Amb. Prudence Bushnell: Terrorism, Betrayal and Resilience (Book Preview)

 

 

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ADST-DACOR Book Launch: Amb. Prudence Bushnell’s Account of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings

Ambassador Prudence Bushnell’s book, Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience: My Story of the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings will be available on October 1. On October 2, ADST-DACOR will hold a book launch at the DACOR Bacon House. This is the 65th volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series.

Date: October 2
Time: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
To RSVP please email: programs@dacorbacon.org if you plan to attend the reception (free of charge)

Via Amazon: On August 7, 1998, three years before President George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, the radical Islamist group al-Qaeda bombed the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where Prudence Bushnell was serving as U.S. ambassador. Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience is her account of what happened, how it happened, and its impact twenty years later.

When the bombs went off in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania that day, Congress was in recess and the White House, along with the entire country, was focused on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Congress held no hearings about the bombings, the national security community held no after-action reviews, and the mandatory Accountability Review Board focused on narrow security issues. Then on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. homeland and the East Africa bombings became little more than an historical footnote.

Terrorism, Betrayal, and Resilience is Bushnell’s account of her quest to understand how these bombings could have happened given the scrutiny bin Laden and his cell in Nairobi had been getting since 1996 from special groups in the National Security Council, the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA. Bushnell tracks national security strategies and assumptions about terrorism and the Muslim world that failed to keep us safe in 1998 and continue unchallenged today. In this hard-hitting, no-holds-barred account she reveals what led to poor decisions in Washington and demonstrates how diplomacy and leadership going forward will be our country’s most potent defense.

“Ambassador Prudence Bushnell is a true professional with the toughness, grit, courage, and compassion that marks the kind of superb leader you want in charge during a crisis. I witnessed her remarkable composure, even when personally injured, and her take-command leadership style. This book is important for many reasons. It vividly presents a profile in courage; an understanding rarely appreciated about our foreign service men and women working in difficult assignments; a set of valuable lessons learned; and a case study in leadership during crisis. Every American should read this book.”—Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

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US Embassy Rwanda Remembers 26 Local Employees Killed in 1994 Genocide

Posted: 12:25 am EDT
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To read about the frustrations of dealing with inaction from Washington, see Ambassador Prudence Bushnell interview, A Soul Filled with Shame via ADST. Below is an excerpt:

Once the RPF took over Rwanda, I was sent to check things out. It was yet another surreal experience. The countryside of one of the most populous countries in the world was literally deadly quiet. Berries ready to harvest were rotting on the coffee trees; houses stood vacant. The man who served as the ambassador’s driver drove us. When we were stopped by child soldiers at checkpoints, I learned never to look them in the eye. As we drove we heard the story of how the driver had hidden and what happened to some of the other embassy employees. Many were dead.

I participated in a memorial service for the FSNs [local Foreign Service employees] who were killed. I will never forget looking into the stony faces of employees who had been abandoned by the U.S. government. American officers who came up to speak would weep, to a person. The Rwandans just looked at us. I can only imagine what they were thinking and the trauma that was still with them.

She was asked what was the rationale for not getting involved:

“We had no interest in that country.” “Look at what they did to Belgian peacekeepers.” “It takes too long to put a peacekeeping operation together.” “What would our exit strategy be?” “These things happen in Africa.” “We couldn’t have stopped it.” I could go on….

I could and did make the argument that it was not in our national interest to intervene. Should we  send young Americans into a domestic firefight, possibly to be killed on behalf of people we don’t know in a country in which we have no particular interest? From the perspective of national interest, people like Richard Clarke will argue we did things right.

In terms of moral imperative there is no doubt in my mind that we did not do the right thing. I could have a clear bureaucratic conscience from Washington’s standpoint and still have a soul filled with shame.

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State Dept’s Albright Archive – Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, August 7, 1998

— Domani Spero
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Sixteen years ago today, the near simultaneous vehicular bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 7, 1998, cost the lives of over 220 persons and wounded more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed. The current U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Robert F. Godec, Jr. was the Econ Counselor at Embassy Nairobi in 1998.

