Senate Confirms Bassett (Paraguay), Bernicat (Bangladesh), Zumwalt (Senegal/GB), Allen (Brunei), Roebuck (Bahrain)

— Domani Spero
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  • Leslie Anne Bassett to be U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay.
  • Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat to be U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
  • James Peter Zumwalt to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
  • Craig B. Allen to be U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam.
  • William V. Roebuck to be U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain

Ambassador-designate James Zumwalt was nominated as Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea Bissau.  Embassy operations in Guinea Bissau had been suspended since  June 14, 1998. The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal is dual-hatted as the Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau “to serve concurrently and without additional compensation” and is based in Dakar, Senegal.

 * * *

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State Dept on Issa Subpoenas: Received “Out of the Blue”… Witnesses “Need Time to Review and Prep”

—By Domani Spero

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa spells out his complaints on his June 24 letter to Secretary Kerry hereAccording to the Oversight Committee:

Issa details the Committee’s months-long efforts to arrange interviews with officials possessing direct knowledge of the events. On April 29, 2013, Committee staff contacted State Department officials to request their assistance in arranging interviews. The request was reiterated on May 17, 2013, however investigators have only been able to interview one of the 13 individuals with whom they requested interviews and the meeting was arranged without the State Department’s help.

The May 17 letter requested that the following former and current employees of the State Department be made available for a transcribed interview. This is the first time we’ve seen the list.  We have added the titles as best we can determine.

  1. David Adams, former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
  2. *Eric Boswell, former Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  3. *Elizabeth Dibble, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; rumored to be the next Deputy Chief of Mission for US Embassy London
  4. Jeremy Freeman, State Department lawyer, an expert in Congressional subpoenas (via NYT)
  5. *Elizabeth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs
  6. Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management
  7. Raymond Maxwell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau Near Eastern Affairs (on administrative leave, pending further action)
  8. Cheryl Mills, former Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  9. Victoria Nuland, former Spokesperson of the Department of State; nominated as A/S for the EUR Bureau
  10. Philippe Reines, former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  11. William Roebuck, former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs, NEA Bureau; appointed Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya from January-June 2013
  12. Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  13. Jacob Sullivan, former Director of Policy Planning and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Currently National Security Advisor to VPOTUS

One name not on this list but was served a subpoena by the Issa Committee is Scott Bultrowicz, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (one of the four officials put on administrative leave pending further action).  Names with an asterisk have been issued a subpoena (see Not Going to Take It Anymore — Issa Subpoenas Boswell, Bultrowicz, Dibble and Jones).

In any case, Patrick Ventrell, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office and occasional person on the podium during the Daily Press Briefings was asked about the Issa subpoenas on June 25, 2013 and here is what the building says in a word cloud:

Word Cloud via WordItOut

Word Cloud via WordItOut

If you want to read the fine details, please see below. We particularly like the question, “to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?” We do not particularly like the dodgy response but somebody’s gotta say the blahs so folks have something to write about.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Patrick, today Chairman Issa’s issued subpoenas to four State Department officials. Will the State Department be cooperating with the subpoenas?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as we’ve consistently said, we’ve been cooperating with Congress on this matter going back many months. We’ve made available to Congress several department witnesses and briefers, as well as over 25,000 pages of documents. We understand that Chairman Issa has issued subpoenas for four Department employees. These four employees were already preparing to do voluntary interviews with the committee, and since the committee sent their initial interview requests, we’ve been discussing with them in good faith both the terms for the interview and the scheduling logistics. In fact, we had offered employees to be interviewed in early July. So this had been something that they were voluntarily willing to do.

QUESTION: But in that letter Chairman Issa claimed that State Department Chief of Staff David Wade has not been cooperating, that since mid-May they’ve been asking for these people. What exactly is the holdup then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we absolutely reject that. We’ve been cooperating all along, and the Department has shown unprecedented cooperation. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of man-hours complying with dozens of requests from Congress. We’ll continue to cooperate while reiterating our request that the Congress and the media shift from focusing on long-debunked myths to the real need to protect America’s diplomats and development experts serving their country overseas.

So on this particular case, ever since we received the interview requests, we’ve been in regular contact with the committee negotiating in good faith and it’s unfortunate that Chairman Issa, without warning, disregarded those discussions and issued subpoenas for witnesses who were willing to testify. This is a pattern that we saw with Mr. Pickering as well, something that – this is a tactic he’s used before. I can’t speculate on his motivations but it’s something that he’s done before.

QUESTION: And to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’ve been in discussion with the committee about providing the witnesses prior to receiving the subpoena. So we were working on the dates, working on the list of names, when this subpoena sort of suddenly arrived yesterday.

