Amb. Kenneth J. Braithwaite Presents His Credentials in Norway, Now Officially on #Olympics2018 Wager

Posted: 9:16 am ET

 

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United States Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway

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Posted: 12:10 am ET
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On Thursday, June 15, 2017, the new U.S. Embassy in Oslo was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Chargé d’affaires Jim DeHart served as Master of Ceremonies and welcomed the guests. Speakers included Governing Mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen, Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Overseas Building Operations (OBO) Director Ambassador William Moser.

Via State/OBO:

The new, multi-building complex is located on a 10-acre site in the Huseby neighborhood. The new facility provides a safe, secure, and modern facility for U.S. diplomacy and incorporates numerous sustainable features targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute.

EYP Architecture & Engineering of Washington DC is the architect and Walsh Construction of Chicago, Illinois constructed the new facility.

Since 1999, as part of the Department’s Capital Security Construction Program, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) has completed 133 new diplomatic facilities, with an additional 52 projects now in design or under construction.

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In May 2012, Ambassador Barry White broke ground on the new Embassy in Oslo. The Mayor of Oslo, the Honorable Fabian Stang; Director of Oslo Planning and Building Authority, Ellen de Vibe; Secretary His Majesty The King’s Cabinet, Knut Brakstad; as well as Deputy Chief of Protocol Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oystein Braathen, attended the groundbreaking ceremony, according to the State Department.

The New Embassy Compound in Oslo is a multi-building complex which includes a chancery, an underground support annex, three entry pavilions, and Marine security guard quarters. The new facility will reportedly provide approximately 200 embassy employees with “a state-of-the-art workspace.”

The new facility will incorporate numerous sustainable features, including a restored stream that will become a key landscape feature and contribute to storm water management. Other sustainable features are a green roof on one building, use of natural daylight for energy savings, and a ground-source heat exchange system that will allow the Embassy to meet nearly 100 percent of its heating load. The new Embassy site is also located within 300 meters of public transportation and includes more than 45 bicycle parking spaces. The facility is targeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute.

The $228 million project was constructed by Walsh Global, LLC of Chicago, Illinois and the architect of record is EYP Architecture & Engineering. When this project was announced, it was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2015.

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Around the Foreign Service: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2016 (Videos)

Posted: 1:41 am ET
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US Embassy Tokyo, Japan

It looks like we have our first viral embassy holiday video at over 3.5 million views in the last two days. Ambassador Kennedy and U.S. Mission Japan staff in Tokyo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Naha got into the holiday spirit and showed off their dance moves. Below is their rendition of the “Koi Dance” (Love Dance) from one of the most popular TV shows in Japan this season.

Here is a bonus clip with Santa going down the chimney:

 USAID

US Embassy Warsaw; USCG Krakow, Poland

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

 

US Embassy Prague, The Czech Republic

US Embassy Seoul, South Korea

US Embassy Ottawa, Canada

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

“It’s Ambassador Heins’ first Christmas in Norway, but will he find julestemning? In this year’s Embassy holiday video, the Ambassador, Tone Damli and Ole Torp drive around Oslo singing Christmas carols and practice Norwegian in their quest to find true holiday spirit.”

 US Embassy Zagreb, Croatia

US Embassy Zagreb also launched their celebration of the holiday season with their new Mannequin Challenge video.

US Embassy Quito, Ecuador

USCG Toronto, Canada

U.S. Consulate General Toronto’s multilingual and diverse team wishes Happy Holidays on this Mannequin Challenge video in 19 languages.

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Throwback Thursday: An Election, an FOIA, and @StateDept in the Eye of the Storm

Posted: 1:48 pm EDT
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In November 1992, Sherman Funk, the Inspector General at that time was joined at the State Department podium by Lawrence Eagleburger who was then Acting Secretary of State for a special briefing on the investigation into the passport files of then Democratic presidential nominee Gov. Bill Clinton, his mother, and independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.

The report blamed lower level State Department employees for beginning the search, with the assistant secretary for consular affairs as the highest bureaucratic casualty. The OIG report notes that “The genesis of the search may have been ordinary FOIA requests; the manner in which it was carried out was anything but ordinary. Although aspects of the search made headlines for a month and a half, the entire search lasted but two days.”

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Click on image to watch the 1992 video via c-span.

