Happy 240th Birthday @USMC!

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OIG Compliance Review: Minimum Security Standards For Overseas Facilities Remain a Hard Nut to Crack

Posted: 2:00 pm EDT
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Three ARB-related IG reports were issued this past week, two of them, the Audit of the DOS Implementation of the Vital Presence Validation Process and the Review of the Implementation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board Recommendation have been designated as Classified. The third one, the Compliance Followup Review of the 2013 Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process is available in full online.

On September 25, 2013, State/OIG released its Special Review of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) Process. That report contains 20 formal and 8 informal recommendations. For the status of the 20 formal recommendations, see Appendix B of the report.  For the status of the informal recommendations, see Appendix C of the report. The OIG notes that the action taken by State at some Benghazi ARB recommendations “did not appear to align with the intent of the recommendations and some Benghazi ARB recommendations did not appear to address the underlying security issues adequately.”

Thirteen of the formal recommendations and five of the informal recommendations are related to the ARB process. The remaining seven formal and three informal recommendations mirror or are closely related to the Benghazi ARB recommendations. As stated in the ARB process review report, the ARB process team’s rationale for issuing these recommendations was that the action taken to date on some of the Benghazi ARB recommendations did not appear to align with the intent of the recommendations and some Benghazi ARB recommendations did not appear to address the underlying security issues adequately. The classified annex to the report provides an assessment of the Department’s implementation of the recommendations of the Benghazi ARB as of the date of the review. Its focus is on the implementation of the 64 tasks S/ES issued in response to the Benghazi ARB recommendations. It contains no OIG recommendations.

In the Compliance Followup Review or CFR dated August 2015, State/OIG reissued one recommendation from the 2013 inspection report, that the Under Secretary of State for Management, in coordination with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, develop minimum security standards that must be met prior to occupying facilities located in designated high-risk, high-threat locations and include these minimum standards for occupancy in the Foreign Affairs Handbook as appropriate. The report also include a little nugget about DOD cooperation with investigative reports of security-related incidents that involve State Department personnel, specifically mentioning “the incident in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.” That’s the incident where FSO Anne Smedinghoff and four others were killed in Zabul, Afghanistan in April 2013.

Outstanding Recommendation on Minimum Security Standards 

Recommendation 17 of the ARB process review report recommended that the Department develop minimum security standards that must be met prior to occupying facilities in HRHT locations. The Department rejected this recommendation, stating that existing Overseas Security Policy Board standards apply to all posts and that separate security standards for HRHT posts would not provide better or more secure operating environments. Furthermore, recognizing that Overseas Security Policy Board standards cannot be met at all locations, the Department has a high threshold for exceptions to these standards and the waiver and exceptions process requires “tailored mitigation strategies in order to achieve the intent of the standards.”5

Although OIG acknowledges the Department’s assertion of a “high threshold for exceptions,” the Department’s response does not meet the recommendation’s requirement for standards that must be met prior to occupancy. As was noted in the ARB process review report, “…occupying temporary facilities that require waivers and exceptions to security standards is dangerous, especially considering that the Department occupies these facilities long before permanent security improvements are completed.”6 As the Department has not identified minimum security standards that must be met prior to occupancy, Recommendation 17 is being reissued.

Recommendation CFR 1: The Office of the Under Secretary of State for Management, in coordination with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, should develop minimum security standards that must be met prior to occupying facilities located in Department of State-designated high-risk, high-threat environments and include new minimum security standards of occupancy in the Foreign Affairs Handbook as appropriate. (Action: M, in coordination with DS and OBO)

So, basically back to where it was before Benghazi, when there were no minimum security standards prior to occupying temporary facilities.

How high is this “high threshold of exceptions” that’s being asserted?

Risk management process now called “tailored mitigation strategies” — resulting in waivers of Inman standards?

So waivers will continue to be executed?

And temporary facilities will continue to be occupied?

Key Findings:

  • The Department of State has complied with all the formal and informal recommendations of the 2013 Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process, except one, which has been reissued in this report.
  • The Department of State has implemented regulatory and procedural changes to delineate clearly who is responsible for implementation, and oversight of implementation, of Accountability Review Board recommendations. The Under Secretary for Management, in coordination with the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, is responsible for implementation of Accountability Review Board recommendations. The Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources is responsible for overseeing the Department’s progress in Accountability Review Board implementation, which places accountability for implementation at an appropriately high level in the Department of State.
  • The Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation manages the Accountability Review Board function. The Accountability Review Board process review report was critical of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation’s recordkeeping and files of past Accountability Review Boards. The Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing, and Innovation has since revised its Accountability Review Board recordkeeping guidelines. These revised guidelines have yet to be tested, as no Accountability Review Board has met since the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, which issued its report in December 2012.

More details excerpted from the IG report

Flow of Information

Formal Recommendations 1, 2, 3, and 9—as well as Informal Recommendations 1 and 3—concern the flow of information within the Department and from the Department to Congress. The recommendations introduce additional reporting requirements for all incidents that might meet the criteria to convene an ARB, as well as a more clearly defined list of congressional recipients for the Secretary’s Report to Congress. Recommendation 9 tasks S/ES with creating a baseline list of congressional recipients for the Secretary’s report to Congress. That list is now more clearly specified and included in regulations governing the ARB process.

