you. And as you also all know, Deputy Secretary Burns, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and there are a couple of others who are very involved in the Iran negotiations as well.

QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand about this, Jen, and I realize this is – that it’s the White House that nominates, but Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns, his departure, first of all, it came as no secret. The President had to talk him into staying and the Secretary did.

MS. PSAKI: Twice, yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right. Second, you guys put out an announcement, I think it was six months ago, explicitly stating that he was going to be leaving in October. It would be one thing if the Administration had nominated somebody and the Senate was sitting on it, as it has so many other of your nominees. But it just – it doesn’t make sense to me why, when you knew he was leaving, you had at a minimum six months’ public notice about the date that he was leaving, why it was – has not been possible to come up with a plausible candidate and put them forward.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it’s a reflection of not being able to come up with a plausible candidate. In fact, there are many talented candidates, and obviously —

QUESTION: Why haven’t they been nominated then?

MS. PSAKI: — there is a process that works through the interagency, as you know, that is not just the State Department. I’m not in a position to give you any more details on that process.

QUESTION: I didn’t think that presidential nominations were an interagency process. I thought it was the White House that decided who the President would nominate.

MS. PSAKI: We work with the White House. Obviously, the Secretary has a great deal of input as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean it’s – but it does make – like, why isn’t someone ready to be nominated? I mean, why does – I think Arshad’s question is: Why is the process only starting now? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it as a reflection of that. There’s an on – been an ongoing process.

QUESTION: For six months?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not in a position – I’m not going to detail for you when that process started.

QUESTION: My question is, well, why isn’t the process over by now given that you’ve known about this for half a year?

MS. PSAKI: I would just assure you that we have somebody who is very capable who will be in this position as acting deputy, and when we have an announcement to make, we’ll make the announcement.

QUESTION: Would you say that the – not – I won’t – I don’t want to use the word delay, but the reason that a nomination rather than a – the reason that there was a designation as an acting instead of a nomination as a permanent is because vetting of the potential candidates is still going on?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline it any further.

 

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Poor MidLevel Official Writes #Ebola Memo That Never Went Anywhere — Oy!

— Domani Spero
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In September, we blogged that the State Dept Awarded $4.9 Million Contract to Phoenix Air for Air Ambulance Evacuation #Ebola.  Apparently, the last couple of days there was a flap over a State Department memo on a plan to bring non-Americans with Ebola to U.S. soil for treatment. The memo labeled Sensitive But Unclassified – Predesicional is available to read here and notes USG obligation to non-U.S. citizen employees and contractors of U.S. agencies (USAID, CDC, etc.) and programs as well as NGOs and private firms based in the United States.

The  Washington Times identified the memo’s author as Robert Sorenson, deputy director of the Office of International Health and Biodefense (OES/IHB). The Office of International Health and Biodefense is the primary State Department policy office responsible for a variety of international health issues. It takes part in U.S. Government policymaking on infectious disease, environmental health, noncommunicable disease issues, global health security, antimicrobial resistance, and counterfeit and substandard medications.  A clearance sheet attached to the memo reportedly says it was cleared by offices of the deputy secretary, the deputy secretary for management, the office of Central African affairs and the medical services office.

The memo did make it to the Daily Press Briefing at the State Department. Excerpt below:

QUESTION: And then the last one on this is: There was a report last night and again this morning about this memo that was – the State Department memo —

MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me address that.

QUESTION: — about bringing —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. One, just factually, the document referenced was drafted by a midlevel official but not cleared by senior leaders. It never came to senior officials for approval. And any assertion that the memo was cleared by decision-makers is inaccurate. There are no plans to medevac non-Americans who become ill with Ebola to the United States. We have discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third countries subject to reimbursement and availability. But we’re not contemplating bringing them back to the United States for treatment.

QUESTION: So the – but essentially, what you’re saying is that one guy somewhere in this building came up with this idea and put it on paper, but it never went anywhere? Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It’s also weeks old and the memo isn’t current because European – our European partners —

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — have addressed this matter by providing their own guarantees, but go ahead.

QUESTION: One problem that – I mean, that I see is that a week ago, the Pentagon and the White House was insisting that, no, no, no, there is no overall quarantine order and it’s just this one commander, or these guys who are in Italy. And now all of a sudden, today we have Secretary Hagel saying no, it’s going to be – it’s Pentagon-wide and it’s going to go to all of the troops that are there. What is there to prevent this memo from coming back to life, as it were —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think with this —

QUESTION: — and becoming policy? Has it been flat out rejected or is it just kind of sitting on a shelf someplace and maybe could be implemented at some point?

