US Embassy Caracas Updates Staff Policy Due to “Recent Kidnapping of Embassy Personnel”

Posted: 3:06 am ET
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On September 25, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas issued a Security Message updating its policy on embassy staff and family members’ movements in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela:

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas informs all U.S. citizens in Venezuela that the policy regarding the movements of U.S. citizen diplomats and their family members in Caracas and elsewhere in Venezuela has been updated.  As always, the Embassy encourages all U.S. citizens living in and traveling through Venezuela to remain vigilant at all times and to practice good personal security.

Effective immediately, Calle A (through La Alameda neighborhood, the intersection of Calle B/Calle A to the Centro Commercial Santa Fe)is ano travel zonefrom “dusk to dawn” daily for all diplomatic personnel until further notice.

Travel in groups is highly recommended.  Travel outside the Embassy’s housing area by U.S. diplomats between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. must be conducted in armored vehicles or in groups utilizing at least two vehicles.  Group travel may be conducted with unarmored vehicles.

This decision was made due to increased concerns surrounding the recent kidnapping of Embassy personnel traveling in a diplomatic-plated vehicle on this road and other incidents.  This policy is subject to review in 30 days.

Makes one wonder if these kidnappings are now specifically targeted against embassy personnel.

Diplomatic Security’s Venezuela 2017 Crime & Safety Report issued in back in February is excerpted below:

Venezuela remains one of the deadliest countries in the world with increasing violence and criminal activity in 2016, at times reaching unprecedented levels. The government of Venezuela often attempts to refute claims of increasing crime and murder rates; however, their claims are widely rejected by independent observers. Official crime figures are not released by government officials, but unofficial statistics indicate that most categories of crime increased in 2016, despite unprecedented levels in 2015. The majority of Caracas’ crime and violence remains attributed to mobile street gangs and organized crime groups. Caracas is notorious for the brazenness of high-profile violent crimes (murder, robbery, kidnapping) committed in neighborhoods across the city, at all hours.
[…]
U.S. Embassy locally employed staff often report being victims of armed robberies and carjacking. There is no indication that American citizens or U.S. Embassy-affiliated personnel are specifically targeted for crime because of their nationality or official status.

Read the full report here.

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DS/Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate Gets Downy April Fresh OIG Treatment

Posted: 1:22 am ET
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The Bureau of Diplomatic Security created its Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate  in March 2008 by combining the following offices under the TIA Directorate umbrella:

  • Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis (ITA)
  • Diplomatic Security Command Center (DSCC)
  • Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
  • Office of Protective Intelligence Investigations (PII)

It has a staff of about 200 employees. Below is the current org chart but some of the names may already be outdated, via State/OIG:

Screen Shot

State/OIG inspected the TIA Directorate from February 5 to March 7, 2016. The report dated September 20, 2016 went online on September 30. The IG Inspection teams include Team Leader, Lisa Bobbie Schreiber Hughes; Deputy Team Leader, Paul Cantrell, and members, Ronald Deutch, Gary Herbst, Leo Hession, Vandana Patel, and Richard Sypher.

This is the first inspection of this DS directorate, the first ever in eighth years.  It is a fairly thin report with just 12 pages. Here is the quick summary and some details below:

  •   The Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate was accomplishing its stated mission “to protect life safety.”
  •   The Directorate’s decision to shift to a proactive approach to threat management expanded its mission and workload without a commensurate increase in human resources.
  •   Coordination and communication were effective at senior levels of the Threat Investigations and Analysis Directorate, but senior managers did not communicate consistently with mid-level staff members, adversely affecting the Directorate’s ability to efficiently meet its defined objectives and goals.

Taskings Up Approx 300%

The IG report says that the directorate’s taskings were up approximately 300% since 2010 but that it remained effective in achieving its core objectives. But then immediately after that, the report says that in the absence of increased staffing, the office was in danger of not meeting its basic responsibility.

Folks, you can’t have this both ways.

