• Foreign Service Officer Blogs to Love

    March 27, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    As alert readers of this blog know, I am in the process of being fired from the Department of State in large part because of this blog. The firing part revolves around me “writing about matters of official concern without authorization, “identifying myself as a foreign service officer,” not using the required disclaimer, and “poor judgement and notoriously disgraceful conduct.”

    A big one was that bit about “poor judgment and notoriously disgraceful conduct,” which the State Department defines helpfully for me as “lack of discretion which may reasonably affect an individual or agency’s ability to carry out its responsibilities or mission.”

    The idea is that if a blog has, well, undiplomatic things on it, the writer will not be able to represent the US, be taken seriously as a professional diplomat, that sort of thing. The blog’s message in other words will get in the way of the State Department job, distract from the professionalism required to represent the United States. At least that’s what is bothering State about me and my blog.

    Fair enough I guess, at least if State applied the rules equitably. On its own “careers” web page, State lists dozens of Foreign Service blogs which quite obviously talk about matter of official concern and, given how they often post daily updates, do not appear to have gone through any authorization or clearance process. Some do, and some don’t, have the required disclaimer.

    And then of course, there is the blog of budding Foreign Service Officer Jennifer Santiago, who self-identifies online as “diplomat, photographer and world traveler.” Ms. Santiago was apparently many other things before joining the Foreign Service, and helpfully includes a number of pictures of herself online. Here are a couple more:



    I have no way to verify it and make no claims to its veracity, but Ms. Santiago’s Wikipedia entry (doesn’t everyone have one?), which says her birth name is “Jennifer Klarman,” claims she also once posed unclothed in Playboy. It is a not safe for work type of link, but the Playboy photos are here, so you can judge for yourself if care to do so. One article states “Then known as Jennifer Klarman, Santiago posed in 1998, she says, to help pay off $100,000 in law school loans. The pictures were intended for a Playboy special on lingerie. “If I had known they might end up in a book called Voluptuous Vixens, I might have declined.” Two Facebook pages link “Jennifer Klarman” with “Jennifer Santiago,” listing her as a “public figure” and using one of the photos above.

    Back to her own blog, Ms. Santiago wrote that she was sent to Brazil for a language immersion program as part of her Portuguese training, at a school conveniently located just two blocks away from the famous Ipanema Beach, in Rio.

    As Ms. Santiago says on her blog, “Momma didn’t raise no dummy– I chose a school that is just four blocks from the beach… I’m convinced tropical weather is medicine for the body and soul. So, I am beyond grateful for this two-week respite from life in bone-chilling Washington DC… This isn’t a vacation after all, this is language immersion (and Atlantic Ocean immersion). So, I’ll be sure to continue sharing my experiences in and out of the classroom. I’m looking forward to a week on the beach, learning Samba, touring the favelas and catching a futebol game.”

    She helpfully adds that she’ll be working the visa line at our Sao Paulo consulate. She posted some photos from her trip:



    The blog does not display the required State Department disclaimer anywhere I could locate. We are forced to assume that either Ms. Santiago has sought and received State Department authorization for her comments on matters of official concern such as her training and assignment, or that she, like me, is allegedly guilty of unauthorized blogging and should be punished.

    I don’t know Ms. Santiago, and we have never spoken. I found her blog online as anyone might; after all, it is online, subject to worldwide availability just like mine, via a Google search or two. Everything here came through some online searches, all subject to the whims of the web as to content and veracity. Just as State claims my blog renders me ineffective as a Foreign Service Officer, the blogs of other FSOs are hanging out there too waiting to be discovered by anyone dealing with us professionally.

    The point here is to suggest that the Department of State willfully chooses to enforce its blogging rules when it spies a blog whose content it dislikes (mine) and then ignores those same rules for a blog that it does like.

    Or, that the State Department can’t possibly locate, monitor and assess all the Foreign Service blogs out there, and thus selectively picks some (mine) for multi-month forensic investigation through its Diplomatic Security Stasi while remaining purposely ignorant of the others, a case of highly selective persecution, er, um, prosecution.

    Or, maybe it has something to do with the photos on my blog. Maybe if I hit the gym more often the State Department would let me keep my blog unfettered as they obviously are doing with others?





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  • Recent Comments

    • Mary said...

      1

      Jennifer appears to be a bit self absorbed. I find it surprising that State would hire a former Playboy model.

      03/27/12 12:47 PM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...

      2

      WOW thanks for the link, I’m never coming back here again your just not my type;)

      Amazing, you’re in trouble and she at The Beach. This just shows that up is down and you know the rest. Amerika going down faster every day. There’s no difference between 0 and gwb the lesser, good career Diplomats and long time SPY Masters and others that knew their jobs and the histories of the regions they worked are forced to retire or are fired.

      03/27/12 3:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      Appears to be another ambassador-in-training, but she will have to learn to deal with the “bone-chilling Washington DC.”

      03/28/12 3:51 PM | Comment Link

    • Yvette said...

