Death in the Foreign Service: Why we said “no” to an Embassy Information Sanitation Dude

— Domani Spero
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In the next couple of weeks, we will try to revisit some of the topics that we have blogged about in the past but did not get a chance to follow-up.

In the last several years, we’ve covered  the deaths of State Department and Foreign Service personnel due to terrorist attacks, natural calamities, suicide, violent crime, and accidents (see In the Foreign Service: Death, Too Close An Acquaintance). Here are some of the blogposts we did,this is not an exhaustive list:

While we did receive a screaming owler one time when we were asking questions about a death in Afghanistan, not once have we ever received an email from a family member of a deceased employee asking us not to mention that their loved ones who died overseas worked for Uncle Sam, or refrain from noting the passing of loved ones who died in the service of our country. Not once.

In June this year, we blogged about a Foreign Service employee at the US Embassy in Moscow who was killed in a gas explosion there:

Two State Department sources confirmed that the employee, an OMS on official orders working at the embassy had died. After the embassy employee was heloed to a local Russian hospital, she was reportedly airlifted by the State Department soon thereafter to a special burn hospital in Linkoping, outside of Stockholm where she died a few days later.

A former co-worker at another post was concerned that there has been no public  statement about the employee’s death. “I would think the death of a diplomat would get something from AFSA or State, even if it was from an accident.”  We sent out several inquiries but no one would speak on the record.  Since the name has not been officially released, and no obit has yet been published, we will refrain from identifying the victim at this time.

This past August, a brief obituary of that employee appeared on State magazine, the official trade publication of the State Department and we blogged about it. Shortly after that, we received an email from an individual using a hotmail account:

Hi, Durron’s family did not want this information to be disclosed to the press. Please honor their request. Personally I share your view, but also honor the family’s wishes.

Moscow is hard post to serve, and the Embassy community was very shocked by this news. I personally know many people who lived in the apartment complex where she died (MFA apartment housing), and I was also shocked by this news. I can’t say any more about this unfortunately. The past year was very hard for Embassy Moscow, especially in light of the death of an FSN who was very much loved by all who worked there. 

The request, as you can see, is polite, even volunteering that the writer shares the blog writer’s view. Then the “guilty hook,” asking that we “honor the family’s wishes.” The writer did not/not present himself as a government  official, and seemed to only appear as an interested third party purporting to pass on the wishes of the deceased employee’s family.

Our correspondent, who could not get the deceased employees straight (Durron was the Consular Affairs employee who died in Florida), was in fact, an embassy official, basically asking us not to make a public connection to the death of the  USG employee who died in Sweden to the gas explosion in a USG (Russian MFA) housing in Moscow. We only knew that the individual is a USG official because of …Googles! Not sure the individual is still at post at this time.

Our gut feeling was that this is legitimate news; we blogged about the fact that an employee of the U.S. Government was injured in Moscow, and subsequently died from those injuries in Sweden. And we waited until there was an official obituary before we put the information together and named the deceased individual.  Three months after the incident.

Deceased individuals are not covered by the Privacy Act. That said, if a USG employee die overseas for whatever reason, should we be obligated to not/not report it if his/her family ask that it not be reported for privacy reasons? That’s not exactly the case here because we were only told second hand that the deceased’s family did not want it reported in the press (except that the death was reported in the publicly available State magazine). But the “what-if” was a dilemma we spent considerable time thinking about for a period of time.

How do you balance the public’s right to know with a family’s request for privacy?

We’ve consulted with a professional journalist we admire, and an authority on media ethics at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.   All agreed that 1) employees sent overseas are on official duty, and that any life-threatening mishap or death they suffer is by definition of public interest, and 2) that we ought to consider the request if it comes directly from a family member, and pull the blogpost down only if the family makes a compelling case that publication caused them or somebody else harm.  One surmised that the request received may have more to do with the State Dept’s own reasons or some fear of official embarrassment.

We did send a response to our “non-official” correspondent basically declining the request since he was not a member of the family.  We informed the writer that we would consider pulling the material down if we hear directly from the family and only if there is a compelling reason for the request. We also offered to write directly to the family if the official would provide us a contact email.  We certainly did not want to be insensitive and we understand that the incident occurred  at a challenging post, but the death of a Foreign Service person abroad is of public interest. That’s the last we’ve heard from that official via hotmail. And we would have forgotten about this except that it came to our attention  that the USG had been more aggressive about sanitizing this information than we first thought.

