• Standing Up for Another State Department Whistleblower

    September 25, 2014 // No Comments »



    Tough times call for desperate acts…






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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Ray Maxwell, Whistleblowers, Hillary Clinton and Benghazi

    September 24, 2014 // 5 Comments »

    Ray Maxwell has a helluva story: Hillary Clinton’s most senior aides participated in a Benghazi cover-up. Maxwell says he knows because he was there.

    Proving or disproving his allegations will be an uncertain thing. One thing that is certain is that people will claim he is nothing more than a disgruntled employee with an agenda. I don’t think so. Because once I was also there.

    Who is Ray Maxwell?

    Raymond Maxwell was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, covering Libya. Soon after Ambassador Chris Stevens and others were killed in Benghazi, Maxwell says he participated in a secret Sunday session where Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan oversaw a document review with the aim to “pull out anything that might put anybody in the front office or the seventh floor in a bad light” (“Seventh floor” is slang for the Secretary of State.)

    As the House Select Committee on Benghazi held its first hearing Wednesday, the focus was on the Secretary of State’s role in securing American embassies and consulates abroad. Maxwell did not testify, and may or may not be eventually called to speak publicly to the Committee, but his allegations loom in the background.

    I’ve met Maxwell, talked with him, though he did not confide in me. When you join State, you serve whomever is in the White House and like me, Maxwell worked Reagan through Obama. “For any Foreign Service Officer, being at work is the essence of everything,” Maxwell told a reporter after he was ultimately pushed into an early retirement following State’s internal review of the Benghazi debacle. In 2013, Maxwell spoke to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee, and kept quiet about the bombshell information. Maxwell impresses as a State Department archetype, dedicated to the insular institution, apolitical to the point of frustration to an outsider, but shocked when he found his loyalty was not returned.

    Whistleblowers at State

    He has revealed what he knows only two years after the fact. People will say he is out for revenge. But I don’t think so. As a State Department whistleblower who experienced how the Department treats such people, I was there, and there is not a place anyone readily wants to be.

    My own whistleblowing seems minor compared to something that might alter the race for the presidency. With 22 years at State, I spent twelve months leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq. The staggering incompetence and waste of taxpayer money I saw, coupled with the near-complete lack of interest by the Department I found trying to “go through channels,” lead to me write a We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People book exposing it all. The response was devastating: my security clearance was pulled, my case was sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution, I was frog-marched out of my office and forbidden to enter any State Department facility, I was placed on a Secret Service watch list as a potential threat to Mrs. Clinton, the pension I earned over a long career was threatened and only after the intercession of some of the same lawyers now representing Edward Snowden was I “allowed” to retire. My case appeared in Glenn Greenwald’s column. All over a book that discussed history, and named no names.

    Inside the Mind of a Whistleblower

    For whistleblowers to go public, there is a calculus of pain and gain, and that takes time. You try to go through channels; Congressman Jason Chaffetz says Maxwell first told lawmakers his full story privately some time ago. Then you wait in hopes the information will come out without you, that someone else might speak up first, you hint at it hoping someone will take the bait, and instead see faux investigations and bleats about “it’s just politics” further bury it.

    There was a two year gap between much of what I saw in Iraq and my public coming out. The same was true for Snowden and other whistleblowers. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to turn your own life, and that of your family’s, upside down, risking financial ruin, public shaming and possibly jail time. It is a process, not an event. You have to wonder what your fate will be once the media grows bored with your story, how far your actions will follow you. Fear travels with you on your journey of conscience. In my case, I was ignorant of what would happen once I blew the whistle. Ray Maxwell examples to learn from. He likely calculated he needed to securely retire from State before taking Team Clinton head-on.

    Why It Matters

    Now of course much of this is politics, in all its forms, though non-political questions about Benghazi still exist, especially as America resumes war in Iraq with its largest embassy vulnerable. Politics still do matter, and are indeed inevitable, as the measure of candidates needs to be taken. Among other things, their view of whistleblowers is important.

    Document reviews at State following some significant event are not unheard of; an office affected needs to recap how it got to where it is. Conducting such a review in secret, on a Sunday, with some of the Secretary’s most senior advisors personally overseeing things, is unheard of. The details of Maxwell’s story ring true, the place, the procedures. Checks of State Department entry and exit records and room use requests should establish the basic facts. Proving what happened at that document review will be much, much harder, and will focus in large part on Maxwell’s own credibility.