Despite taking on new responsibilities without additional staff and facing a high turnover among existing personnel, the Directorate achieved its mission. It had, however, requested additional staff to alleviate the burden on its employees. ITA told OIG that since 2010, its taskings had increased by approximately 300 percent; PII stated its mission to provide more proactive security had increased the agent workload “exponentially;” DSCC stated that watch officer responsibilities had steadily increased, especially in the post-Benghazi period. Despite these challenges, the Directorate asserted—and OIG agreed, based on input from the Directorate’s customers and OIG’s review of its products—that it remained effective in achieving its core life safety objectives.

The Directorate requested additional staff in January 2016, when Directorate leadership told the Assistant Secretary that in the absence of increased staff, it was “in danger of not meeting our basic responsibility to analyze, assess, investigate and disseminate threat information and the myriad of other duties for which we are responsible.” This theme was repeated in memoranda prepared for OIG and in personal interviews OIG conducted throughout the Directorate.

Oops! Is it just us or does this look like there’s lots of word padding in this report? Can’t they put these citations of GAO standards, FAM, etc in the footnotes? A third to a half of these sample paragraphs below are just descriptions of what’s in the manual or guidance. C’mon, the folks drafting this report can do better than this, right? And by the way, this is not the only report that has these word paddings.  See below:

Management Challenges

OIG found that increased staffing alone would be insufficient to address the Directorate’s management challenges. For example, a lack of coordination and communication between its offices and officers was unrelated to staffing shortfalls. OIG learned that mid-level officers were unfamiliar with the work of other Directorate offices; they did not have a clear understanding of how their work related to that of the Directorate overall; and they did not understand how their functions complemented those of similarly situated staff in other Directorate offices. This lack of familiarity created a risk that staff members would miss opportunities to work more efficiently. Moreover, it was sometimes difficult for them to prioritize tasks and define their audiences in an organization where everything related to the broad mission of protecting life safety. Mid-level staff members also cited the need for greater top-down and lateral communication. Principle 14.02 of the Government Accountability Office Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government emphasizes that management should communicate quality information throughout an entity using established reporting lines and to communicate down, across, up, and around reporting lines to all levels of the entity.

Tone at the Top

The Directorate’s DAS retired on March 4, 2016, days before the end of this inspection. The DS front office chose the ITA office director to replace him. OIG did not evaluate how the new DAS set the tone at the top—leading by example and demonstrating the organization’s values, philosophy, and operating style—because he started the position at the close of the inspection. However, OIG expressed the concern that his direct and forceful communication style, as demonstrated during his tenure as ITA office director, risked inhibiting the free flow of communication in a directorate that was, as discussed above, already challenged by communications issues. OIG advised the new DAS of the importance of adhering to the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 b(4). These address the need for leaders to express themselves clearly and effectively, offer and solicit constructive feedback from others, and anticipate varying points of view by soliciting input.

Top Managers Not Held Accountable for Internal Control Assurance Process

The Directorate’s DAS and office directors did not provide annual internal control assurance statements for the Department’s annual Management Control Assurance Process2. Although lower-level Directorate staff completed the survey questionnaires DS used to confirm compliance with internal control requirements, Directorate managers did not complete assurance statements—as required in 2 FAM 024 of all office directors and higher level officials—due to lack of understanding of the requirements. As a result, DS had no documentation showing that Directorate leaders confirmed adherence to internal control requirements. The Department’s FY 2015 annual Management Control Assurance Process memorandum advised that, “Just as the Secretary’s statement will rely on your assurance statement, your assurance statement must be supported by input from your managers reporting to you.”

If you read the report, you will note that the director of ITA, one of the components was promoted as the new head of the DS/TIA directorate. So we looked at the performance of that component. The report says that 1) ITA lack top-down communication, 2) the office cannot evaluate its products without customer feedback and 3) new program to assign Intelligence Analysts to embassies proves unworkable. Two striking things:

FSOs as Intel Analysts?

“An ITA initiative that sought to place Foreign Service officers trained by ITA as intelligence analysts at embassies in countries designated as high risk for terrorism. Directorate leaders told OIG that after considering lessons learned in this first year, they concluded that the program was unworkable for a variety of practical and logistical reasons. Among them were the difficulty the Directorate faced recruiting employees with the requisite intelligence experience and challenges in arranging for appropriate secure embassy workspaces.”

