Read and Weep: Congressional Committee Releases Report Questioning Benghazi ARB Investigation

— By Domani Spero

We know folks are kind of Benghazi’ed out.  We’ve lost count how many hearings Congress has done this past year on Benghazi.  The Republicans can be accused of being on persistent offense, but the Democrats can also be accused of persistent defense.  Meanwhile, our people are out there. Folks are still not talking much about the fact that over 50 personnel rescued out of Benghazi, only 7 were State Department personnel and the rest are OGA people.   How many of them have appeared before Congress to answer some questions?  By the way, for those interested, the Congressional Research Service has a couple of DS-related reports: Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch Initiatives, September 12, 2013 and Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues, September 12, 2013.

In any case, you might be Benghazi’ed out, and the House Oversight Committee could easily be accused of partisan witchhunt — because 2016 — but that does not mean that this report has no meat. While this might not be the entire story of what happened inside the State Department in the Benghazi fallout, this tells part of that story.  Mr. Issa’s report used the term “accountability theater” and we can’t say we disagree. It is also not surprising that who you know makes a difference inside the bureaucracy.  While Ambassador Boswell was given access to the classified portion of the ARB, Mr. Bultrowicz did not see the classified ARB until shortly before he appeared before the Committee. Mr. Maxwell did not see the classified ARB until about 6 months later. The classified portion referencing his performance was subsequently declassified. More than a couple of officials indicate confusion as to why Mr. Maxwell was put on administrative leave.  Lee Lohman, the Executive Director for NEA described as “unfair” the treatment received by Mr. Maxwell.

We’re sure senior people would claim they were just doing their jobs in a complicated situation. Or that they were doing the best they could under the circumstances. That maybe, but their best were not/not good enough.  When somebody orders you to do something you know is inherently wrong, would you follow that order or would you rather quit?  One senior official is on the record saying she did not believe Mr. Maxwell’s actions warranted removal as Deputy Assistant Secretary but when asked if she questioned anybody about that, the answer was “no.” So people simply did their jobs and did not ask questions.  That’s that.  Welcome to a lobotomized bureaucracy where smart people do stuff and no longer ask questions.  Quotes below excerpted form the report:

 

Eric Boswell | Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security — 

“To answer your question, there’s no appeal process that I know of. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t have a chance during the ARB, if they were coming to a conclusion, the conclusion that they did, to ask me about it and ask my views about that judgment. That would happen if you were being — in any other kind of review done by inspectors or GAO or whatever, you get an opportunity to comment. I didn’t get an opportunity to comment; I just saw the conclusion, surprised to see the conclusion.”

Scott Bultrowicz | Director, Diplomatic Security Service — 

“No, look. Here is my thing. I will take responsibility for the decisions I made based on the information I had at hand, okay. I mean, and I’m not looking to point the finger, you know. Accountability cuts a wide swath, I think. So I’m not saying I had nothing to do with this. I mean, it would be shame on me if I said I was completely oblivious to everything. I’m willing to take responsibility for the decisions I made based on the information I had. But, you know, to say, well, you should have managed person A more closely, or you should have been more proactive, that’s pretty general to me. And I mean, you know, it is what it is. I respect the members of that panel. They are all very distinguished officials. But yeah, I have a problem with it. I do. I don’t think it’s something that defines me after 27 years of doing everything I’m asked, or at least to say be more direct in the questioning with me when they had the opportunity.”

Raymond Maxwell | Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs —

There are people who will say that because they’ll say you’re still getting paid, and because you’re still getting paid, you don’t have any reason to complain. But you know, it’s not about the money. It’s about your reason for being, if you will. And, you know, frankly, I would have been better off had they said you are fired from the State Department. You go today. Your pay stops, and you’re out of here. I would have been better off because I could have contested that or–I mean, I would have contested it. It would have also been behind. It would have all been behind me and I could have started with the next thing. But as things now stand, I’m still employed. There’s still a possibility that I could come back, so it’s not like I can start something new.