Mr. Funk did an oral history interview for ADST (PDF) where he talked about his investigation of this incident. Quick excerpt below:

[I]n view of the enormous political potential of this, I called Eagleburger and said, I think this should be turned over to the FBI. Not that we couldn’t do it, but because of the unbelievable sensitivity in an election year when Bush was starting to run further and further behind, that this could look like a dirty trick like what was pulled back in the ‘72 campaign with Mr. Nixon. I also sent later that day a memo for record. I said this could be the October surprise to end all October surprises. We talked about it on the phone, as we did first thing in the morning, I pointed out that for the Republicans this could be a no-lose situation. If a letter like that could be found, Clinton was dead. There was no way he could become President if he at one time said he renounces his American citizenship, just impossible. On the other hand, if no letter could be found, and a charge could be made that the files had been tampered with, and that charge could have validity, that would make it appear that he had removed the letter surreptitiously from the files with the power of the presidency behind him. So therefore, whether or not the letter was written, if the story got out that we were looking at a tampering investigation, it would be a very dicey situation, particularly inasmuch as Jim Baker, the former Secretary of State, was now running the campaign for Bush. And I said I would not want to be in that position because obviously I had worked closely with Baker while he had been Secretary. So Eagleburger, personally I don’t think he was too happy, but he didn’t argue, he said Sherman you call it the way you want to. So I called the Attorney General, Bill Barr, whom I knew rather well, I had worked with him on a number of things before, and in fact helped him get the deputy attorney generalship. It’s a long story, but I had some working relationship with him. And I told him something that I had only read about in books before. He said is it important? I said, “Yes, Bill, this is a matter of national moment.”
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[T]he Department was really coming to pieces. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. People would stop me in the halls with tears in their eyes, and say, “You’ve got to do something about this. We’re being taken over by politicians.” Because every day there were different leaks in the newspaper. Newspaper reporters are very aggressive, particularly during a campaign. So they go to some GS-4 clerk in the national archives and say, “If you don’t tell me what’s going to happen, we’ll put you all over the paper and your career will be dead.” Somebody actually told me this, and they’d be crying when they talked to the reporter. And some of the reporters, who were absolute shits on this thing, unbelievable bastards in the way they operated. There were some noble people. There were some excellent reports, particularly in the Wall Street Journal and to some extent the New York Times, and by and large, the Post wasn’t too bad. But the Washington Times, the Daily News, the New York Post. It wasn’t a matter of politics, it was a matter of just scandals and little journalism. And every night there was something on the evening news about this. And people honestly in the State Department began to think that the Department had been totally corrupted and had been taken over. I’ve never seen a man as devastated in my life as Eagleburger, who was a lame duck until the election was over, who wanted to end his career on a high note, had been a brilliant officer, I think. I happen to think immensely of the man. And here he was leaving on a note that was so low that he was totally despondent.

State/OIG was kind enough to dig up the 1992 report for us which should be required reading:

 

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From Oslo: Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending an ambassador

Posted: 3:37 am EDT
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Agenda Magasin, an online magazine for political analysis and commentary based in Oslo recently published, “Congress, send Norway an ambassador” by Thor Steinhovden. Below is an excerpt:

Norway has never gone this long without an American ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo. Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending a representative, three years too late.
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In September 2013 the American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, completed his posting and left the country. 840 days later the United States has yet to send a replacement. That’s more than 120 weeks, or over two years and three months. Now, Norway risks having to wait until spring 2017. In other words, our closest ally will then have neglected to send a presidential representative for over three years.

The story behind this failure is complicated, but illustrates a political situation in the U.S. that is crippling the president’s ability to effectively carry out foreign policy. The story includes a failed nomination, “The Nuclear Option”, the P5+1 Iran deal, and not at least, the race for 2016.
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For many Norwegians it probably seems both odd and incomprehensible that one of the world’s superpowers cannot manage such a simple task as to deploy an ambassador to a close ally like Norway. It becomes more incomprehensible when one considers the fact that the hold-up is not related to neither the candidate, nor the bilateral relationship.

If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz then occupy the White House, Norway may find itself welcoming a completely different character than Sam Heins. I believe most Norwegians agree with me that it is probably best for all of us if we avoid that scenario. It is time: Congress, send Norway an ambassador!