The notion that FSOs would work overseas as intel analysts for Diplomatic Security is head-shaking painful. If they’ve spent some serious planning on that, they would have known how unworkable that is.  Which career ladder are you going to be on as an intel analyst? Was DS thinking of intel analysis as a collateral duty for FSOs overseas? What career track would that be on? What posts are intel analysts going to be on? What kind of onward assignments can you expect? As for recruitment, why would people with requisite intel experience leave their agencies and join a small office that’s not even hooked up to the intel community? The report did not show how much this unworkable program costs, and what lessons were learned here. The inspectors did not seem interested in all that.

A keen observant told us:  “I don’t see much digging: poor planning associated with these pet projects: deployed analyst program and the new “everything but the kitchen sink” division within ITA.” 

Oh, we want to know more about this “everything but the kitchen sink” division. Then there’s this:

Nonmembership in US Intel Community?

“ITA analysts were unaware of leadership’s decision on membership in the U.S. Government Intelligence Community. Of the 23 ITA analysts interviewed, half cited advantages of membership, including the increased access to information and training that they believed it would bring. ITA leadership, however, told OIG that it had already concluded that it was more advantageous for ITA to not join the Intelligence Community but had not informed the staff of its decision.”

Did you hear the guffaws over there?

ITA is tasked with analyzing all-source intelligence on terrorist activities and threats directed against chief of mission personnel and U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas. The office also monitors threats against the Secretary of State, U.S. Government officials, foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and U.S.- based foreign diplomats and missions.  ITA leadership told OIG that “it was more advantageous for ITA to not join the Intelligence Community.” More advantageous to be walled off from the IC? How? The report does not discuss what “membership” means and what it entails, nor the advantages/disadvantages from nonmembership. It just accepts the director’s assessment that “it was more advantageous.” Folks, that’s stenography!

Overheard: “DS seems to think that the Intelligence Community is a round wooden table in a sealed-off room – a skull and bones-type membership. They talk about it in the report like they are debating on whether to have a pizza party.” We think that’s a well-deserved criticism.

Another directorate component PII took on additional workload without increasing its staff. Further, the report offers no dicussion on the Rewards for Justice Program which is also under PII. State.gov says that the Rewards for Justice program continues to be one of the most valuable U.S. Government assets in the fight against international terrorism. Okay. But how effective is RJF? This OIG report doesn’t say.

PII also expanded its support of DS coverage of special events, such as the World Cup. OIG reviewed the number of hours agents (but not intelligence analysts) devoted to these duties during 2015 and found this additional travel took agents away from the office for approximately 3,380 person-days. This equated to roughly one- third of PII’s deployable agents, leaving the remaining agents to accomplish what a significantly larger staff had previously done.

Quick takes on the other three components of the TIA Directorate

Office of Protective Intelligence and Investigations (PII)
–Expanded Workload Strains Manpower
— Supervisors do Not Readily Know the Status of Investigative Cases
–Taskings are Not Coordinated

Diplomatic Security Command Center (DSCC)
–No Metrics for Gauging Customer Satisfaction
–Overuse of the Law Enforcement Sensitive Caveat Limits Dissemination of Information

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
–Short-term Extensions for Third Party Contractor Employees Create Challenges

*

We’re Adding Our Thumbs Up for @OSAC!

On a positive side, we should add that we are end-users of OSAC’s products and have been happy to see some improvements in the service it provides with timely maps, responsiveness, and infographic of U.S. interests overseas like the one below. OSAC folks are quite responsive when asked for additional information; occasionally even relaying our requests for confirmation.  When events are breaking overseas, our first stop is @OSAC on Twitter.  Sometimes they have the security message up before posts could even post those messages on the embassy’s website.

One thing we think they can improve is having a handler on duty 24/7 managing its Twitter account. When news break overseas affecting U.S. citizens, posts are not always ready or able to provide updated information.  But OSAC can do that on posts’ behalf.  Now if you can actually remove the stovepipe between Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs, and at least on social media have @OSAC and @TravelGov work together, that would not only make the most sense (together they can do 24/7 coverage) but could also generate the most timely, needed updates especially during these now frequent emergencies.