I was scheduled to retire on April 30th, and I made the decision to withdraw my retirement request because I didn’t want to go out under this cloud of suspicion that maybe I had done something, that’s the cloud that–my fear of the cloud of suspicion no longer exists because I have embraced my administrative leave-ness, if you will, and it’s no longer a source of shame for me. It’s now–almost–it’s increasingly becoming a source of pride for me. So, it’s not that big a deal anymore. But now there’s a principle. Now there’s a principle that they did something improperly, immorally, maybe even illegally, and if I just take it laying down, guess what, they’ll do it to somebody else again.”

The House Oversight Committee report includes the following cast of characters in addition to the ARB Four, some with direct quotes from the congressional transcript. There appears to be no quotes from Ms. Lamb and Mr. Kennedy; a quick reading of the 100 99-page report did not indicate how many State Department employees appeared before the Committee, or who were requested to appear but did not.

Elizabeth Dibble

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Elizabeth Dibble is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. She is Elizabeth Jones’ deputy, and the second most senior official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Jeffrey Feltman

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Jeffrey Feltman was the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from August 18, 2009 until May 31, 2012. In December 2011, Feltman requested that Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy approve a continued ad hoc U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012. Kennedy approved.

Gregory Hicks

Deputy Chief of Mission, Libya

Gregory Hicks is the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya. He testified before the Committee on May 8, 2013, describing in detail the events on the ground and his interactions with Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012. The State Department assigned him to a desk job while he awaits an onward assignment.

Elizabeth Jones

Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Elizabeth Jones is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, the most senior official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Jones was the direct supervisor of Raymond Maxwell, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs.

Patrick F. Kennedy

Under Secretary of State for Management

Patrick Kennedy, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service, has served as the Under Secretary of State since 2007. Kennedy approved a memorandum that requested to continue the ad hoc U.S. presence in Benghazi through the end of calendar year 2012.

Charlene Lamb

Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs

The ARB cited Charlene Lamb for failing to provide the requested number of diplomatic security agents at the Benghazi mission and ignoring efforts by her subordinates to improve the staffing challenges at the mission. Lamb was placed on administrative leave in December 2012.

Lee Lohman

Executive Director, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Lee Lohman was the Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Lohman testified that Raymond Maxwell was not involved in any decisions pertaining to the security at Benghazi, and that Patrick Kennedy was highly involved with security decisions that affected Benghazi.

Raymond Maxwell

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs

Raymond Maxwell was the only individual in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs with whom the ARB found fault for the Benghazi attacks. Several witnesses testified that both the ARB and the State Department treated Maxwell unfairly. Maxwell was placed on administrative leave in December 2012.

Brian Papanu

Desk Officer, Libya

Brian Papanu served as the Desk Officer for Libya. He was responsible for obtaining temporary duty staff for Libya and served as a liaison between Washington, D.C. and Tripoli.

William Roebuck

Director, Office of Maghreb Affairs

William Roebuck is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Maghreb Affairs—the position previously held by Raymond Maxwell. He served as the Chargé d’Affaires to Libya from January to June 2013. Prior to that post, he served as the Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs, where he was one of the most knowledgeable policymakers on Libya in the State Department. Roebuck considered shutting down the Benghazi mission due to lack of security.

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Issa — Kerry Paper Shuffling Saga: What’s With the 7-Month Administrative Leave?

— By Domani Spero

On July 31, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa fired another letter to Secretary of State John Kerry inquiring about the status of the four State Department personnel officially assigned blame over the disaster in Benghazi.  Diplomatic Security officials, Eric Boswell, Charlene Lamb, Steve Bultrowicz and NEA official, Raymond Maxwell were placed on paid administrative leave following the release of the ARB Benghazi Report in December 2012.  To-date, these officials have been on bureaucratic limbo with an end promised; though the “when” does not appear to be in sight.

We’ve lost count how many Issa letters are fluttering around the hallways of Foggy Bottom. And we’ve lost count how many pages of paper reportedly have been provided by the State Department to Congress. We heard pages and pages and pages of papers.  We trust that the papers provided actually contained or will contain relevant information, and not the telephone directories or photocopies of the Foreign Affairs Manual or the Foreign Affairs Handbook.