MS. PSAKI: It’s sitting on a shelf or on a computer – since we use computers nowadays – by the individual who wrote it, I suppose. I think the important point here is that our European partners, since several weeks ago when that was written, have addressed this by providing a guarantee to international health workers that they would either be flown to Europe or receive high-quality treatment on the spot. So it’s not applicable at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, in general, why was this never approved? I mean, it seems – I mean, you could make the argument that the U.S. has great healthcare facilities, that no one who has contracted the disease in the United States has actually died. So I think there might be some who could make the argument that why not bring people?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, but many countries have decided to make that decision to deal with it themselves, and we’ve certainly been discussing with them how to do that.

QUESTION: So this has been discarded as unnecessary rather that rejected —

MS. PSAKI: It was never discussed at any levels, in any serious level with decision-makers. So I don’t – wouldn’t say it was discarded, but —

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Along the lines of what Matt was saying, on page 5 of the memo, it says that it was approved by Nancy Powell, the head of the Ebola Coordination Unit. Doesn’t that suggest it was fairly further along in the process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the approval memo. As I understand, and just so you know, sometimes there are people listed. It doesn’t mean they cleared it. It just means there are people who need to clear a memo. So I will check and see if there was anybody who actually cleared it.

“One guy somewhere in this building came up with this idea and put it on paper, but it never went anywhere?” And the official spokesperson, without blinking said, “correct.”

Don’t you just hate it when they say things like that and throw some midlevel official under the medevac plane?

In fact, the justification for the air ambulance evacuation contract awarded to Phoenix Air on August 18, 2014 appears clear enough as to why this was necessary:

The USG is left with only two options in supporting a CDC scientist that has a high risk exposure to an EVD patient — use the PAG capability to fly the person back to the US for observation and optimum care should disease develop, or leave the person in place where no care is available if the disease develops. The question, then, is not how many EVD patients will be moved, but rather how many contacts and EVD patients will be moved across the entire international response population (as many as three per month). Finally, from a pragmatic stand point, given the limited options for movement of even asymptomatic contacts, it has become clear that an international response to this crisis will not proceed if a reliable mechanism for patient movement cannot be established and centrally managed.

That leaked memo is not saying we’re moving Liberia’s entire infected population for treatment in U.S. hospitals, is it?  An argument can be made that the USG has an obligation to assist in the treatment of those infected in the course of their work fighting the ebola outbreak on behalf of the international community.  The State Department is not/not making that argument, of course.  The only official argument it is making is that — that memo, that never went anywhere beyond the midlevel officer’s desk.

Nothing to do with an election coming up? Sure, okay.

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The Global Coalition to Degrade and Defeat ISIL Gets a Couple New Websites

— Domani Spero
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Last Friday, the State Department announced a couple new websites for the Global Coalition to Degrade and Defeat ISIL out of State and DOD.   Via Foggy Bottom’s official spox:

“This webpage has the most up-to-date public information about the coalition, including the latest stats on members and their public support for coalition efforts. Our colleagues at DOD have today also launched their website, defense.gov/counter-ISIL, which has up-to-the-minute information about the military line of this coalition effort, targeting – targeted operations against ISIL terrorists and infrastructure.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-06

The website includes a list of “over 60 coalition partners” who apparently  “have committed themselves to the goals of eliminating the threat posed by ISIL and have already contributed in various capacities to the effort to combat ISIL in Iraq, the region and beyond.”  The list is long, but short on specifics on what exactly each of this coalition partner is willing to do/or currently or in the future is doing in the fight to “degrade and defeat ISIL” (what happened to destroy?). It sounds like everybody wants to fly their planes for bombing strikes.  But we were listening with our bad ears, so who knows.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06

One notable exception. The new website mentions “a critical contribution of $500 million by Saudi Arabia to the humanitarian response in Iraq, [that] have been essential.” On October 7, media reports say that Vice President Biden apologized to a top Saudi official for his remarks suggesting that key U.S. allies destabilized Syria by sending arms and money to extremists. “The Turks … the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc.” Uh-oh!

And — since this is officially a war, even if Congress did not have the guts to debate this, we’ve got to give this a name. We had GWOT, but that term had fallen out of favor, so we really need a new name for this war against ISIL.