Below is an excerpt from Ambassador Prudence Bushnell’s oral history interview in 2005, recalling that day (via ADST Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, July 21, 2005 (full interview-pdf):

“The worst three days of the crisis were the first three: Friday, when we were blown up; Saturday when the rescuers finally arrived to create even more chaos; and then Sunday when we held a memorial service for the Americans and dealt with the international news media. Of course they wanted a press conference. I did not want any photographs taken, because I looked pretty banged up but was persuaded otherwise. I smile, because about a week later my OMS came up to me and said, “You know Pru, I really shouldn’t be saying this, but I’ve been seeing pictures of you on television and in the newspaper and I have to say it’s good that you got your hair done a few days before we were bombed. As bad as you looked, your hair was okay.”…

When Secretary Albright did come I had two conditions: that we not have to prepare briefing papers, because we had lost all of our computers, and we had nothing, nothing. And the other, that she not spend the night, because the security involved in that would have been so astronomical. As it turned out, the plane had problems in Dar, where she had first stopped, and she had to cut her trip short.
[…]
Once the Secretary and her entourage came and left, we received what I began to call the disaster tourists. Well meaning people from various parts of Washington who couldn’t do a thing to help us. In November I sent a cable to Washington requesting by name the people we wanted to visit. The response was “Now wait a minute, you’re complaining about the visitors who are coming and now you want others. You’re sending very mixed messages here.” They didn’t seem to understand the difference between those VIPs who could be part of the solution and those having their photographs taken in the remains of the embassy.

 

Photo via US Embassy Tanzania website

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright makes private visit to the U.S. Mission in Dar es Salaam on November 29, 2006. She laid a wreath at a memorial honoring the 11 lives lost on August 7, 1998, when the Chancery building was bombed. U.S. Ambassador Michael L. Retzer joined Secretary Albright at the wreath laying ceremony. Photo via US Embassy Tanzania

Also below are docs extracted from the State Department’s Albright Archive on the announcements, public notices, briefings and reports following the twin East Africa bombings.

 

* January 1999: Report of the Accountability Review Boards on the Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998

  • 01/08/99: Statement by Secretary Albright on the Accountability Review Boards Report
  • 01/08/99: Special Briefing by the Chairman on the Report

PUBLIC NOTICES

  • Admiral William Crowe Sworn in as Chairman of Accountability Review Boards for Embassy Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
  • Worldwide Caution in light of the recent U.S. military strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, and possible threats to Americans and American interests overseas.
  • U.S. Strikes on Terrorist-Related Facilities in Sudan and Afganistan
  • Condolences
  • $2 Million Reward: Persons wishing to report information about these bombings, or any other terrorist attack, should contact the authorities or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In the U.S., contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation or call the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service at 1-800-HEROES-1 (within U.S. only). Information may also be provided by writing: HEROES, P.O. Box 96781, Washington, D.C. 20090-6781, USA

Updates . . .

The Secretary of State:
*08/27/98: Remarks on apprehension of suspects in bombings of U.S. embassies, FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
* 08/18/98: Remarks to U.S. Embassy staff and family members, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
* 08/18/98: Joint press availability following meeting with Tanzanian Foreign Minister Jakaya Kikwete, Dar es Salaam
* 08/18/98: Remarks at the Site of the Bombing at U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya
* 08/17/98: Remarks Before Departure to Kenya and Tanzania, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland
* 08/14/98: Remarks with Colonel Rick Erdman after visit with East African Bombing Victims and Families, Walter Reed Hospital
* 08/13/98: Remarks with President Clinton and Defense Secretary Cohen at ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in Kenya and Tanzania, Andrews Air Force Base
* 08/12/98: Remarks at Ramstein Air Force Base, Ramstein, Germany
* 08/12/98: Remarks prior to departure for Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany
* 08/11/98: Response to Statement by the African Ambassadors to the U.S.
* 08/12/98: Secretary Albright travels to Ramstein, Germany
* 08/10/98: Interview on CBS Evening News, Washington, D.C.
* 08/10/98: Remarks with Director General Gnehm to State Department Employees
— $2 Million Reward
* 08/09/98: Interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet The Press” With Tim Russert, Washington, D.C.
* 08/08/98: Statement on the deaths in Nairobi, Kenya
* 08/07/98: Statement on bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania

The President: 
* President Clinton Radio Address (8/15/98)
* President Clinton, Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen at ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in Kenya and Tanzania, Andrews Air Force Base (8/13/98)
* President Clinton Radio Address (8/8/98)
* Remarks by President William Clinton, The White House (8/7/98)
A Proclamation by the President on the bombing incident (8/7/98)

Special Press Briefings:
* August 13, 1998
* August 11, 1998
* August 10, 1998
* August   7, 1998

What Happened?
* Bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (8/7/98)

Travel

  • Global Alert and Consular Services: Worldwide cautions, current travel safety information for specific countries, American citizens services abroad, and visa services abroad.

Background Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Kenya: Isn’t That Travel Warning Odd or What?

— Domani Spero
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The State Department issued a Travel Warning for Kenya on May 15 warning of the risks of travel to Kenya, of potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests, and the restriction of U.S. Government personnel travel in country. We blogged about it here (See US Embassy Kenya Restricts USG Personnel Travel, New Travel Warning).

On May 16, the AP, citing a letter sent to embassy employees that day, reported  that the U.S. ambassador in Kenya Robert Godec has requested additional Kenyan and American security personnel and is reducing the size of the embassy staff due to increased terrorist threats in Kenya.

We don’t know when the actual request was made but the May 15 Travel Warning did not include the information on additional security personnel or the reduction of staff.

On Saturday, May 17, Ambassador Godec released the following statement:

[T]he U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at both Kenyans and the international community.   The most important responsibility of every U.S. Ambassador and Embassy is to protect American citizens and to keep them informed.  The United States greatly appreciates the Kenyan government’s rapid response to requests for additional security at diplomatic facilities while it also increases security at public and other critical venues.

The Embassy is continuously reviewing and updating its security measures, and expects to take additional steps in coming days, to include on U.S. staffing. We remain open for normal operations and have no plan to close the Embassy.

We could not remember a post in recent memory that announced a reduction in staffing before it actually happens.  But the reduction in staffing was already widely reported in the media. As well as the request for additional security personnel for post.

We imagined that the Consular folks were up in arms with the “No Double Standard” Policy, which requires that  important security threat information if shared with the official U.S. community (generally defined as Americans working for the U.S. government abroad), must be made available to the wider American community if the threat applies to both official and non-official Americans.

On May 17, the two-day old Travel Warning was replaced with an updated one noting that, “Based on the security situation, the Embassy is reviewing its staffing with an eye toward reduction in staff in the near future.  The Embassy will remain open for normal operations.”

Meanwhile, according to AFP, Kenya’s foreign ministry had accused several foreign nations of “unfriendly acts” and “noted with disappointment” the warnings by Australia, Britain, France and the United States, after they issued travel warnings for coastal regions following a wave of attacks and unrest linked to Islamist extremists.

We should note that US Embassy Nairobi is the largest U.S. embassy in Africa with a staff of more than 1,300 among 19 federal agency offices, including more than 400 U.S. direct hires and over 800 local employees. As of this writing, the embassy has not been declared on authorized departure, the first phase in a staffing reduction.

Ambassador Godec was assigned as the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya in August 2012 following the departure of Ambassador Gration.  He was nominated by President Obama on September 19, 2012 to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and sworn in by Secretary of State Clinton on January 16, 2013.  Prior to his assignment in Nairobi, Ambassador Godec was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT) in the Department of State.