A journalist from a large media organization subsequently told us that he/she was privately admonished after asking publicly why the State Dept had not expressed condolences on the death of the employee in Moscow. The admonishment came from a USG official who again, cited the family’s privacy. From best we could tell, these contacts/admonishment to the journalist and to this blog came from two separate officials. How many other journalists (not just blogger in pjs, mind you) had been similarly admonished to not report about this death citing the family’s request for privacy?

In the aftermath of this incident in May 2014, we sent an email inquiry to the public affairs office of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  Our email got lost in a sink hole and we never heard anything back. We must note that this incident occurred after the departure of then Ambassador McFaul. It also predates the arrival of John Tefft, the current ambassador to Moscow and his the new public affairs officer there.

It goes without saying — but we’ll repeat it anyway —  that we clearly understand that accidents happen. And we’re not looking for a cover-up at every post unless it has to do with the furniture!  But, because there’s always a but — accidents do not absolve the embassy or the State Department from answering questions about the circumstances surrounding an employee’s death or at a minimum, publicly acknowledging that a death of an employee occurred overseas. We will be sensitive and respectful as we have always been, but we will ask questions.

What bothered us about this?  By citing the deceased family’s purported request for privacy, the State Department and Embassy Moscow basically shut down any further questions about the incident. How is it possible to have something of an information blackout on the death of an employee we sent overseas on the country’s behalf?

Whatever happened to that promised investigation?

We understand that then chargé d’affaires (CDA) in Moscow, Sheila Gwaltney  told personnel that they will be informed of the results of the investigation, regardless of the outcome. We sent an email inquiry to the analysis division of OBO’s Office of Fire Protection (OBO/OPS/FIR) requesting for an update to the fire inspector investigation. We received the following response on October 23 from Christine Foushee, State/OBO’s Director of External Affairs:

Thanks for your inquiry.  The investigation you’ve referenced is still ongoing, so we are not in a position to comment on results.

Per 15 FAM 825:

a. As soon as possible after being notified of a fire, OBO/OPS/FIR, will dispatch a team of trained fire/arson investigators to fires that resulted in serious injury or death; those where the cause is arson or is of a suspicious nature; those causing extensive damage or significant disruption to official activities; or those deemed to be of special interest to the Department of State.

b. Fire-related mishaps involving injury, illness, or death that meet criteria for Class A or B mishaps under Department of State policy will be investigated and reported using 15 FAM 964 requirements. An Office of Fire Protection official, in OBO/OPS/FIR, will be assigned to any Class A or B board conducted by OBO’s Office of Safety, Health, and Environmental Management, in the Directorate for Operations, (OBO/OPS/SHEM). In addition to addressing the root causes of the fire event, the mishap board report must evaluate the impact of Department of State organizational systems, procedures, or policies on the fire event. The report also could contain recommendations for specific modifications to such procedures and policies. Both OBO/OPS/FIR and OBO/OPS/SHEM receive copies of the report, and OBO/OPS/SHEM coordinates with the Department of State’s Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO) to meet 15 FAM 964 requirements. OBO/OPS/FIR reports findings and recommendations for corrective action to the Director of OBO, who informs the Accountability Review Board’s Permanent Coordinating Committee. (See 12 FAM 032.)

We sent another follow up email this week to State/OBO.  The explosion happened in May 2014. Here we are at the end of the year and we don’t know what happened to that investigation. Is this length of time typical of these types of investigations? We will update this blogpost if we hear from the fire people with something to say.

We think this a good opportunity as any to call on the State Department to voluntarily release an annual report of deaths of official Americans overseas.  DOD identifies its casualties — name, rank, age, state of residence, date and place of death, and cause of death — why not the State Department?  At a minimum there ought to be  an annual reporting of all deaths from unnatural causes of USG personnel and family members on government orders under Chief of Mission authority. Diplomatic Security already publishes an annual report,would it be too much to ask that they be allowed to include this information?

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry Swears-in Ambassador to Russia John Tefft

— Domani Spero
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On September 2, Secretary Kerry sworn-in our Ambassador-Designate to the Russian Federation John Tefft at the State Department.  Ambassador Tefft will succeed Michael McFaul who resigned from post in February 2014.  This is Ambassador Tefft’s fourth ambassadorial appointment.  All but three appointees to Moscow since 1960 have been career diplomats. (see also Attention Would-be Ambassadors! No One Is Getting Out of D.C. Tonight, Courtesy of Sen. Enzi — Opps! Wait …).