Read in full here.  A Norwegian-language version of this commentary is also available.

The article is a pretty good account of what happened to the nominations dating back to 2013 when the initial nominee melted down on C-SPAN.

We don’t know if the Heins nomination will  make it through the Senate, but even if it does get a full vote, and Mr. Heins gets to Oslo, this is an election year. There will be a new occupant in the White House come January 2017. All ambassadors –including Mr. Heins if he gets confirmed this year — resign their positions following a change in Administration. The resignations of career ambassadors are typically almost always refused, while those of political appointees are almost always accepted.  Which means, unless the nominations of political ambassadorships get confirmed soon, the window of opportunity is winding down. At some point, it becomes a waste of resources to pack and ship an ambassador designate’s household effects if he/she gets to serve as chief of mission for only a few months; that is, only to pack out again after the November 2016 elections.  Of course, it can be done, we just can’t recall an example, but would folks really subject themselves to such a relocation for a short-term ambassadorship? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

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Senator on Cruz hold over Norway nominee: 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 1:01 am EDT
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The Hill reports:

Sen. Ted Cruz blocked a Democratic push to approve a handful of State Department nominees on Wednesday, even though the Texas Republican is far from D.C., campaigning in New Hampshire. […]  Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), however, objected to each of the nominations, noting that he was doing so on behalf of Cruz. The presidential candidate has pledged to block State Department nominees over the Iran nuclear deal. Cardin called Cruz’s objections a “master class in needless partisan obstruction.”

Last month, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) took to the floor to urge for the confirmation of the nominees for Sweden and Norway, but spoke at length on behalf of Sam Heins, the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who hails from her state.

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I rise today to call on the Senate and all of my colleagues to allow us to move forward on the nomination of Sam Heins of Minnesota to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. The U.S. Ambassador for Sweden has also been held up. Coming from the State of Iowa, which I believe is over 10 percent Scandinavian–over 300,000 people–I think the Presiding Officer understands the importance of our country actually having Ambassadors to these incredibly important allies and nations.

It has now been 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway, one of our most important European allies. Part of this situation was caused by a different nominee who has some issues with the committee and with other Senators. That person has now been replaced, and it has been 166 days since a new nominee went through the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Heins was approved by a voice vote, without any controversy, as was the Ambassador to Sweden. I thank Senators Corker and Cardin and Senators McConnell and Reid for their help in trying to get this through.

Unfortunately, these nominations are now being held up by Senator Cruz. Based on my discussions with him, it is not because of the qualifications of these nominees; it is related to, I suppose, other issues. Yet, I note for those Scandinavians out there, Senator Cruz has allowed votes on Ambassadors to other countries. We have Ambassadors in France, in England, in nearly every European nation, but not these two Scandinavian countries.

Perhaps people don’t understand the importance of these nations because they just think these people wear sweaters all the time. I don’t know what they think of Norway and Sweden, but, in fact, Senator Cruz should understand that they are two of our best allies. Norway is one of our country’s strongest and most dependable allies.
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I am focusing today on Norway. I will focus on Sweden in the future as I continue to give these speeches. I don’t think we can take these countries lightly just because it is cold there and darker in the winter. These are incredibly important allies and trading partners. They deserve to be treated like other European nations. They deserve to have an ambassador from the United States of America.

It is time to end this delay and do the work the Senate is supposed to do. Let’s move ahead and work to confirm these qualified nominees to represent us abroad. One is a country in Europe that just bought 22 fighter planes from Lockheed Martin. If they had bought 22 fighter planes from the Presiding Officer’s State, I believe the Presiding Officer would have looked at the fact that if it is a noncontroversial nominee to a country that invests in the United States of America, that is an ambassador we need to get confirmed, and we would get this done.

Read in full here (PDF) from the Congressional Record.

 

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Holiday Greetings From U.S. Embassies and Consulates Around the World – 2015

Posted: 12:58 am EDT
Updated: 12/23/15 @ 10:31 pm PDT
Updated 8:34 pm PDT
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For the rest of the holiday videos from U.S. embassies and consulates, please check out those from US Embassy Phnom PenhUS Embassy BishkekUS Embassy RomeUS Consulate General NaplesUS Consulate General Jerusalem, and US Embassy Helsinki.