    Who is Ray Maxwell?

    Is Maxwell a disgruntled employee with an agenda? Possibly, but whistleblowers act on conscience, not revenge; the cost is too high for that, and in this day revenge is available much cheaper via a leak or as an unnamed source. Going public and disgruntlement often coincide but are not necessarily causal. You can be both bitter and a truth-teller. Knowing what the right thing to do is easier than summoning the courage and aligning one’s life to step up and do it.

    I think Ray Maxwell is credible. I don’t think his timing suggests he is not. We’ll see, paraphrasing Clinton’s own words on Benghazi, if it really matters anymore, and what difference does it make.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Seven Important, Non-Partisan Questions about Benghazi That Need Answers

    June 2, 2014 // 9 Comments »

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she won’t “be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans” over the 2012 Benghazi attacks,” though she devotes a full chapter to the incident in her forthcoming book Hard Choices. Politico was given a pre-release excerpt from the book, from which the quotes below are drawn.

    Clinton’s book raises some important points. Here are the questions some reporter should ask her if given the chance, along with a note about “why it matters” for each one to make clear these are things we need to know from the likely-next president of the United States, far apart from any political slugfest.

    The Questions

    1) Where was Clinton?

    The Benghazi attack unfolded from about 4pm in the afternoon until very late at night, Washington time. Clinton said she was first told of the incident as it began. She has refused to be specific about her whereabouts and actions that night. Where was Clinton between 4pm and say midnight? The State Department Operations Center was on the phone live with officials in Benghazi, Tripoli or both locations. Was Clinton in the State Department Operations Center? If not, why not? When did she leave the State Department? Why did she leave? Did she go to the White House Ops Center, who no doubt was monitoring the situation? If not, why not?

    Senator Charles Schumer was called to the White House, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, as the Benghazi attack unfolded. Clinton would be an unlikely source to explain Schumer’s presence, but certainly should be asked to explain her own non-presence.

    For example, the CBS timeline for the attack states that 4 a.m. Washington time Obama was told of Ambassador Stevens’ death. Where was Clinton at that time? If she was asleep, at home or elsewhere, why did she chose that over staying at the State Department?

    Clinton has refused to explain where she was the night of the Benghazi attack. CNN asked her, and here is her response:

    QUESTION: … could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.

    SECRETARY CLINTON: … I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on… So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting… So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

    Why It Matters: A Commander-in-Chief is responsible for lives and decisions. She has to be present and ready to make the “hard choices” in real time. If Clinton was elsewhere and not directly monitoring Benghazi in real-time (as opposed to getting periodic “briefings” aside some other event), how will she act as president in a similar crisis?

    2) About That Anti-Muslim Video

    In her book Hard Choices Clinton states about Benghazi:

    There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives. It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.

    What evidence can Clinton present that any of the Benghazi attackers were motivated by the video so offensive to Muslims? The attacks appear to have been well-coordinated and goal-oriented, not the faceless mobs content to tear down the American flag as seen in Cairo.

    For example, at 6:07 p.m. Washington time an alert from the State Department Operations Center stated the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack”… on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli. It did not appear that the offensive video was cited.

    The UK’s Independent noted the Consulate attackers made off with documents listing names of Libyans who are working with Americans, and documents related to oil contracts.

    Why It Matters: If you cite evidence, put up or shut up. The president must speak precisely, both to avoid misunderstandings and to preserve her credibility.

    3) What is Responsibility?

    Clinton writes:

    As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people’s safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day.

    Define “responsibility.” Many definitions imply some sort of relationship between being responsible, making decisions and accepting consequences. What decisions did Clinton make as Secretary of State vis-vis security in Benghazi? If delegated, to whom? What controls, management tools or other means did she employ to assure those delegates acted out her intentions?

    Why It Matters: As president, Clinton will need to delegate almost everything. If she is unable to manage that, simply saying she takes “responsibility” while shucking off consequences will undermine her leadership.

    4) More About Responsibility

    In Hard Choices, Clinton writes about the messages from Benghazi before the attack requesting more security:

    The cables were addressed to her as a ‘procedural quirk’ given her position, but didn’t actually land on her desk. “That’s not how it works. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t.”