The report is originally posted here (PDF) or read it below (use arrow in lower right hand corner in box below to maximize reading space).

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Attacks on Grand-Bassam Beach Resorts Kill 16 People in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted: 7:17 pm EDT
Updated: March 14, 2:46 am EDT
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BBC News reports that Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 16 people in gun attacks on beach resorts in southern Ivory Coast. “The attackers fired on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan. The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, officials say.”

 

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued a couple of security messages. The first one dated March 13 with no timestamp says that the U.S. Embassy has received reports of gun shots in Grand Bassam and “advises American citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to defer travel to Grand Bassam and if you are there to shelter in place.”

The second security message also without a timestamp was issued subsequently saying that the embassy “is aware of an ‎attack in Grand-Bassam. ‎We refer you to the Cote d’Ivoire authorities for the most up-to-date information.” It also says that the embassy “advises U.S. citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to avoid any unnecessary travel until further notice.”

These messages are not on Twitter or Facebook. At 1:05 pm on March 13, Embassy Abidjan tweeted the following message, mirrored on its FB page:

 

Related items:

 

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Car Bomb Targets Turkish Capital, Ankara: Explosion Kills 32, Injures 100+ in Kizilay Area

Posted: 5:40 pm EDT
Updated: 6:58 pm EDT
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Media reports says that a huge explosion hit the Turkish capital of Ankara on March 13, killing 27 people and wounding at least 75 others. The blast happened just before 6.45 pm local time at Kizilay Square near Guven Park.   Latest reports put those killed at 32 people and the wounded at over a hundred individuals. Several vehicles were also reportedly destroyed or damaged in the explosion, which took place in the Kizilay area of Ankara, about 25 minutes walk from the U.S. embassy.  This is the third bombing in the country, and the second one in Ankara this year alone. On February 27, 2016, a car bomb targeting the Turkish military in Ankara also killed 29 people.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara has sent out an emergency message informing all U.S. citizens of “a bombing near Kizilay Square.”  It says it is working to gather more details and urged citizens “to avoid the Kizilay/Ulus area and follow media reports for the latest developments.” Embassy Ankara previously issued a security message to Americans in Turkey warning of a potential terrorist threat in the Bahcelievler area of Ankara.

 

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And an important note, given speculations about the prior warning issued by the embassy:

 

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Burn Bag: If Pfizer becomes Irish Pfizer, will @StateDept kick it out of OSAC?

Via Burn Bag:

“If Pfizer becomes Irish to lower its taxes, will the State Department kick Pfizer out of Diplomatic Security’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)?  Let Irish Pfizer contact the nearest Irish Embassy in case there’s a problem.”

Via Gifdumpster/Tumblr

Via Gifdumpster/Tumblr

Note: The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) was created in 1985 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State.  The office is led by an Executive Council of private sector organizations and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, under the U.S. Department of State.  News report says that Pfizer, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York City, with its research headquarters in Groton, Connecticut, will shift its global headquarters to Ireland, for tax purposes, following a deal to merge with smaller Dublin-based rival Allergan in a transaction that is expected to close next year.  If the move is successful, Pfizer’s global profits will potentially be liable for tax at 12.5% rate in Ireland instead of the 35% in the United States.

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US Embassy Guyana: Is this the consequence of midlevel staffing/experience gaps?

On Thursday, July 18, three persons were killed when police opened fire on protestors in Linden opposed to the increase in electricity rates. Linden is the second largest town in Guyana after Georgetown, and the capital of the Upper Demerara-Berbice region. According to local reports, police said they were forced to fire pellets into the crowd because many of them were robbing persons and burning vehicles.

Map extracted from 2008 OIG report of US Embassy Guyana

Also on Thursday, the following message was posted on US Embassy Guyana’s Facebook page:

Statement by Diplomatic Representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America on the Deaths of Protesters in Linden

Georgetown, Guyana – The diplomatic representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America wish to express their profound regret at the tragic loss of life that took place July 18th in Linden. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives or suffered injury.

We appeal to all parties and stakeholders to work together in a spirit of national unity to prevent any further violence and to resolve current tensions through an open and inclusive dialogue.

