— By Domani Spero
Bad news folks — US embassies and consulates have completely ignored the State Department’s guidance for zombie-themed events this Fourth of July. (See State Dept Issues New Guidance for 2013 Fourth of July Embassy Events – More Zombies, Please). So no brain food this week. The good news is, the parties are still on (with special mention to those that had their parties in March, way before the “guidance” was issued). Also with the exception of US Embassy Cairo where the July 4th event was finally called off on Sunday as the capital city burst into mega-anti govt protests with an anti-American tone. Here is our round-up for the Fourth of July celebrations around the Foreign Service.
US Consulate General Milan, Italy
Special mention goes to the US Consulate General in Milan for “hosting” President Obama, Lady Liberty, Ambassador David Thorne and other guests for its 4th of July celebration to “To advance freedom, liberty, to celebrate the Statue’s reopening and its link to Milan.”
U.S. Embassy Kuwait
Celebrated the U.S. National Day on March 27, 2013
US Embassy Lithuania
June 27, 2013
US Embassy New Zealand
June 26, 2013
US Embassy Finland
June 19, 2013
US Embassy Norway
June 19, 2013
On June 19, the US Embassy Oslo invited 2000 friends and contacts to celebrate Independence Day (in advance) in the Ambassador’s garden. The party included music, color guard, BBQ, ice cream and a wonderful atmosphere.
US Embassy Ghana
June 27, 2013
US Embassy Estonia
July 4, 2013
U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Levine, a proud Californian will take guests on a culinary tour of his home state. The U.S. Embassy staff will trade in their suits and ties for something a bit more casual as they share a relaxing afternoon on the lush grounds of the residence in picturesque Pirita. Guests are invited to come and enjoy the tunes of Liis Lemsalu, take a test drive on a Segway, and enjoy some delicious California cuisine by the Ambassador’s chef and provided by the embassy’s generous sponsors.
US Embassy Israel
July 4, 2013
On July 4, 2013 beginning at 7pm, the embassy will stream live from the Residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro the 4th of July party. Expected guests include: Dr. Eric Huntsman to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Ms. Hagit Yassu to sing “Hatikva,” and the U.S. Ambassador, Israeli President, and Prime Minister will deliver their remarks. Musical entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by an ensemble from the Israeli Conservatory of Music and the U.S. Military Band “Winds Aloft.” The embassy promises fireworks to “light up the night sky above the cliffs of the Mediterranean!”
US Embassy Latvia
June 29, 2013
US Embassy Uganda
July 2, 2013
U.S. Embassy staff get a large American flag (“Old Glory”) ready for the Fourth of July.
Happy 4th of July everyone, stay safe!
— By Domani Spero
Shortly after noon today, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt due to the ongoing political and social unrest. We understand that the AMIDEAST has also flown out the remaining interns/Arabic students (Andrew Pochner who was killed in Alexandria was an intern at AMIDEAST), and that the Fulbrighters have also left. Excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:
If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are still operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations. U.S. citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.
Previously, on June 28, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members.
The last time the US Embassy in Cairo was ordered evacuated was in January-February 2011. The embassy staff did not return to post until April that year.
On 03 Jul 2013 19:36, Al Jazeera reported that the Egyptian army has overthrown President Mohamed Morsi, announcing a roadmap for the country’s political future that will be implemented by a national reconciliation committee:
The head of Egypt’s armed forces issued a declaration on Wednesday evening suspending the constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state.
Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups.
Ahram Online reported that the head of Egypt’s High Constitutional Court, the most senior Egyptian court, is Adly Mansour. He was promoted to position in June. He is now reported as the new interim president of Egypt. The website also notes the attendees at the press conference where El-Sisi gave his speech included a number of top military and police officials who sat in two rows on either side of the podium; the Coptic Orthodox patriarch Tawadros II; the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayyeb; ElBaradei; a representative of Nour Party; Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, one of the anti-Morsi Rebel campaign’s founders; and a senior judicial figure.
Next talk coming up?
$1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt’s military, or as time.com puts it, the aid that’s about 20% of Egypt’s most stable public institution. The text of Foreign Assistance Act requiring US gov to cut military aid to countries after a coup: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/8422 ….
