Posted: 2:35 am ET
US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand
US Embassy Nairobi, Kenya
US Embassy Port Au Prince, Haiti
US Embassy Manila, Philippines
USCG Frankfurt, Germany
USCG Karachi, Pakistan
US Embassy New Delhi, India
Posted: 2:35 am ET
Posted: 1:33 pm ET
A shoutout to U.S. Consulate Halifax who did their Halloween party with a reminder to overseas Americans on how to request their absentee ballots. The Federal Voting Assistance Program includes information for the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Ballot (FWAB) to cast your absentee ballots. Go do it!
Bonus tweets from Palmerston and the White House:
Posted: 1:15 am ET
There was a shooting incident outside the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya on October 27 after a knife-wielding assailant attacked an armed Kenyan police officer guarding an entrance to the embassy. This is one more reminder that local law enforcement employed by host countries and local embassy guards are in the front line of protecting our missions overseas. The US Embassy said that no Embassy personnel were involved and no U.S. citizens are known to have been affected by this incident. The Embassy closed to the public on October 28 for routine consular services but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens remained available. In its Security Message to U.S. citizens, Embassy Nairobi writes, “We are grateful for the ongoing protection provided by the Kenyan police. We are cooperating with Kenyan authorities on the investigation of the incident on Thursday, October 27 and refer all questions about the investigation to them. We will be open to the public for normal operations on Monday, October 31, 2016.”
A quick look at the State Department’s Office of Allowances website indicates that Kenya had zero danger pay in September 2013, when the Westgate mall attack occurred. The website indicates that Kenya has been designated as a 15% danger differential post since June 29, 2014 until October 30, 2016 when the latest data is available online.
However, we understand that Embassy Nairobi has recently been downgraded in threat designation for terrorism which eliminates danger pay. We were reminded that it took 9 months after the Westgate Shopping Mall Attack before any danger pay differential kicked in for U.S. Embassy Nairobi; and this happened while reportedly about a third of the country including several neighborhoods in Nairobi remain red no-go zones for employees posted in Kenya. The allowances website does not reflect the downgraded status as of yet so we’ll have to wait and see what happens to the mid-November update.
The sad reality is these attacks could happen anywhere. There were 1,475 attacks in 2016 alone involving 12,897 fatalities around the world.
Posted:12:41 am ET
The following is an excerpt from a first person account of the 1998 bombing in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania by FSO Dante Paradiso. He is a career Foreign Service Officer, a lawyer, and the author of the forthcoming book “The Embassy: A Story of War and Diplomacy,” Beaufort Books (New York) available in October 2016. Prior to joining the Foreign Service he served in the Peace Corps and was an intern at the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam in 1998. Since joining the FS in 2002, he has served in Monrovia, Beijing, Addis Ababa, Jalalabad, Libreville and Washington, D.C.
The piece is excerpted from the Small Wars Journal and includes the standard disclaimer that “the views expressed are the author’s own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.” He is on Twitter at @paradisoDX.
The wall and guard booth are gone—just rubble and rusted ribs of rebar. The motor pool fleet is crushed, pancaked, the frames of the cars and vans fused and welded together. The chassis and tank of a blue water truck lie upside down and crumpled against the base of the chancery like a scarab beetle pinned on its back. The community liaison office at the corner of the building is a black, smoldering cavern. The other wing stands disfigured. The sun louvers are cracked. Above the cafeteria, blood is splattered across the wall like abstract art, rust-colored in the light. The Economic Officer tells me, “Don’t enter through the side.”
“There’s a hand in the stairwell.”
Read in full here.
While you’re reading this, you might also want to check out Vella G. Mbenna’s account of the same bombing. She served as a Support Communications Officer and recounts her experience during the attack in Dar es Salaam. She was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in 2016. Via ADST:
After leaving the center where I worked and passed the area around the corner where the Front Office was located, I heard a faint phone ringing. I stopped in my tracks, turned around and entered the communication center to find out that it was my phone.
I quickly went to the back of the center to my office to get it. It was Pretoria on the line and I was glad. I sat in my chair and said these words to them, “I am Vella from Dar es Salaam and I was wondering why our system’s staff …..”
Before I finished the sentence, the blast occurred because the wall I was facing came back in my face and slammed me into racks of equipment across the room.
I recall getting up, brushing myself off and proceeding to alert Washington via my equipment that something bad had happened and to close our circuits for now. Then I proceeded to check on colleagues in the communications suite and putting communication and IT stuff in a safe.
