New U.S. Embassy Beirut to Open in Lebanon in 2022

Posted: 1:38 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

On April 20, 2017, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard broke ground on the new U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut, Lebanon.

The multi-building compound will be located in the suburb of Awkar on a 43-acre site. The compound will provide a safe, secure, sustainable, and modern platform that supports U.S. Embassy staff in representing the U.S. Government to Lebanon and in conducting day-to-day diplomacy.

Professionals from the United States, Lebanon, and other countries will work side-by-side to complete this new diplomatic facility. Morphosis Architects of Culver City, California, is the architect for the project. B.L. Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama is the construction contractor.

The construction contract was awarded in December 2016, and completion of the project is anticipated in 2022.

The multi-building complex project with a total budget of $1,026,043,688 will be constructed on a 43.87-acre site in the Awkar suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, located approximately 9 miles northwest of downtown Beirut and in close proximity to the existing Embassy Compound.

The project will reportedly include a Chancery; Marine security guard residence; support annex and buildings; representational, staff and temporary housing; facilities for the community; and parking.  Extending from the Chancery, ribbon-like residential buildings are designed to frame the campus’ central service and circulation corridor.

According to State/OBO, this compound is OBO’s first project designed to earn LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.  The design will reportedly achieve significant water use reduction both inside and outside the Chancery with over 75% of wastewater to be reused on-site for irrigation to reduce the utility costs, stress on the local infrastructure, and to improve overall resiliency of the site.

An estimated workforce of 2,000 American, Lebanese, and third-country workers are expected to be involved in the construction of the new Embassy.

#

Since you’re visiting ….

We have been a reader-supported blog since 2014. We want to keep this blog as open as possible and that’s the reason we don’t have a subscription fee. You know best whether our work is of value to you or not. If it is, and if your circumstances allow it, we could use your help to carry on for another year: Help Diplopundit Get to Year 10 ⚡️

 

Advertisements

Community Liaison Officers: The Glue That Helps Keep Embassy Communities Together

Posted: 1:14 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The M. Juanita Guess Award is conferred by AFSA on a Community Liaison Officer who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative or imagination in assisting the families of Americans serving at an overseas post.  Since 1995, Clements Worldwide has sponsored the M. Juanita Guess Award (named after Clements’ co-founder).

In 2016,  the award went to Sara Locke of U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon with Berna Keen of U.S. Embassy Dhaka, Bangladesh as runner-up. Below via afsa.org:

Sara Locke | U.S. Embassy Beirut – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer

Sara E. Locke is the recipient of this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer for her outstanding leadership, dedication, initiative and imagination in assisting the employees and family members of U.S. Embassy Beirut.

Embassy Beirut enthusiastically nominated Ms. Locke, stating: “There is probably no other person in the mission who receives as much unanimous, universal praise as Sara for her efforts in turning around the rapidly deteriorating morale at Embassy Beirut.” Working with members throughout the community, her leadership has dramatically improved morale through innovative programs and activities, re-establishing U.S. Embassy Beirut as a post actively sought by Foreign Service bidders. Her tireless efforts on behalf of employees and family members are absolutely impressive.

When Ms. Locke arrived at post in 2014, morale among embassy staff was plummeting and curtailments were increasing at an alarming rate. She recommended to the ambassador that post conduct a morale survey, and then coordinated closely with him and the regional psychiatrist (RMO/P) to figure out how the downward spiral could be reversed. She not only designed and conducted the first survey, but after a very insightful analysis, which she presented to the ambassador and deputy chief of mission, Ms. Locke created an “Action Committee” to respond to the complaints and suggestions.

As a result, many policies and practices on the compound were changed, and new innovative ideas were brought forward and implemented. Thanks to Ms. Locke’s efforts, the situation has improved so much that employees are now requesting extensions to their assignments, and positive responses to a recent morale survey are at an all-time high. The fact that community members now feel they are being heard has had a profoundly beneficial impact on life on a small compound at a high-threat post with very restrictive security requirements.

Ms. Locke has continued doing surveys every six months to measure changes and to solicit ideas on how to continue improving morale, but her influence extends beyond Beirut. Former U.S. Ambassador to Beirut David Hale (who had been in Beirut when Ms. Locke created the survey) wrote to Ms. Locke from his new post: “I owe you such a debt of gratitude and would appreciate any advice on how to maximize this product here,” he said, requesting that she share her thoughts and recommendations with his deputy chief of mission and management section.

Beirut is a challenging place in the best of circumstances: terrorist threats are real, security restrictions limit off-compound movements and permanent employees live and work in cramped, dilapidated facilities. The role of the CLO as an advocate for community members is absolutely critical, and Sara truly embraces it. She lobbies hard on behalf of family members to find rewarding jobs in the mission. She includes spouses in all aspects of embassy life, from social events to emergency preparations. She recently hosted a series of seminars on evacuation planning and community resources for the mission. She is the person many individuals turn to for support and guidance.

Just one example: immediately after a suicide bombing in downtown Beirut in November 2015, just a few miles from the embassy compound, Ms. Locke reached out to the embassy community to ensure accountability and reassure colleagues. When things quieted down, she developed a variety of innovative programs, trips and activities to allow employees to experience Beirut, always working closely with the embassy’s regional security section to stay within the constraints of strict security parameters. She helped increase the number of trips off compound to grocery stores, and then helped put in place a very popular weekend shopping shuttle. This change alone significantly improved morale and gave embassy employees a whole new perspective on life here; previously, only one trip off the compound per week was permitted.

