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Burn Bag: Diplomat Writes About “The Slog of Leadership” and Misses Attack Date By a Year+

Via Burn Bag:

What’s this? The worst day of Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley’s life isn’t the day five of her staff were killed in Saudi Arabia? How did she get the date so wrong in this NYTimes Op-Ed? The attack was December 6, 2004, not/not December 4, 2005.

Like every chief of mission around the world, then and now, I began and ended each day with the question: “What can I do to increase safety for my staff?” I had reason to worry because for several years, the security situation in Saudi Arabia had been perilous, with terrorists attacking and murdering Saudis, other Arabs and Westerners. Diplomatic missions were favorite targets and ours, the Consulate General in Jeddah, made up of approximately 50 Americans and 150 locally-hired employees, was particularly attractive. With the advice of my security team, we raised the height of our walls, topped them with glass shards and barbed wire and imposed travel restrictions on the staff. We armed our guards and, unlike most diplomatic compounds, allowed military patrols inside our walls.
[…]
One proposal, however, threatened to tear our community apart. My security chief wanted to require all non-American staff to pass through metal detectors to enter the compound. I understood the imperative for a careful screening. But for a community under siege, the feeling that “we were all in it together” was critical to getting us through each day. Disparate treatment was sure to corrode our cohesiveness and send a signal to the local staff that we distrusted them despite the fact that they, too, put their lives on the line every day by walking through our gates.
[…]
After it was installed, I made sure that I was the very first staff member to walk through the metal detector. I can’t say that we had a Kumbaya moment or that resentment of my decision ended immediately among my American staff.  I had to lead by example and trust that they respected my integrity even if they didn’t like my position.

Despite all our measures, on December 4, 2005, one of the worst days of my life, terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. After a long standoff, 10 of my staff members were injured, some terribly, and five were killed. These were colleagues with whom we worked alongside every day, and socialized with after work. And each and every one of them was a local staff member.

Read: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/05/15/diplomat-to-saudi-arabia-opens-up-about-what-got-her-through-one-of-the-worst-days-of-my-life/

Related posts:

Related item:

Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide (pdf)

 

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Trump’s Wild Talk About America’s NATO Treaty Obligations — Not/Not a Misquote

Posted: 12:19 pm ET

 

SANGER: But I guess the question is, If we can’t, do you think that your presidency, let’s assume for a moment that they contribute what they are contributing today, or what they have contributed historically, your presidency would be one of pulling back and saying, “You know, we’re not going to invest in these alliances with NATO, we are not going to invest as much as we have in Asia since the end of the Korean War because we can’t afford it and it’s really not in our interest to do so.”

TRUMP: If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich. Then if we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth — you have the tape going on?

SANGER: We do.

HABERMAN: We both do.

TRUMP: With massive wealth. Massive wealth. We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

[…]

SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?

TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.

SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——

TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.

[…]

TRUMP: I’m a fan of the Kurds, you understand.

SANGER: But Erdogan is not. Tell us how you would deal with that?

TRUMP: Well, it would be ideal if we could get them all together. And that would be a possibility. But I’m a big fan of the Kurdish forces. At the same time, I think we have a potentially — we could have a potentially very successful relationship with Turkey. And it would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together.

SANGER: And what’s your diplomatic plan for doing that?

TRUMP: Meetings. If I ever have the opportunity to do it, meaning if I win, we will have meetings, we will have meetings very early on.

There’s mooooore, oh, dear.

Meanwhile — in Russia, Trump is apparently “inspiring a new generation of optimism.”

Here’s the NATO reaction:

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Rhodes. Ben Rhodes, the Morons Up the Street, the Blob and the White House’s Media Compadres

Posted: 12:26 am PT

 

David Samuels has a must read profile of Ben Rhodes over in the New York Times. Rhodes is the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for President Obama. His official title is “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.” According to his WH bio, he is tasks with overseeing President Obama’s national security communications, speechwriting, and global engagement. Below are some striking nuggets from that NYT profile of the master of spin.  Please read and weep.

#1. “On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.” And here we thought the voice is that of John Kirby, the official spokesperson of the State Department.