Seriously, we are pissed at this paper shuffling saga playing out between the State Department and Congress.  In a perfect world, the Oversight Committee should focus on what went wrong, what can be done to prevent another Benghazi from happening and forget about 2016.  In a perfect world, the State Department and the CIA should acknowledge their faults and shortcomings in what happened and help the American public understand the human cost of doing work in the dark corners of the world.   That is a naive view, of course.  In the real world, these folks are playing a game of mud, assuring the public that one mud is clearer and cleaner than the other. Frankly, that’s all horseshit, with apology to the horse. And while this game is playing on, there are real life consequences.

The DS bureau has been described as in a “hell of hurt” these days.  Not only because it lost three of its top officials in one messy swoop, but also because one of those officials was an important cog in the assignment wheel of about 1,900 security officers.  If the assignments of DS agents overseas have been a great big mess for the last several months, you may account that to the fact that Ms. Lamb, the person responsible for managing and directing all Bureau of Diplomatic Security programs and policies including personnel, had been put inside a deep freezer.  While planning has never been a State Department strength, succession planning is altogether a foreign object.  No nominee has been announced to succeed Ms. Lamb as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs.  Robert Hartung, the Assistant Director for Threat Investigation and Analysis Directorate has been appointed the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs according to the DS website.  The State Department telephone directory, however, has not even bothered  to list Mr. Hartung as acting DAS for International Programs.

Note and question of the day:  “Diplomatic Security is under intense pressure following Benghazi so now all resources are put towards “high threat” areas.  Nevertheless, experienced and well regarded DS officers at overseas posts are finding it impossible to stay out – even when they are the first choice for the receiving post.  When it gets to the panel – DS management declines to allow the agents to be paneled for the job.  I’ve known experienced agents being turned down for Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq because they’ve “been out too long.”  This is not an issue for other Foreign Service officers so why is it for Diplomatic Security?”

Got that in our inbox today.  Don’t know the answer except perhaps to point out that there is no/no email inside the freezer.

In any case, Mr. Issa’s July 31 letter to Secretary Kerry provides some interesting items.

1.  Apparently, the Committee has heard testimony from all four individuals faulted by the ARB, as well as their supervisors and colleagues. Witnesses reportedly testified that the Department offered “assurances” to Boswell, Bultrowicz, Lamb and Maxwell that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department.  Those assurances  seem to indicate that  the firing is part of a PR strategy more than accountability. Did State expect all four officials to just stay quiet as rocks until the political storm blows over?   A side note — Gregory Starr, recently nominated to succeed Boswell as top boss of Diplomatic Security praised these officers before Congress for giving “their careers to diplomatic security as well and the security of the Department of State.”  They are all praiseworthy enough that seven months on and the Secretary of State still has no idea what to do with them.

2.  And because Mr. Issa is still enamored with the Benghazi Talking Points, his letter brings up former spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s “promotion” to be Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  He also brought up former NEA PDAS Elizabeth Dibble who was recently appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission to London.  And Greg Hicks, former DCM at US Embassy Tripoli who was apparently unable to find a “comparable overseas assignment” ten months after curtailing from Libya.

3. The only person from the NEA Bureau officially assigned blamed by the ARB was Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell.  He was apparently singled out because he stopped attending morning meetings held to read certain intelligence material, which, according to witnesses interviewed by the Committee, contained no information that would have caused Maxwell or anyone else to adjust the security posture at Special Mission Benghazi.  The Acting NEA boss, Ambassador Elizabeth Jones, who supervised Maxwell, reportedly agreed with the ARB’s conclusion that it was inappropriate for Mr. Maxwell to stop attending the daily intelligence read-book meetings. She testified, however, that Maxwell’s failure to read the daily intelligence had no connection to the inadequate security posture of the U.S. mission in Benghazi.  So, of all the people working in the NEA bureau, how did Mr. Maxwell become “it”?

4.  Apparently, neither Ambassador Jones nor Eric Boswell viewed “administrative leave” as a common practice, and according to Mr. Issa’s letter, neither was aware of any prior use of such an extended period of administrative leave.  Neither of them ever heard of Peter Van Buren who was locked out of Foggy Bottom and placed on paid administrative leave for about a year? Well, that is interesting.

5.  Eric Boswell reportedly testified that a State Department senior official told him the period of paid administrative leave would be brief. So, not only temporary but also brief.  Damn, what’s the world coming to … if you can’t even trust a senior State Department official’s words of reassurance.  Mr. Boswell should have had in writing the meaning of the word “brief.”  Just saying.