Below is an F/A-18C Hornet attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 87 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf to conduct strike missions against Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) targets, Sept. 23, 2014. Check out DOD’s website on Targeted Operations Against ISIL.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Burck

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Burck

 

DOD’s website looks more fleshed out than the State Department’s but makes one wonder why each needed a separate website. This is a united, interagency effort of the U.S. Government with coalition partners, is it not?  Is the FBI going to roll out its own Targeted Operations Against ISIS inside the United States separately for those wanna-be jihadists, too?  Is DHS/ICE  going to have a separate one for its Targeted Operations Against ISIL in all our border crossings and what is DHS/TSA’s plans for the jihadists returning home from their vacations abroad?

Speaking of Iraq — and we apologize in advance if you fall off your chair — here is Foggy Bottom’s clip of the day:

 

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US Embassy Kenya: Also “Relocating” Staff to Other Countries #NotAnEvacuationEither

— Domani Spero
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At the Daily Press Briefing on June 16, 2014, the State Department spox said this about the relocation of Embassy Baghdad personnel to Basra, Erbil and Amman Jordan (US Mission Iraq: Now on Partial “Temporary Relocation” To Basra, Erbil & Amman (Jordan):

QUESTION: Would you call this an evacuation?

MS. PSAKI: No, we would not.

QUESTION: Is it just a chance to have some members of the embassy work remotely?

MS. PSAKI: It is a situation, Lucas, where we evaluate the security and – on the ground. And at our posts and embassies around the world we made a decision that the right step here was to relocate some of our staff to other parts of Iraq and to a supporting neighboring country and so that’s the step we took and that’s why we took it.

QUESTION: And —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: — hold on. Just to follow up —

MS. PSAKI: But let me reiterate one thing: Our embassy staff and our embassy is open and operating. Our diplomatic team at the highest levels is engaged closely with the Iraqis and that will continue.

QUESTION: But it just has a fifth of the amount of personnel as it did before.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specific numbers, but again, a range of these employees are temporarily relocating – temporarily – to some other areas in Iraq, and again a close neighboring country.

A landing craft air cushioned assigned to Beach Master Unit 1 arrives to offload vehicles supporting a mock embassy evacuation during Rim of the Pacific 2008. RIMPAC is the world's largest multinational exercise and is scheduled biennially by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Participants include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Pels

MOCK EMBASSY EVACUATION | A landing craft air cushioned assigned to Beach Master Unit 1 arrives to offload vehicles supporting a mock embassy evacuation during Rim of the Pacific 2008. RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational exercise and is scheduled biennially by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Participants include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Pels

 

Today, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Kenya. It further announced that the Embassy is “relocating some staff to other countries” but that “the Embassy will remain open for normal operations.”  The relocation is not specifically called “authorized” or “ordered” departure.  The announcement only says “some staff”and it is not clear whether these are family members or non-essential personnel they are evacuating relocating.  We take it this is not considered an evacuation either?  Is this a new trend? When can we see this in the DSSR? (Also see US Embassy Kenya: Isn’t That Travel Warning Odd or What?).

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya.  The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya.  U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas.  Due to the terrorist attack on June 15 in Mpeketoni, in Lamu County, the U.S. Embassy instituted restrictions on U.S. government personnel travel to all coastal counties – Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, and the coastal portion only of Tana River County.

Based on the recent changes in Kenya’s security situation, the Embassy is also relocating some staff to other countries.  However, the Embassy will remain open for normal operations.  This replaces the Travel Warning of May 17, 2014, to update information about embassy staffing and current travel recommendations.

The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings – kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports.  Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region.  Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.

Read in full here.

We should note that the State Department’s Family Liaison Office does not have any current guidance for employees on temporary relocation due to an official non-evacuation.

Makes one wonder how these employees on temporary relocation are assisted by the government. Were they all issued TDY orders to other countries? Were they sent on early R&Rs?  How about their family members?

See — an evacuation status is authorized by the Under Secretary of State for Management in 30-day increments, up to a maximum of 180 days, per DSSR 623f.  When an evacuation is declared, a Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA) is given to official evacuees.  “Transitional separate maintenance allowance” TSMA is also granted to assist employees with additional costs they incur when their family members are required to occupy temporary commercial housing while establishing permanent housing in the U.S. following an evacuation and the conversion of the post to an unaccompanied status.

If this is in fact a “temporary relocation” with staffers sent on TDYs,there would be no evacuation orders, and there would be no evacuation allowances paid to staffers or family members relocated to other countries. The 180-day clock will not starting running.

If this is called a “temporary relocation” but staffers and/or family members are issued evac orders, granted evacuation allowances and the 180 day clock is on, then this is in fact an evacuation even if it’s not called that; and we’ll need a new State Department dictionary.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Uganda Issues Security Message of Possible Westgate-Style Attack in Kampala

— By Domani Spero

On October 15, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda issued a security message concerning a “possible Westgate-style attack” in the capital city of Kampala.  The mission says it is assessing “reports” that such an attack “may soon occur” in Kampala but also says there is “no further information” on timing or location of this attack.