Informal Recommendation 3 requires broader circulation of ARB reports as well as the Secretary’s report to Congress. The M/PRI position is that these reports belong to the Secretary and their dissemination should be at the Secretary’s discretion. OIG continues to believe that the Secretary should exercise discretion and circulate ARB reports and subsequent reports to Congress more widely within the Department.

ARB Recordkeeping

In December 2014, M/PRI revised its ARB recordkeeping guidelines regarding those records to be retained and safeguarded. However, because no ARB has convened since Benghazi, these revised guidelines remain untested. Although these guidelines require recording and transcribing telephone interviews, they do not mandate verbatim transcripts of all interviews, including in-person meetings, as the Inspector General suggested in his May 29, 2014, memorandum to the D/MR.

Action Memo for the Secretary

In compliance with Recommendation 1, the OIG CFR team found that M/PRI now drafts an action memo for the Secretary after every Permanent Coordinating Committee (PCC) meeting detailing the PCC decision, even if the PCC does not recommend convening an ARB.

In response to Recommendation 4, the Under Secretary for Management amended 12 FAM 030 to require vetting and reporting security-related incidents, which do not result in convening a PCC. Those cases will be communicated to the Secretary.

Alternative Review

To meet the intent of Recommendation 2, M/PRI has included in its instructions to the PCC chair a reminder to PCC members that if the PCC votes not to convene an ARB, the PCC should decide whether to recommend that the Secretary request an alternative review.

Terminology

Recommendation 5 recommends establishing written criteria to define the key terms “serious injury,” “significant destruction of property,” and “at or related to a U.S. mission abroad.” The 2013 OIG inspection team found that ambiguity in the terminology had led to their inconsistent application as criteria in decisions to convene ARBs.

ARB Implementation

Recommendations 10 and 11 recommend institutionalizing the oversight of the implementation of ARB recommendations as a responsibility of D/MR. M/PRI’s revision of 12 FAM 030 and addition of 12 Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH)-12 now clearly delineate who is responsible for managing the ARB process and who is responsible for oversight of implementation of ARB recommendations. The Deputy Secretary’s responsibility for overseeing implementation of ARB recommendations places accountability for implementation at an appropriately high level in the Department.

Personnel Performance 

Recommendation 19 tasks M/PRI, in coordination with the Bureau of Human Resources and the Office of the Legal Adviser, to prepare clear guidelines for ARBs on recommendations dealing with issues of poor personnel performance. M/PRI has revised its standing guidance to ARB members, referring them to the Department’s new leadership principles in 3 FAM 1214, 4138, and 4532 when documenting instances of unsatisfactory performance or poor leadership. The Department further codified this ARB authority by expanding the list of grounds for taking disciplinary or separation action against an employee, including “conduct by a senior official that demonstrates unsatisfactory leadership in relation to a security incident under review by an [ARB] convened pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 4831.” In addition, in January 2013 the Department began seeking an amendment to the ARB statute (22 U.S.C. 4834(c)) to provide explicitly that unsatisfactory leadership may be a basis for disciplinary action and that the ARB would have the appropriate authority to recommend such action. No change to the statute has yet been made.

Strengthening Security at High-Risk, High-Threat Posts

New courses:  Guided by a panel of senior DS special agents and outside organizations, DS updated its former High Threat Tactical Course to create a suite of mandatory courses for DS agents assigned to HRHT locations, drawing on lessons learned from the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and Herat, Afghanistan. The cornerstone of these courses is the “High Threat Operations Course” (HT-310), which, as of October 1, 2013, was made mandatory for all DS agents at grades FS 04 through 06 who are assigned to HRHT locations. Similar, but shorter duration courses (HT-310E and HT-315) are required for senior and mid-level DS agents assigned to such locations.

Marine Detachments

The Department, in coordination with DOD, has added 20 new MSG detachments, and Marine Corps Headquarters has created the Marine Security Augmentation Unit. Although some HRHT posts still lack MSG detachments, for example, because of the lack of host government approval, the Department has made progress in deploying new detachments and increasing the size of existing detachments.[…] The June 2013 revision of the memorandum of agreement also includes a revision of the MSG mission. In the previous version, the MSG’s primary mission was to prevent the compromise of classified information. Their secondary mission was the protection of personnel and facilities. In the revised memorandum of agreement, the mission of the MSG is to protect mission personnel and prevent the compromise of national security information.

DS Agents Embed With DOD Forces

An additional area of security improvement beyond reliance on the host government has been the Department’s closer relationship with DOD, whose personnel have been involved in every Department contingency operation at an HRHT post since the Benghazi attack. Furthermore, DS agents are now embedded in DOD expeditionary forces.

About That Zabul Incident

Recommendation 6 recommends that the Department seek greater assurances from the Department of Defense (DOD) in providing investigative reports of security-related incidents that involve Department personnel. The Department makes its requests via Executive Secretary memorandum to the equivalent DOD addressee, in accordance with 5 FAH-1 H-120. The DOD counterpart has been responsive in delivering requested materials in all the recent instances, including the incident in Zabul Province, Afghanistan. M/PRI will continue to monitor DOD responses to requests for reports in the future.