Ms. Locke is extremely creative, constantly seeking out new entertainment venues and cultural events (concerts, museums, restaurants, wine tastings, food festivals), always coordinating well in advance with the regional security officer. She put together a long list of embassy recreational events, including scuba diving, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. She also organizes a multitude of events for embassy families on the compound. She is an invaluable resource to everyone in the mission.

Berna Keen | U.S. Embassy Dhaka – 2016 M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer Runner-Up

Berna Keen, runner-up for this year’s M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer, is recognized as an exemplary CLO by her colleagues at U.S. Embassy Dhaka during what has been a turbulent period of terrorism and violence in Bangladesh. Her conscientious and compassionate approach to each and every member of the mission, the creativity she employs in bringing people together and her exceptional talent for organization has substantially increased morale at post.

A rash of “hartals,” violent political demonstrations, in 2015 crippled embassy operations in Dhaka. Ms. Keen experienced this violence firsthand when a vehicle she was riding in was hit with an explosive device. Incredibly, this only strengthened her commitment to her work. She communicated with everyone in the mission on shelter-in-place days, sending out ideas for activities to do with kids stuck indoors. She became a key voice on the Emergency Action Committee and created an EFM email list, subsequently added to the Global Address List, ensuring that security messages were received by everyone in the mission simultaneously.

With all of Dhaka on edge after a series of murders committed by Al-Qaida-allied fanatics and members of the so-called Islamic State group, embassy personnel were restricted to a two-square-mile area, could not walk outside and had a 10 o’clock curfew. School buses ridden by embassy children were accompanied by an armed police escort. Outside entertainment was off-limits to embassy personnel. In this tense environment, Ms. Keen brought the embassy community together, planning a staggering number of events—nearly 90 in 150 days—despite the fact that her office was understaffed.

Ranging from wine and cheese parties to pet playdates, she successfully provided people with an outlet for normal social activity. She brought the local market to the embassy, snagging pearl vendors, antique dealers and rug and clothing sellers to sell to the embassy community. Her continual reminders to the EAC on the importance of communication has kept the community well-informed and engaged during this trying time.

#

US Embassy Beirut: A Form Letter Response, Please, That’s Cold

Posted: 2:50 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The US Embassy in Damascus, Syria suspended its operations on February 6, 2012, and is not open for normal consular services.  The Travel Warning for Syria was last updated on August 27, 2015. Yes, these folks should have left Syria when it was still a possibility, but they probably knew that already, and blaming them now is not going to help. For folks interested in learning what the U.S. Government can and cannot do in a crisis overseas, please click here.

Look, we understand that there is not much that the USG can do in terms of consular services in an active war zone.  But. While it may not be much, forwarding the inquiry in this case to the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus might have, at a minimum, alerted the Section of this family’s existence.  Two, when one is in a life and death situation, receiving a form letter from the U.S. government is probably one of the coldest manifestation of the bureaucracy.

The Government of the Czech Republic serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Syria. U.S. citizens in Syria who seek consular services should contact the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Damascus at USIS_damascus@embassy.mzv.cz. U.S. citizens in Syria who are in need of emergency assistance in Syria and are unable to reach the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan: AmmanACS@state.gov; +(962) (6) 590-6500.

 

Related items:

 

 

 

U.S. Embassy Malta: Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:19 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

On April 9, we blogged about the U.S. Embassy in Beirut issuing a fraud alert on scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon (see  U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert). On April 22, the U.S. Embassy in Valletta, Malta issued a similar alert to the Maltese public on scammers impersonating Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley.

 

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate U.S. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley and the U.S. Embassy in an attempt to get Maltese people to send them money. Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “Gina Abercrombie.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations or United Nations Ambassador of Peace. In similar scams, victims were then requested to send money to an office in London. Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people. In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false. We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: http://ask.un.org/faq/14597

#

U.S. Embassy Beirut: Ambassador Hale Does Not Want Your Money (Fraud Alert)

Posted: 12:15 pm EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut released a fraud alert on April 9 alerting Lebanese of scammers impersonating Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in Lebanon:

Internet scam artists have tried to impersonate American Ambassador David Hale and the American Embassy in an attempt to get Lebanese people to send them money.  Don’t believe them!

In several of these attempts, these criminals have contacted people via social media with an invitation to connect to “David Hale.”  When they have, they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.  Victims were then requested to send money to an office in London.  Ambassador Hale does not make UN appointments and would not solicit funds from people.  In other attempts, the perpetrators have sent unsolicited emails for fees to process immigrant visa documents and work permits.

Correspondence purporting to be from Ambassador Hale requesting any payment of funds or personal information is false.

We caution against providing any personal or financial information to unsolicited emails or social media contact.

If you would like more information about how the UN does appoint its Goodwill Ambassadors, please see the UN website: ask.un.org/faq/14597

.

.
This appears to be a new variation to the “419 scams.” This is not the first time Internet scammers have impersonated an American ambassador. Starting around 2011, scammers have impersonated Terence. P. McCulley, who was previously the U.S. ambassador to Mali and Nigeria and currently chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in the Ivory Coast.  A variation of his name, Terence P. McCauley has also been floating around the net. And when it became widely known that this is a scam, the scammers up the ante by offering compensation to scam victims. (see Yo! The scammers are current with the news, now use the name of new US Ambassador to Abuja, Terence P. McCulley for bait).