    Fair enough. Obviously the Secretary cannot read even a fraction of what pours into the State Department. So, who were the highest level people to see those cables? What were their instructions on which issues to elevate to the Secretary and which to deal with themselves? Clearly the need for more security at Benghazi was not addressed. Following Benghazi, did Clinton initiate any internal review, leading to changes? Details are important here.

    Following Benghazi, no one in the State Department lost his/her job. No one was fired. Several people were placed on administrative leave, a kind of purgatory, until media attention focused elsewhere. All were eventually reinstated. The one person who claimed to have resigned actually just changed job titles, “resigning” from one to take on another.

    At the time, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs. That will in no way change [the] systemic failures of management and leadership in the State Department.”

    Why It Matters: God alone knows how much paper, how many memos and reports, arrive at the White House daily. The president must have staff and a system that filter the right things up and down. The country needs to have confidence that President Clinton will be able to handle that to prevent bad decisions that may lead to more tragedy. And when things go wrong, the president must be willing to shed ineffectual people and replace them with better ones.

    5) Leading

    Clinton writes of her non-appearance on television, with Susan Rice taking the lead:

    [People] fixate on the question of why I didn’t go on TV that morning, as if appearing on a talk show is the equivalent of jury duty, where one has to have a compelling reason to get out of it. I don’t see appearing on Sunday-morning television as any more of a responsibility than appearing on late-night TV. Only in Washington is the definition of talking to Americans confined to 9 A.M. on Sunday mornings.

    At the time, Susan Rice was America’s ambassador to the UN, what many saw as an unusual choice for a spokesperson for such a State Department-specific tragedy with little UN touchpoint.

    Clinton was Secretary of State, the leader of the State Department, which had just had one of its consulates overrun, and two of its employees killed, one an ambassador. Clinton admits she held “responsibility” for this. Why wouldn’t she be the person to speak of this to the American people? Indeed, it was Clinton, not Susan Rice, in the foreground of the serious, patriotic photos taken later at the Dover Air Force base when the remains of the dead were returned to the U.S. in their flag-draped coffins.

    Clinton went on to miss numerous opportunities to speak of her role regarding Benghazi.

    Why It Matters: The buck stops here, said president Harry Truman. The president needs to be the one who speaks to America, explains things that happened to Americans, the one who shows by example her role, her compassion, for those whom she sent into harm’s way. The president, to lead, can’t duck that.

    6) Information and Disinformation

    Clinton writes in her book:

    [There is a] regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation, and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media, but new information from a number of reputable sources continues to expand our understanding of these events.

    Can Clinton be specific about what new information she is referring to, and from what sources? Can she explain how she determined these sources are reputable as opposed to those she characterizes as “flat-out deceit”?

    One Democratic talking point opposing additional investigation into Benghazi is that the event has been dissected fully and we know all there is to know, that a new hearing in Congress is simply partisan politics. But if there is new information, as Clinton says, it seems more investigation would be helpful.

    Why It Matters: A president’s word choice is very important. Precision is important and establishes credibility.

    7) Accountability

    Clinton writes that the Accountability Review Board (ARB), State’s after-action process following any tragedy abroad as significant as two employees being killed by terrorists, did not interview her for their report, by their own choice. She does not know why they did not call on her. The report was bland and singled out no one for discipline or sanction despite the deaths and the decisions (by someone) not to increase security as personnel on the ground demanded.

    Given the central role the Secretary of State and her office, delegates and staffers played in Benghazi before, during and after the crisis, how could this possibly be true? Assuming that the ARB truly found no reason whatsoever to speak to the head of an organization about arguably the most significant event of her term as head of that organization, why didn’t Clinton seek them out? Why didn’t she prepare a written statement, ask to add in her recollections? Get her role on record? Make sure history was recorded.

    The Accountability Review Board personnel were hand-selected by Clinton.

    And as John Kerry said (about Edward Snowden) “patriots don’t run away.”

    Why It Matters: Not participating in such a review process, and then dismissing such non-participation simply as “they didn’t ask,” even if true, raises significant credibility questions about the validity of the ARB and the leader who did not participate. Credibility to her own staff, as well as to the American people, is a critical thing for a president.