The same local report says that “…. the United States embassy in an internal memo told staff to stay away from Linden, the scene of “violent protests,” and be careful when moving about in Georgetown where there are “ongoing protests.”

One of our readers named anon y mouse, noting the absence of a Warden Message on the Embassy website, or a Travel Alert on travel.state.gov. asked if there is a “double standard” here.

We will crib here from our old blog post on Bogota about the “no double standard policy:”

The State Department has what is called the “no double standard” policy  in its travel information program. 7 FAM dictates that if State shares important security threat information including criminal information with the official U.S. community, such information should also be made available to the non-official U.S. community.  Selective notification is against the law.  The regs also says that “If a post issues information to its employees about potentially dangerous situations, it should evaluate whether the potential danger could also affect private U.S. citizens/U.S. non-citizen nationals living in or traveling through the affected area.”

And actually 7 FAM 053.2-2 (e) below has very clear reminders which says:

“Remember that if you conclude you should warn your personnel or any U.S. Government employees, whether permanently stationed or on temporary duty abroad, about a security threat, your request for Department approval to warn post personnel should also include a request to share that same information with the non-official U.S. community under the “no double standard” policy (see 7 FAM 052). The policy applies whether the information is shared with U.S. Government employees in town meetings, in post newsletters, by e-mail, or on the telephone. The threat or warning information might include information about locations within the host country including hotels, restaurants, entertainment spots, places of worship, tourist sites, etc. Unless the threat is specific to a particular institution for reasons peculiar to that institution, you should not list names of specific locations, including names of hotels or restaurants, for which threat or warning information is available. You should also refrain from developing lists of “approved” hotels. In providing such lists to the community, you may actually increase the risk that perpetrators could change the target, thus increasing the risk to U.S. citizens/nationals who may be relying on such lists. (underlined for emphasis).

We checked the embassy’s website and social media presence.  There was that message on Facebook from the diplomatic reps, including the United States, and there is a tweet referencing it but there is no emergency or warden message on the embassy’s website or FB/Twitter or in the embassy blog, The Demerara Diaries.

Via FB

Via Twitter

Via US Embassy Guyana website, screen grab of July 21, 2012

But on July 19, the US Embassy actually issued an Emergency Message to US citizens. But you won’t know that from checking the embassy’s website or visiting its social media accounts.  Why? Because it’s not there.  We actually found it on the Diplomatic Security-run OSAC website here only because we knew what we were looking for.

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Demonstrations in Linden (Guyana)
Political Violence
Western Hemisphere > Guyana > Georgetown
7/19/2012
This message advises U.S. citizens in Guyana to exercise caution when in public due to violent protests in Linden and ongoing protests in Georgetown in response to a rise in electricity rates. The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens in Guyana to limit your movement in and around Georgetown and Linden and to avoid unnecessary travel throughout the country.

The recent protests in Linden resulted in property damage and loss of life.  Protests are being held July 19 at Eve Leary Police Headquarters in response to the events in Linden.  Protests in Georgetown are ongoing and may extend to other locations.

The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to avoid large public gatherings. Be aware of traffic delays and increased pedestrian presence in the potential problem areas listed above. Note that this list of problem areas is not comprehensive, and you should exercise caution throughout Guyana.

Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable.  You should avoid them if at all possible.  Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what the local news media has to say.

Really, how useful are those social media platforms?  To our last count, the embassy has two Facebook pages (one solely for the consular section). It has a separate photo gallery, streaming videos and is on Flickr, Twitter and Tumblr.  And not a single one of these outlets has the link to the emergency message, that it’s own consular section presumably put out on July 19.  Would a US citizen in Guyana know to look at the OSAC website for the embassy’s emergency message? (Note: As of July 22, 3:26 AM EST, no relevant update on the embassy’s website/social media fronts).

In addition to that, Guyanese Online published what it says is an internal memo to embassy employees, part of which says:

“Regional Security Officer (RSO) advises to limit your exposure in and around Georgetown to necessary travel. Travel to Linden is prohibited until further notice,” states the document.