I walked on and opened the door to the Admin building side of the building….What I saw without even entering deep into the building was complete chaos. It was more of what I saw in the Executive Office, but to a greater extent. It was like a meteorite had hit the Embassy. Even worse was that the entire wall and windows facing the road was gone.
I started having a really bad feeling because most of all I saw or heard no one. Why was everyone gone except me? I backed out of the door and back onto the catwalk and started down the stairs.
As I started down the stairs I realized that something bad had happened, something really, really bad. I thought that maybe that if it wasn’t a meteorite, then a space ship came down and the aliens took up everyone except me.
I wanted to start screaming for help…Then I thought, no one would know exactly what happened to us all. So, I tip-toed down the rest of the stairs.
When I saw more devastation and how I appeared to blocked in, I had to scream. I started screaming for help, first a low scream…and then louder….
After about a minute and a half I heard a familiar voice calling out asking who was there. It was a Marine. I told him it was Vella, the communications officer from the 2nd floor. I wanted to be as clear as possible, even though I knew the voice. Once I told him exactly where I was, he told me to try to climb over the rubble and look for his hands. I told him I was going to throw up the INMARSAT first and I did.
Read in full here via ADST.
In related news — in Kenya, where over 200 hundred people were killed and more than 4,000 were injured in the embassy blast, victims are now reportedly accusing the Kenyan and US governments of neglecting them.
On July 25, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. See U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings.
To-date, no one has been compensated and the victims are now seeking compensation through the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Posted: 2:54 am ET
Below is an excerpt from the remarks made by D/Secretary Blinken at the swearing-in ceremony of the new U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz . The ceremony was attended by the ambassador’s family and Ahmed Awad, the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia to the United States. Ambassador James Keough Bishop (1938–), our last ambassador to Somalia who served in Mogadishu from September 19, 1990–January 5, 1991 also attended the event according to the transcript. Via state.gov:
Somalia needs leaders who believe in this future and whose legitimacy to realize it is beyond question. The hope of political stability is ultimately not possible without the assurance of security. We have to continue to degrade al-Shabaab and deny them safe haven in Somalia. As the date of elections approaches, the United States will remain a strong partner to the Somali national security forces and to AMISOM.
It’s precisely because this moment represents so much possibility, so much potential, that President Obama has chosen as his representative a diplomat of unmatched caliber and a public servant of unrivaled heart. Sober and idealistic – (laughter) – is how one of his cousins, who happens to be a good friend of mine, described Steve to me. It was very good to hear that he has at least half the attributes necessary – (laughter) – to be an effective Foreign Service officer and ambassador.
From his first days as a Peace Corps volunteer advising a cooperative in Cameroon through decades of distinguished service in the Foreign Service, Steve has proven that true leadership is equal parts confidence and humility. I know this because we actually dug up a document that he once wrote for his team. It’s called “How to Be a Foreign Service Star.” (Laughter.) Now, to my colleagues who are Foreign Service officers, there’s a lot of very valuable advice here and I commend this to you.
Today we have with us the flag that flew and the seal that adorned the U.S. Embassy Mogadishu in 1991. While we work to transition or mission from Kenya back to Somalia, it is our sincere hope, Steve, that you will have the opportunity to raise this flag in Mogadishu once again.
Posted: 1:38 am EDT
We’ve added to our timeline of the Clinton Email saga (see Clinton Email Controversy Needs Its Own Cable Channel, For Now, a Timeline).
On August 24, 2015, State Dept. Spokesman John Kirby told CNN: “At The Time, When She Was Secretary Of State, There Was No Prohibition To Her Use Of A Private Email.” Below is the video clip with Mr. Kirby.
Okay, then. Would somebody please get the State Department to sort something out. If there was no prohibition on then Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email, why, oh, why did the OIG inspectors dinged the then ambassador to Kenya, Scott Gration for using commercial email back in 2012? (See OIG inspection of US Embassy Kenya, 2012).
Oh, and here’s a more recent one dated August 25, 2015. The OIG inspection of U.S. Embassy Japan (pdf) says this:
In the course of its inspection, OIG received reports concerning embassy staff use of private email accounts to conduct official business. On the basis of these reports, OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects conducted a review and confirmed that senior embassy staff, including the Ambassador, used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business. In addition, OIG identified instances where emails labeled Sensitive but Unclassified6 were sent from, or received by, personal email accounts.