Click here for the FBI Common Fraud Schemes page.

#

 

Ambassador David Hale: From US Embassy Beirut to US Embassy Islamabad

Posted: 01:16 am EDT
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Ambassador David Hale. Taken at the Green Park and Friendship Square, Jan 2014. Photo by US Embassy Beirut/FB

Here is a brief bio via US Embassy Beirut:

David Hale, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic on August 1, 2013.  Previously, he was the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, 2011-2013, a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.  In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs.  He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.  In 2013 Secretary Clinton gave him the Distinguished Service Award, and Hale has several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards.  He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.

If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed career diplomat Richard Olson who was appointed ambassador to Pakistan in 2012. All chief of mission appointees to Islamabad since 1973 had been career diplomats.  We have to go all the way back to 1969 t0 find a political appointee to this post.

#

 

State Dept Security Officer Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Spans 10 Years, 7 Posts

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

One of the most serious allegations contained in the CBS News report last year include a regional security officer (RSO) reportedly assigned in Lebanon who “engaged in sexual assaults” with local guards.

The memo, reported by CBS News’ John Miller, cited eight specific examples, including allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”

USA Today reported that the regional security officer in Beirut allegedly sexually assaulted guards and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Then-director of Diplomatic Security Service, called the allegations a “witch hunt” and gave agents “only three days” to investigate, and no charges were brought.

It turns out, according to State/OIG that this RSO already had “a long history of similar misconduct allegations dating back 10 years at seven other posts where he worked”

It boggles the mind … the RSO typically supervises the local guard force!

Seven posts! Just stop and think about that for a moment. This was the embassy’s top security officer; a sworn federal law enforcement officer who was responsible for the security of Foreign Service personnel, property, and sensitive information throughout the world.

Below is an excerpt from the State/OIG investigation. We regret if this is going to make you puke, but here it is:

The second DS internal investigation in which OIG found an appearance of undue influence and favoritism concerned a DS Regional Security Officer (RSO) posted overseas, who, in 2011, allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment. DS commenced an internal investigation of those allegations in September 2011.

However, at the time the investigation began, the RSO already had a long history of similar misconduct allegations dating back 10 years at seven other posts where he worked. A 2006 DS investigation involving similar alleged misconduct led to the RSO’s suspension for 5 days.

OIG found that there was undue delay within the Department in adequately addressing the 2011 misconduct allegations and that the alleged incidents of similar misconduct prior to 2011 were not timely reported to appropriate Department officials.7 OIG also found that, notwithstanding the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, the Department never attempted to remove the RSO from Department work environments where the RSO could potentially harm other employees, an option available under the FAM.8 Notably, the DS agents investigating the 2011 allegations reported to DS management, in October 2011, that they had gathered “overwhelming evidence” of the RSO’s culpability.

The agents also encountered resistance from senior Department and DS managers as they continued to investigate the RSO’s suspected misconduct in 2011. OIG found that the managers in question had personal relationships with the RSO. For instance, the agents were directed to interview another DS manager who was a friend of the RSO, and who was the official responsible for selecting the agents’ work assignments. During the interview, the manager acted in a manner the agents believed was meant to intimidate them. OIG also found that Department and DS managers had described the agents’ investigation as a “witch hunt,” unfairly focused on the RSO. Even though OIG did not find evidence of actual retaliation against the investigating agents, OIG concluded that these circumstances, including the undue delay, created an appearance of undue influence and favoritism concerning DS’s investigation and the Department’s handling of the matter.

Ultimately, in November 2013, based on evidence collected by DS and the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, the Department commenced termination of employment proceedings against the RSO. The RSO’s employment in the Department did not end until mid-2014, approximately 3 years after DS initially learned of the 2011 allegations.

 

The State/OIG report cleared Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, for allegedly interceding in an investigation by the Diplomatic Security Service concerning a nominee to be U.S. Ambassador. The Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security incumbent referred to below had been snared in the Benghazi-fallout, and resigned in December 2012:

The third DS internal investigation in which OIG found an appearance of undue influence and favoritism involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador. (The nominee’s name was withdrawn following the unauthorized release.) DS commenced an internal investigation related to the unauthorized release of the internal communications. The then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State was alleged to have unduly influenced that investigation.

OIG found no evidence of any undue influence by the Chief of Staff/Counselor. However, OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS had delayed for 4 months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill. OIG concluded that the delay created the appearance of undue influence and favoritism. The case was ultimately closed in July 2013, after the nominee was interviewed and after DS conducted additional investigative work.

No Undue Influence or Favoritism in Four Cases 

OIG did not find evidence of perceived or actual undue influence or favoritism in four of the DS internal investigations reviewed, and, in two of those four, determined that no further discussion was warranted. However, two cases are discussed further in this review because OIG found one common issue in both cases that requires remedial action—the failure to promptly report alleged misconduct to the DS internal investigations unit for further review.