Since Nairobi is the site of one of our most catastrophic embassy attacks, we will add the following detail from the Nairobi ARB report in 1999 in the aftermath of the twin East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania:

Ambassador Bushnell, in letters to the Secretary in April 1998, and to Under Secretary Cohen a month later, restated her concern regarding the vulnerability of the embassy, repeating the need to have a new chancery that would meet Inman standards. Ms. Cohen responded in June stating that, because of Nairobi’s designation as a medium security threat post for political violence and terrorism and the general soundness of the building, its replacement ranked relatively low among the chancery replacement priorities. She drew attention to FBO’s plan to extend the chancery’s useful life and improve its security to include $4.1 million for the replacement of the windows.

As of this writing,there is no update on reduction of staffing at post. On May 20, US Embassy Nairobi issued the following Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Protests in Nairobi Turn Violent.

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Insider Quote: there is absolutely no point in worrying about what is going to happen ….

Prudence Bushnell | U.S. Ambassador—Nairobi 1998 via:

“I would advise anyone going overseas to take our security training very seriously, to participate in the crises management exercises that are held at post every two years and if possible to volunteer, if you’re in Washington, to serve on a crisis task force, so that you get a sense of what happens from a Washington perspective – as you can get a sense of what happens overseas from participating in crisis management exercises.  I would then say, “Go out and enjoy yourself, because there is absolutely no point in worrying about what is going to happen to you – because what is going to happen is going to happen.”  Worrying doesn’t make any difference.  And if you have joined a community and if you have put your energies into participating in a community, and if you have gone through training about what to do during a crisis, just depend on yourself and one another, and you can get through it.”

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U.S. Mission Kenya Commemorates 15th Anniversary of August 7 Embassy Bombing

By Domani Spero

In a ceremony in Nairobi today, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec and the U.S. embassy community honored the victims of the August 7, 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy.  Before laying a wreath at the memorial obelisk on the Embassy grounds, the U.S. marines presented colors, the Ambassador and a Kenyan staff member of the Embassy shared thoughts on the tragedy and its meaning for Kenyans and Americans, and the hundreds of staff members of the Embassy observed a moment of silence in remembrance of those killed and injured.

NAIROBI_Catherine Kamau George Mimba Ambassador Robert F Godec and Bill Lay_02

Catherine Kamau (Left) and George Mimba (Second Left) both locally employed staff from the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Ambassador Robert F Godec (Second Right) and Bill Lay (Right) at the Memorial Park. (Photo via US Embassy Nairobi)

And because there were too many dead, and too many wounded, we should revisit how we got there. Also of particular note, the disaster tourists and photo opportunists:

Via ADST:

It was one of the most horrific events in U.S. diplomatic history. On August 7, 1998, between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time, suicide bombers parked trucks loaded with explosives outside the embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and almost simultaneously detonated them. In Nairobi, approximately 212 people were killed, and an estimated 4,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85. Prudence Bushnell, a career Foreign Service Officer, was Ambassador to Kenya at the time and relates to Stu Kennedy of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training the harrowing events of those days.

Read her complete oral history here.

 BUSHNELL: In the ’90s, President Clinton felt compelled to give the American people their peace dividend, while Congress thought that now that the Cold War was over there was no need for any significant funding of intelligence, foreign affairs or diplomacy. There were discussions about whether we needed embassies now that we had 24-hour news casts, e-mail, etc. Newt Gingrich and the Congress closed the federal government a couple of times. Agencies were starved of funding across the board. Needless to say, there was no money for security. Funding provided in the aftermath of the bombing of our embassy in Beirut in the ’80s that created new building standards for embassies and brought in greater numbers of diplomatic security officer dried up.

As an answer to lack of funding, State Department stopped talking about need. For example, when we had inadequate staff to fill positions, State eliminated the positions, so we no longer can talk about the need. If there’s no money for security, then let’s not talk about security needs. The fact of increasing concern at the embassy about crime and violence was irrelevant in Washington. So was the condition of our building.