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 2, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 2, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


Below is the brief bio released by the WH when his nomination was announced:

John Francis Tefft, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is the Executive Director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum at the RAND Corporation, a position he has held since 2013.  Mr. Tefft served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and as the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia from 2005 to 2009.  From 2004 to 2005, Mr. Tefft served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Department of State.  From 2003 to 2004, Mr. Tefft served as an International Affairs Advisor at the National War College and previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003.  From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Tefft was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.  He was the Director of the Office of Northern European Affairs at the Department of State from 1992 to 1994.  Mr. Tefft served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs/Office of Commonwealth of Independent States from 1989 to 1992 and served as Counselor for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy from 1986 to 1989.  From 1983 to 1986, he was a Political Officer in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs.  Mr. Tefft was a Pearson Fellow in the Office of Congressman Howard Wolpe from 1982 to 1983.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Tefft was also a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary; a Special Assistant in the Washington office of the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations; a Political Officer in the Office of United Nations Political Affairs; an Operations Officer in the Operations Center; and a Vice Consul at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

Mr. Tefft served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1971 to 1974.  Mr. Tefft received a B.A. from Marquette University and an M.A. from Georgetown University.

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Online Petition to POTUS: Nominate “Mad Dog Mattis” as Next Ambassador to Moscow

— Domani Spero

Francis Regan of San Francisco, CA has started a petition to nominate General James Mattis, USMC, Ret. to be the next Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  Below is part of his justification:

Ambassador McFaul resigned last month to return to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, leaving us without a dedicated official envoy to Moscow. We need an Ambassador to advocate for regional stability and economic confidence. We need an Ambassador right now to be a stone in the Putin administration’s shoe, always present and felt with every step. This is not something we should expect of either the Secretary of State or the Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, who each have other responsibilities.

Finally, we need an Ambassador with a detailed knowledge of existing US capability across every agency and department; a proven ability to deliver finely calibrated messages in volatile situations; and a keen awareness of the ability and willingness of our allies to stand beside us under any given set of circumstances.

Ambassador McFaul and General Mattis have been colleagues at the Hoover Institution for the past six weeks, where they have undoubtedly been talking through this Ukraine crisis as it has unfolded from unrest, to the shooting of protesters, to the ouster of President Yanukovych, and finally to an undeclared Russian invasion of Crimea.

As of this writing, the petition has 50 signatories. Some of the reasons given by the supporters are below:

  • Because I’m a Marine and I know Mattis takes zero shit.
  • Because General Mattis is a badass.
  • Because I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes…
  • Because Gen. Mattis has a zero-tolerance for bullshit.
  • I know General Mattis personally & professionally and he is by far the answer and the patriot to what this country is facing at this time.

One supporter of this petition which is addressed to President Obama states his reason as, “Because this guy unlike the President has a set of balls.

Obviously, that’s really going to help.

In 2013, Gen. James Mattis, known to his troops as “Mad Dog Mattis,” retired after 41 years of military service. Business Insider called him “an icon of sorts in the Marine Corps, arguably the most famous living Marine” and collected some of his unforgettable quotes. Take a look.

On a related note, WaPo’s Al Kamen reported a few days ago that White House press secretary Jay Carney, rumored to be angling for the top spot in Moscow denied that he wanted the job.  Rumint right now apparently includes national security adviser Susan Rice‘s interest in having a woman in Moscow.  In the Loop threw in some names:
  • Sheila Gwaltney , the current Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy Moscow; was deputy chief of mission during Amb. McFaul’s tenure; was consul general in St. Petersburg from 2008 to 2011. We understand that she is scheduled to rotate out this summer with Lynne M. Tracy, current DAS for South and Central Asia as the next DCM.
  • Pamela Spratlen , U.S. Ambassador to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who is a former No. 2 at the embassy in Kazakhstan and former consul general in Vladivostok, Russia.
  • Rose Gottemoeller , undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She just got confirmed on March 6, 2014.

Who else are you hearing?