Three DS special agents allegedly solicited prostitutes in 2010 while serving on the security detail for the Secretary of State. Although managers on the security detail learned of some of the alleged misconduct at or near the time it occurred, they did not notify the DS internal investigations unit, which normally handles such matters. A DS internal investigations agent only learned about the three cases while conducting an unrelated investigation. As a result, no action was taken to investigate the misconduct allegations until October 2011, 18 months after the first alleged solicitation occurred. As a result of the investigation then conducted, the three agents were removed from the Secretary’s security detail, and their cases were referred for further disciplinary action. One agent subsequently resigned; the allegations against the other two agents were not sustained.9

A DS special agent who worked in a domestic field office allegedly falsified time and attendance records over a 17-month period between January 2011 and May 2012. DS management in the domestic field office knew about the allegations but did not promptly report them to the DS internal investigations unit. In May 2012, during the course of an unrelated investigation involving the DS special agent, the DS internal investigations unit learned of the allegations of false time and attendance reporting. An internal investigation was then commenced, and the DS special agent subsequently resigned. DS also referred the matter to the Department of Justice, which declined prosecution of the case.

One footnote:

In the SBU report provided to Congress and the Department, OIG noted that one agent subsequently resigned; the allegations against a second agent were not sustained; and the third agent had initiated a grievance proceeding, which was pending, challenging the discipline determination. However, after the SBU report was issued, the Department advised OIG that the third agent’s grievance proceeding was resolved with a finding by the Foreign Service Grievance Board not sustaining the charges.

One Review Ongoing 

The eighth DS internal investigation reviewed by OIG concerned the use of deadly force during three incidents that took place during counternarcotics operations in Honduras in 2012. OIG has commenced a joint review with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. The investigation remains under review, and OIG will issue a separate report on the matter.

The above case was cited in the USA Today report:

“The Diplomatic Security Service said William Brownfield, assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, “gave the impression” that a probe of the shooting deaths of four Hondurans involving the Drug Enforcement Administration should not be pursued. The case remained open when the memo was written, as the DEA would not cooperate.”

OIG Recommendations – open and unresolved

  1. The Department should take steps (as previously recommended in OIG’s report on the 2012 inspection (ISP-I-13-18)), to enhance the integrity of DS’s internal investigations process by implementing safeguards to prevent the appearance of, or actual, undue influence and favoritism by Department officials.
  2. The Department should clarify and revise the Foreign Affairs Manual and should promulgate and implement additional protocols and procedures, in order to ensure that allegations of misconduct concerning Chiefs of Mission and other senior Department officials are handled fairly, consistently, and independently.

The end.

 

Related posts:

 

Related item:

-09/30/14   Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-14-01)  [685 Kb] Posted on October 16, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tired of Another War? Operation Repeat Iraqi Freedom Officially On In Iraq. And Syria.

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

Only yesterday:

 

Before you know it, this fellow on Twitter live-tweeted the strikes :

 

The Pentagon soon confirmed the air strikes:

 

Here is the official statement

 

Here’s a YouTube video of the ISIL strike:

 

The new coalition of the willing includes five Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar:

 

The five Arab countries and their planes:

 

President Obama’s statement on the Syria bombing:

 

Here is the congressional notification:

 

Here is a longer letter (there were two?) citing authority to carry out Public Law 107-40 and Public Law 107-243).  We’re now at war in Syria, and for the third time, in Iraq:

 

Still “no boots on the ground!?”

 

How much will all this cost?

 

Did Congress say/do anything?

 

How about those war predictions?

* * *

As of this writing, the State Department has not announced any new Travel Warning for Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain or Qatar.  The last Worldwide Caution notice was published on April 10, 2014.

One post out of the five Arab countries in the coalition, the US Embassy in Jordan, has issued a Security Message noting the coalition strikes against ISIL targets and the likely increased of police presence at public and diplomatic buildings throughout the country.

The only other post in the area to issue a Security Message citing “regional events” is the US Embassy in Lebanon.  Embassy Beirut advises U.S. citizens that coalition airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria have begun and notes an increased in kidnappings in  northern and eastern Lebanon. Both embassies say that there is no specific threat against U.S. citizens in their respected countries but caution citizens to exercise security awareness and maintain a heightened level of vigilance.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Beirut and US Consulate Adana (Turkey) Now on Departure Orders for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

— By Domani Spero

Update @ 10:21 am — US Consulate Adana:  We have been informed that the US Consulate in Adana is on “authorized departure” with leaving post voluntary for the non-emergency personnel and family members. Note that neither the US Embassy in Ankara nor the USCG in Istanbul is on this order.  So the “draw downees” from Adana, if there are any, potentially will not depart the country but will be evacuated to Ankara or Istanbul (evacuees from Lahore were sent to Islamabad after the recent closure of the consulate general in the city).

We understand that post did not request this departure status.  The concern we’re hearing is that because of Benghazi and the “abundance of caution” mandate, “we have people who have likely never been to Turkey, making decisions for post.”  Our source points out that Adana is not only home for the US Consulate but also home to Incirlik Air Force Base, a Turkish air base which hosts the 39th Air Base Wing to “support and protect U.S. and NATO assets and people throughout Turkey while providing a full spectrum of capabilities to the warfighter.” The US presence at Incirlik includes hundreds of Air Force personnel and family members. The base is located  a little less than 5 kilometers from the American Consulate. As of this writing, neither DOD or USAF has made any announcement about the departure of its non-emergency personnel and family members from Adana.  — end update

The State Department on September 6 issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey recommending that American citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey and announcing the departure of non-emergency staff and family members:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel.  The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey.

On September 6, the Department of State permitted the drawdown of U.S. government non-emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. Consulate General in Adana, Turkey.  U.S. citizens seeking to depart Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations.

U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Turkey should be alert to the potential for violence.  We strongly urge U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  There have been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens.