That means, the State Department now has the Army investigation report into the death of FSO Anne Smedinghoff and four others in Zabul, Afghanistan in April 2013.  See Zabul Attack: Spox Says State Dept Did Its Own Review, It’s Classified, and There’s Now a Checklist! Zabul Attack: Walking But Not Lost, More Details But Not Official; Plus Update on Kelly HuntArmy Report: Poor planning led to FSO Anne Smedinghoff and troops’ death in Afghanistan.

The Chicago Tribune FOIA’ed that Army report but did not make the document public. The State Department internal report of the incident as far as we are aware, remains Classified. Then State Department spox, Jennifer Psaki referred to “multiple investigations” in April 2014;  none publicly released.

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Related item:

ISP-C-15-33 | Compliance Followup Review of the Special Review of the Accountability Review Board Process | August 2015

 

State Dept OIG – Published Reports, September 2014

— Domani Spero
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The following are the OIG inspection reports and audits posted online by State/OIG in September. All are in pdf format.

 

-09/30/14   Inspection of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (ISP-I-14-24)  [925 Kb] Posted on October 9, 2014

-09/30/14   Inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, High Threat Programs Directorate (ISP-I-14-23)  [584 Kb]  Posted on October 8, 2014

-10/31/14   Agreed-Upon Procedures Relating to Employee Benefits Information Submitted to the Office of Personnel Management (AUD-FM-15-01)  [648 Kb]  Posted on October 3, 2014

-09/30/14   Management Alert – Grant Management Deficiencies (MA-14-03)  [1541 Kb]  Posted on September 30, 2014

-09/30/14   Audit of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty After-employment Benefits (AUD-FM-IB-14-34)  [2093 Kb]  Posted on September 25, 2014

-09/30/14   Audit of International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, U.S. Section, Information Security Program – AUD-IT-14-33  [1040 Kb]  Posted on September 24, 2014

-09/30/14   Management Assistance Report- Termination of Construction Grants to Omran Holding Group (AUD-CG-14-37)  [1338 Kb]  Posted on September 22, 2014

-09/30/14   OIG Inquiry Into Use of Confidentiality Agreements – sample letter  [389 Kb]  Posted on September 19, 2014

-09/30/14   OIG Inquiry Into Use of Confidentiality Agreements  [41 Kb]  Posted September 19, 2014

-09/30/14   Audit of the Department of State’s Management of the Marine Security Guard Program and Plans for Program Expansion (AUD-SI-14-30)  [4897 Kb]  Posted on September 18, 2014

-08/31/14   Compliance Follow-up Audit of Department of State Actions To Address Weaknesses in the Ownership, Award, Administration, and Transfer of Overseas Construction Funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (AUD-ACF-14-32)  [1414 Kb]  Posted on September 8, 2014

-08/31/14   Inspection of Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan (ISP-I-14-22A)  [977 Kb]  Posted on August 26, 2014

-08/31/14   Audit of the Administration and Oversight of Contracts and Grants Within the Bureau of African Affairs (AUD-CG-14-31)  [4102 Kb]  Posted on August 18, 2014

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US Embassy Ulaanbaatar Gets First Ever Marine Security Guard Detachment

— Domani Spero
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Via US Embassy Mongolia:

On May 23, 2014,  U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar held a welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy. Ambassador Piper Campbell expressed her delight at having Marines serving at the Embassy Ulaanbaatar.  The Ambassador concluded her speech with a quote from 1885, “The Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand.”

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Adam Zybert thanked the Embassy for the work in preparing for the Marines’ arrival.  He quoted Ronald Reagan “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem”, and continued “If President Reagan were still here today, I believe he would say the U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar does not have that problem either”.

As part of the ceremony, the Marine Security Guards presented the colors for the raising of the flag in the Embassy compound.

U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar held a welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy.

Ambassador Piper Campbell during U.S. Embassy Ulaanbaatar’s welcome ceremony to institute the first ever U.S. Marine Security Guard detachment in the Embassy.

 

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US Embassy Greece: What Happened to Sgt Laloup’s Heart? Parents Seeking Answers File Suit

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— Domani Spero

According to a lawsuit filed by his parents, U.S. Marine Sgt. Brian LaLoup, 21, died after he attended an off-duty embassy party, on August 12, 2012. Sgt. LaLoup served as part of the Marine Corps Security Group assigned to the American Embassy in Athens, Greece. During the party, Sgt. LaLoup reportedly told a fellow service member that he was thinking about suicide and was reported to the Detachment Commander.  The lawsuit alleged that the Detachment Commander “failed to follow appropriate protocols and procedures, which required him to obtain supervision and medical treatment for Sgt. LaLoup, and instead decided to take him out for more drinking. Prior to leaving and despite being visibly intoxicated and distraught, Sgt. LaLoup was allowed to pass the guard at the entry to the chancery and enter the response room. The chancery, which had been left unsecured, is where weapons were stored. Thereafter, according to military reports, Sgt. LaLoup shot himself in the head with an embassy service weapon.”