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement on the removal of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s president:
“It is unfortunate that Morsi did not heed popular demands for early elections after a year of his incompetent leadership and attempting a power grab for the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi was an obstacle to the constitutional democracy most Egyptians wanted. I am hopeful that his departure will reopen the path to a better future for Egypt, and I encourage the military and all political parties to cooperate in the peaceful establishment of democratic institutions and new elections that lead to an Egypt where minority rights are protected. But make no mistake about it, Egypt is in for very difficult days.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also praised the Egyptian military for taking action, saying, “democracy is about more than elections.”
The folks over at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appeared to be gone for the holidays.
President Obama released a statement with the following:
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
And State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki apparently declined to specify earlier Wednesday what would constitute a military coup, though she affirmed the U.S. recognition of Morsi as the democratically elected leader.
Haven’t we seen this before? Honduras. 2009 when the military removed a sitting president and flew him out to Costa Rica. But certainly without the millions protesting like in Egypt. Here’s what we might hear down the road. “[O]n the ground, there’s a lot of discussion about who did what to whom and what things were constitutional or not, which is why our lawyers are really looking at the event as we understand them in order to come out with the accurate determination.”
We suspect that the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser is busy. There has not been a nominee since Avril Haines’ nomination was withdrawn so she could be nominated as CIA’s #2. Mary McLeod, the Principal Deputy Legal Adviser is currently it.
- Military ousts Morsy in Egypt coup (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- U.s. Dumps Morsi… (politico.com)
- LIVE BLOG: Egyptian Military Ousts Morsi, Suspends Constitution (world.time.com)
- Coup D’Etat In Egypt: Military Removes President Morsi And Suspends The Constitution (forbes.com)
- Egypt: Military Ousts Morsi, Announces New Election (eurasiareview.com)
- Egypt celebrates military coup (huffingtonpost.com)
— 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:
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 —
MS. PSAKI: — they’re not being brought in here.
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: 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.
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.
The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The member states include the United States. OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is conducting a limited election observation mission in the United States for the 6 November 2012 general elections. According to the OSCE, this is the sixth US elections the ODIHR has observed, without incident, since 2002 (wait until you hear about Texas). They also observed most recently the 2010 mid-term elections. Our US Mission to the OSCE extended an official invitation. Similar invitations must have been extended in the past since the OSCE has observed elections in the United States in the last ten years.
Below via the US Mission to the OSCE:
The United States supports the work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). ODIHR’s election observation methodology remains the standard for election monitoring around the world. The U.S. also supports ODIHR’s programs that increase transparency in the democratic process, encourage the rule of law, and develop a democratic culture by facilitating participation in the policy-making process.
The observation mission is headed by Ambassador Daan Everts of the Netherlands. The core team members come from the UK, Germany, the Russian Federation, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Poland. Forty-four long-term observers from member states arrived in the US in early October and has been deployed in teams of two throughout the country.
The Dallas Observer reports that it is “not actually clear if monitors will be placed in Texas, though it seems likely, given our state’s enthusiasm for voter ID laws.”
But if they are — Texas is apparently ready for them.
Via the Dallas Observer:
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is threatening to bring criminal charges against European election observers who may be monitoring the general election process in Texas.
His always-entertaining Twitter feed suggests he would also be willing to throttle them with his bare hands. “UN poll watchers can’t interfere w/ Texas elections,” he tweeted yesterday. “I’ll bring criminal charges if needed. Official letter posted soon.” His hashtag added: #comeandtakeit. Delightful.
The AG’s letter with the following warning is now posted here:
The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law.
And @GovernorPerry cheers:
No UN monitors/inspectors will be part of any TX election process; I commend @TXsecofstate for swift action to clarify issue.
Actually, these are not UN monitors; OSCE is an observer at UNGA and considers the UN its primary partner but is not the UN.
Now — are our Texas folks suggesting that in the very act of watching, the observers affect the observed reality? That these observers can affect these elections? If true, that’s like foxtrot bizarre! How did these election observers interfere in the last five elections they’ve observed in the United States?
Maybe that’s the October Surprise? Then maybe we can do recounts from all those five elections instead of suffering through Da Donald and Gloria’s hair show?