Below is an excerpt from the security message:

Possible Westgate-style Attack in Kampala

October 15, 2013 | U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala continues to assess reports that a Westgate-style attack may soon occur in Kampala. Embassy officials are sharing all information with the Ugandan authorities. At this time, there is no further information on timing and/or location of this attack.

The Embassy will continue to alert U.S. citizens to any credible, specific information about this and any other potential threats. We again take this opportunity to remind the community to exercise vigilance and to avoid public venues that attract large crowds.

Following the deadly attack in Kenya, Uganda Police have reportedly taken over security at key public places, especially shopping malls in  Kampala.  Presumably, Somalia’s alShabab responsible for the Westgate attack also read the news.  In early October, local news reported that Police has received “credible information indicating that wanted terrorist Andreas Martin Mueller alias Ahmed Khaled,” of German origin and reportedly connected with Al-Shabab have entered the country.  Uganda has a large expatriate population so there are potentially other soft targets in the country besides shopping malls.

This made the Daily Press Briefing, of course:

QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to be particularly well-written; at least, it leads one to the conclusion that – the last sentence is something like, “There is no further information about the time or venue of the attack.” Does the United States actually have credible and specific information that some group is plotting a Westgate Mall-style attack in Kampala? Or is this just kind of you’re aware of that there is a general buzz about the possibility that it could happen?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to spell out the specifics of it and its meaning. Obviously, we put out the statement because —

QUESTION: Well —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. PSAKI: We put out the statement because of our concern and because of information available, but in terms of the specificity of that, I’m not going to outline that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the last line of – the last line of before it gets into the —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the basically the B matter about registering and stuff, do you have it there?

MS. PSAKI: I thought I did. I don’t think – I can’t find it right now, but I thought I had it.

QUESTION: All right. Well, it —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: — speaks of not a threat, but it speaks of an actual attack. And I’m just curious as to – was that poorly written, or is it just a – is this is a threat that you’re aware of, or is there an attack that you know is going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s more we can provide. These things are written very specifically for reasons, so —

QUESTION: Yeah. Except that since there wasn’t – hasn’t been an attack yet, it seems to be not written well.

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, when there’s a concern we provide information to American citizens.

QUESTION: But I’m not even sure that there is a concern. It doesn’t say that you are concerned by information. It just talks about the possibility, as if it erupted from thin air – as if it erupted from thin air. So I’m just wondering if there is more to it; and if there is, could you tell us what it is?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

The full DPB is here.

 👀

State Dept Declares Inspector General Office “Non-Essential”, Furloughs All Staffers Except a Handful (Corrected)

— By Domani Spero

 

The State Department Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy sent a letter to employees on September 30 reiterating, that “Department offices, bureaus, and State elements at our posts overseas will continue to function for a limited period of time.

In the September 30 Daily Press Briefing (DPB), State Department was going to stay open despite the shutdown.  (See Shutdown News:  State Department Stays Open and Operational. For Now.)

The MGT memo and the October 1 DPB now indicates that “a small number of offices” will be impacted initially by the shutdown.

When pressed for the affected offices, Ms. Psaki promised to get “a specific list.” But she added that “the way that it’s categorized, the impacted offices are those that operate with one-year funds that do not have available carryover funds to sustain operations. So they don’t have funds from the previous fiscal year and they are on one-year funding mechanisms.”

QUESTION: I’m just concerned, when you said they’ll be – continue to function for a time, I know you wouldn’t give weeks or days. But if I’m overseas and I need to see somebody at the embassy, I better get myself there right away?
[…]
QUESTION: What does “for a time” mean? I mean, “for a time” could be anything, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I separated —

QUESTION: I mean, you said —

MS. PSAKI: Let me just finish. I separated out that as – the consular services as – I think as I said, since consular operations are fee-funded, there is significantly less chance at any point those individuals will be furloughed. And passport and consular services are fee-funded, which means they pay for themselves. So obviously, those operations will continue. Now, we can’t predict how long this will continue, so I’m just conveying that we’re taking it day by day.

We were looking for some clarity like this:

“SIGAR’s FY 2013 Appropriations provided $48.04M (post sequestration)5 in funds as multi-year funds. At present, SIGAR is projecting a carryover of$7.9M in unobligated funding to FY 2014, which will remain available through September 30, 2014. SIGAR will use this funding to delay the large disruption a lapse in funding would cause to SIGAR’s employees and operations. SIGAR projects the available funding will sustain current operations through December I, 2013 (61 days).”