#2. “He is, according to the consensus of the two dozen current and former White House insiders I talked to, the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from Potus himself.” Wait, not Clinton, or Kerry? Is that why Secretary Kerry can’t get a new plane?

#3. “One day, when Rhodes and I were sitting in his boiler-room office, he confessed, with a touch of bafflement, “I don’t know anymore where I begin and Obama ends.”  Whoopsie! Did you fell off your chair, too?

#4. “I watch the message bounce from Rhodes’s brain to Price’s keyboard to the three big briefing podiums — the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon — and across the Twitterverse, where it springs to life in dozens of insta-stories, which over the next five hours don formal dress for mainstream outlets.  This would make a nice infographic.

#5. “It has been rare to find Ben Rhodes’s name in news stories about the large events of the past seven years, unless you are looking for the quotation from an unnamed senior official in Paragraph 9. He is invisible because he is not an egotist, and because he is devoted to the president.” No doubt he is devoted to the president, but when the unnamed senior official in para 9 is also the spin doctor that invisibility is more about media strategery than about ego.

#6. “For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.” Which ones?  All of them?

#7. “He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob. According to Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East. This summer’s expected blockbuster — The Blob (a Foreign Affairs Thriller).

#8. “Now the most effectively weaponized 140-character idea or quote will almost always carry the day, and it is very difficult for even good reporters to necessarily know where the spin is coming from or why.”  Difficult but not impossible?

#9. “The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corps. “But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres …” Oh, golly!

#10.  “In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”  That feeling you get when you’re about to throw up?

Ladies and gentlemen, the vomitorium is the second pristine white door to the right. Proceed with caution; it’s crazy bad in there.

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Clinton Email Challenge Now a Sharknado, and Secretary Kerry Is Right to be “Concerned”

Posted: 2:13  pm PDT

 

This happened Thursday night. We drafted this post early morning but waited for a piece of information we wanted to see. So yup, overtaken by events.  In any case, you may now read the inspector generals memos referenced to in the NYT report here. See NYT: Criminal Inquiry Sought Over Clinton Emails? Read the Inspector Generals Memos.  We’re also waiting for the OIG to issue a clarification on the DOJ referral the NYT reported.

The memos went possibly from two IG offices — State Department Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough, III — to the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. The IGs memos are also cc’ed to one of the State Department’s deputy secretaries. It looks like, the memos or contents/snippets of it were shared with DOJ, as a DOJ official appears to be the NYT’s source for this story (see tweets below).

Here are the tweets from July 24:

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The report from the NYT includes the following:

— 1.  The memos were provided to The New York Times by a senior government official.

— 2.  The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations.

— 3.  The revelations about how Mrs. Clinton handled her email have been an embarrassment for the State Department, which has been repeatedly criticized over its handling of documents related to Mrs. Clinton and her advisers.

— 4.  Some State Department officials said they believe many senior officials did not initially take the House committee seriously, which slowed document production and created an appearance of stonewalling.

— 5.  State Department officials also said that Mr. Kerry is concerned about the toll the criticism has had on the department and has urged his deputies to comply with the requests quickly.

Today:

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On this whole email debacle at the State Department, it must be said that this might not have happened if not enabled by senior bureaucrats in the agency. We do not believe for a moment that senior officials were not aware about the email practices of then Secretary Clinton or the record retention requirement. But hey, if the practice was done for four years over the protests and dissent of officials at “M”, “A”, the Legal Adviser or the CIO, we’d like to see that email trail.

By the way, this NYT report follows a July 20 Politico report about a contentious hearing where U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon demanded explanations for why some of the Associated Press’ FOIA requests received no reply for four years or more before the wire service filed suit in March.

“The State Department’s not going to have the luxury of saying, because we’re focusing on Hillary’s emails, we’re doing so at the cost and expense of four-year-old requests. So, that’s not going to be an excuse,” the judge said. “In my judgment, a four-year-old request gets a priority over a recent request.”

On Mr. Kerry’s concern about the toll the criticism has had on the department … the secretary is right to be concerned. Senior officials did not take Congress seriously?  Even if senior bureaucrats do not agree or approve of the conduct of the Select Committee, even if they think this is a sideshow seeking to derail a presidential campaign, the required document production is still part of their jobs. In my view, the most serious consequence on the appearance of stonewalling is it also gives the appearance that bureaucrats are picking sides in this political shitstorm.