Update @ 10:22 — US Embassy Beirut: As of this week, a reliable source told us that the State Department is deferring sending previously scheduled newly-assigned personnel to Lebanon. Unlike Adana which is on “authorized departure” Beirut is on “ordered departure” with leaving post mandatory for affected personnel and family members.  — end update 

The State Department also issued a new Travel Warning for Lebanon urging American citizens to avoid travel to the country and announcing the departure non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut.

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. On September 6, the Department of State drew down non-emergency personnel and family members from Embassy Beirut due to potential threats to U.S. Mission facilities and personnel. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 1, 2013.

The potential in Lebanon for a spontaneous upsurge in violence remains.  Lebanese government authorities are not able to guarantee protection for citizens or visitors to the country should violence erupt suddenly.  Access to borders, airports, roads, and seaports can be interrupted with little or no warning.  Public demonstrations occur frequently with little warning and have the potential to become violent.  Family, neighborhood, or sectarian disputes often escalate quickly and can lead to gunfire or other violence with little or no warning.  The ability of U.S. government personnel to reach travelers or provide emergency services may be severely limited. 

The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to U.S. scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year remain suspended because of the security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Embassy Bierut’s September 6 Security Message to U.S. citizens also says that  “the Embassy does not offer “protection” services to individuals who feel unsafe.  U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining in Lebanon given their condition and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Lebanon who choose to remain should be aware that the U.S. Embassy’s ability to reach all areas of Lebanon is limited.”

While the Security Message also notes that there are “no plans to conduct a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation at this time” it suggests that “U.S. citizens concerned for their safety should consider making plans to depart by commercial means”  as the Beirut International Airport is open and commercial flights are operating.

The US Embassy Lebanon evacuation in 2006 is still the largest U.S. government-facilitated evacuations in recent memory.  The Security Message points out that USG-evacuation for private Americans “occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.” Also that “evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs.”

We note that both these announcements are now using the term “draw down” to describe the reduction of personnel and family members at two posts.  A draw down can be both “authorized departure” (staff and family members have option to leave or stay) or ordered departure (leaving is mandatory).  Since commercial flights are still operating in both these cases, we are presuming, although we could be wrong, that the draw down for both posts are “authorized” at this time.

We anticipate that more posts will be evacuated sorry, will go on draw down as the march to bombing another country heats up.

👀

Jen Psaki’s June 10 Press Briefing: No Sex, No Drugs n’ Too Much Rock n’ Roll

— By Domani Spero

By now you’ve seen the CBS News report about a State Department memo that reveals possible cover-ups and halted investigations. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal).

So, of course, it was a central piece during the June 10 Daily Press Briefing with State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.  That portion of the DPB is lengthy (because lots of running around the room) but we have republished it below for your enjoyment. Basically Ms. Psaki’s made the following points from the podium:

  • All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation,” but she could not say how many were completed and how many are ongoing.
  • She also said that “Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review by outside experienced law enforcement officers” and that the “investigation [is] being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers.”  Wow! Lots of outside law enforcement officers, but can’t say if these outsiders are Will Smith’s Men in Black.
  • She made sure it’s clear, “I’m not suggesting that the IG is uniting with DOJ or the FBI. We would refer any criminal case, of course, to DOJ, as would be standard. But this is not that.”
  • About that firewall, she said, “we’ve disputed the notion of the issue of the firewall with the OIG office.” For good measure, she also added, “The Department would never condone any undue influence on any report or investigation.”
  • Oh you foolish people — wait she actually did not say that, but she did say, “I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case – in any case is preposterous.”
  • Asked if there’s anything in the CBS News report that she would dispute, she answered, “I don’t think I’m going to get into parsing this CBS story here.” The reporter who asked the question got the record to reflect that “I didn’t ask you to parse anything, I just asked if you had any problems with the accuracy of the report.”
  • The record did not reflect if Ms Psaki blinked when one of the reporters asked a Gotcha! question about an ambassador at the end of the press briefing.

One of the allegations in the CBS News report is that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. The OIG inspected US Embassy Beirut in 2011 and on February 29, 2012 released a severely  redacted  report (see Inspection of Embassy Beirut, Lebanon (ISP-I-12-10A). This report as indicated by its title has an accompanying security annex not available to the public.  The compliance follow-up review (CFR) was conducted on the first quarter of 2013 and on May 31, 2013, the OIG released its CFR similarly with redactions (see  Compliance Follow-Up Review of Embassy Beirut, Lebanon (ISP-C-13-27A). This also contains a classified security annex.

The May 2013 CFR has as one of its key judgments this line: “The acting regional security officer (RSO) is proactive and widely respected.” There’s gotta be a reason why this merit special mention. What is it?

And because our readers enjoy giving us puzzles, we heard that this alleged Beirut “sex scandal” has a US Mission Egypt connection.  What is it?

Hey, to rephrase the DHS campaign — if you saw something, say something!

While waiting for these “outside law enforcement officers” to find out what really, really happened, please enjoy Ms. Psaki’s ‘no sex, no drugs, and too much rock n’ roll’ word cloud and awesome briefing below:

Made with WordItOut

Made with WordItOut

QUESTION: First, what – I guess we can begin most broadly simply by asking what comments you have about the report that aired on CBS News this morning concerning State Department OIG Office.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, the Department of State employs more than 70,000 dedicated men and women serving in some of the most challenging environments working on behalf of the American people at 275 posts around the world. We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the Department continues to take action.