      4

      You’re an asshole for throwing this girl under the bus like this before the start of her first tour. Your career-suicide via the blogsphere has been underwritten by your own pompous arrogance — the fact that you don’t understand the implications of hyperlinking to wikileaks obliterates any sympathy I would otherwise have for your situation. Sadly, we all know DS can be pitbulls — and in an oftentimes cavalier and capricious manner. But that you would out this chick to The Washington Post in this fashion — c’mon man, where is your loyalty to your fellow FSOs? Fight the system, not them. Or ar you just a mysogynistic bastard that only ended up in Iraq because you were a consular coned officer with a pulse? YOur continued palaver is further proof that you’re unfit to represent the U.S. Government.

      03/29/12 4:30 AM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...

      5

      Outing someone? I guess you missed the point that everything here is already on the internet, so if anyone is guilty of “outing” it is Google.

      The same point with the Wikileaks link. It is already there, on the web, as visible to me as it is to any bad guy. My link did nothing new.

      As for ending up in Iraq simply because I was a Consular coned officer with a pulse (I may be a bastard (readers?) but I am not misogynistic), that is both true and already covered in my book. One of the reasons things went so wrong in Iraq is because instead of experts the State Department just threw whomever was around with a pulse into the mess. You don’t win wars that way.

      Peter

      03/29/12 1:10 PM | Comment Link

    • S said...

      6

      I agree–you shouldn’t “throw someone under the bus” just because YOU screwed up. You critized policy and posted classified material. Jennifer talked about her travels, her dog, and her opportunities.

      GET OVER YOURSELF and APOLOGIZE to her.

      03/30/12 11:37 AM | Comment Link

    • Jennifer Santiago: Lawyer, Reporter, Former Model, Now Diplomat – You Go Girl! | Diplopundit said...

      7

      […] we could tell, the story has been online forever but got resurrected in Peter Van Buren’s blog, then got picked up by WaPo’s In The Loop column, and by aol.com. The National Confidential […]

      03/30/12 5:35 PM | Comment Link

    • Rodrigo said...

      8

      The Foreign Serviuce will be better without you. You are rightly being removed and trying to throw an innocent person, like Jennifer, under the bus shows what a coward and a pompous dick you are. you got yourself fired by breaking the rules.

      03/30/12 9:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...

      9

      Aw Mom, you promised not to write again…

      03/30/12 9:22 PM | Comment Link

    • Donny said...

      10

      Hey Rodrigo,

      You’re probably one of those pen is mightier than the sword pussies who hides behind a keyboard. Jennifer hasn’t broken the rules? Where’s her disclaimer? Her post about the Trayvon Martin case isn’t inappropriate? What about her comments about Jerusalem? Is she getting each of her blog posts cleared by the Department as required? PVB’s a coward? At least he had the balls to write about the fraud, waste, and abuse he’s seen. You’d probably sit by idly for fear of getting a bad EER. After all, that’s the FS way, right?

      Yvette,

      Loyalty to fellow FSO’s? You’re kidding, right? The FS doesn’t know the first damn thing about camaraderie. In 20 years of government and private industry, I’ve never seen more whining and petty back-stabbing bullshit. Your comments and insults to PVB prove that you’re the epitome of hypocrite. You demand loyalty of him then make a snide comment about his cone? It’s unfortunate that POL, ECON, and PD officers are whiney bitches who want to live behind the concrete safety of the Embassy compound but take all of the glory after a brief and insignificant jaunt outside the wire. Iraq is a disaster because of those sheltered inside the wire watching the imported grass grow.

      This isn’t about innocence or loyalty. This is about the hypocrisy of the Department and that’s exactly what PVB pointed out in his post about the Diplomat, Photographer, and World Traveler. Punish one, punish all.

      03/31/12 12:23 AM | Comment Link

    • jim at rangeragainstwar said...

      11

      PVB,
      Only history will rule on the Manning/wiki leaks thing, and it just has to go in the same direction as the Pentagon Papers.
      If the PP’s were correct then so too the wiki leaks.
      The PP’s were considered important to ending the war.
      How have we lost our aversion to needless war??!?

      I used to raise chickens as a hobby , and they always attack and kill any wounded or “down” chicken in the flock. The DoS strikes me as a big chicken farm, and it looks like the Roosters have little to say in the running of the flock. I say this only to tie into your story on the chicken processing plant in your book.
      There’s more to chickens than just killing, processing and eating them.
      There’s also always chicken s–t.
      jim
      jim

      04/2/12 1:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Brian said...

      12

      I have read your work before and been sympathetic, but I have to agree with others here about your decision to highlight someone else’s blog, especially a rookie FSO.

      You had to know that doing so would not improve your situation in the least. You would not have posted about it at all if you thought it was harmless, so it’s reasonable to assume you knew highlighting it could bring repercussions to her.

      It might have been a far, far better thing to send her a cordial note advising her of your circumstances. You’ve undercut your credibility with this.

      04/3/12 4:43 PM | Comment Link

    • Mystery man said...

      13

      Santiago had it coming to her…so much self-promotion and no modesty.