This can potentially undermine the expectation of the State Department as an impartial and non-political entity. The perception, right or wrong, that this impartiality is compromised, will not serve it or its employees well in the long run.

You might like to read a couple previous posts on FOIA personnel, costs and the “persistent neglect of fundamental leadership responsibilities” that made this the Clinton email debacle a challenge of Sharknado proportion for the agency. (see Snapshot: State Dept FY2014 FOIA Personnel and Costs and State Dept FOIA Requests: Agency Ranks Second in Highest Backlog and Here’s Why).

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New York Times: Tell us about the U.S. embassy in your country

Posted: 12:03 pm EDT

 

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Tweet of the Day: Note to State Department: Don’t be so prickly

Posted: 12:51 am EDT

 

Robin Raphel, Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials

— Domani Spero

 

Late on November 6, WaPo published the following Robin Raphel story:

Here is a link to the NYT story:

 

On November 7, an unnamed official cited by the Associated Press said the FBI investigation was related to access to classified materials:

 

NYT did a follow-up report over two weeks later reporting that an eavesdropping on a Pakistani official led to the Raphel inquiry:

 

A follow-up report from WaPo includes a statement from Amy Jeffress, Ambassador Raphel’s attorney (she is also the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia).

“Ambassador Raphel is a highly respected career diplomat who has dedicated her life to serving the United States and its interests,” said Amy Jeffress, Raphel’s attorney and the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. “She would never intentionally do anything to compromise those interests. She, and we as her counsel, are cooperating with the investigation, and we are confident that she will be cleared of any suspicion.”

What do we know about this case?  Below is a list of “known” items out there according to media reports:

  • The federal investigation reportedly is part of a counterintelligence probe.
  • Ambassador Raphel’s security clearances reportedly was withdrawn.
  • She reportedly was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire.
  • The FBI reportedly searched her Northwest Washington home, and her State Department office  also was examined and sealed.
  • Agents reportedly “discovered classified information” during a raid at her home.
  • In an intercepted conversation this year “a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat,” reportedly setting off the espionage investigation.
  • Apparently,Ambassador Raphel has not been told she is the target of an investigation, and she has not been questioned according to her spokesman.
  • Ambassador Raphel now has a lawyer.
  • Over two weeks after the original report surfaced, she has not been formally accused or charged with a crime. Since she has not been formally charged, she has no way to defend herself from allegations.

The Indian media has had a field day with this investigation, throwing in a bunch of name calling, and well, it looks like she is considered a national nemesis over there. The view from Pakistan (read this) is thoughtful and more wait and see.  We’re also now starting to see Raphel’s name being linked to Hillary Clinton; she has been described as a “close Clinton family friend,” a  “Hillary donor” and a “powerful Clinton ally.”

In any case, we understand from a source inside the building that the FBI would “never investigate” a State employee without coordinating with Diplomatic Security’s Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence. Apparently, there is an FBI liaison in DS/IC to assist with the sharing of case information but whatever role Diplomatic Security played in this case, the bureau is not advertising it.

We’ve compiled a list of the things we don’t know about this case and the questions we have:

  • According to WaPo, two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. Who are these officials and what are their motive for leaking a counter-intel probe to the news media?
  • The investigation reportedly is ongoing; does the media spotlight not jeopardize the investigation?
  • According to NYT, it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to this investigation. Apparently, it is also not/not clear “whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication.” Does this mean all discrete discreet Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are limited to discussing their lunch menu and tourist opportunities in their host country to using tin can telephones for official subjects?
  • Who is the  Pakistani official? Was he/she aware that USG agents were eavesdropping? If he/she/they were not aware before of the eavesdropping, are they aware now?  We’re seriously perplexed, how is this helpful?
  • We understand that by the time a case like this goes overt, the government has  all the information it needs.  It is not not apparent if that is the case here. If we presume that the USG went overt because it has all the evidence it needs, how come there are no charges to-date?