Finally, the Department has responded to the recommendations in the OIG report regarding the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence. Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review by outside experienced law enforcement officers on top of the OIG inspection so that officers with law enforcement experience can make expert assessments about our current procedures.

QUESTION: Okay. There was a lot in there. And let me see if I can untangle it —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s see. We can go back and forth untangling.

QUESTION: — to borrow a phrase. You stated at one point early in your answer just now that all cases mentioned in the CBS News report were thoroughly investigated but that the State Department continues to take action on them. Did I understand you correctly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I did not mean to imply they were – the investigations were completed. Some are in process.

QUESTION: And when you talk about those cases being in process or in progress and action continuing to be taken on them, is that separate from the hiring of outside personnel that you also just referenced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not a hiring. It’s – it would be an investigation being done by the Inspector General’s Office working with outside law enforcement officers. So I would refer you them for any more specifics on that or how that would work. That’s a decision, of course, they make.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any further details you can share about who these outside investigators are or what they’re expected to accomplish?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the IG’s Office, which is as you know is independent, would be conducting this investigation, something we thoroughly support. But for any questions about that, I would naturally refer you to them.

QUESTION: So when you say that not all of these cases have been completed, some are still in progress, and that the State Department continues to take action, you’re saying that those pending cases are unfolding underneath the aegis of the State Department, not with respect to OIG?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And there would be taking a look – and again, I don’t want to parse what their investigation is for them – but looking into current procedures, which is something that we fully support them doing.

QUESTION: As you know, one of the allegations in this story concerns a United States Ambassador who is still in that post said to have engaged in inappropriate conduct with minors as well as prostitutes. And I think you could understand the concerns that all Americans would have if one of our top diplomats overseas were engaged in that kind of activity and what that would do for the United States image abroad if credible allegations to that effect were, in essence, covered up. Can you assure the American people that no U.S. Ambassadors are engaged in that kind of inappropriate conduct, or that where there have been such credible allegations they have been fully investigated?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I can confirm they would be fully investigated. I’m not going to talk about specific cases, but I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case – in any case is preposterous. And we’ve put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior. There is record of that. Ambassadors would be no exception. But of course, we would be – we are conducting investigations of all of these cases, and I don’t have anything further to speak to the process or status or anything along those lines.

QUESTION: Can I just – I want to clarify something, because there seem to be three different things going on here. One is the memo that the story reports on, which has to do with Diplomatic Security special investigations. You’re saying – and you said in answer to James’ question – all the cases that were mentioned in that story, which presumably is most of the ones or at least those are ones that are in this document, this memo, have either been investigated and they’re over or they’re still in the process of being investigated by DS.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, secondly, you have an IG report or audit or inspection of the investigatory department, that – of all of DS, I guess, but including that agency or that branch of it, which said that there is the perception, at least among some in DS, that investigations have been or can be influenced. Are you aware – because the IG report doesn’t actually come out and say that there has been any of this undue influence or improper influence. Is that still the case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – am I aware personally? No.

QUESTION: Well, is the building – does the building think that this is a significant enough concern that the procedures should be changed, or is this something that is purely going to be done by the third strand of this, which is this outside review of the DS chain-of-command or the DS process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me see if I can explain this a little further. In the memo – there was an original memo that CBS was referring – there’s another IG memo that is public from February. And one of the issues that was raised in there was the lack of a firewall, which is what you’re referring to, I believe, if I’m understanding your question. And we have disputed this finding in a number of engagements with the OIG. The Department would never condone any undue influence on any report or investigation. But again, we took the extra precaution of asking – or I should say DS did – of asking or supporting – IG makes their own decisions – an investigation to look into the processes. And that’s what they’re doing so.

QUESTION: Okay. So in fact, there was a response to the OIG report, which said that there was this potential problem in the way that the structure in DS – that’s the process – there was a potential problem with the way it was structured and the investigatory process. And you said no, you don’t think that there is, but we’re going to go and bring in these outside people to look at it to make sure; is that —

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And when was that outside – there was some suggestion that it was as a result of questions being asked about this that the outside investigation or the outside review was commissioned. How long ago was that?

MS. PSAKI: No, I can’t – I don’t know the exact timing, but I can assure you it was long before we were contacted by CBS.

QUESTION: Can I – there’s something I don’t understand here, Jen. First of all, the outside people who are being brought in, they’re —

MS. PSAKI: And just to be clear, sorry to interrupt you —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — they’re not being brought in here.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: This is an independent IG process.

QUESTION: Right, so that’s the first thing I want to understand. So in other words, the State Department Inspector General has made a decision to bring in outside people to look into that issue?

MS. PSAKI: The process, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The process, good.

MS. PSAKI: And procedures, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Second, it’s not clear to me, and maybe you said it precisely, but I thought I heard it both ways – are those outside people who are being brought in by the IG to look at the process – are they current law enforcement officials, or are they people simply with law enforcement backgrounds?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. Experienced law enforcement officials – the IG would be able to – office would be able to define them more clearly for you.

QUESTION: Since you mentioned it, though, I think it’s an important distinction to make, and ideally for you to clarify. Because if they are law enforcement officers working for another agency, right, like the Department of Justice or the FBI, whose jobs it is to investigate criminal malfeasance, then —

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want you to combine a DOJ or FBI investigation with this independent IG investigation.