      As far as we know, State has a list of bloggers and has a unit inside of DS going one by one through the blogs as it builds cases against each of them.

      Really, wouldn’t common sense have told Santiago to tone it down a bit? Doesn’t she have any friends?

      BTW…I can’t find anything to back up Santiago’s claims that she went to Villanova Law School and was on law review. And don’t think she won any REAL emmy nominations either, it was this:

      2006 Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards Program Nominees

      04/3/12 4:44 PM | Comment Link

    • Matt said...

      14

      You’ve pretty much demonstrated again why State is firing you. Your judgment in singling this girl out, and pathetic logical reasoning skills in comparing your situation to hers makes me very very happy state is firing your ass.

      She should also sue you for copyright violations for using her photos on a for profit website.

      You’ve pretty much demonstrated you’re willing to sell your integrity for a couple of bucks to sell your book and website, so this isn’t shocking

      04/6/12 4:07 AM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...

      15

      So is this the whole A-100 class having written in, or should I expect a few more?

      Santiago/Klarman’s blog is on the web. She put it there, along with all the I-Love-Me promotional photos. I found it via Google, just like all her professional contacts will do for the remainder of her career. There is no “outing” something already there. And by the way, is there a banner across the top of my web site proclaiming I am a diplomat like Santiago has? Guess not.

      The logic is simple enough even for you newbies: if the Department wants to enforce its rules on blogging, then enforce them equally and equitably. Don’t single out blogs that someone in power dislikes and then ignore other blogs because they have pretty pictures. Duh. It’s the American Way Ace.

      As for cowardice, I am not hiding behind an anonymous email address or fake name. Why do you all? You can’t be afraid of me, so you must be afraid of what the State Department will think. At least be grown up enough to take responsibility for your opinions.

      Peter

      04/7/12 12:59 AM | Comment Link

    • Kevin said...

      16

      I agree with Yvette and others. Not cool to throw one of your colleagues under the bus like this. There’s a difference between purposely defying Dept. of State policy and being happy about being posted to a tropical climate.

      The Playboy photos do raise some questions about suitability, but frankly, as long as she never lied to DS, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about something that happened 14 years ago. And how gentlemanly of you to make sure that as many people as possible get to see the photos.

      I enjoyed your book and was one of your supporters, but not any more, not after this.

      04/7/12 3:47 PM | Comment Link

    • JeanLouise said...

      17

      Desperate, Pete? In what reality is blogging about the beach equal to blasting the boss online? Shame on you for dragging this woman into your career suicide.

      04/19/12 2:39 AM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...

      18

      The “boss” is a public figure who we, as Americans, have an obligation to comment on and assess, as she acts in our name. So drop the awed fangirl act and understand the difference between a democracy and being frightened into silence.

      04/19/12 2:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Former FS said...

      19

      Peter,
      Keep fighting the good fight. I left the State Department after 6 years because I continuously saw the “Do as I say, not as I do” going on. I’ve seen the footage you refer to, and heard of many more. Yvette, Rodrigo, and Kevin are prime examples of our FS today and why I left. While some of us worked outside the wire, these 3 sit back, buying from the class 6 every night, looking for the glory of the position, not actually making a difference… And Donny, you hit it right on the head!

      04/19/12 4:55 PM | Comment Link

    • Ando Muneno said...

      20

      I agree with Brian above and to a lesser extent, Kevin. I am incredibly sympathetic to your efforts to bring to light some of the systemic failures of State Department. As a former military service member I KNOW that government bodies need aggressive and pervasive oversight to prevent abuse and incompetence.

      I found this line, “Or, maybe it has something to do with the photos on my blog. Maybe if I hit the gym more often the State Department would let me keep my blog unfettered as they obviously are doing with others?” to be particularly distasteful. Implying that someone is getting special treatment because they’re attractive is a particular breed of subtle misogyny I learned to despise in the military. This is the point at which your post went from an understandably angry denouncement of uneven enforcement of regulations to what sounds like a personal attack against a person you admit you’ve never met before and know virtually nothing about save for what you’ve found over google. I want to believe that wasn’t your intention.

      You’re getting screwed for doing the right thing but your valid points are being undermined by your bile. There are people in positions of power who need to be crucified for their activities and hypocrisy (you mention several in other posts). Ms. Santiago lacks both power and position at this moment and perhaps, should not be a target of your ire.

      04/19/12 5:57 PM | Comment Link

    • Austin said...

      21

      How is it misogynistic to point out that somebody’s getting a pass, who just HAPPENS to also be physically attractive, and others aren’t?

      Isn’t it more misogynistic for the people who are in power to be doing that in the first place?

      There’s OBVIOUSLY a double-standard. The rules don’t apply to those who are more ‘equal’ than others?

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out a clear case of selective enforcement of ‘the rules’.

      04/25/12 8:13 PM | Comment Link

    • One that Got Away … Foreign Service Officer « Somebody Does That?! said...

      22

      […] any other … You will be asked to serve at one of any of 265 embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Eurasia, East Asia and Pacific, Middle East and North […]

      11/20/12 5:47 PM | Comment Link

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