Meanwhile, over in Warsaw (Poland, not Indiana) Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed his grave concern over the threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers and reportedly wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the following emphasis:
“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”
You think Ambassador Lenarčič is saying that unless you’re a quantum theorist, observe and interfere are two different things?
ODIHR is scheduled to release an interim report after the election and a formal report a couple of months after their observation mission.
In its latest update, ODIHR reports:
Some OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors stated that certain issues in administering elections stem from the fact that states cannot obligate the counties to follow some federal regulations. For example, some jurisdictions failed to send ballots to out-of-country voters 45 days before election day, as required by the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act.7 The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), administered by the Department of Defense, reported to the OSCE/ODIHR LEOM that they are working with state election officials to introduce new state regulations that will require counties to adhere to all provisions of MOVE.
Political advertising continued being a major source for campaigning with large sums of money spent on TV advertisements. Independent organizations have been particularly active in political advertising and, in this respect, the impact of Super PACs and so-called Section 501(c)18 organizations on the outcome of primary and general elections is being questioned by OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors across the political spectrum. According to the data reported so far to the FEC, by mid-October, Super PACs have spent over USD 350 million in political advertising in the 2012 primary and general election cycle, while political parties have spent only USD 150 million. This excludes spending by 501(c) organizations, which are not reported to the FEC. The majority of election advertising in this election cycle placed on TV by candidates, parties, and independent groups has been negative.
Stop laughing over there. So far, nothing there on Texas’ bright stars. And no one has been hauled off as criminals for staring at voters casting their ballots. Well, not yet, anyways …
… for now just enjoy a photo of US Ambassador Anne Patterson observing the polling station in Giza, Egypt in the 2011 elections.
- International vote monitors warn Texas: Don’t mess with us (reuters.com)
- Texas, international election monitors face off (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Texas Official Threatens Election Observers With Arrest And Prosecution (thinkprogress.org)
There was that clip of a badly made obscure movie posted in YouTube which roiled the mob in Cairo on September 11. (AP on Sept. 12, said its search for those behind the film led to a Coptic Christian in California who had been convicted of financial crimes). The US Embassy in Egypt released the following statement:
U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement
September 11, 2012
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney waded in with a statement here, calling “disgraceful” an early response to the assault in Cairo and saying it sympathized with the attackers. The embassy statement, an apparent reference to the video clip in YouTube, was posted hours before the official death in Libya was reported.
Politifact consulted three apology experts who all agreed that the statement from the US Embassy in Cairo was not an apology because one expert says, 1) it did not use the word “apology” or said “we’re sorry”; 2) the statement condemns the actions of a third party and 3) it does not apologize for the right of free speech. Another expert says “To say that someone who deliberately insults others in the name of religion has acted wrongly isn’t an apology — it’s simply a recognition that those insults go too far.” Still another of Politifact’s experts says “it is a condemnation of ‘abuse’ of the universal value of free speech. A condemnation is not an apology. … The Embassy statement also reaffirms two American values: the American value of respect for religious beliefs and the American value of democracy.”
No matter, that condemnation statement from the US Embassy Cairo has now entered the twilight zone of presidential politics and The Cable’s Josh Rogin has the scoop inside this public relations disaster at our Cairo embassy. Two responsible officials were named in the article — the Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers, who was the acting charge d’affairs and the embassy’s senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz was previously Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and a seasoned public diplomacy officer. He, presently, just got thrown under the bus over the apology controversy. And run over twice once more for good measure.
Here is an excerpt:
“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary Clinton. It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger,” Obama said. “And my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance, rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.”
But Obama’s remarks belie the enormous frustration of top officials at the State Department and White House with the actions of the man behind the statement, Cairo senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz, who wrote the release and oversees the embassy’s Twitter feed, according to a detailed account of the Tuesday’s events.
Before issuing the press release, Schwartz cleared it with just one person senior to himself, Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers, who was the acting charge d’affairs at the embassy on Tuesday because Ambassador Anne Patterson was in Washington at the time, the official said.
Schwartz sent the statement to the State Department in Washington before publishing and the State Department directed him not to post it without changes, but Schwartz posted it anyway.
“The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington. It was sent as ‘This is what we are putting out,'” the official said. “We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was ‘We just put this out.'”