    If either lose faith in her, she cannot be effective. Leaders lead without excuses.

    Something Important

    OK, let’s get this out of the way. It is impossible to divorce an attempt at serious, dispassionate discourse about Benghazi from the political side promoted by Republicans and Democrats. And yes, of course, it is aimed at Hillary 2016.

    But Hillary 2016 is a big deal. If the election were held today, she’d be the next president. So maybe, albeit with some of the inevitable political mud slung alongside, we should pay attention to how she acted, if she failed to act, and whether she enjoyed some sort of cover-up/soft-sell over what really happened in Benghazi.

    To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s own political rhetoric as directed at then-candidate Obama, we need to know how she’ll act when that tragic 3 a.m. phone call comes through. While past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure, it is how the smart money should bet.

    What kind of president would Hillary Clinton be? Let’s ask some real questions, and hold out for real answers.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Piketty’s Reality? The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

    May 22, 2014 // 7 Comments »




    Robert Reich, once Clinton the First’s Secretary of Labor and now a professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has emerged as one of the clearest pre-Piketty voices on income inequality and how it is affecting America. He asks why, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their coming demise, our middle class remains complacent.

    So why is there no revolution brewing?

    Reich’s reasons– a working class paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has, debt-laden students who are no longer a major force for social change, and an American public so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible– are valid. His idea that somehow some kind of reform is still possible is less so. Let’s look into this.

    The Reality of Wealth

    The gap between most Americans and those who sit atop our economy continues to grow. For two decades after 1960, real incomes of the top five percent and the remaining 95 percent increased at almost the same rate, about four percent a year. But incomes diverged between 1980 and 2007, with those at the bottom seeing annual increases only half of that of those at the top.

    This is not some aberration. Instead, lower savings and hyper-available credit (remember fraudulent Countrywide mortgages and usurous re-fi’s?) put the middle and bottom portions of our society on an unsustainable financial path that increased spending until it triggered the Great Recession of 2008. Meanwhile, America’s the top earners’ wealth grew even as those responsible for the collapse were never punished and the companies involved received federal bail-out money (the money came from taxes paid in part by those destroyed in the Recession.) In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom ninety percent became poorer. The recession represented the largest redistribution of wealth in a century.

    How did the most wealthy achieve this? The reality of possession.

    The Reality of Possession

    A rising tide lifts all yachts, as historian Morris Berman observed. Less than half of Americans do not own any stock at all. The wealthiest of Americans own over 80 percent of all stock, and 40 percent of America’s land.

    It is worse on an international scale. Only 85 human beings own half of all the world’s wealth. Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

    Short answer: The rich just get richer. They have no interest in reform or change. Things are working just fine for them. It is the reality of the system.

    The Reality of the System

    Walmart associates make minimum wage. Most associates are nowhere near full-time, so their take home pay is well below the poverty threshold.

    In return for paying below-poverty wages, Walmart makes over $18,000 per employee, including $13,000 in pre-tax profits, after paying salaries, plus taxpayer subsidies of $5,815 per worker in the form of food stamps paid by the government to keep the workers nearer the poverty line than below it, and tax breaks given to “create jobs.”

    The top four members of the Walmart family made a combined $28.9 billion from their investments last year. Less than a third of that would have given every U.S. Walmart worker a $3.00 raise, enough to end the public subsidy, though the four Walmart scions would have to make due with only $20 billion a year. But why bother to change when the reality of politics is so much in the company’s favor?

    Essentially the interests of the 99 percent are in direct conflict with those of the one percent. The only hope lies in the reality of politics.

    The Reality of Politics

    Over large swaths of the earth, there are no elections. In some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East and Asia, there is not even the pretext of anyone choosing a government. Most governments are controlled by family ascension, not unlike the scene in the Middle Ages. In many other places, elections are simply public stage plays, with the actual winners decided by corruption and manipulation. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that power and wealth work together.

    Such is the case now in the United States. According to Professor Lawrence Lessing, that with the concentration of wealth, 132 people in the U.S. essentially control elections. They do so by donating, just that handful of people, over 60 percent of the SuperPac money. Those 132 people represent 0.000042 percent of the total number of voters; most other contributions to candidates are small, many below $200. How much is your vote worth?