Mr. Issa’s letter requires answers to the following 10 questions for Secretary Kerry; well he’s the Secretary of State, his staff or those same senior officials will obviously task worker bees to work on an acceptable response to Congress.

  • Who made the decision to place the four individuals named in the ARB report on paid administrative leave?
  • For each of the four individuals on paid administrative leave, when was the decision made and what were the specific reasons for the decision?
  • What is the State Department’s internal definition of paid administrative leave?
  • Please describe any steps the Department has taken to evaluate the respective performances of the individuals who were placed on paid administrative leave.
  • Besides the findings of the ARB, what information is being considered as part of the performance evaluation process?
  • Who is conducting the performance evaluation(s)? Who will make a recommendation regarding how the administrative leave status should be resolved?
  • Is the Department delaying a final determination due to the ongoing congressional investigation or any other ongoing review, including, but not limited to a review being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General? If yes, please identify the investigation or review that is delaying the final determination.
  • Does the Department intend to offer individuals placed on paid leave a formal opportunity to respond to the ARB’s criticisms of their conduct before making final decisions? Will their responses be made public?
  • How many times have you been briefed on the status of each of the four individuals placed on paid administrative leave?
  • Explain why you have been unwilling or unable to reach decisions on these important personnel matters.

Unfortunately, Mr. Issa did not ask the more important questions. What actions did these four individuals take that made them blamable for Benghazi?   What evidence did the ARB have against these individuals and why are those kept classified?  Was any one of them directly responsible for opening up the Special Mission in Benghazi? Was anyone of them directly responsible for whatever agreement the State Department-CIA had on the security and operation of the temporary mission?  Was anyone of them directly responsible for turning down the request for more security? Why were they given assurances that their administrative leave status would be temporary and that they would return to new assignments within the Department if an investigation was ongoing?  These assurances — do these assurances  show the predetermined  nature of whatever investigation? Because if there is an investigation, and no one as yet know how it will turn out, how can anyone make stupid promises like these?

Were these promises to the four individuals routinely made to FSOs in trouble like Peter Van Buren?  Peter — yohoo! Did anyone ever tell you  your admin leave status would be temporary and that you would return to a new assignment within the Department at the conclusion of your investigation? What? They padlocked the door after you?

Oh hey, is it true that folks in the upper echelons of the State Department — those who are looked up as leaders and as models of behavior by the rank and file — no longer even look in the mirror afraid of what they’ll see there? Ay madre de dios!

Below is Mr. Issa’s letter in full.  Click on the lower right hand corner of the Scribd screen to display the letter in full screen.   WARNING: Reading may put you on full jaded and sour mood. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benghazi Hearing: No Kaboom as Promised, But More Details Fill Up the Dark Space of Sadness

So there’s this ARB report on Benghazi, this Senate report on Benghazi, and this Interim Progress report on Benghazi.  Then Congress held hearings the last several months (see below, may not be a complete list):

House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa promised on May 8th that “This hearing is closed, but this investigation is not over.” Towards the end of the hearing Darrell Issa also asked, “Do we need other whistle-blowers to come forward?” All three witnesses answer in the affirmative.

The May 8 Oversight hearing with State Department whistleblowers, Gregory Hicks, Eric Norstrom and Mark I. Thompson went on from 11:30 am until after 5:00 in the afternoon.  We were off to a prior engagement which could not be rescheduled so we had to play catch up with this.  We’re not going to go through this blow by blow because we don’t have enough booze in the house.

First, we have to say that we were disappointed the kaboom promised did not materialized.  But we appreciate hearing additional details about that night.  Perhaps when the ARB mandate is updated by Congress, it should just be an open hearing on C-SPAN  where the American public can hear first hand what our diplomats do overseas in the service of this country.

We appreciate the fact the Mr. Nordstrom prepared a written testimony, as he did previously in the October 2012 appearance. We admire him for publicly questioning how the ARB fixed the blame on this incident at the lower level. A sentiment that we have heard from people inside the building since the ARB report was released. He also made an excellent argument about elevating both Diplomatic Security and Consular Affairs to the Under Secretary level instead of where it current stands, under the Under Secretary for Management. We don’t think that this would happen but it shows that he was thinking through how things could be made better.