QUESTION: It’s been months, why hasn’t it happened?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as months. I mean, this is something that – I don’t have the date of the original request from Mr. Issa here in front of me, but ever since we received the – let me see if I have this here – I don’t have the date right in front of me, but ever since we received it —

QUESTION: Mid May.

MR. VENTRELL: — we’ve been in consistent and continual contact with the committee staff, and we’ve done so in good faith.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you think that this perceived stalling from Issa that it could be perceived that these witnesses are being coached or they’re getting – taking time to get their testimony or words right?

MR. VENTRELL: No, that’s absurd. We reject that. It’s certainly understandable that people need time to prepare for congressional testimony; witnesses take that very seriously, need time to review and prep, and that’s standard practice and normal. So we just reject that.

QUESTION: So it’s not the four people stalling, it’s perhaps the State Department or it’s Issa not being organized?

MR. VENTRELL: This is about getting them the best possible information, making sure the witnesses have time to be prepared to provide the best possible information. And we’re working with them in good faith and scheduling dates, so this sort of arrived out of the blue yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that you told Chairman Issa that you’ve given them everything that you have, and you have nothing else to give them? Is that —

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s not exactly —

QUESTION: In layman’s terms.

MR. VENTRELL: No, no, no. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. This was a specific request, Said, for witnesses. This was a —

QUESTION: Right. I understand what’s going. I’m just saying, what is your position? What do you tell them, that we have already submitted all these – we answered all these questions —

MR. VENTRELL: No. The point is that the cooperation has been ongoing, and in this case we were cooperating on providing witnesses. So we received a subpoena out of the blue.

Makes one wonder how long it took the one witness already interviewed by the Committee with no assistance from the State Department to “review and prep.”

(>x<!)

Is the State Dept’s Bureaucratic Firewall Crumbling? Former DCM Says Accountability Review “let people off the hook” …

Via CNN:

Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, told congressional investigators that the State Department internal review of the catastrophe at the mission in Benghazi “let people off the hook,” CNN has learned.

The Accountability Review Board “report itself doesn’t really ascribe blame to any individual at all. The public report anyway,” Hicks told investigators, according to transcript excerpts obtained by CNN. “It does let people off the hook.”
[…]
Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday on CBS that Hicks will testify Wednesday in a congressional hearing on the deadly attack in Benghazi.

“In our system, people who make decisions have been confirmed by the Senate to make decisions,” Hicks told investigators.”The three people in the State Department who are on administrative leave pending disciplinary action are below Senate confirmation level. Now, the DS (Diplomatic Security) assistant secretary resigned, and he is at Senate confirmation level.  Yet the paper trail is pretty clear that decisions were being made above his level.

Whom might Hicks be referring to? He specifically mentions Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy.

“Certainly the fact that Under Secretary Kennedy required a daily report of the personnel in country and who personally approved every official American who went to Tripoli or Benghazi, either on assignment or TDY (temporary duty), would suggest some responsibility about security levels within the country lies on his desk,” Hicks said.
[…]
The day after Rice’s appearance on the Sunday shows, Hicks says, he asked Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones, ” ‘Why did Ambassador Rice say that?’ And Beth Jones said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Hicks said he didn’t think Jones “welcomed the question at all. … Both the sharpness of the ‘I don’t know’ and the tone of voice … indicated to me that I had perhaps asked a question that I should not have asked.”

Continue reading, Benghazi whistle-blower Hicks: Internal review ‘let people off the hook’.

If you missed this weekend’s Face the Nation, see the CBS Face the Nation Transcript, May 5, 2013, the first part is on Benghazi.

We have written previously how we were troubled by the ARB fixing the blame at the bureau level (see How long will the State Dept’s bureaucratic firewall hold at the bureau level?; and These bureaus don’t exist in a vacuum? Oh, but they do – since …).

 We find the “fixin” the blame ‘er accountability at the bureau level quite disturbing but also laughable.  We are tempted to start calling this the “Accountability for Mid Level Officials Review Board” as suggested.

Back in December, we’ve also speculated at three future scenarios:

  1. That the four resignations will temper the noise and hold the firewall at the bureau level.
  2. That the four resignations will increase the noise, add more questions, breach the bureau firewall and one or more of the Under Secretaries will roll.
  3. That with the holiday week coming, people will be riveted by last minute shopping, and will be so Benghazid-out to care.

It looks like scenarios #1 and #3 are now out.  Remains to be seen how scenario #2 plays out with this week’s Oversight hearing.  We suspect that one or more of the under secretaries will soon announce a desire to “spend more time with the family” or retire or whatever.

We understand that Mr. Hicks was the deputy chief of mission in Tripoli from June 2012 – October 2012.  We don’t know why this tenure was only for four months.  We have tried reaching out to Mr. Hicks but have not heard anything back. He presumably also became the charge d’affaires in the aftermath of Ambassador Steven’s death.  Mr. Hicks is an FS-01 Econ Officer with 22 years of service.