    It is not a coincidence that in 2016 the presidential race will likely again be a Clinton versus a Bush.

    By reducing the ostensible choices to two, and by making the choice a false one as both candidates will differ little in their practices toward wealth and corporate profits, a very few super rich (indeed, a tiny subset of even the vaunted one percent) control the government. It is impossible under such circumstances for the government to create laws again the interests of the wealthy; after all, they work for them. The reality of change is that there is no reason to change.


    The Reality of Change

    The world has seen this before, for the West, during the Middle Ages, when feudalism was the dominant social and political state. A very, very few owned most everything of value. The 99 percent majority– serfs then, associates now– worked for whatever the feudal lords allowed them to have. In our more modern version of society, even the skilled artisan class that helped lift us out of the dark times may not exist as those activities (programming, services to the rich, medicine) are largely outsourced to places on earth were the pay even for skilled work is low.

    Spayed, we’ll all accept it. Noisy but ineffective dissent will exist as a kind of entertainment, a diversion. The few real leaders among us will fall quickly under an almost-complete surveillance state coupled with militarized police. There thus, with apologies to Reich and Piketty, may be no means to foment a revolution, nor real reform. It remains possible, if not likely, that our nation will find itself in a new birth of feudalism, progress and growth a mere historical blip.

    Still don’t believe me? Remember, at the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages only two thousand people owned all the land between the Rhine and Euphrates rivers. In 2014, 85 people own half of the world’s wealth.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Government Watch Lists, Ray McGovern and Post-Constitutional America

    February 24, 2014 // 25 Comments »




    The Passion of Ray McGovern

    Ray McGovern is a hell of a guy. An Army veteran, he worked for the CIA from the Kennedy administration up through the first Bush presidency, preparing the president’s daily intel brief and other important stuff. Along the way, McGovern began to see the fraud and evil of much of the government’s work, and has since become an outspoken critic of the intelligence world and an advocate for free speech. He speaks on behalf of people like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

    McGovern is also a very nice person, soft-spoken, serious, kinda looks like your uncle playing Santa Claus, full of fascinating Cold War history. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ray. He’s the kind of guy you meet and like almost immediately. I bet he was a hell of a spy.

    A Wanted Man

    Ray McGovern is also on the State Department’s BOLO list– Be On the Look Out– one of a series of government watch lists.

    The old-timey wanted poster State’s Diplomatic Security printed up cites McGovern’s “considerable amount of political activism” and “significant notoriety in the national media” as if those points were somehow relevant to his inclusion on the watch list. Though McGovern is a thin man, age 75 with no history of violence, Diplomatic Security warns that its agents should USE CAUTION (their emphasis) when stopping McGovern and conducting the required “field interview.”

    A Dangerous Man

    What did McGovern do to end up on Diplomatic Security’s dangerous persons list? His offense was to turn his back on Hillary Clinton, literally.

    In 2011, at George Washington University during a public event where Clinton was speaking, McGovern stood up and turned his back to the stage. He did not say a word, or otherwise disrupt anything. University cops grabbed McGovern in a headlock and by his arms and dragged him out of the auditorium by force, their actions directed by a from the side by a third man whose name was redacted from public records of the event. Photos of the then-71 year old man taken at the time of his arrest show the multiple bruises and contusions he suffered while being arrested. He was secured to a metal chair with two sets of handcuffs. McGovern was at first refused medical care for the bleeding caused by the handcuffs. It is easy to invoke the words thug, bully, goon.

    The charges of disorderly conduct were dropped, McGovern was released and it was determined that he committed no crime.

    And one more thing: the speech Clinton was making at the time of McGovern’s protest and arrest? She was condemning authoritarian governments who repress dissenters and internet freedom. As McGovern was being dragged out, Clinton stated that “The government does not want the world to watch,” in reference to Egypt, not her America as unfolding before her eyes. Clinton did not acknowledge the arrest, never broke character as it happened.

    An Enemy of the State

    In old-timey America, that might have been the end of McGovern’s troubles. However, in our post-Constitutional America, it was only the beginning.

    Despite all charges having been dropped against McGovern and despite having determined that he engaged in no criminal activity, the Department of State then opened an investigation into McGovern, including his political beliefs, activities, statements and associations. The investigative report noted “McGovern does
    seem to have the capacity to capture a national audience – it is possible his former career with the CIA has the potential to make him ‘attractive’ to the media.” The investigation ran nearly seven months, and resulted in the Be On The Lookout Alert.