QUESTION: But that’s exactly why I’m asking, because if you’re not explaining who these people are – and I’m not looking for details, but I do think it’s important to understand whether these are people who have brought in – been brought in from other arms of the government whose job it is to investigate alleged malfeasance, or whether it – I don’t know, there may be consultants, there are lots of them that exist, that happen to have had law enforcement background, but are independent consultants who don’t work for the U.S. Government formally now.

So can you clarify that one point for us?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t have that level of detail, but I also just want to be very clear: I’m not suggesting that the IG is uniting with DOJ or the FBI. We would refer any criminal case, of course, to DOJ, as would be standard. But this is not that. So —

QUESTION: Okay. I think it’s important to understand, are these contractors with law enforcement experience, or are these law enforcement officials who have been brought over by the Inspector General? So if you can clarify that for all of us, I would appreciate it.

MS. PSAKI: Again, the IG’s office is the best place, but I understand your need for clarification.

QUESTION: Well, I’m confused now. Is the IG office – whose process are these outside investigators looking at? DS’s, right?

MS. PSAKI: The OIG, the Office of the Inspector General, is working with law enforcement.

QUESTION: The IG has hired these outside people to come in and look, or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have the level of detail of how they’re working together.

QUESTION: It’s the IG and not DS that’s done that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. DS prides itself on being a federal law enforcement department. How is it that they can’t figure out what the proper way to structure these things is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve also – they’re also conducting investigations, as would be standard in any case of misconduct, on these cases as well. So this is just a separate investigation by an independent body looking into the processes, something we fully support.

QUESTION: Do you know, of the cases mentioned in the memo or the CBS report, how many have been resolved —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, and I also would —

QUESTION: — and how many are still under investigation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I would be able to provide that information.

QUESTION: Well, surely you could say that if any criminal activity was uncovered, do you know how many of them resulted in – because there are such things as allegations that turn out not to be proven, not to be true.

MS. PSAKI: There are. There certainly are.

QUESTION: So do you know how many were – turned out not to be true, or how many —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of information.

QUESTION: Well, I think that it would be quite nice if we could figure out exactly —

MS. PSAKI: If there’s something we can share on that, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Because if all of these cases have been thoroughly investigated and there was no indication of criminal activity or that they were handled administratively, there was something short of criminal activity, it would be good to know. Because the impression from the report left out there is that the State Department is just ignoring really serious violations of the law.

MS. PSAKI: I think I made clear that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Well, that is the impression.

QUESTION: Can you address one particular allegation that’s in this original memo, which is the effect that the use of prostitutes by members of the Secretary of State’s detail, security detail, has been endemic over the years? That’s the word that was used, endemic.

MS. PSAKI: Again —

QUESTION: Is that something you can assure the American people, that the Secretary of State’s protective detail hasn’t been out cavorting with prostitutes in every port of call?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I started off by talking about how many people work for the Department of State around the world. Last year alone, the detail accompanied then-Secretary Clinton to 69 countries with more than 10,000 person-nights spent in hotels abroad. So I’m not going to speak to specific cases, as I said at the onset, for obvious reasons. But it is hardly endemic. Any case we would take seriously and we would investigate, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

QUESTION: What is (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: He asked me if the incidents of a couple of individuals soliciting prostitutes would be – would show that it was endemic.

QUESTION: No, I thought he asked – and maybe I’m wrong, but I thought he asked, is the use of prostitutes by the Secretary’s detail endemic.

MS. PSAKI: I think we just said the same thing, and I just said —

QUESTION: And – well, no, you said he asked whether a few instances suggested that it was endemic, whereas I think his question was, “Is it endemic?” And is your —

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, are you saying that there are a few instances of this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not at all.

QUESTION: Well, you just said that.

MS. PSAKI: He was asking me about a report that is being investigated.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. PSAKI: And I don’t have anything further on that specific report. So he —

QUESTION: All right. So that is one of the ones that is still being looked at?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything specific for you on the status of any of these cases.

QUESTION: Well, I think you – but you opened the door to this line because you said – you hardly – you think that a few isolated – or whatever you said – a few —

MS. PSAKI: Alleged, Matt, alleged.

QUESTION: Okay. Alleged, all right, so it is still – it is alleged.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into, again, just to repeat, the specific incidents or the specific cases. But I did think it was worth making the point of how broad the Diplomatic Security issue – office is, how many men and women serve proudly and bravely every day.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you just one more thing on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you comfortable speaking – declaring something not to be true for 70,000 people?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think —

QUESTION: I mean, are you comfortable, when you’re asked, can you assure the American people that something, whatever it is, is not endemic, you’re pretty confident when you say no, it’s not —

MS. PSAKI: I do feel comfortable —

QUESTION: — even though you’re talking about a large, large universe of people?

MS. PSAKI: — and after I said we have 70,000 employees, I said we take – we hold every employee to the highest standard. We take every allegation of misconduct seriously and we look into it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask you, do you take issue with any of the instances that were mentioned in the CBS report that are being or have been examined by the Diplomatic Service and the IG? There was – the one we’ve mentioned, we talked about the prostitutes, there was always – also an issue about drugs being sold at the Baghdad Embassy. Do you – does the Department take issue with any of those cases that were mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I just – I understand the desire to know more about each case, but I just can’t go into specifics for ongoing cases. I just made a broad point for the purpose of talking about Diplomatic Security as a whole, but I’m not going to go into specific cases.

QUESTION: So you can’t tell us whether each of those cases mentioned in the CBS is actually something that has been looked into by the IG?