One of our most sacred principles in the United States is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.   The government not only must charge an individual suspected of a crime, it also must prove,beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged. That has not happened here.

Despite what the Indian media says, and even if Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are using tin-can telephones to communicate, the current status of the Raphel case amount to allegations from unnamed officials, and an ongoing investigation.  That is far from clear evidence of guilt.

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Updated on 11/25/14 at 1546 PST to correct grammatical errors and for clarity. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambassador Cameron Munter, Drone Policy Casualty Corrects Record, Talks Yellow Card and Drone War

Former US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter departed Islamabad this past summer after a two-year tenure and retired from the Foreign Service.  He is currently  a visiting professor at Columbia Law School. In a May 2012 article in the NYT,  Ambassador Munter reportedly complained that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy in the country and that “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,”  according to an unnamed colleague.

On The Daily Beast yesterday, the reporter writes that Ambassador Munter agreed to meet with her to “tell his side of the story, explaining that the Times had been wrong about him. It made him sound like a softie, he said, a mischaracterization that he wanted to correct.”

Via The Daily Beast (excerpt)

Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, looked suntanned, but not rested, as he sat in a Foggy Bottom bar a few blocks from the State Department on a fall evening. He placed an Islamabad Golf baseball cap on the table, a souvenir from a decades-long career that had recently ended in a public flameout.

This past May, it was announced that Munter would be leaving his post. At the time, a State Department spokesman said he had made “a personal decision” to step down. But a few weeks after the announcement, The New York Times—in an article about counterterrorism policy—quoted one of Munter’s colleagues saying the ambassador “didn’t realize his main job was to kill people.”
[…]
What Munter did want, however, was a more selective use of drones, coupled with more outreach to the Pakistani government—in short, a bigger emphasis on diplomacy and less reliance on force. “What they’re trying to portray is I’m shocked and horrified, and that’s not my perspective,” he said, referring to The New York Times article. “The use of drones is a good way to fight the war. But you’re going to kill drones if you’re not using them judiciously.” Munter thought the strikes should be carried out in a measured way. “The problem is the political fallout,” he says. “Do you want to win a few battles and lose the war?”

“What is the definition of someone who can be targeted?” I asked. “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40,” Munter replied. “My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s—well, a chump who went to a meeting.”
[…]
Following the strike, President Obama set up a more formal process by which diplomats could have input into these strikes. “I have a yellow card,” Munter recalled, describing the new policy. “I can say ‘no.’ That ‘no’ goes back to the CIA director. Then he has to go to Hillary. If Hillary says ‘no,’ he can still do it, but he has to explain the next day in writing why.”

It was a limited victory for Munter, but his relationship with Washington remained difficult.
[…]
During our interview, Munter criticized the way White House officials approached Pakistan. “They say, ‘Why don’t we kick their ass?’ Do we want to get mad at them? Take their car keys away? Or look at the larger picture?” He leaned back in his chair and recalled his last National Security Council meeting: “The president says, ‘It’s an hour meeting, and we’re going to talk about Afghanistan for 30 minutes and then Pakistan for 30 minutes.’ Seventy-five minutes later, we still haven’t talked about Pakistan. Why? Because Pakistan is too fucking hard.”

Read in full – A Former Ambassador to Pakistan Speaks Out.

 

 

 

Quickie: Can American Diplomacy Ever Come Out of Its Bunker?

Via the NYT:

The barriers are there for a reason: Stevens’s death attests to that, as do those of Americans in Beirut, Baghdad and other violent places. But the reaction to the attack in Benghazi crystallized a sense among many diplomats that risks are less acceptable in Washington than they once were, that the mantra of “security” will only grow louder. As a result, some of the country’s most distinguished former ambassadors are now asking anew what diplomacy can achieve at such a remove.

“No one has sat back to say, ‘What are our objectives?’ ” said Prudence Bushnell, who was ambassador to Kenya when the Qaeda bombing took place there in 1998, killing more than 200 people and injuring 4,000. “The model has become, we will go to dangerous places and transform them, and we will do it from secure fortresses. And it doesn’t work.”

Read in full here.