Sergeant LaLoup enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on May 8, 2008 and was on continuous active duty from February 9, 2009 until the date of his death.  Prior to his assignment in Greece, Sgt. Laloup was posted at the US Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.  Sgt. LaLoup reported for embassy security duty at Embassy Athens on May 20, 2012, On August 12, 2012, the United States Marne Corps informed Beverly and Craig LaLoup that their son had passed away.

The lawsuit alleged that at the time his body was returned to the United States, Plaintiffs, Sgt. LaLoup’s parents, Craig and Beverly LaLoup, were given knowingly false information about Sgt. LaLoup’s remains and as a result, “the LaLoups unwittingly buried their son without his heart.” According to Mrs. LaLoup:

1St SGT Dixon was at our home at 106 Lloyd Avenue, Downingtown, PA to have us sign more papers. During this visit, I asked him what would happen if more of Brian’s scalp was recovered. Would it be returned to us? He looked at me funny as he started to go thru his folder and said “Ma’am, what are you talking about?” I replied, the missing scalp parts. What would be done if more was recovered. He replied to me, as he was still searching for something in his folder, that the scalp is not what was missing. He even stated that he had just gone thru the folder before he came to make sure he was familiar with everything and did not recall seeing anything about missing scalp parts. We all sat there for a few moments as he continued to go thru his folder. Finally, he found what he was looking for and said, “Ma’am, that is not what was missing.” “I stated, what do you mean?” He extended to me a piece of paper as he stated it was his heart that was missing asked him why were we told it was parts of his scalp. His reply was, “that they were not going to tell us because that is not something you tell a grieving mother.” I read the document he had handed me and sure enough, it was a letter from the Dover Mortuary to Marines Casualty Office informing them “remains of the above individual are incomplete. Please obtain subsequent recovery instructions from the next of kin. Remains Summary: Non-intact body. Embalmed and autopsied in Greece. Missing heart”. It was validated by Jairo E. Fortalatin, Investigator and Authorized by AbuBakr Marzouuk, Col USAF, MC, FS.

The complaint further alleges that “in an attempt to pacify” the Laloups, the defendants and the Greek government “had a heart shipped to Dover claiming that it was Sgt. LaLoup’s missing heart” but that DNA testing revealed that the heart was not Sgt. LaLoup’s heart.

Philadelphia’s Metro reports that a letter shared through U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey’s office quotes the then U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Smith about the efforts made to prevent an autopsy.

Smith told the hospital not to autopsy LaLoup’s body, and also notified the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the letter. When Smith’s staff requested the hospital release LaLoup’s body on Aug. 16, they declined and said they would autopsy the body. Smith says he called the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Staff of the Foreign Minister insisting there be no autopsy, and on Aug. 17 called again to say that an autopsy would violate the Vienna Convention.

The autopsy took place on Aug. 18. After the LaLoups told Smith on Sept. 18 that Sgt. LaLoup’s body was missing its heart, his staff interviewed the physician who performed the autopsy.

Ambassador Daniel Smith was appointed chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy in Athens in 2010.  In October last year, President Obama nominated him to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (State/INR). He is currently awaiting Senate confirmation.

Last month, the Laloups reportedly added the Greek government and the Athens hospital that conducted the autopsy to the list of defendants to their lawsuit. Philly.com’s report here includes a quote from the spokesman of the  Armed Forces Medical Examiner System:

“Remains of most U.S. service members who die overseas are sent to the United States for autopsy, said Paul Stone, a spokesman for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. However, some countries – including Greece – maintain the right in formal agreements with the U.S. military to investigate such deaths using their own medical staff.”

The complaint is  LALOUP et al v. UNITED STATES DEPT. OF DEFENSE et al, Pennsylvania Eastern District Court, 2:2013cv07124.

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Congress Shuttered Our Zoo, So Here’s the Animal Kingdom Foreign Service Round-Up

— by Domani Spero

You’ve seen this photo of the “sad kid at the zoo,” right? The Atlantic Wire calls it the defining image of the government shutdown.  Okay. Australia’s Herald Sun screams, No zoo for you, kid. The US government shutdown hates children. Who writes things like that?  Also Matt Berman of the National Journal went looking for animals, or tried to (We Try to Find Animals at the Shut-Down National Zoo). He came away with the apparent message from the National Zoo which is this: “During a shutdown, we’ll feed the animals. But not the reporters.” He did not see any animals at the zoo except for a couple of male mammals guarding the gate and he found some fish and turtles at the nearby Petco.

Via Reddit/superbonnie

Via Reddit/superbonnie

As for us, we’re stuck as sad blogger online. The State Department is open for business but its social media arms have reportedly been directed to go limp until the shutdown is over. The embassies Twitter feeds are repeating variations of the same message “Due to the government shutdown, this Twitter feed will not be updated regularly.”  Frankly, some social media ninjas are having a hard time going dark – like @USEmbassyKabul, and @usembassyjkt because Secretary Kerry was in town and @usembassymanila, because of security threats and also Secretary Kerry was not in town.