We hope such clarity is forthcoming from the podium but we’re not holding our breath.  So folks will be left guessing how long the carryover funds will last for the rest of the agency.

In any case, Ms. Psaki was also asked about furloughed employees:

QUESTION: Were there any employees that, let’s say, came today and had to leave after four hours, like was suggested by some?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I referred to just a minimal number impacted by one-year funded programs. But the vast majority of employees reported to work today, are here today. Given that we are part of – we are a national security agency and we represent American interests around the world, that’s where our staffing levels are at this point.

QUESTION: So it’s safe to assume that some people did come to work, spent two or three hours, and then were asked to go home?

MS. PSAKI: I did not imply that. I think there’s a small, minimal number that are impacted by the one-year programs. That’s – beyond that, I don’t have specific numbers.

We just don’t understand this.  How hard is it to admit that yes, some employees had been furloughed?  Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General (State/OIG) has approximately 50 200 employees.  In one of its six offices (Inspection, Audit, Investigation, General Counsel, Public Affairs and EX) four out of approximately 50 employees were declared “excepted.”  The rest were given letters notifying them that they had been furloughed. So on Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, the State/OIG employees worked no more than four hours to “shutdown” then went home for an undetermined period of time.  We understand that all inspections (save one already in the field) have been suspended.

That’s right.  The office entrusted with ensuring that waste, fraud, and abuse does not occur within the Department was deemed “non-essential” and sent home without pay.  (Also see Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 Days).

Correction:  State/OIG’s Inspection branch has approximately 65 employees; adding the number of staffers from Audit, Investigation and other units we are told totals approximately 200 employees. One branch has four employees designated as “excepted” out of 50 employees.  We are guesstimating that about 10-12% of the total IG staff has been declared “excepted.” We will update the numbers if we get further clarification, officially or unofficially.  The blogpost title has been corrected.  

By contrast, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), also in the national security cone, has all its staff in Washington, DC and Afghanistan working normal.  That’s a staff of about 190 including 50 deployed to the war zone considered “”emergency essential” (EE) personnel.”

In any case, everything else is reportedly open and operational in the State Department including the Foreign Service Institute. It looks like State/OIG was the only exception, so the spokesperson’s “specific list” should be very short. Most other offices are apparently on two-year funding which we are told should last (unconfirmed officially) “until next week.”

AFSA’s update to members cited an unnamed Department management official conveying to HR employees that “there appeared to be enough funds to continue operations for approximately one pay period.”  Furthermore, the Department will reportedly try to provide ample notice (e.g. approximately 5 business days) to non-excepted employees before any emergency furlough. Also, bureaus (with exception of OIG) have not scrubbed their excepted/non-excepted lists nor notified any employees of their individual status.

(*O*)

Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 Days

— By Domani Spero

President Obama nominated Steve A. Linick as State Department Inspector General back in June filling a 1,989-day vacancy. (After 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General). He will succeed Howard J. Krongard who announced his resignation on December 7, 2007.   Mr. Linick went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 30, 2013 (see video here).  During his confirmation hearing, he made the following pledges:

From a strategic and leadership perspective, I understand that the responsibilities of the position to which I have been nominated are great. Based on the significant issues facing the Department of State, it is clear to me that assuming the leadership role of Inspector General will be challenging and rewarding. I look forward to this task, if confirmed.

If confirmed, I pledge to: 

  • Ensure that the Department of State Office of Inspector General (OIG) is an independent and objective organization that provides timely, robust, fact-based oversight, transparency, and accountability to the programs and operations of the Department of State; 
  • Consult stakeholders regularly (including the Government Accountability Office and affected communities)
  • Efficiently and effectively deploy OIG resources to those areas that present the highest risk to the Department of State; 
  • Collaborate with other inspectors general who have potentially overlapping interests, jurisdiction, and programs; 
  • Ensure whistleblowers have a safe forum to voice grievances and are protected from retaliation; and
  • Aggressively protect taxpayer funds against fraud, waste, and abuse.

 

On September 17, after a wait of almost three months, the Senate finally confirmed Mr. Linick. So for the first time in 2,066 days, the State Department has a Senate-confirmed watchdog.

Today, September 30, will reportedly be Mr. Linick’s first day at work as Inspector General of the oldest executive department in the union.