OIG has previously reported on the risks associated with using commercial email for official Government business. Such risks include data loss, hacking, phishing, and spoofing of email accounts, as well as inadequate protections for personally identifiable information. Department policy is that employees generally should not use private email accounts (for example, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and so forth) for official business.7 Employees are also expected to use approved, secure methods to transmit Sensitive but Unclassified information when available and practical.8
12 FAM 544.3 Electronic Transmission Via the Internet (updated November 4, 2005)
“It is the Department’s general policy that normal day-to-day operations be conducted on an authorized [Automated Information System], which has the proper level of security control to provide nonrepudiation, authentication and encryption, to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.”
This section of the FAM was put together by the Office of Information Security (DS/SI/IS) under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, one of the multiple bureaus that report to the Under Secretary for Management.
Either the somebodies were asleep at the switch, as the cliché goes, or somebody at the State Department gave authorization to the Clinton private server as an Automated Information System.
In any case, the State Department’s stance on the application of regulations on the use of private and/or commercial email is, not wobbly jello on just this one subject or on just this instance.
On October 16, 2014, State/OIG released its Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. This review arose out of a 2012 OIG inspection of the Department of State (Department) Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). At that time, OIG inspectors were informed of allegations of undue influence and favoritism related to the handling of a number of internal investigations by the DS internal investigations unit. The allegations initially related to eight, high-profile, internal investigations. (See State/OIG Releases Investigation on CBS News Allegations: Prostitution as “Management Issues” Unless It’s Not; CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal).
One of those eight cases relate to an allegation of soliciting a prostitute.
The Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) provides that disciplinary action may be taken against persons who engage in behavior, such as soliciting prostitutes, that would cause the U.S. Government to be held in opprobrium were it to become public.1
In May 2011, DS was alerted to suspicions by the security staff at a U.S. embassy that the U.S. Ambassador solicited a prostitute in a public park near the embassy. DS assigned an agent from its internal investigations unit to conduct a preliminary inquiry. However, 2 days later, the agent was directed to stop further inquiry because of a decision by senior Department officials to treat the matter as a “management issue.” The Ambassador was recalled to Washington and, in June 2011, met with the Under Secretary of State for Management and the then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State. At the meeting, the Ambassador denied the allegations and was then permitted to return to post. The Department took no further action affecting the Ambassador.
OIG found that, based on the limited evidence collected by DS, the suspected misconduct by the Ambassador was not substantiated. DS management told OIG, in 2013, that the preliminary inquiry was appropriately halted because no further investigation was possible. OIG concluded, however, that additional evidence, confirming or refuting the suspected misconduct, could have been collected. For example, before the preliminary inquiry was halted, only one of multiple potential witnesses on the embassy’s security staff had been interviewed. Additionally, DS never interviewed the Ambassador and did not follow its usual investigative protocol of assigning an investigative case number to the matter or opening and keeping investigative case files.
Department officials offered different justifications for handling the matter as a “management issue,” and they did not create or retain any record to justify their handling of it in that manner. In addition, OIG did not discover any guidance on what factors should be considered, or processes should be followed, in making a “management issue” determination, nor did OIG discover any records documenting management’s handling of the matter once the determination was made.
The Under Secretary of State for Management told OIG that he decided to handle the suspected incident as a “management issue” based on a disciplinary provision in the FAM that he had employed on prior occasions to address allegations of misconduct by Chiefs of Mission. The provision, applicable to Chiefs of Mission and other senior officials, states that when “exceptional circumstances” exist, the Under Secretary need not refer the suspected misconduct to OIG or DS for further investigation (as is otherwise required).2 In this instance, the Under Secretary cited as “exceptional circumstances” the fact that the Ambassador worked overseas.3
DS managers told OIG that they viewed the Ambassador’s suspected misconduct as a “management issue” based on another FAM disciplinary provision applicable to lower-ranking employees. The provision permits treating misconduct allegations as a “management issue” when they are “relatively minor.”4 DS managers told OIG that they considered the allegations “relatively minor” and not involving criminal violations.
Office of the Legal Adviser staff told OIG that the FAM’s disciplinary provisions do not apply to Ambassadors who, as in this instance, are political appointees and are not members of the Foreign Service or the Civil Service.5
OIG questions the differing justifications offered and recommends that the Department promulgate clear and consistent protocols and procedures for the handling of allegations involving misconduct by Chiefs of Mission and other senior officials. Doing so should minimize the risk of (1) actual or perceived undue influence and favoritism and (2) disparate treatment between higher and lower-ranking officials suspected of misconduct.6 In addition, OIG concludes that the Under Secretary’s application of the “exceptional circumstances” provision to remove matters from DS and OIG review could impair OIG’s independence and unduly limit DS’s and OIG’s abilities to investigate alleged misconduct by Chiefs of Mission and other senior Department officials.