Gregory Hicks and Mark I. Thompson. Neither prepared a written testimony about Benghazi. In its place, both submitted biographic notes.  See Mr. Thompson’s here and Mr. Hick’s here.  Mr. Hick’s statement includes how he “became known as the Ambassador’s bulldog,” and how Charge d’affaires Larry Pope told him his performance was “near-heroic.”  Combined that with the now often repeated line about somebody with balls as in “a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military” — gave us an eeek feeling.  It might have been better if somebody else, not Mr. Hicks repeated those lines about himself to the Committee.  This led WaPo’s Dana Milbank to write, “And this whistleblower spent a good bit of time tooting his own horn.”  See? That’s what happens.

A few things of note —

Names:

During Gregory Hicks testimony, he named some of US Mission Libya’s staff. Except for David Ubbens, an RSO who was wounded in Benghazi, we are almost certain this is the first time that the names of those working in the mission have been made public. Are we going to now see these guys called before a congressional committee? There were actually more OGA folks than State personnel in Benghazi, but we’re not going to hear from those folks, are we?

  • Regional Security Officer (Tripoli) – John Martinec
  • Regional Security Officer (Benghazi) – Alec Henderson
  • Ambassador Stevens’ Agent in Charge – Scott Wickland
  • Political Section Chief – David McFarland
  • Embassy Tripoli Nurse – Jackie Levesque
  • Embassy Office Manager – Amber Pickens
  • Management Officer – Allen Greenfield
  • Lieutenant Colonel Phillips
  • Lieutenant Colonel Arnt
  • Lieutenant Colonel Gibson
  • Mark Si (Team Tripoli)


Quotables: 

Eric A. Nordstrom , the former RSO in Tripoli who gave us some of the best zingers in the October 2012 hearing did not disappoint.

“Is anything in writing, if so, I’d like a copy for post so we have it handy for the ARB?”

“Our posts in Benghazi and Tripoli were among those posts and the only two facilities that met no OSPB or SECCA standards.”

“[I]f the Secretary of State did not waive these requirements, who did so by ordering occupancy of the facilities in Benghazi and Tripoli?”

“The ARB’s failure to review the decisions of the U/S for Management and other senior leaders, who made critical decisions regarding all aspects of operations in Tripoli, to include occupancy of facilities, which did not meet the aforementioned SECCA and OSPB requirements, is inexplicable.”

“While Department employees are told that they may spend multiple tours in hardship and unaccompanied postings as part of the Department’s new ‘expeditionary’ diplomacy designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the Department has not made the appropriate organizational and cultural changes to keep pace with the work expected of its employees.”

The lesson State Department employees can expect to have taken from Benghazi: “Whether you’re at a mission, preparing for a hearing, or you’re standing on top of a building “surrounded by a mob […] the message is the same: You’re on your own.”

Gregory Hicks also gave us some quotes and additional details that we did not know previously.

“We have about 55 diplomatic personnel in the two annexes.”  [This is a lot more than what was previously reported]

“I think at about 2 p.m. the — 2 a.m., sorry, the Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone, and she asked me what was going on.”

“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed.”

Undersecretary of State Elizabeth Jones “told me I had to improve my management style and that some people were upset.”

“A phone call from that senior a person is generally considered not to be good news.”

“It’s a demotion […] foreign affairs officers… are desk officers. I’ve been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.”

“[Washington] asked me in one of the phone calls, when are you going to move [from the embassy] to the annex?” I said dawn, because none of our people had experience driving the armored vehicles.

Hicks says that Secretary Clinton “wanted Benghazi converted into a permanent constituent post. The timing of this decision was important. Chris needed to report before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year… [and file] an action memo to convert the facility.”

Mark I. Thompson, the Deputy Coordinator for Operations for the CT Bureau who was careful to let us know in his bio-note that the position is equivalent to a Deputy Assistant Secretary.

The team “is designed… to get all the options on the table for the decision-makers.”

Later he said when he knew they couldn’t find the ambassador “I alerted my leadership.”