MS. PSAKI: I did say at the beginning that they’re all being investigated or have been investigated, but I’m not going to go into specifics of the status of what they —

QUESTION: No, but you could confirm if those cases are factually correct, as in the CBS report.

MS. PSAKI: It is not at all confirming they’re factually correct. These are allegations in a memo. So obviously, as I stated at the beginning, they have been – all these cases are being looked into. They were already in the process of being looked into prior to the memo, and again, I don’t have any update on status, or I don’t want to break down what is happening internally.

QUESTION: And can you tell us how they came to the notice of the IG? What triggered —

MS. PSAKI: I can’t. You’d have to ask the IG office that question. It was an IG memo.

QUESTION: So then just for clarification, none of these cases have been resolved, then? Because you said they’re all —

MS. PSAKI: Again, I didn’t —

QUESTION: You said you can’t comment on cases that are in an ongoing process. So —

MS. PSAKI: Just to alleviate all confusion, these – all these cases have been looked into or are being looked into. I’m not breaking down which have been concluded, which haven’t. That’s not something —

QUESTION: Can you – I mean, you said you’re —

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: — not allowed to talk – I’m just clarifying —

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: — you’re not allowed to talk about cases that are in process, but —

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t mean —

QUESTION: — are you able to talk about cases that are resolved?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on any of the specific cases.

QUESTION: And you would dispute the notion that any of these cases that have been – that are being looked into, that there was any kind of political pressure or other kind of pressure put on the investigators? You would say that that is not correct, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. This is obviously – we’ve taken —

QUESTION: So the memo, the allegations in the memo, according to this building, are wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’ve taken the extra step. The DS office has taken the extra step —

QUESTION: But the allegation in the memo that —

MS. PSAKI: We will let that process unwind.

QUESTION: Because if someone – fair enough, but I mean, the whole idea is that the investigations – that people might be being pressured into terminating an investigation or dropping it just because they’re told to improperly. So, you could say —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve – well, what I said —

QUESTION: — that all the cases are being investigated, and —

MS. PSAKI: — earlier, so let me point back to this, Matt —

QUESTION: — both could be true.

MS. PSAKI: — is that we’ve disputed the notion of the issue of the firewall with the OIG office.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We would never condone this. As an extra step, the DS has asked them to look into this.

QUESTION: I understand, but I just —

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let this play out.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure and clear that you deny the allegation in the memo that there was political or some kind of pressure put on investigators to drop cases or to —

QUESTION: Undue pressure.

QUESTION: — undue pressure to —

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything —

QUESTION: That’s not correct.

MS. PSAKI: — more to add than what I’ve already added on this case.

QUESTION: Can I ask just two sort of housekeeping questions on this? Number one: Is there anything in CBS News reporting this morning, either on TV or online, that the Department of State disputes?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to get into parsing this CBS story here. I think I’ve laid out what our position is, the steps we’ve taken. Some of that wasn’t included in the report, so I would – in the report this morning, so I would point you to that.

QUESTION: Let the record reflect I didn’t ask you to parse anything, I just asked if you had any problems with the accuracy of the report. As you know, your colleague, Mr. Ventrell, seated to the side of the podium today, has on certain occasions – and all spokesmen from time to time find it within their rights to say when they think something has been inaccurately reported. I wasn’t asking you to parse anything, but let the record also reflect you have nothing that you want to raise as an issue with the CBS News reporting on this subject, unless you interrupt me to the contrary.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I just said, to answer your question, is that there was information, including the fact that we have been looking into these cases, what we’ve asked the IG to do and to undertake, that are important, relevant components of that. I’d have to look back closely at the story, but those are important pieces for everybody to note in their reporting moving forward.

QUESTION: Lastly, you stated earlier that the decision to retain these outside law enforcement types was one that was taken officially long before the Department of State was contacted by CBS News.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said. What I said – and sorry, I know this is – there’s a lot of details here in that the Department – Diplomatic Security had been looking into these cases. Separately, they had also asked – has taken the further step of asking for an additional review by outside, experienced law enforcement officers on top of the OIG investigation, so working with the OIG investigation —

QUESTION: And that latter —

QUESTION: This is what —

QUESTION: Excuse me. Excuse me. That latter decision to retain those outside types, you stated earlier in this briefing, was made, quote, “long before we were contacted by CBS News.” That’s what you said.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: When were you contacted by CBS News?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to get into that from here.

QUESTION: Hold on a second.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This is why I wanted to clarify this right after Arshad’s last question. It is not the OIG that is contracted or otherwise arranged with this law enforcement – outside law enforcement to do this review. It is DS itself. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: No, I believe it’s the IG is working with these —

QUESTION: All right. Because that’s not what you just said.

MS. PSAKI: It was perhaps phrased in a confusing way. So I apologize for that.

QUESTION: So it is —

MS. PSAKI: But the IG is doing the independent report on this. They are working with outside law enforcement folks.

QUESTION: So if – so in other words, DS still thinks there’s no problem?

MS. PSAKI: DS continues to look into these cases where relevant.

QUESTION: Right, but they think there’s no problem. As you said, they dispute the finding of the IG.

MS. PSAKI: They support the effort —

QUESTION: So they —

MS. PSAKI: — to do the additional investigation.

QUESTION: Does the fact that the Ambassador in Belgium is still in place speak to where the case is and what progress?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that.

(*-*)