In the SBU report provided to Congress and the Department, OIG cited an additional factor considered by the Under Secretary—namely, that the Ambassador’s suspected misconduct (solicitation of prostitution) was not a crime in the host country. However, after the SBU report was issued, the Under Secretary advised OIG that that factor did not affect his decision to treat the matter as a “management issue” and that he cited it in a different context. This does not change any of OIG’s findings or conclusions in this matter.
After the SBU report was issued, the Under Secretary of State for Management advised OIG that he disagrees with the Office of the Legal Adviser interpretation, citing the provisions in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 which designate Chiefs of Mission appointed by the President as members of the Foreign Service. See Foreign Service Act of 1980, §§ 103(1) & 302(a)(1) (22 USC §§ 3903(1) & 3942(a)(1)).
During the course of that review, State/OIG said it discovered some evidence of disparity in DS’s handling of allegations involving prostitution. Between 2009 and 2011, DS investigated 13 prostitution-related cases involving lower-ranking officials.
The OIG apparently, found no evidence that any of those inquiries were halted and treated as “management issues.”
Also, have you heard? Apparently, DEA now has an updated “etiquette” training for its agents overseas.
New DEA “etiquette” training for overseas agents: ■ Never call ambassador by his first name. ■ No prostitutes. Etc. pic.twitter.com/aUSZipjtEC
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) August 24, 2015
Is there a diplomatic way to request that the responsible folks at the State Department culture some real backbone in a petri-dish?
No, no, not jello backbone, please!
Posted: 12:01 am EDT
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 4, 2015
Remembering and honoring all those who tragically lost their lives in the US Embassy attack in Nairobi in 1998 pic.twitter.com/RXgFpo5WLh
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) May 3, 2015
Posted: 2:04 am EDT
Updated: May 12, 2015 at 1:25 pm PDT
Secretary Kerry is traveling to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Djibouti from May 1-5, 2015. He was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 2, his first trip to the country. Secretary Kerry’s second stop was Nairobi, Kenya on May 3, according to the State Department “to reinforce the importance of our strong bilateral relationship.” He will reportedly discuss a range of issues including security cooperation — particularly in light of the recent tragic attack at Garissa University College – refugee assistance, trade, and biodiversity. On May 5, Secretary will travel to Djibouti, Djibouti. He will meet high-level leaders to discuss our bilateral cooperation and their support to evacuation efforts from Yemen. He will also visit with U.S. military personnel at Camp Lemonnier. This is the first time that a sitting Secretary of State will visit Djibouti.
— Tom Kelly (@USAmbDjibouti) May 7, 2015
— Tom Kelly (@USAmbDjibouti) May 7, 2015
Posted: 18:17 EST
We have not seen the official announcement from the WH yet, but on February 24, Secretary Kerry released the following statement on the nomination of FSO Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991:
President Obama, today, nominated Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia. It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner. If confirmed, the Ambassador will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia, currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the .
According to her online bio, Ms. Dhanani succeeded Cornelis M. Keur as U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad and assumed charge of post in September 2010. She has been a foreign service officer since 1990 and has previously served at US embassies in Georgetown, Guyana, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lusaka,Zambia and Libreville,Gabon. She was also deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Harare. She is a trained economist from the Kenyon College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught economics at the Grinnel College before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. During her tenure in Hyderabad, she blogged at A Diplomat in the Deccan.
Except for a Virtual Presence Post, the United States has no formal diplomatic presence in Somalia. The most recent Travel Warning for Somalia last updated in October 2014, recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.
Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora. In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.
The current Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, James C. Swan previously served as the United States Special Representative for Somalia from August 2011 to July 2013, leading U.S. diplomatic, security, and stabilization initiatives that culminated in U.S. recognition of a Somali government for the first time in more than two decades. In August 2013, James P. McAnulty was appointed his successor as Special Representative for Somalia.
The last Senate-confirmed ambassador to Somalia according to history.state.gov was James Keough Bishop (1938-) who was appointed on June 27, 1990. The appointment was terminated when the Embassy closed on January 5, 1991.
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