Meanwhile, U.S. embassy officials are also restricted from giving speeches or conducting public outreach even if the agency is still funded.  Ambassadors are restricted from having welcome or farewell receptions, as well.  The welcome party for U.S.Ambassador Matthew Barzun to London is reportedly sponsored by  Tatler, a Conde Nast publication but was cancelled.  Even if no USG funds are expended, some tasks,chores or fun stuff  (including necessary work ones) are not getting done because they would look bad in the grim light of this government shutdown. But wait, on October 2 AmCham Belgium together with the American Club of Brussels did host a Gala Dinner to welcome the new US Ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer. What a difference a few days make!

Anyhow, since our national zoo is closed, we thought a collection of animals overseas might be a worthwhile blogpost during this extremely aggravating season. Note that these official engagements have all happened in the past.  Our ambassadors and diplomatic personnel shown below are not/not feeding any animals not doing engagements during the shutdown; apparently only excepted/limited/restricted/whatever activities.  So no rapid response.  You won’t like us for pointing this out — but … but…the Talibs are ‘um mocking us. Just think about it, okay?  Meanwhile, enjoy the cuties below.

U.S. Embassy Kenya

Ambassador Robert Godec  marked this year’s World Environment Day by adopting a one year old orphaned elephant named Tundani at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park. June 2013 | Via US Embassy Kenya/FB

Amb Godek_elephant2

U.S. Embassy Australia

Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB) | The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

If  this shutdown last another week without a resolution, we should petition Congress to go on a CODEL to Darwin!

Amb B_NT

U.S. Embassy Canada

Ambassador David Jacobson carefully examines Batisse, the official mascot of the Royal 22e Regiment in Quebec. As part of a national farewell tour, the Ambassador of the United States took this opportunity to thank and address the troops of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group for their contribution in Afghanistan. | Photo by: Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Valcartier Imaging Section. Via US Embassy/Flickr

US ambo to ottawa_with goat

U.S. Embassy Laos

Ambassador Karen Stewart with an elephant. We think this was taken at the conservation center in Laos but our reference, the  ambassador’s blog has been updated with a new blog by her successor, Ambassador Clune and the archive had been wiped mighty clean.

ANIMALS_Amb Stewart during elephant festival

U.S. Embassy France

Ambassadeur Charles Rivkin avec “Celebre” au Salon de l’Agriculture 2012.

ANIM_ Ambo Rivkin

U.S. Embassy United Arab Emirates

U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson during a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the largest such facility in the world. (Photo from US Embassy Abu Dhabi) This was taken prior to his appointment as ambassador to Pakistan, can you tell?

ANIm_Ambo olson with falcon

U.S. Consulate General Toronto, Canada

Consul General Jim Dickmeyer greets Honest Ed (back) and Tecumseh along with their riders, Sgt. Jim Patterson and Staff Insp. Bill Wardle, respectively. The horses and the police officers – all members of the Toronto Police Service’s Mounted Unit took part in President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21st.

POD_inauguration horses

U.S. Embassy New Zealand

Ambassador David Huebner during an official visit to Palmerston North and Massey University’s Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. A special highlightfor the Ambassador was his introduction to “Chelsea” a mature New Zealand Kiwi who was recovering in the Institute’s specialist care centre. August 2010 | Via US Embassy/Flickr

NZ_kiwi

The Emperor penguin colony representatives in Antarctica during their first diplomatic encounter with Ambassador David Huebner.| Photo by USAF/MarkDoll | December 1,2011 via US Embassy New Zealand

NZ_mike_ambo

U.S. Embassy Norway

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011)
Ambassador Barry White met with representatives from local breeding cooperatives Norsvin and Geno over a traditional Norwegian breakfast at Staur Gjestegård.  The companies conduct cutting edge research in sustainable breeding and artificial insemination and export pig and bull semen to over 20 countries, including the U.S. It’s estimated that over one million pigs and 100,000 cows in the U.S. now carry Norwegian genetic material. Below, Ambassador White stopped for a photo-op with Bosnes, a “quietly confident” 1000kg breeding bull.

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011

U.S. Embassy Thailand

Ambassador Kristie Kenney riding an elephant during Thai Elephant Week in early 2013

Photo via KK/Instagram

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 8.46.10 PM

That’s kind of blurry, so we’ll give you another snapshot of Ambassador Kenney with a real cutie:

Ambassador Kenney with baby elephant

U.S. Embassy Egypt

Photo of U.S. Marine Security Guards and their camels at the pyramids, from MSG Detachment Cairo
via Diplomatic Security

Thanks to A Female Marine (second from left). This photo was taken in 2008 at the Great Pyramid of Giza on the morning of the Marine Ball .  “So the Marine in charge of MWR funds rented a herd of camels for us to sit on while the photographer snapped our pictures. Luckily the herd arrived with a handler for each camel otherwise we never would have been able to get lined up for the photo. The camels were not happy about this at all, they did not appreciate being forced to stand so close to each other and they were constantly squabbling like siblings in the backseat of a car.” Read more about it plus photos here.

Marines_security group in egypt

Perhaps, the most disappointment thing in this collection is the lack of pandas!  We could not locate a snapshot of Ambassador Huntsman or Ambassador Locke with the pandas.  What’s with that?  But we are sorta persistent, and finally we found an ambassador and a panda from 2004, Ambassador Huntsman’s predeceesor, Clark T. Randt, Jr.:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 3.31.17 PM

The end.