[…]

When I returned to Washington on consultations in December of ’97, I was told point blank by the AF Executive Office to stop sending cables because people were getting very irritated with me. That really pushed up my blood pressure. Later, in the spring of ’98, for the first time in my career I was not asked for input into the “Needs Improvement” section of my performance evaluation. That’s always a sign! When I read the criticism that “she tends to overload the bureaucratic circuits,” I knew exactly what it referred to. Yes, the cables had been read, they just weren’t appreciated.

In the years since the bombing, I learned just out just how much I did not know about U.S. national security and law enforcement efforts against al Qaeda. The information was highly compartmentalized, on a “need to know” basis and clearly Washington did not think the US ambassador needed to know. So, while I was aware of the al Qaeda presence and various U.S. teams coming and going, I did not know, nor was I told, what they were learning. When the Kenyans finally broke up the cell in the spring of ’98, I figured “that was that.”

[..]

Once the Secretary and her entourage came and left, we received what I began to call the disaster tourists. Well meaning people from various parts of Washington who couldn’t do a thing to help us. In November I sent a cable to Washington requesting by name the people we wanted to visit. The response was “Now wait a minute, you’re complaining about the visitors who are coming and now you want others. You’re sending very mixed messages here.” They didn’t seem to understand the difference between those VIPs who could be part of the solution and those having their photographs taken in the remains of the embassy.

Read in full here.

At the US Embassy in Tanzania, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85. There doesn’t seem to be any remembrances or commemoration in Dar es Salaam as of this writing.

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Ambassador Prudence Bushnell: At the NPC on Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Via the NPC:

Ambassador Prudence Bushnell, CEO of consulting firm Sage Associates, will address embassy security in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi at a Newsmaker press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 5 in the Zenger Room.

The attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens shined a harsh spotlight on whether the State Department had taken sufficient steps to keep its diplomats safe and how such threats are assessed.

Bushnell, chief of mission in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, when Al Qaeda members, under orders from Osama bin Laden, exploded a massive truck bomb outside the U.S. Embassy there. The blast killed 213 people, including 44 U.S. government employees.

Bushnell has also served as U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala and dean of the Leadership School at the Foreign Service Institute.

The Zenger Room is located the 13th Floor of the National Press Building, 529 14th St., NW, Washington, D.C. For more information, contact Anthony E. Gallo at 202-544-6973 or by email at agallo2368@verizon.net.

Should be interesting to hear her take particularly on a COM request that does not get a hearing on the Seventh Floor, something familiar to the ambassador who wrote to a Secretary of State, and never got a response.  We have blogged about Ambassador Bushnell’s entry in the Oral History (see Rice Conspiracy: “Cover-Up” Now Extends to the 1998 East Africa Bombings? Why Not Just Add the Fake Moon Landing, too?).

— DS

 

 

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WhirledView: Benghazi and State: Where do the bucks stop?

WhirledView’s Patricia Kushlis (a 27-year veteran of the Foreign Service) asks, where the bucks stop on Benghazi?

Why, at the lower floors absolutely, where else?

But — we heard that people inside the building have been asking/discussing uncomfortable questions like — by what process did the State Department chose one NEA deputy assistant secretary (DAS) who may or may not have had Libya in his portfolio and three Diplomatic Security (DS) officials for discipline?  What were the criteria for such discipline?  Why were the NEA Assistant Secretary and Principal Assistant Secretary (PDAS) not in the mix? Who made the decision? Also on what basis did Administration/Department officials decide to extend the “temporary” Benghazi presence by another year?  On the basis of what criteria did Department leaders recently designate top-priority high risk, high threat posts?

All that we’ve talked about in our previous postings.

New Diplomatic Security Office to Monitor 17 High Threat Diplomatic Missions (With ARB Update)

State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts

Accountability Review Board Fallout: Who Will be Nudged to Leave, Resign, Retire? Go Draw a Straw

How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?