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U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul Blogs Farewell (Updated)

— Domani Spero

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael A. McFaul announced on his blog that he is stepping down from his position in Moscow after the Olympic Winter Games. He will soon rejoin his family in California at the end of the month.  He writes that “after more than five years working in the Obama administration, it is time to go home.”  Ambassador McFaul’s wife and two sons moved back to California last summer.   His lengthy blog post details his accomplishments during his two-year tenure as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Quick excerpt below:

I also am proud of some of the diplomatic innovations that our embassy has initiated during my time in Russia, especially regarding public diplomacy. Before I came to Moscow as ambassador, I had never seen a tweet. Yet, I now interact everyday with 60,000 followers on Twitter and more than 13,000 “friends” on Facebook, and our Tweetchats can reach hundreds of thousands in a matter of minutes. I also engaged with Russian audiences on many of your television and radio programs and in print media, believing that even though we will not always agree on every issue, we must at least try to understand each other’s point of view. Conducting lengthy interviews in my flawed Russian on TV Dozhd, Ekho Moskvy, or Vecherniy Urgant was not easy. Yet, I always felt it was best to show my respect for Russia by speaking in your language. Live interviews also tend to be more direct and open, features I tried to bring to my diplomacy every day.  I also enjoyed giving lectures in Russian to thousands of university students, complete with slides (that also may be a diplomatic first here!). And some of my most memorable public interactions were at standing-room-only sessions at American Corners in Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok, Volgograd, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. Thousands of Russians showed up to engage with me on everything from Syria to my broken finger. These were not gatherings of just officials or elites, but a real cross-section of Russian society. The only qualification for attending these meetings was a curiosity about America.  I truly loved the spirit of these gatherings. They made me very optimistic about the future of cooperation between our two societies.
[…]
I also am very pleased with how well our mission performed in the comprehensive assessment of our activities conducted by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) during my tenure in Russia, a review that occurs at embassies around the world every five years.  There is no greater honor than to be judged positively on your professionalism as diplomats by some of the most experienced diplomats we have in the State Department.  Every day that I walk into the embassy, I feel so lucky to be part of such an excellent team of Americans and Russians. Perhaps more than anything else, I will miss my colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Read the full blog post here. For another view on his tenure, see Foreign Policy’s No More Mr. Nice Guy (FP, Feb 5, 2014).

Photo via U.S. Embassy Moscow/McFaul blog

Photo via U.S. Embassy Moscow/Ambassador McFaul’s blog

Sheila Gwaltney, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission at U.S. Embassy Moscow since 2011 will presumably take charge of the embassy pending the confirmation and arrival of the next ambassador who is yet to be announced. Mission Russia has a standard 2-year tour of duty but hopefully, this was planned ahead so the embassy’s top two officials are not leaving around the same time.  will  reportedly leave this summer. She will be replaced by SCA Deputy Assistant Secretary Lynne Tracy.  We’re now hearing that the ambassdor will depart shortly after the Olympics –so anytime in late February to mid March (if he leaves after the paralympics).

State/OIG’s 2013 inspection report on U.S. Embassy Moscow and constituent posts in Russia is available here. Among its key judgments, “Embassy Moscow is effectively advancing a broad policy agenda important to the highest levels of the U.S. Government. The interagency team, under the leadership of the Ambassador and deputy chief of mission, is strong and cohesive.”  The OIG report also praised Ambassador McFaul as an “impressive communicator—informal but substantive, with good humor and a human touch. He has also maintained a high public profile including extensive use of social media, as access to traditional media has become more difficult and less useful.”

The report notes that across Mission Russia (includes consulates general in St. Petersburg,Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok and a consular agency in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), employees face “intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War.”

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Related item:
-09/30/13   Inspection of Embassy Moscow and Constituent Posts, Russia (ISP-I-13-48A)  [940 Kb]  Posted on November 13, 2013

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From Russia With No Love: US Diplomat/Alleged CIA Spy Expelled For Having Two Bad Wigs

The Voice of Russia reported today that US diplomat, Ryan C. Fogle was asked to leave the country for allegedly attempting to recruit a Russian special service officer as a US agent:

A statement from the FSB said that overnight on May 13/14 Russian FSB counter-intelligence agencies detained a member of the US Central Intelligence Agency, named as Ryan Christopher Fogle, who worked as third secretary of the political department of the US Embassy in Moscow.

It is alleged he was caught red-handed, with written instructions, a large sum of money and a wig.
[…]
The foreign ministry said Ryan C. Fogle must return to the United States “as soon as possible,” adding that such “provocative acts in the spirit of the Cold War in no way help strengthen mutual trust” between Moscow and Washington.

We don’t know more than what we’ve read on the news but expulsion also means he will only have a very short window to pack and leave the country.

Of course, we’re also reminded that in September 2009, there were lots of speculation that the FSB was responsible for leaking a story and video of the sex tape purported to be of a US diplomat assigned at the US Embassy in Moscow. That one went on for seven weeks until then Ambassador Beyrle finally complained to the Foreign Ministry over what it says is an effort to smear a diplomat with a fabricated sex tape (see US Embassy Moscow Complains About Russian Sex Video).