*(^O^)*

Blast From the Past: US Embassy Benghazi (June 1967) — “The mob battered its way in”

— By Domani Spero

Almost nine months since the attack, Benghazi continue to make news.  Three days ago, CBS News reported that U.S. officials gave instructions for Benghazi Medical Center to use a “John Doe” pseudonym on the death certificate of Ambassador Christopher Stevens after he died of asphyxiation in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Frankly, we don’t think that was an unreasonable request. Who wants to imagine the body of a deceased ambassador held hostage or used for propaganda or other purposes by the militants who killed him?

We missed this May 17 piece by Christopher Dickey saying, “The CIA misjudged the security threat in Benghazi and contributed mightily to the confusion afterwards. The ass-covering of then-CIA Director David Petraeus, particularly, muddled the question of what could and should be told to the public.” It’s good reading.

To our last count, there’s a subpoena for emails and documents from ten top State Department officials that Congress wants to look at (see House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Benghazi-Related Documents To/From Ten State Dept Officials). There’s also congressional request asking what happened to the four employees “fired” by the State Department last December (see Congress Seeks Details on Status of Four State Dept Employees ‘Fired’ Over Benghazi. Then there’s the appearance by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen before the Oversight Committee, which to-date does not have a confirmed date.  Oh, and the RNC filed an FOIA for more Benghazi-related emails.

Then Ambassador Ryan Crocker made news when he told the Marine Corps Times that people should come before paper, and why he doesn’t think it makes sense any longer that the primary duty of the Marine Security Guards is protecting classified documents. “I really do think it’s time that the Marine Corps and the State Department re-look at the memorandum of agreement and rules of engagement because that was written effectively in the pre-terror days,” Ambassador Crocker said.

The attack on the temporary mission in Benghazi in 2012 was not a first.  In 1967, we did not have a temporary mission in Benghazi, we actually had an embassy there that was attacked by a mob, and set on fire by the attackers. With our diplomats inside. Below is a first-hand account of what happened that harrowing day.

Via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST), an excerpt from John Kormann’s entry in the Foreign Affairs Oral History Project:

John Kormann fought in World War II as a paratrooper and went behind enemy lines to apprehend Nazi war criminals and uncover a mass grave.  As an Army Counter Intelligence Corps field office commander in Berlin from 1945 to 47, he helped search for Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and describes his experience as officer-in-charge at Embassy Benghazi, when it was attacked and burned in June 1967. At that time, the Libyan capital rotated every two years between Benghazi and Tripoli. The Ambassador David Newsom was posted in Tripoli and John Kormann was the principal officer and consul in Benghazi.  The Arab-Israeli War was fought on June 5–10, 1967.  John Kormann is also author of his memoirs, Echoes of a Distant Clarion. Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Moncrieff J. Spear on February 7, 1996

“The mob battered its way in”

The most harrowing experience of my Foreign Service career occurred in Benghazi at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Convinced by propaganda broadcasts that U.S. Navy planes were attacking Cairo, Libyan mobs, spurred on by 2000 Egyptian workers building a pan- Arab Olympic stadium in Benghazi, attacked the Embassy. The streets were being repaired and there were piles of rocks everywhere, which the mob put to use. A detachment of soldiers provided by the Libyan Government to protect us was overwhelmed. The embassy file room was full of highly classified material, which we desperately tried to burn. The embassy had been a former bank building, with a heavy safe-type front door and barred windows. The mob finally battered its way in. They pushed themselves in through broken windows and came at us cut and bleeding.

We were well armed, but I gave orders that there be no shooting, so we met them with axe handles and rifle butts. Dropping tear gas grenades, we fought our way up the stairs and locked ourselves in the second floor communications vault. We were able to continue burning files in 50-gallon drums on an inner courtyard balcony using Thermite grenades. There were 10 of us in the vault, including two women. The mobs set fire to the building. The heat, smoke and tear gas were intense, which while terrible for us, blessedly forced the mob from the building. We only had five gas masks for 10 people and shared them while we worked. We came out of the vault several times during the day to use fire extinguishers to control blazes and spray down walls.

Our own destruction of files using Thermite sent up huge clouds of black smoke from the center of the building, probably adding to the impression that those of us inside were dying. With no power, we managed to send sporadic messages throughout the day using an emergency generator. Efforts by British troops to come to our aid were called off several times. A British armored car was destroyed by the mob in the vicinity of the Embassy by pouring gasoline down the hatch and setting it afire with an officer and four soldiers inside. The British Embassy and British Council offices had been attacked and set afire, as were the USIS [U.S. Information Service] center and my former residence.

I might mention something here because many people asked me about it afterward. At one point the mob used a ladder to drop from an adjoining building on to our roof, catching us trying to burn files there. After a struggle they drove us back into the Embassy. They cut the ropes on the tall roof flag pole, leaving the flag itself hanging down the front of the building. An Army MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] captain who was with us requested permission to go up on the roof and raise the flag. I dismissed his request, saying it would be counterproductive. Later when things looked very bleak and our spirits were waning, he came to me again in front of the others. I told him I would think about it. I had been a combat paratrooper in WW II and had seen what defiance and a bit of bravura could do for soldiers under mortal stress.