Patricia’s post asking where those darn bucks should stop is good reading because so far those bucks have not stopped spinning.  She talks about leadership or lack thereof insider the big house, some of the characters in this badly done episode and a possible resolution in the next season.  Excerpt below:

The report corroborates that multiple mistakes were made – not just that tragic night – but in the months before. They go deep into the heart of the system’s weaknesses.  Leadership – or actually lack thereof – is a problem the report alludes to with capital Ls although names of officials above the Assistant Secretary, or bureaucratic Firewall, as Diplopundit put it, are missing. This might be adequate for a networked organization but the State Department is institutionalized hierarchy personified and the report tells us that news of the attack was being called in as it happened to State’s 24/7 Diplomatic Security Center and relayed to the NSC and elsewhere.  At least that piece of the building apparently works as it should.
[…]
Before Hillary Clinton set foot in the department, she knew that it suffered from severe financial and administrative stress.  She smartly established a Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources bringing in Jack LewObama’s current Chief of Staff and now nominee to become the next Treasury Secretary – to fill the new position.  Lew lasted at State about a year, spent his time addressing budgetary deficiencies and much to his credit, got Congress to approve major funding increases for the beleagured department before he moved on and over to the White House.

Hillary didn’t, however, tackle other flashing yellow light administrative shortcomings – leaving management of the department and the embassies to Patrick F. Kennedy who had been brought back to State by mentor and then Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in 2007. But before that Kennedy had been Chief of Staff at the US Transition Unit in Baghdad in 2004 where he worked for Negroponte and had held the same position in the CPA (2003) – a period of chaos in Iraq when millions upon millions of dollars disappeared.

Why Hillary kept Kennedy in the position after her arrival in 2009 is a mystery.  Anyone who was responsible for coordinating the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies under Madeleine Albright – a real hash job whose Sandy-like after-effects reverberate today – or forbidding American Embassy officers from  attending Obama’s speech in Berlin July 24, 2008 on the grounds it was partisan politics despite the fact that Americans have the freedom to assemble under the US Constitution shrieks foremost, in my view, of a serious lack of judgment.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Then there’s that thorny not-so-little issue of State’s mismangement of diplomatic security  in Africa August 7, 1998 when Al Qaeda blew up the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killing over 220 people including 12 Americans and injuring over 4,000.

For the record: Kennedy was Acting Under Secretary for Management from 1996-7 and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security in 1998 and  Eric Boswell’s first carnation as  Head of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (he was in the same position when Benghazi ignited in September, was supposedly fired but is apparently still in place) was from 1996-98. So Boswell and Kennedy would have been in top management positions in State responsible for Embassy security when then US Ambassador Prudence Bushnell’s requests for better security for Nairobi had been refused.

[…]

It’s too late for Hillary to houseclean as she should have four years ago.  Calling her up to the Hill to confess guilt – or deflect blame – won’t make a difference in the next encounter between American diplomats and militant Islamic terrorists.  But John Kerry, her likely successor, should make tending State’s garden, investigating its Byzantine byways as well as focusing on its financial and human resources – a top priority.  Benghazi needn’t have happened.  There needn’t be a reprise.

Read in full here. 

If Senator Kerry is confirmed, we’d really like to see him stay home some more and and not try and break Condi or Hillary’s travel records. There are lots of stuff that really needs fixing right there inside The Building.

domani spero sig

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Rice Conspiracy: “Cover-Up” Now Extends to the 1998 East Africa Bombings? Why Not Just Add the Fake Moon Landing, too?

Gosh, this is getting exhausting. Aren’t you getting tired of Rice clogging up your feed? And she has not even been nominated yet.

Frontpage.com has this screaming headline: How Susan Rice Covered Up the Kenya Embassy Bombings 14 Years Before Benghazigate

Investors.com has this one: For Susan Rice, Benghazi Was Kenya 1998 Deja Vu

Over at HuffPo, a tamer one: Susan Rice Role In Lead-Up To Africa Embassy Bombings Recalled As Minimal

The 1998 East Africa bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were pulled out of a hat by GOP Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) who recently said:

Those bombings in 1998 resulted in the loss of life of 12 Americans as well as many other foreign nationals, and 4,000 people were injured. And what troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department.