-DS

 

 

 

US Mission Afghanistan: But … DHS on the Deaths of Civilian Contractors in Herat

On Sunday, July 22, ISAF announced that “An individual wearing an Afghan National Security Force uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force contracted civilian employees in western Afghanistan today, killing three.  The individual who fired on the ISAF contracted civilian employees was killed during the engagement. The incident is currently under investigation.” ISAF did not release the names of the casualties.

This is getting old. Why don’t they just come out and say “An ANSF soldier killed three contractors hired to help …” And do we ever hear what happen with those investigations?

Reuters, citing NATO numbers reports that there have been 20 green on blue attacks on foreign troops since January in which 27 people have been killed.  It also says that “NATO commanders have downplayed most episodes as the work of disgruntled Afghan soldiers, rather than as evidence of Taliban infiltration of the security forces.”

According to NYT, since the start of 2010, there have been 52 green-on-blue attacks resulting in 82 deaths.  The Reuters report notes that this latest attack is not technically considered to be the 21st green on blue attack this year as the victims were all contractors.

The contractors are still dead. Here is an infographic from the New America Foundation:

Attacks on U.S and NATO Soldiers by Afghan Security Forces
Via www.Newamerica.net  under Creative Commons License

It looks like the US Embassy in Kabul made no statement of this incident, or if it did, the statement is not on its website.  Just the first half of July, the embassy has already condemned the Wedding Hall Suicide Attack (July 14, 2012), Condemns Attack in Kandahar (July 8, 2012) and Condemns the Public Execution of a Woman by the Taliban in Parwan (July 8, 2012).

Does anyone know what comes after condemnation? A drone?

But no condemnation for this, it seems.

On the day of the attack, US Embassy Kabul in Facebook was busy congratulating Romal Hamidi as its 12,000th fan. The next several hours, it posted items on the 2012 London Olympics, Ambassador Crocker hosting a reception for women’s rights leaders, Ambassador Crocker becoming a honorary marine, and something on ramadan.

On the day of the attack, over in the Twitters, @USEmbassyKabul writes:

I liked a @YouTube video http://youtu.be/coP5JlinXiE?a  U.S. Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement in Force.

The next several hours it mostly tweeted about Ambassador Crocker becoming a honorary marine.

And no mention of the dead.

On July 24, two days after the Herat killings, the DHS Press Office released a statement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano:

“It is with great sadness that I learned this weekend of the fatal shooting of three contractors stationed at the Herat Training Center in Herat, Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of former U.S. Border Patrol Agent and retired ICE Agent Benjamin Monsivais, retired CBP Port Director Joseph Perez, and retired Her Majesty’s United Kingdom Revenue and Customs Officer David Chamberlain.

All three individuals were supporting Afghan Border Police training efforts when they came under attack. Their tragic deaths remind us of the dangers facing our men and women overseas, and the many sacrifices they make on our behalf every day.

Two other individuals were wounded in this senseless attack. We pray for the swift recovery and continued safety of former Border Patrol Agent Dana Hampton and language assistant Aimal Formully. We also applaud the tremendous bravery and heroism of the CBP Border Patrol Agent who responded to the attack and prevented the gunman from causing further harm and injury to others.”

Am I the only one who think it is kinda strange that Secretary Napolitano is the person making this statement and that Embassy Kabul and its social media ninjas maintained internet silence over this shooting? The deceased were contractors, two were American citizens.

At least the American Contractors in Iraq is keeping tally of the best kept secret in the warzones, the deaths of civilian contractors;  59 dead so far in the second quarter of 2012; 418 deaths in 2011.  Did you know that?

By the way, the Herat Regional Training Center completed a large-scale expansion project just last year, which reportedly increased its student numbers from 300 to 800 per course. The $4.2 million project added 59 structures to the Afghan National Security Forces training compound including: six two-story barracks which house nearly 600 student, two barracks for about five-dozen faculty, a new 300-person dining facility, latrines and showers, seven two-story classrooms, medical and administrative offices, storage and laundry facilities, and security bunkers.

If you build it, they will come … and they sure did, but they also come bearing arms with bullets bought with our money, and we’re too chicken to acknowledge that.

Domani Spero