“People at the highest levels both at the State Department and at the White House were not happy with the way the statement went down. There was a lot of anger both about the process and the content,” the official said. “Frankly, people here did not understand it. The statement was just tone deaf. It didn’t provide adequate balance. We thought the references to the 9/11 attacks were inappropriate, and we strongly advised against the kind of language that talked about ‘continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.'”
Despite being aware of Washington’s objections, the embassy continued to defend the statement for several hours, fueling the controversy over it, a decision the official again attributed to Schwartz.
Perhaps it is telling that The Cable’s source are “one U.S. official close to the issue” and “two additional administration officials”, all unnamed. If this went down as detailed in the report, shouldn’t we at least know who’s pointing fingers? Considering that one congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) is already calling for the State Department to “issue an immediate apology to the American people and fire those officials responsible for the initial statement” — that seems only fair.
Who would have thought that Twitter is such a dangerous sinkhole.
Anyway here’s the thing — Foreign Service officers are really, really excellent at following the chalked lines. You don’t see a lot of rogue and old diplomats for very good reasons. And they, certainly, do not suddenly forget their clearance procedures because they were confronted with a badly made, badly written and badly acted movie clip in YouTube; much less, defy a direct order from the State Department when it comes to an official statement for public consumption. Unless, of course, the officer is looking to commit a career suicide. And I’m not convinced that is the case with man of the hour, Larry Schwartz.
It would be nice to know who in the State Department “directed” Mr. Schwartz not/not to post the statement without changes, wouldn’t it? Was it somebody in the Bureau of Public Affairs? Was it somebody in the regional bureau? Did anyone also tell him that if this sh*t blows up we’ll make sure Foreign Policy knows how to spell your name?
This is what you’d call the bureaucratic duck and cover. It looks like the poor sod under the bus did not get a lot warning. If he did get some warning, we’d be interested to know if he got a special phone call telling him to take one for the team before they throw him to the sharks on a feeding frenzy.
Update: WaPo’s The Fact Checker has a long item on this here in An embassy statement, a tweet, and a major misunderstanding.
- US Embassy Egypt: Cairo protesters storm embassy over a movie or …. (diplopundit.net)
- Romney Campaign Attacks Obama Over Mythical Apology to Embassy Attackers (motherjones.com)
- Cairo Embassy Statement Work of Rogue PAO (outsidethebeltway.com)
- After attack, U.S. embassy in Cairo apologizes for unspecified film (politico.com)
- Unreal: Mob storms U.S. Embassy in Cairo; Embassy tweets apologies for hurt Muslim feelings (twitchy.com)
“U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presided over a ceremony to re-open the U.S. Consulate General Alexandria on July 15, 2012. The Consulate General provides consular services for American citizens, commercial and political parnership opportunities, cultural and educational programming, and military coordination within the […] eight governorates in Egypt’s North Coast and Delta region.”
American Center Alexandria has this announcement:
On July 15, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over a flag raising ceremony to upgrade the American Center Alexandria to U.S. Consulate General. We will be closing this Facebook page, so please join our new page at: http://www.facebook.com/alexandria.usconsulate.
Of course, a new consulate general also gets a new consul general. Below via USCG Alexandria:
E. Candace Putnam became Director of the American Presence Post in Alexandria, Egypt, in January of 2012. She was appointed Consul General after the upgrade of the American Presence Post to a U.S. Consulate General in July 2012.
A career U.S. Foreign Service Officer, her most recent postings include serving as Deputy Chief of Mission in Beirut, the Cyrus Vance Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Consul General in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Political Counselor in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Waaaaait! … that sounds familiar …. she was that DCM at US Embassy Beirut?
NOTE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF UTILITIES:
We will continue to monitor the State Department Recycling Program, something stinky there. Ay, dios mio! They’re not doing the recycling right!
- Egyptians throw tomatoes, chant ‘Monica’ at Sec. Clinton (rawstory.com)
- Egyptians pelt Clinton motorcade with tomatoes – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Secretary of State Clinton Visits Alexandria,Egypt to Chants of Monica, Monica (sidewalkschalk.com)
- Egyptian protestors taunt Clinton with cries of “Monica, Monica” (security.blogs.cnn.com)
- Secretary Clinton: Sleepless in Cairo With Zero Influence (salem-news.com)