U.S. Embassy Podgorica

 

U.S. Embassy Seoul

 

U.S. Embassy Vienna

 

U.S. Embassy Oslo

 

USCG Mumbai

 

U.S. Embassy Jakarta

 

U.S. Embassy Prague

 

U.S. Embassy Port Moresby

 

Happy Holidays From USAID

 

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Photo of the Day: Have you tested your gas masks yet?

Posted: 3:01 am EDT
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Via US Embassy Oslo/FB, October 15, 2015:

“Embassy behind the scenes: We just had a Weapon of Mass Destruction exercise at the Embassy, where everyone got to test their gas masks. Security is something we take seriously, but there’s no reason not to smile while practicing our routines.”

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Obama Nominates Minnesota Donor Samuel D. Heins as Next Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 2:41 am EDT
Updated: 2:28 pm PDT
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On May 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Minnesota lawyer Samuel D. Heins, as the next Ambassador to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Samuel D. Heins most recently served as a Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 to 2013.  Mr. Heins was a Partner at Opperman Heins and Paquin from 1989 to 1994, a Partner at Tanick and Heins from 1976 to 1989, and an Associate Attorney at the Firestone Law Firm from 1973 to 1976.  In 1983, Mr. Heins founded Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, where he served as First Chair and continues to serve as a member.  He is a Board Member of the Ploughshares Fund, Trustee of the PEN American Center, and Board Member and Vice Chair of the Center for Victims of Torture, which he co-founded.  He previously served as a Board Member and Vice President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.  Mr. Heins received a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Mr. Heins (and his wife Stacy) are listed by the NYT as one of President Obama’s top fund-raisers in 2011/2012. Also click here to see additional data from  LittleSis.

If confirmed, Mr. Heins would succeed Boston lawyer Barry B. White who was Ambassador to Norway from 2009-2013.  Career diplomat Julie Furuta-Toy has served as chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Oslo since Ambassador White’s departure in September 2013.

As of this writing, the nominees for ambassadors to the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Finland and Sweden, all political appointees, have waited between 200-450 days for their confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Career diplomats nominated as ambassadors to South Sudan, Mali,  Latvia, Kyrgyzstan and Guyana have waited between 229-282 days.  It does not look like the SFRC is in any hurry to confirm anyone clear anyone’s nomination. Next week, eight nominees are scheduled to appear before the panel for their confirmation hearings. 

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Related posts:

 

Holiday Greetings From American Embassies Around the World – 2014

— Domani Spero
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Wishing all our readers a safe and wonderful Holiday Season with loved ones and friends and a new year of good health and happiness.  A special shoutout to our men and women in unaccompanied foreign service assignments who will not be spending the holidays with their loved ones.  Tennessee Williams writes  that “time is the longest distance between two places.” May you bridge that distance soon. A few holiday greetings from our diplomatic posts in Poland, Norway, Austria, Thailand, Croatia, and Indonesia.

 

U.S. Embassy Warsaw, Poland

Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw and Consulate General in Krakow await the arrival of Santa Claus…but will they receive presents or rózga from Santa’s elves this year? According to Polish legend, naughty children receive rózga – twigs – from Santa. A note from the embassy says that no personnel were injured in the filming of this video, although they did help a colleague find a local tailor – watch the bloopers! Video is currently on FB and has not been posted on the embassy’s YouTube channel, but it’s online courtesy of YouTube user Interpol 1923.  Three years in a row for awesomeness! Click the links for the previous videos in 2013, and 2012.

 

U.S. Embassy Oslo, Norway

Vi mimer julen inn og ønsker hele Norge god jul og godt nytt år! Happy holidays from the U.S. Embassy in Oslo! Del gjerne videre!

 

U.S. Embassy Vienna, Austria

 

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The U.S. Embassy in Thailand counting down to the New Year with its own version of a popular holiday song. Happy New Year everyone and Sawadii Pii Mai!

 

US Embassy Zagreb, Croatia

Year in Review 2014! Želimo vam sretan Božić i sve najbolje u novoj godini….

 

U.S. Consulate General Surabaya, Indonesia

Konjen AS di Surabaya mengucapkan selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru 2015. Happy Holidays!

 

US Embassy Manila, Philippines

U.S. Consulate General Mumbai, India

U.S. Embassy Baku, Azerbaijan

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