On October 11, 2012, retired FSO Laurence Pope assumed office as charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tripoli (see Officially Back: Ambassador Laurence Pope to Tripoli as Chargé d’ Affaires.

In January 2013, a career FSO took over running the embassy from Ambassador Pope (see US Embassy Libya: New Chargé d’ Affaires William Roebuck Assumes Office.

On March 19, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Deborah Jones as the next ambassador to Libya (see  Officially In: Deborah K. Jones, from MEI Scholar-in-Residence to Libya).  Ambassador Jones is scheduled to have her confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

Mr. Hicks is scheduled to testify at the House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 8. We have a prior engagement that day so we’ll be late.

— DS

 

Officially In: Deborah K. Jones, from MEI Scholar-in-Residence to Libya

On March 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Deborah K. Jones as the next Ambassador to Libya. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Deborah K. Jones, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.  Previously, she was Senior Faculty Advisor for National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.  From 2008 to 2011, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the State of Kuwait.  Ambassador Jones joined the Department of State in 1982.  Her additional overseas posts include: Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey (2005-2007), Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (1998-2001), Consular Section Chief/Regional Counselor Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1992-1994), and Consular Section Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria (1990-1991).  Her Washington assignments include:  Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs and Iran (2002-2004) and Acting Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs (1994-1995).

Ambassador Jones received a B.A. from Brigham Young University and an M.S. from the National War College of the National Defense University.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is greeted by Deborah K. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait and Chief of the Kuwaiti Army Lt. Gen. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khaled in Kuwait City on April 1, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released)


Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is greeted by Deborah K. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in Kuwait City on April 1, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

If confirmed, Ambassador Jones would succeed the late Ambassador Stevens who served as chief of mission in Libya from June – September 2012.  Following the death of Ambassador Stevens, retired FSO Laurence Pope was sent to Tripoli in October 2012 as Chargé d’ Affaires.  Career FSO and former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs William Roebuck assumed office as Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya in January this year.

You may add this to your short list of tandem ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She is married to Ambassador Richard Olson, former US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and US Ambassador to Pakistan since September 2012.  They have two daughters.

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US Embassy Libya: New Chargé d’ Affaires William Roebuck Assumes Office

US Embassy Tripoli released a January 4 statement on the arrival of the new U.S. Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya:

William Roebuck has arrived in Tripoli as the U.S. Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya.  *Chargé Roebuck will continue the work of Laurence Pope, who has served in that capacity since October 2011 following the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.  Mr. Roebuck looks forward to working with the Libyan government and the Libyan people as we continue to build the relationship between our two countries during this historic time.

Mr. Roebuck joined the Foreign Service in 1992 and has held a wide variety of positions both in Washington and in the Middle East.  He served as Political Officer in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (1995-1997), Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (1997-1998), Political Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (2000-2003), Political Counselor and acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus (2004-2007); Deputy Office Director for Arabian Peninsula Affairs (2007-2009), and Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (2009-2010).  Most recently, Mr. Roebuck served as Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs.

Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Roebuck served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, teaching English in Cote d’Ivoire from 1978-1981.  He also worked as an English teacher and school administrator at a Saudi military school in Taif, Saudi Arabia from 1982-1987.  A graduate of Wake Forest University, Mr. Roebuck also holds a law degree from the University of Georgia.  He speaks French and Arabic and is married with one son.

Mr. Roebuck did a university lecture on the Arab Spring in November 2011; below is a slightly expanded bio posted by the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association via FB:

William Roebuck became Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in September 2010. His office has been on the front lines, helping shape the U.S. government’s diplomatic response to the momentous developments known as the Arab Spring. He served as Deputy Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from July 2009 to August 2010, covering Iraq’s external relations and leading the Embassy’s and the resident international community’s efforts to support the critical March 2009 Iraqi national elections. Roebuck served as the Deputy Office Director for Arabian Peninsula Affairs from 2007 to 2009, focusing on our relations with key Gulf allies such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar and counter-terrorism cooperation with Yemen. From 2004-2007, he served as the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. In his last year of that assignment, Roebuck served as Deputy Chief of Mission. Prior to his assignment in Syria, he covered political issues in the Gaza Strip, while assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv from 2000 to 2003.

He narrowly survived an attempted assassination outside Gaza City in 2003. In preparation for his work in Gaza, Roebuck studied Arabic from 1998-2000 at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington and at the FSI branch language school in Tunis. He served in Washington as the staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs from 1997-98.

Updated @ 1/9 11:11 am:  One of our readers (thanks Rodney!) note that the statement above on the date of Lawrence Pope’s assuming leadership after the death of Ambassador Stevens is incorrect. It should be October 2012, not 2011.

domani spero sig