So no sex tape this time but a couple of wigs, a compass (?),  a recruitment letter that looks like spam and gmail!

The wigs!

Really, wigs are so 1980’s. Whoever wrote this script did not earn his/her pay. At least in FX’s The Amerikans, whenever the KGB agents had to go in disguise, they wear wigs. But you know, those wigs stay on whether those agents are on a knife fight or in a bed escapade. If those guys can keep their wigs on in a 1980’s show, surely our CIA agents if they have to wear a wig as a disguise, can do better than a blonde wig that gets dislodged when you’re wrestled to the ground? Plus whatever happened to Mission Impossible’s latex masks? Ugh!

A compass!

Over in NYT: “Who uses a compass these days?” asked Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor who studies Russian security affairs. “This would be a phenomenal breach of tradecraft. This isn’t what they teach you at the CIA.”

What’s a compass?

NYMag posted the alleged written instruction found on Mr. Fogle but writes that there is “actually something pretty weird about this story. It’s the recruitment letter (translated here into English from its original Russian by news outlet RT):

Screen Shot 2013-05-14

Click on image to read the text of the recruitment letter (via WaPo)

 

This is how the CIA recruits spies? With a form letter that reads like something you’d find in your in-box courtesy of a Nigerian prince? See (see Apparently the CIA Recruits Russian Spies With a Spammy Form Letter).

Of course, the arrest also happened as the US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul was holding a live Q&A on Twitter.  Coincidence or perfectly timed?

The AP on the video released by FSB:   “The official, whose face is blurred, alleged that Fogle called an unidentified FSB counterintelligence officer who specializes in the Caucasus at 11:30 p.m. Monday. He then said that after the officer refused to meet, Fogle called him a second time and offered 100,000 euros if he would provide information to the U.S. The Russian official said the FSB was flabbergasted.”

Well, they should be. This sounds like awful theater.

In WashDC, State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell is reported to have said that the incident is unlikely to hamper U.S.-Russia relations.

And life goes on.

–DS

FSTube Trends: Ambassador Video Cards from Washington, D.C.

In the past, we have seen a smattering of ambassador video greetings usually posted on  embassy websites, urging host country nationals to visit the website and check out embassy services.  Like this welcome message by then U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro Roderick W. Moore, which is noisy and and could stand some improvement.

In December 2010, then U.S. Ambassador-designate to Thailand Kristie Kenney sent a video message greeting the people of Thailand, while she was still in Washington, D.C.. The video is in English with Thai subtitle; approximately 16,000 views.

On Dec 9, 2011, Ambassador Adrienne O’Neal also sent a video message to the people of Cape Verde prior to her arrival in the country, in Portuguese; some 385 views.

According to a recent OIG report, before the Ambassador’s arrival in Hanoi, he recorded “a video of his preliminary thoughts and goals for his tenure in Hanoi, some of it in Vietnamese, for a television interview. An estimated 20 million viewers watched the interview. Another 6 million people viewed it after it was posted on the Internet.”  We have not been able to find a video of that interview.   In August 2011, Ambassador David Shear did have a video greeting for the people of Vietnam (some Vietnamese, English with subtitle) posted in the mission’s YouTube channel; it has 8,310 views.

On Jan 12, 2012, US Embassy Moscow posted Ambassador Michael McFaul’s introduction video, in English with Russian subtitle; some 76,500 views.

On April 3, 2012, the US Embassy Bridgetown and the Eastern Caribbean posted an video message from Ambassador Larry Palmer, who was confirmed by the Senate on March 30. Video in English, approximately 200 views.

On April 16, 2012, the US Embassy in New Delhi followed with a video greeting from DC by Nancy Powell, Ambassador-Designate to India, also done prior to her arrival at post; 4,301 views.

Last week, it was US Embassy Cambodia’s turn with a video on YouTube of Ambassador-Designate William Todd introducing himself to the Cambodian people; some 3200 views.

This appears to be a video trend in the Foreign Service, no doubt created in Foggy Bottom.  You can tell from looking at these videos that they have become more sophisticated. The sounds are better, the graphics are more snazzy, the editing more professionally done, etc. New shop at Foggy Bottom busy with these videos, huh?

We do wonder what kind of views would be considered a satisfactory return of investment for the production of these videos? We’re not saying these intro videos are bad, we are simply pointing out that it cost staff hours (also known as manhours in govspeak) and money to produce and edit these videos. At what point are they considered successful – at 200 views, 500 views, a couple thousand views?