On why was FEST not called into action? “I do not know.”

A pretty good account of the hearing with timeline via the Guardian here if you want to read more.


Something DGHR might be interested in — Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California asked  Mr. Hicks where in the world he’d like to be posted next.

“The country that I would most like to go to and be assigned to…” Hicks says, then pauses. “I’d really want to talk to the chief decision-maker in my family, my wife, because her opinion is really more important than mine.”

“I think this committee will help you get a good onward assignment,” Speier says.

That’s when we just ahaha fell off the chair!  Has there ever been an instance when Congress successfully waded in on the onward assignment of a mid-level official in a State Department? We’d like to see that. We imagine that Congress can drive Assignments Officers literally as nuts as Jack Nicholson in The Shining. We suspect that the good representative from California had absolutely no idea how that works. Maybe they should hold a hearing about that, too, because why not?


He Said vs. He Said vs. They Said

Via Jonathan Karl/ABC:  The GOP reportedly said that Thomas Pickering – the co-chairman of ARB Benghazi refused to testify on May 8.  The State Department disagreed:  “Ambassador Pickering volunteered to appear,” a State Department official tells ABC News. “But Government Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Darrell] Issa said no.” Issa spokesman then released a letter dated February 22 inviting Pickering (read them here) to the SubCommittee on National Security on March 2013.  State Department says Pickering is ready to go right now – and happy to testify on May 8.

Via Andrea Mitchell/NBC: Gregory Hicks said that Clinton’s Chief of Staff, Cheryl Mills “was very upset” that the lawyer was barred from the classified briefing during the Chaffetz CODEL in Tripoli.  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Philippe Reines responded in a lengthy email to NBC News/MSNBC regarding the allegation that Mills was angry that a State Department attorney was excluded from meetings in Libya with republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, of the House Oversight Committee.

Via Thinkprogress and Foreign Policy  Gregory Hicks vs. Embassy Tripoli staff.  “Staff who served in Libya with Gregory Hicks, the GOP’s primary “whistleblower” in this week’s hearing on the Benghazi terror attacks, undercut his story that State Department officials demoted him as retribution for speaking out, instead telling ThinkProgress about a man who one described as “the worst manager I’ve ever seen in the Foreign Service.”  Another anonymous official told Foreign Policy’s Gordon Lubold that Hicks is a “classic case of underachiever who whines when big breaks don’t come his way.”

So — that’s that. Maybe we’ll have a separate post on Mr. Hicks and whistleblowing  later ….

For now, it looks like the famous “talking points” is the star of the press show again.

Meanwhile —

US Embassy Tripoli went on partial ordered departure yesterday with some personnel ordered to depart the country, while others continue the work they were sent out to do in Libya.  Tripoli according to Eric Nordstrom is one of the “two facilities that met no OSPB or SECCA standards” and yet we are there.  Has anyone asked to see Tripoli and Benghazi’s emergency plans?  Was there even one for Benghazi?  Who approved these posts without the required security waivers? Neither the ARB nor Congress knows despite the various reports and multiple hearings.  For now, the Marines’ Task Force Tripoli is reportedly on site on a six-month rotation.

At the same time, at a neighboring embassy (one of those breached in mob attacks last year) where the front office is seriously suffering from clientitis and on denial about security and the future of a seriously messed up country —  work on updating the mission’s emergency plan finally started.  But the country is falling apart and if you have not Nordstromed your requests yet, better start before it’s too late.

By the way, on the same day when  the Benghazi hearing was held, our U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford made a secret trip into northern Syria.  NPR reported that Ambassador Ford who is still accredited to the Syrian Government crossed into rebel-held territory at the Bab al-Salama crossing of the Turkish frontier without permission from the Syrian Government.

And so —

The work continues in over 285 posts around the world. If you know how these hearings have made our people overseas any safer or  better equipped to managed the risks they faced every day, please tell us because we’ve been depressed for a long, long time now.

— DS

Note: With apologies to our regular readers. We have currently disabled the comment section. We don’t have enough Prozac to help us deal with the ever excellent conspiracy theorists who came to leave us love notes.  So we will go hide under the bed with our favorite GAO reports and catch up on our reading.  

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