Afterward I said, “Go ahead, raise the flag!” He did so with considerable daring, the mob going crazy below and the rocks flying. The reaction among my people was profound. I could see it in their eyes, as they worked on with grim determination under those conditions to burn files and render cryptographic equipment inoperable.

The British Come to the Rescue

When late in the day (remember the attack began in the morning), we received word that a British rescue attempt had again been postponed for fear that lives might be lost, I took a photograph of President and Mrs. Johnson off the wall, broke it out of the frame and wrote a message on the back to the President saying something to the effect that we have tried our best to do our duty. Everyone signed it. When an inspector subsequently asked me about that, I could tell him that people will respond to the call of duty given the chance.

We sent our last message at about 6:00 p.m. I learned later from a friend who was in the Operations Center in Washington that it came in garbled, leading to the impression that we were burning alive. At that Secretary Rusk called the British Foreign Secretary with a further plea to get us out. At 8:00 p.m. a British armored column arrived and took us by truck to D’Aosta Barracks, their base on the outskirts of town. Libya had been a British protectorate after WW II and they still maintained a small military contingent outside of Benghazi under an agreement with King Idriss. The British were magnificent, rescuing us and then helping us bring hundreds of Americans to their camp, where they fed us and gave us shelter.

The night of our escape from the vault, I asked for a volunteer to go with me into the center of Benghazi at 2:00 a.m. to bring out Americans most in danger. The city was in flames, Jewish and foreign shops and properties having been set to the torch. Driving through the city, we were repeatedly stopped by roadblocks manned by nervous, trigger-happy Libyan soldiers. The streets were full of debris.

I remember pulling up to an apartment house lit only by fires from nearby burning shops. Going up the darkened stairs, knocking on doors, I asked for an American family. On the fourth floor, I heard a small voice say, “Who’s there?” In English, I answered, “It’s the American Consul.” An American woman cautiously opened the door. She must have known me, because she called me by name and said, “We knew you’d come, we are all packed.” What a wonderful tribute, I thought, to our Foreign Service. During that night and the next day we brought out other Americans under very trying circumstances.

Victory Street, Benghazi, Libya (1967)
Photo from ADST

We had problems in evacuating Americans from Benghazi. Arrangements were made for U.S. Air Force planes to pick up about 250 of them at the airport. At the last moment I received word that Russian-built Algerian troop transports with paratroopers and Egyptian MiG fighters had landed at the airport. I didn’t want our planes shot at. I didn’t want a serious incident. Calling Tripoli, I talked with Ambassador Newsom. After listening to me, he said, “Well, John, you’re the man on the spot. This is your decision to make.” I made the decision to bring the planes in all right, but I must say really I wished that I hadn’t had to, for I was truly worried. My wife and children were going to be aboard those planes, as well as a lot of other Americans, who could pay with their lives should my decision be a bad one.

The British provided trucks and a bus for the evacuees. They were taken on to the airport through an opening away from the terminal and driven right past the parked MiGs and Algerian transports. With the connivance of an English civilian air controller in the tower, contact was made with the incoming Air Force planes using a British Army field radio. They were instructed to land on the grass along the fence at the most distant part of the field away from the terminal. Three planes, two C-130′s and a C-124, came in and made a fast turnaround. They were loaded and back in the air in minutes. The operation was carried out with such speed and audacity that there was no reaction from anyone until much later. All of us will be forever grateful to Colonel Alistair Martin and his British troops for their role in all of these actions; without them none of that would have been possible.

Read the full oral history here.

(‘_’)

Benghazi: Where the hell were the Marines? Yo! Half our embassies have no Marines

There is a misconception out there shared by some Americans that when they get in trouble overseas, Uncle Sam will come get them. That’s wrong.  He won’t send a helicopter rescue nor the US Marines, not even if our countrymen are in a foreign jail.

Another misconception has to do with the US Marines. On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul over in the Washington Times asks, “Where the hell were the Marines?”

Shortly after the Benghazi attack, Politico also reported it has learned that “The consulate where the American ambassador to Libya was killed on Tuesday is an “interim facility” not protected by the contingent of Marines that safeguards embassies.”

The State Department has 294 physical embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions around the world.  Currently, about 1,200 Marine security guards are assigned to security detachments in 148 locations. For understandable reason the list of posts with no MSG is currently unavailable online, unless of course, Congress publishes the list in its search for da truth.

The Marine guards at US embassies are part of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group  (MCESG) based in Quantico, Virginia.

Its mission according to http://www.marines.mil/

The primary mission of the Marine Security Guard is to provide internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States.

The secondary mission of the MSG is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S government property located within designated U.S. diplomatic and consular premises during exigent circumstances (urgent temporary circumstances which require immediate aid or action).

So where the hell were the Marines?

Is it just possible that there were no Marines in Benghazi because there were no classified material to protect?

Hell, ya … but does it matter? Nope.

Where the hell were the Marines, dammit?!