Is this something that the Evaluation & Measurement Unit (EMU) under Office of Policy, Planning and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R/PPR) even looks at?  We know not. But this is the unit that “advances the culture of measurement in U.S. public diplomacy.” 

Domani Spero

Dancing With The Stars: The Foreign Service Edition

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul and his wife, Donna Norton made news last week when they tore up the floor of Spaso House in Moscow with their polka steps.

Ambassador and Mrs. McFaul at Spaso House
Photo from US Embassy Moscow/FB

But before Ambassador McFaul, we had our original dancing ambassador in the Philippines, Kristie Kenney.  Not to be confused with Raymond Bonner’s “Waltzing With a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy” because KK’s tenure in the Philippines occurred during the post-Marcos Era.

Here is Ambassador Kenney, then US Ambassador to the Philippines in the Shall We Dance Christmas Episode from December 2009:

Of course, the Philippines with its fondness for TV variety shows was ga-ga over Ambassador Kenney. One show even had a Double K (Kristie Kenney) dance step. And here she is doing the papaya dance with Edu Manzano, Filipino-American actor and politician. A hard act to follow.  It would not be a surprising if her successor at the US Embassy in Manila is forced to issue a secret plea not to put on his dancing shoes.

From the US Embassy in Laos, we have Ambassador Karen Stewart who danced the traditional “Lam Vong” at the Lao-American Heritage Foundation performance at the Lao National Cultural Hall.

On Saturday, July 16, 2011, I went to the Lao-American Heritage Foundation performance at the Lao National Cultural Hall. It was a wonderful evening, and all of the performers were very talented. I even had the chance to take the stage and lead a traditional “Lam Vong” dance. It was quite an honor!
(Photo from Ambassador Stewart's blog)

From the US Embassy in Bangladesh, we have these two gentlemen. What are you doing in the back, ahhh, SCA/AS Robert Blake … you should be dancing yeah, Ambassador Dan Mozena!

On February 16, 2012, Assistant Secretary of State for South & Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake visited Grameen borrowers’ group meeting, borrower’s homes and businesses, and attended a cultural program arranged by the villagers at Narayanganj, along with Ambassador Dan Mozena.
(Photo from US Embassy Bangladesh/FB)

From the US Embassy in Uzbekistan, we have Ambassador Krol in a shake your groove thing — with the dictator, but please don’t blame the guy.

Via RFERL:
March 22 marked Uzbekistan’s observance of Norouz, the Persian New Year, a holiday kept not just in Iran but all over Central Asia. For the occasion, Uzbek President Islam Karimov threw a big party in a Tashkent arena, replete with choreographed performances, giant balloons, and spontaneous dancing from officials who normally keep a tight lid on their public personas.

A festive spirit also took hold of the U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan, George Krol, who could be seen dancing at various points during the celebration. Krol has been on the job in Tashkent since June 2011, and previously served as America’s ambassador to Belarus.

Ambassador George Krol during a dance off in Uzbekistan
(click on the image to view the video)

The blog, Different Stans is asking“Should you dance with the dictator — literally? That was the question some people had in mind when they saw the video clip discovered by Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, showing our own American envoy to Tashkent, Ambassador George Krol, dancing in the stadium audience at the official Novrouz celebration.”

The writer points out that Karimov has been president since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and head of state since 1989 and that kind of important point that we “really badly need Uzbekistan as a transit route for NATO troops and equipment because the route through Pakistan is blocked.”

Should you dance with the dictator? But what a silly question. Haven’t we seen Nancy danced with Ferdie and Ronnie danced with Meldy, she of a thousand shoes? Or Meldy with Lyndon? How easily we forget. Then it was about our bases and those commies in Asia. Now, it’s about our logistic route and those terrorists nearby; we have seen this genre before.

Since Raymond Bonner had just released his book, Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong, last February, perhaps he can be persuaded to write “Waltzing With a Dictator: The Karimov Edition.” Oops, we don’t like calling him a dictator?  Fine …. as long as we don’t say silly things like, “*We love your adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic process, and we will not leave you in isolation.

Meanwhile, our original dancing ambassador is kept busy in Thailand but has made time for parachute jumping (see Ambassador Kinney here during a jump in Lopburi). We look forward to doing a round up of chief of mission parachute jumping in a year or two.

Domani Spero

*U.S. Vice-President George H. W. Bush during Ferdinand Marcos inauguration, June 1981.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Wikileaks and the State Department Documents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No doubt.

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


Sounds like an excellent question…

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

Domani Spero