While we have not been following his work as IG for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), we understand that he was not shy in questioning publicly the large compensation packages for executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also told them off the bat that he would be no ordinary Washington regulator.  We are pleased with this appointment as State/OIG primarily because of that and because he is from outside The Building with limited Foreign Service connections.  With him as new watchdog in Foggy Bottom, we hope to see some changes in the way the OIG conducts its business.  We think our wishlist below is pretty reasonable.

1.  Redactions

One of our pet peeves, especially in the last several years is the redaction of OIG inspectors names from publicly available reports posted online.  The controversial OIG report on the IIP Bureau (Inspection of the Bureau of International Information Programs (ISP-I-13-28), similarly was stripped of names on who conducted the inspection.  The copy we were furnished did include the names of the team leader and deputy team leader but the rest of the names of the inspection team members were redacted.

When we inquired from State/OIG about this, we were told:

“It is marked as FOIA Exemption (b)(6) – “exempts from disclosure records or information which if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Now, that there alone gave us a terrible headache. The OIG inspectors are conducting official business in the name of the American public. Why would it be an invasion of privacy if their names are revealed?

So we asked “Why”? And this is what we were told by State/OIG:

“There is recent case law that specifically protects inspectors and investigators from having their information disseminated. However, there is concomitant protection for auditors – so, we continue to release their names.”

Protects them from having their “information disseminated” — as if we were asking for their home address.  We just want the names public. So we tried again asking State/OIG for the case law and date that their official FOIA lawyer is citing.

State/OIG who is actually quite good with response time sent us a disappointing reply:

“I’m afraid I don’t have it – and today was her last day.”

Look, there is a a reason why the inspectors’ names should not/not be redacted.  Retired and active FS officers are part of the OIG staff.  Active FS officers who become IG staff eventually has to bid for other rotational Foreign Service jobs.  Since 1978, the Government Accountability has questioned the use of FSOs detailed to the OIG  office since they bid and return to regular FS assignments.

  • In 1978, GAO reviewed the IG’s inspection reports and questioned the independence of Foreign Service officers who were temporarily detailed to the IG’s office and recommended the elimination of this requirement.
  • In 1979, the GAO noted that Foreign Service officers detailed as inspectors for temporary tours of two years and then reassigned to activities which they may recently have evaluated has negative as well as positive aspects.
  • In 1982  GAO continued to question the use of Foreign Service officers and other persons from operational units within the department to staff the IG office. It told Congress that it believes the IG’s extensive use of temporary or rotational staff affects the IG office’s independence because (1) these staff members routinely rotate between the IG office and management positions within the organizations they review, and (2) major decisions affecting their careers are determined by the State Department rather than by the IG office.
  • In 1991, GAO examined whether the Department of State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG): (1) omitted references to itself in an annual oversight report to Congress in a deliberate attempt to conceal internal problems; and (2) inappropriately hired and paid experts and consultants.
  • In 2007 GAO reported to Congress that it continue to identify concerns regarding the independence of the State IG that are similar to concerns they reported almost three decades ago. GAO concerns include (1) the appointment of line management officials to head the State IG in an acting capacity for extended periods, and (2) the use of ambassador-level Foreign Service staff to lead inspections of the department’s bureaus and posts even though they may have conflicts of interest resulting from their roles in the Foreign Service.
  • In 2011, the GAO noted some improvements, specifically noting that while State/OIG continues to assign Foreign Service officers at the ambassador level as team leaders for inspections, four of the six officers are rehired annuitants unlikely to rotate to State Department Foreign Service positions. GAO remains concerned, however, about the OIG’s use of Foreign Service officers and the State Department’s need to rely on acting IGs for extended periods of time.

In 1986, Congress made the State IG a presidentially appointed inspector general subject to the Inspector General Act and prohibited a career member of the Foreign Service from being appointed as the State IG. That change did not prohibit the appointment of a career member of the FS as acting IG or deputy IG.  According to the GAO in 2011, State/OIG implemented a change to the succession planning for acting IG positions to exclude Foreign Service officers.

We have yet to see that in action.

While we have not been able to confirm the relevant case law that State/OIG cited in withholding the identities of inspectors, we were told that this “doesn’t sound implausible.”  Steven Aftergood (@saftergood on Twitter) who runs Secrecy News for the Federation of American Scientists posits that even if such an exemption from disclosure exists (which it probably does), then it would be discretionary, not mandatory.  It means that State/OIG would be “at liberty to disclose it even if there was no compelling legal obligation to do so.”

Given the nature of the assignments/rotations in the Foreign Service, and the persistent questions of potential impairments to independence, we look on Mr. Linick to lean on the side of disclosure. Mr. Aftergood suggests that “such disclosure would be a good practice to adopt, particularly in light of the variability of State OIG career tracks and the potential for subsequent conflicts of interest.” 