In both cases, the ambassador begged for additional security. The ambassador to Kenya sent repeated messages to the State Department requesting a stronger facility because of the increased threat, and those requests, as in the case of Benghazi, were turned down by the State Department.

I asked Ambassador Rice what her role was. She said that she would have to refresh her memory, but that she was not involved directly in turning down the requests, but surely given her position as the assistant secretary for African affairs she had to be aware of the general threat assessment and of the ambassador’s repeated requests for more security.

Susan Rice was the 12th Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (AF) at the State Department. She held that post from October 9, 1997 – January 20, 2001.  The East Africa embassy bombings which killed 223 people and injured over 4,000 people occurred on August 7, 1998.

The Accountability Review Board (ARB) chaired by Admiral Crowe faulted what it called “systemic and institutional failures in Washington” and concluded that “no employee of the U.S. government” had “breached his or her responsibility.”  You may read it here.

Some members of the Crowe Commission were interviewed recently by the Huffington Post here. The report says that Ambassador Bushnell did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She was reported as having sent  “an emotional plea” to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about the security situation prior to the bombing.

While Ambassador Bushnell did not return request for comments, her 2005 interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training‘s Oral History Project has an extensive account about her life in the Foreign Service including the embassy bombing.

Susan Rice appeared twice by name in the transcript of her interview. First, when Ambassador Bushnell talked about President Clinton, who had just taken office and nominated George Moose as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs:

“George had made the decision to bring in experienced ambassadors as Office Directors. He delegated to them the bulk of the responsibilities and decision-making authorities. The Front Office would exercise a light hand. It was a great idea that did not work because the structure and culture of the Department emphasizes centralized control. George’s successor, Susan Rice, who came from the NSC changed the structure back. I am sorry no one gave this experiment greater time to work because we are wasting an enormous amount of effectiveness and talent by continuing a 19th century, hierarchical model of organization.”

Second, when Ambassador Bushnell was asked: What about the role of the NSC during this whole thing?

BUSHNELL: Richard Clark was the head of Global Affairs and Peace Keeping of the NSC. Susan Rice, his deputy was to take over in the second term of Clinton Administration as assistant secretary for African Affairs. Dick Clark is the one person to this day who will look you in the eye and say, “We did exactly the right thing in Rwanda.” On the other hand, Tony Lake the National Security Advisor at the time talks at length about his regrets.

She also discussed her bureaucratic battles which should be acutely familiar to some folks reading this:

BUSHNELL: I remember that in early 1998 a delegation of counter-terrorist types visited. I met with them in the secure conference room, and when they ended with the pro-forma , “Is there anything we can do for you”? I angrily declared they could answer the god-damn mail. The cursing was intentional because I wanted them to see how frustrated and annoyed I was.I also continued to send cables about our vulnerability, which only became more apparent as we dealt with these threats.

When I reviewed them before meeting with the Accountability Review Board after the bombing, I was astounded by their frequency. General Tony Zinni, Head of Central Command, the military theater under which Kenya fell, understood force protection and agreed with me about the vulnerability of the embassy. With my enthusiastic concurrence he cabled Washington offering one of his own vulnerability assessment teams. That got a reply — not just “no,” but mind your own business.

Q: This team that eventually came out was, I take it, a basically a routine thing from Diplomatic Security?

BUSHNELL: No, it was not a routine thing. I think Tony’s cable, along with continuing concerns we were voicing, finally provoked a response in the form of an assessment team. Meanwhile, when I returned to Washington on consultations in December of ’97, I was told point blank by the AF Executive Office to stop sending cables because people were getting very irritated with me. That really pushed up my blood pressure. Later, in the spring of ’98, for the first time in my career I was not asked for input into the “Needs Improvement” section of my performance evaluation. That’s always a sign! When I read the criticism that “she tends to overload the bureaucratic circuits,” I knew exactly what it referred to. Yes, the cables had been read, they just weren’t appreciated.

Q: Was anything happening at this time from Tanzania from Dar es Salaam? Was there concern there or any of the other?