There are a couple of things at issue here: 1) the Emergency Message published via OSAC and the internal memo from RSO are not anywhere on the embassy’s online presence; could be due to IT issues (like webmaster on leave, no back up) or internet availability (we’re stretching here but we don’t know how good or bad is the accessibility in country). The message after it’s cleared must go to the PA or IT section, or the social media ninjas and whoever is in charge of maintaining the website.  We won’t call this a double standard since the Emergency Message actually went out; the fact that it’s not on the embassy’s website or related outlets is more like somebody dropping the ball …. because it happens.

2) the Emergency Message did not include the fact that embassy employees were prohibited from traveling to Linden until further notice. This is the more troubling part, because the regs are darn clear. And it appears that in this case, the embassy told official Americans they are prohibited from traveling to Linden, but did not/not share this information with the non-official American community in its Emergency Message.  But then we saw this:

Via US Embassy Guyana website, screen capture of July 21, 2012

We can’t help but wonder if this is all a simple oversight/folks dropping the ball into the ocean or if this is an example of the consequences of the Foreign Service midlevel staffing and experience gaps reported by GSO  GAO recently?  (see Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in FY2023).

The last time the OIG visited the US Embassy Guyana was in 2008. It is one of those posts described as “previously neglected” as a “back water” post – among the last in line to receive support” according to the 2008 report.

At the time of that inspection, the report said that “it is regrettable the Department has not done a better job of ensuring that some experienced consular cone officers are regularly assigned to this hard-to-fill post. Its consular section was (maybe still is) staffed by “an assortment of Civil Service officers on excursion tours, out-of-cone and entry-level Foreign Service officers, and a consular associate.”

The 2008 inspection also reported the following details:

  • “the regional security office has had a rotation of 15 temporary duty regional security officers before the arrival of the incumbent.”
  • “Numerous temporary-duty employees have been sent from Wash­ington to fill gaps, at least partially, but this leads to a lack of continuity in positions where there is not a strong corps of LE staff to provide historical perspective.”
  • “28 LE staff was terminated in the past two years,” but the report points out that “none was terminated for malfeasance, notwithstanding a his­tory of such problems that included a previous consular officer.”

Staffing at the embassy was reportedly “chronically short,” despite being accorded a 25 percent hardship allowance and and official designation as a hard-to-fill post.

As of July 15, 2012, Guyana is a 25% hardship and 25% COLA assignment.

We’d like to think that something happened since 2008 to fix the problems pointed out in the 2008 report of US Embassy Guyana. But — Guyana remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and unless we missed it, the country has not moved into a “front water” priority post for the State Department.

And seriously? — with AIP posts sucking out the oxygen from practically every part of the U.S. Foreign Service, who has a spare oxygen tank for a post like Georgetown?

But – despite all that we can’t give post an easy pass.  Given that the protection of US citizens is one of the embassy’s most important responsibility overseas or so they say, the American Citizen Services chief (or if there isn’t one, the Consular chief) should have been working hand in glove with the embassy’s Security Officer. And if neither the consular section nor the security office is well versed on the “no double standard” policy — surely somebody at the front office has this drummed into their heads?

We just hope that no US citizen becomes a victim at the next riots in Linden.

Update@ 11:55 AM PST
Peter Van Buren
, a Consular Officer before he was put on deep ice, points out another possible explanation:

Let’s imagine inside the Embassy the usual fight about saying anything bad about the host nation. RSO and/or CONs knows of the danger and wants to warn people, which will trigger the “no double standard” rule. POL and/or the Front Office are worried about bilateral relations. So, the “compromise” is to release the info publicly, sort of, in a way that gets it out there enough for CYA but not enough to create a stir.
I saw this more than once in my own career. RSO or CONs used the channel it controls (newsletter) to disseminate info and the Front Office blocked it from the channel it controls (web site).
Ah yes, that familiar bureaucratic battle.  Although more often than not, we think that battle occurs in relation to the issuance of the Consular Information Sheet or the Travel Warning.  Warden/emergency messages are not exempted from that battle, of course, but we don’t know if that’s what happened here.  If it is, then that’s when you need a Consular Officer, one with balls who will stand up to POL and/or the front office on the mat of 7 FAM 050.

Domani Spero