2.  Recusals

The GAO report dated April 2011 indicates that to address independence impairments the State/OIG relies on “a recusal policy where Foreign Service officers must self-report whether they have worked in a post or embassy that is subject to an inspection and therefore presents a possible impairment.”  The GAO insist that they “continue to believe that the State OIG’s use of management staff who have the possibility of returning to management positions, even if they are rehired annuitants or currently report to civil service employees in the OIG, presents at least an appearance of impaired independence.”

We have never seen any of the published OIG reports indicate whether any recusal was filed related to an inspection or audit.  We would like to see that information included in State/OIG reports and audits.

3.  A Note on Black Sharpies 

Remember the hard-hitting OIG reports on Luxembourg, Kenya, Malta? All made the news. All also have one other thing in common — the chiefs of mission at these three posts were all political appointees.  Then there were two other OIG reports on Pakistan and Lebanon that caught our attention, both under career diplomats, and both severely redacted, including one that talks about the leadership shortcomings in the front office. (State Dept OIG Reports: Oh, Redactions, Is Double Standard Thy True Name?).  We were told that the redactions in one case had to do with the “geopolitical situation” at one post.  Our main concern about this as we have said here in the past is two-fold: 1) the appearance of a double standard and 2) recycling FSOs with problematic leadership and management skills is not going to make another embassy greener or healthier nor make for better FSOs.  Without effective intervention, they’re just going to make another post as miserable as the last one and impairs the embassy mission and operation. We would like to see State/OIG apply one standard on its reviews of chiefs of mission performance. Not whether they are effective political appointees or effective career appointees but whether they are effective representatives of the President regardless of their appointment authorities.

4. Cobwebs Over Troubled OIG Memo

Finally – remember this past summer when there was a big kaboom in Foggy Bottom ? (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal.  The Cable’s John Hudson had an exclusive with Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence.  Some real serious allegations were made about cases that were reportedly “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” in the State Department.  State/OIG released a statement to CBS News here.

On June 10, 2013, the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was on the podium answering questions about the CBS report:

QUESTION: First, what – I guess we can begin most broadly simply by asking what comments you have about the report that aired on CBS News this morning concerning State Department OIG Office.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the Department of State employs more than 70,000 dedicated men and women serving in some of the most challenging environments working on behalf of the American people at 275 posts around the world. We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the Department continues to take action.

[…]

QUESTION: — to borrow a phrase. You stated at one point early in your answer just now that all cases mentioned in the CBS News report were thoroughly investigated but that the State Department continues to take action on them. Did I understand you correctly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I did not mean to imply they were – the investigations were completed. Some are in process.

QUESTION: And when you talk about those cases being in process or in progress and action continuing to be taken on them, is that separate from the hiring of outside personnel that you also just referenced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not a hiring. It’s – it would be an investigation being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers. So I would refer you them for any more specifics on that or how that would work. That’s a decision, of course, they make.

The back and forth went on and on to a point of total uselessness.  But the official spokesperson of the State Department did confirm that all the cases mentioned in the CBS report were “thoroughly investigated or under investigation.”

So imagine our confusion when the State/OIG submitted its Semiannual Report to the Congress October 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013 which was posted online on June 19, 2013?   We could not find any of the eight cases alleged in the CBS news report. None are listed as either an ongoing or a completed investigation in this semi-annual report; they’re not in the report submitted six months earlier either. What happened to them?

The report to Congress ending on March 31, 2013 lists investigations on bribery, theft and embezzlement, false claims, and grant fraud. It includes four investigations under employee misconduct: 1) a DCM repeatedly used his government resources for non-official purposes; 2)  a passport specialist used her official position to access personal information of personal acquaintances from official passport databases; 3) a Foreign Service officer responsible for award and oversight of the grants failed to follow grant policy; and 4) a Department employee who was overpaid for workers’ compensation leave (WCL) after a work-related injury.

Any of that remotely resembles the cases described in the October 2012 memo reported on the news?

The report did include under Congressional Mandates and Requests the following item which also made the news at around the same time as the CBS news:

“On November 2, 2012, OIG received a request from Senator Rand Paul to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples, Italy. In its response, OIG noted that the complaints were referred to the appropriate offices in the Department and that the complainants were provided contact information for the offices to which the complaints were referred.”