Here is a bit of the MSG program history:

The Marine Security Guard (MSG) Program, in its current form, has been in place since December 1948, but the Marine Corps has a long history of cooperation and distinction with the Department of State (DOS) going back to the early days of the Nation. From the raising of the United States flag at Derna, Tripoli, and the secret mission of Archibald Gillespie in California, to the 55-days at Peking, the United States Marines have served many times on special missions as couriers, guards for embassies and delegations, and to protect American officials in unsettled areas.

The origins of the modern MSG Program began with the Foreign Service Act of 1946 that stated the Secretary of Navy is authorized, upon the request of the Secretary of State, to assign enlisted Marines to serve as custodians under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at an embassy, legation, or consulate. Using this Act, the DOS and U.S. Marine Corps entered into negotiations to establish the governing provisions for assigning MSGs overseas. These negotiations culminated in the first joint Memorandum of Agreement signed on 15 December 1948. Trained at the DOS’s Foreign Service Institute, the first MSGs departed for Tangier and Bangkok on 28 January 1949. The authority granted in the Foreign Service Act of 1946 has since been replaced by Title 10, United States Code 5983, and the most recent Memorandum of Agreement was signed on 13 March 2008. The Marine Corps assumed the primary training responsibility of its MSGs during November 1954.

Following the 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut Admiral Ray Inman chaired the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security.   Part of that report concerns the Marine Security Group’s role in embassy security. While I have not seen the 2008 MOU between State and the Marine Corps, I suspect that role has not changed very much:

MSG’s are not normally posted near, on or outside of the premise perimeter. This is because the protection of the mission is primarily the responsibility of the host government. Further, many countries would object to the posting of military personnel on their soil.

The MSG’s carry out their primary mission by a) operating access controls and stationary and patrol coverage of classified facilities and operations, b) conducting inspections and patrols to ensure proper procedures for handling and storage of classified material within the premises, c) writing notices of security violations as Department of State security regulations direct, d) effecting and supervising destruction of classified waste, e) providing control of buildings and portions of buildings during construction or renovation of areas, f) providing special guard services for U.S. delegation offices for regional or international conferences at which classified information is kept, g) assisting in guarding the temporary overseas residences of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and other ranking dignitaries as required, and h) providing internal security guard coverage on a temporary basis of the Principal Officer’s residence when the life or safety of the protected official is in danger. The latter duty is rarely conducted by the Marines and it is subject to written orders and approval. Further, the assignment must be in response to a threat situation, and the MSG’s must be armed and in uniform. The MSG’s may also provide special guard services in the execution of interagency plans for dealing with emergency situations.

The MSG Detachments are operationally supervised by the Regional Security Officer (RSO) or the Post Security Officer (PSO). The RSO or PSO provides the guard orders, directions and instructions for the operations of the Marines at the post and ensures that they are properly housed and supported. The Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) is the senior member of the MSG Detachment and he supervises and administratively controls the Marines. He reports through the RSO or PSO to the Chief of Mission.

As described above, the MSG role is essentially defensive in nature. They serve as an in-house deterrent to limited acts of violence, as well as a defense mechanism to large scale riots. The Marines are expected to delay entry by hostile elements long enough to permit destruction of classified material and to assist in protecting lives of the mission staff until host government forces arrive. They are authorized, under the command of the senior Foreign Service officer present, to use weapons to protect their own lives or mission staff from direct and immediate danger. The specific use of force is outlined in the MSG post guard orders.

In 1983, less than one-half or only 126 of our foreign posts were protected internally by the U.S. Marines. The MCESG says that the Marine guards are currently in 148 locations which is about half the number of our current overseas posts (Marine spokesman at the Pentagon put the number at 130 locations).  In the last 29 years since the Beirut embassy bombing, the Marine security detachments at our overseas posts grew by 22.

Part of the Inman report recommendation also states that “At those very small posts with few Americans, and where it is not practical to supplement the post with at least six Marines, the Panel recommends that the Department reduce or eliminate the amount of classified or sensitive equipment and material at these posts.”

Note that the commission did not say reduce the staff but to reduce or eliminate the amount of classified information. Logic dictates that the Marines will be present where there is classified material to protect, but will not be present if there is none (note: specific types of classified material cannot be present without Marine guards).

As in 1983, there will be calls to provide Marine security guards at all our overseas posts. And of course, despite all the noise and stuff, that will not happen.

The Benghazi attack has now become a feeding frenzy with all sorts of sharkies. Some of the stories out there are informed by nuttiness and ignorance that it doesn’t even make sense to write about it. Check this one out.  And a smoking gun one day is not smoking the next day.  So I’m going to stop hyperventilating (same recommendation for the Hill) and wait for the congressionally mandated accountability review board’s report.

And perhaps while waiting we can have a useful conversation about our Marines and the appropriate use of force in our diplomatic posts.  The MSG’s role is defensive in nature. The protesters, no doubt are aware of that. They knew that since Tehran.  Is it time to rethink that and allow aggressive resistance within embassy grounds using non lethal and lethal force that corresponds to the escalation of the attack?

If I’m missing anything on the Marine guards, please feel free to add in the comments.