BUSHNELL: […] In May ’98, the Director General visited Nairobi, and was exposed to the concerns of the community. While he thought we were on the verge of becoming obsessed over security, offered to take a letter back to Secretary Albright. So, I penned a letter suggesting that, when next defending the State Department budget before Congress, she use our vulnerability as an example of why we needed more security funding. I also wrote to the Undersecretary for Management. I received a highly bureaucratic response from the undersecretary’s office – sorry, greater needs elsewhere and no money – but none from the Secretary. That, frankly, didn’t surprise me. To my knowledge, no one in the media has seen the letter to the Secretary so why it has been described as “highly emotional” or a “plea” is beyond me. Actually, it’s not. Stereotyping is alive and well even if wrong.

A side note here – the current Undersecretary for Management or “M” is Patrick Kennedy who had been before several committee hearings up in Congress.  This same position was encumbered by Bonnie R. Cohen from 1997 to 2001.

Below is part of Ambassador Bushnell’s account of the immediate aftermath of the US Embassy Kenya bombing and her telephone calls with Susan Rice, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then President Clinton:

I had lost total track of time, but at some point early on the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs called. I had barely said hello, when the Secretary of State called on the other line. Both voiced shock about the bombing and about the vulnerability of the building. When I told the Secretary, “Madame Secretary, I wrote you a letter,” there was silence. She had not seen it, she said. I wasn’t about to quibble.

Not much later President Clinton called. When he called me “Pru” I knew someone was passing him cue cards because there’s no reason he would know that’s what I call myself.” Anyway, he instructed me to secure the perimeter of the chancery. He may have said “I’m sorry,” I don’t remember because I was so astounded by the importance of security now that we’d been blown up. This is supposed to be the guy who feels our pain.

Once I confirmed that the building next door had collapsed, he ordered me to secure the perimeter there, as well. “But people are still trying to get others out from under the rubble,” I explained. “Oh,” he replied. “Well, then secure the perimeter.” To this day that’s the only interaction I ever had with the President about the bombing!

Ambassador Bushnell also talked about what worked and what did not in honoring the victims of the attack.  She did not mention Susan Rice by name in the transcript but the later was the A/S at the AF Bureau at that time:

BUSHNELL:   …Washington had given us a general Mission Award for Heroism but that was it. It was up to us to take care of whatever individual or other group awards we wanted to give. I asked one of the political officers, poor guy, to do nothing but talk to people and write up awards. Another lesson learned. It was absolutely the wrong thing to do and turned into a mess. The process opened all sorts of wounds, anger and finger-pointing; it pulled people apart rather than bringing them together. So, we focused on commemorating the memorial fountain that day rather than the awards.

The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs came and, to our surprise, so did many of the family members of the Americans who had been killed. Unlike the family members of our deceased Kenyan colleagues, the Americans were very open in their anger — at the way they had been treated by the Department, at the fact that their loved ones had died, at the tragedy imposed so suddenly. It was so painful to witness and even more so, to absorb during a tense meeting after the ceremony.

And then there’s this question about the inner circle of the SoS:

Q: Well, we’re going to have to continue this, but I’ve heard people who dealt with the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright at that time, she was surrounded by a group of people for the most part who were very protective of her and you know, almost vengeful on anybody who might hurt her reputation. Did you feel that at all or at least did you feel that there was a cocoon around her?

BUSHNELL: Very much so. I know they were very mad at me for not allowing the Secretary to visit in the immediate aftermath of the bombing — they made that very clear to me. But, I really didn’t see them as that vengeful. I had traveled with Madeleine Albright and her team when she was at USUN. So, I knew a couple of the people and we had gotten along all right. That said, there was no doubt in my mind as to where their loyalties lay.

The interview is 147-pages long but it is quite a read (PDF).

Now about that moon landing …

597px-Apollo17
Pardon me?  This is a training mockup? … and Susan Rice did what … that footprint on the moon mockup?  But … but … she was only five years old then … that was her on Meet the Press, too?  You heard it where?

Holy screaming goats! What’s next?

domani spero sig