So —

We would like to suggest that among Mr. Linick’s first order of business, and we expect that he will have a full plate, is to personally look into what happened to these eight cases alleged to have been deep-sixed.  If these cases had been “thoroughly” investigated as claimed, then there should be records.   If the individuals were cleared, there should also be records.  If these allegations were never investigated, or there are no records, then one needs to ask why. Of course, there is another “why” that we are interested in. Why would a retired investigator of the Service turn against her old office in the most public way?

How aggressively Mr. Linick tackle these cobwebs and get some answers would help tell us what kind of junkyard dog he is going to be.

Whew! That’s sorta long. We’ll stop here and get some sleep and see what happens, okay?

(o_o)

Related reports:

It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Not Superman On a Nantucket Boat Or How to Make a Non-News Into Big News

— By Domani Spero

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Doha, New Delhi, Jeddah, Kuwait City, Amman, Jerusalem, and Bandar Seri Begawan from June 21 to July 2.  While overseas, he spoke about the events in Egypt during the press availability in Tel Aviv on June 30 but not during his stop in Brunei on July 1.  He had no public schedule on July 3. 

On July 3, @Mosheh@CBSThisMorning Senior Producer twitted this:

Screen Shot 2013

The State Department responded that Secretary Kerry was not aboard a boat on Wednesday and has spent the day working the phones on Egypt. Via politico.com:

“Since his plane touched down in Washington at 4 a.m., Secretary Kerry was working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “He participated in the White House meeting with the president by secure phone and was and is in non-stop contact with foreign leaders, and his senior team in Washington and Cairo. Any report or tweet that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate.”

Ms. Psaki made it sound as if he was Superman with no need for rest.

The same afternoon, U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by CNN saying “there will be consequences” if Egyptian military intervention is “badly handled.”  Later in the evening, the AP reported on Egypt military chief’s statement announcing President Morsi’s ouster.

On July 4, 2013, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey sang the National Anthem at the Washington Nationals versus Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park.

Then this happened. Ugh!

Screen Shot 2013

Screen Shot 2013

Look, the Joint Chiefs was in a ball game on July 4th when Egypt had its revolution, coup, or whatever you agree to call it.  Did anyone complain that he was not glued to his secret phone?  Secretary Kerry just came back from a 12-day trip. We think people would have understood that he needed some down time. Did we really expect him to be holding the phone line to Egypt when DOD has more influence than DOS there? We certainly did not.

When CBS tweeted/reported/asked whether the secretary was on the boat, the appropriate response from the State Department professionals should have been the truth.   Had they said “yes” that would have been the end of the story.  Backlash? Really. Would the public really begrudge its public officials needed rest as if they were Superman?

Secretary Kerry on his boat would have been a very short-lived news.  Instead, the spinsmiesters contorted themselves with crafting a statement about how the secretary “was working all day” on Egypt and how the report is “completely inaccurate.”  Not even leaving a sliver of chance for error or confusion there.  Caught in a lie, the Spokesperson of the State Department had to release another statement acknowledging her boss “was briefly on his boat.”  Self-inflicted. Made their own mountain out of a mole hill.

“While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day including participating in the President’s meeting with his national security council,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, naming a series of Egyptian and international officials Kerry had spoken with on Wednesday.

CBS News was “completely inaccurate” because it did not mention “briefly?”

Perhaps the State Department statement should have included the line, “Any official report or official tweet denying that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate.”  A public  apology would have been nice, but government officials no longer do that, do they?

On July 6 , Secretary Kerry released a statement addressing the violence in Egypt.

But wait, there’s more!

Also on July 6, the Office of the Spokesperson tried to make it better by releasing the following statement:

Over the days since the unrest in Egypt intensified, Secretary Kerry has been in constant contact with the national security team, regional partners, and his counterparts. In addition to participating in a secure call with the National Security Council today to review the very fluid situation in Egypt, he has been in hourly touch with Ambassador Patterson and in the last two days he has also spoken with Mohamed Elbaradei, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, Omani Sultan Qaboos, Emirati Foreign Minister bin Zayed, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

In all these calls with his counterparts, Secretary Kerry reiterated the call for the violence in Egypt to cease and for all parties — the Muslim Brotherhood, opposition, and military — to ensure that those expressing their views do so peacefully. Secretary Kerry also reaffirmed U.S. support for democracy and the protection of universal human rights for all Egyptians, reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people, and respect for the rule of law. He stressed that the United States wants to see Egypt’s civilian transition succeed, and that the United States will do all it can to help encourage that effort.

Double ugh!

Folks,  you forgot, “Thou shall not get caught.” Now, apologize and move on or no dinner tonight!

Unless you folks want to release Secretary Kerry’s log calls, too, so we can count how many manhours he really spent working on Egypt.

👀