    Subjects of such alerts are considered potential threats to the Secretary of State. Their whereabouts are typically tracked to see if they will be in proximity of the Secretary. If Diplomatic Security sees one of the subjects nearby, they detain and question them. Other government agencies and local police are always notified. The alert essentially constitutes a standing directive by Diplomatic Security that the subject be stopped and seized in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause that he is committing an offense. Stop him for being him. It is easy to see how these directives slash across the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unwarranted search and seizure.

    Subjects are also not allowed inside any State Department facility, including embassies and consulates abroad where typical Americans are by treaty allowed to seek refuge and protection. But not for Ray McGovern.

    McGovern v. John Kerry

    As we’ve said, McGovern is no typical guy. On February 15 he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and his State Department, as well as George Washington University where the arrest took place, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated by unlawful police misconduct in retaliation for his act of protest. He also is suing over violation of his Fourth Amendment rights due to excessive use of force and his wrongful arrest. McGovern seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the State Department from directing law enforcement stop and question him on sight.

    We’ll keep track of the lawsuit and report on its progress.

    Why I Know So Much about BOLO Alerts

    Information reluctantly made available to me as the State Department sought to persecute, prosecute and /or fire me for my whistleblowing book, We Meant Well, showed that I too was and may still be subject to a Diplomatic Security alert.

    After a blog post I wrote in 2011 that was deemed insulting to then-Secretary of State Clinton, and after over two decades of public service, my State Department access card was impounded, I was marched out of the building and I was given a letter stating I was prohibited from entering any State Department facility, domestic or abroad. When a bit of necessary bureaucratic business came up a week or two later, I was told that I could only enter the State Department building as far as the public lobby, where I would be met by the appropriate Human Resources person in the presence of security personnel.

    State later was forced to reveal that not only was I placed on its own Diplomatic Security watch list, but also on the Secret Service’s watch list, as they share responsibility for Clinton’s security as a former First Lady. McGovern may want to check on that.

    My lawyers sought to have State remove me from the lists. State refused to confirm or deny my continued presence on the lists. State did not respond to my several requests for this information under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Post-Constitutional America

    Diplomatic Security knew of course I was no threat to anyone. I’m a fat old guy, short, and had a clean track record inside the Department since the 1980’s. Same for Ray McGovern; the cops that mistreated and arrested him for standing silently knew damn well he was neither disrupting anything nor a threat. They knew exactly what the First and Fourth Amendments said.

    And they didn’t care.

    This is what post-Constitutional America is about. The government, from major issues such as extrajudicial drone killings down to the pettiness which preoccupies the bullies in places like Diplomatic Security, no longer cares whether its actions are legal, and no longer cares if everyone knows it.

    From the Founders forward, government has always done illegal things, naughty things, things that it knew were likely unconstitutional. What is new is that the acts have scaled up significantly, moving from analog to digital, and that the government is so sure that neither the courts nor the People will object that they no longer even go through the motions of hiding what they do.

    Remember, both the Stasi and the Nazis did what they did quite openly, and kept excellent records.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Hey, Who’s that American? Probably a Special Forces Guy

    December 30, 2013 // 10 Comments »

    Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, foreigners would point at awkward people in brightly colored shorts, and socks with sandals, and know they were American tourists visiting their country. Goofy, then-rich and usually benign, they were the face of America abroad.

    These days, if a foreigner encounters an American, he is mostly likely a special forces guy.


    A Quick Recap on Libya

    Today’s case in point, Libya. But first a quick recap. In August 2011 (just a little more than two years ago), then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the country:

    The events in Libya this week have heartened the world. The situation remains fluid, but it is clear that the Qadhafi era is coming to an end, opening the way for a new era in Libya—one of liberty, justice, and peace. We join the Libyan people in celebrating the courageous individuals who have stood up to a tyrant and defended their homes and communities against Qadhafi’s violence. The United States and the international community have stood by the Libyan people during many difficult days in the last six months. Together, we prevented a massacre, and we supported the people’s efforts to gain their freedom.

    In October 2011, Clinton herself traveled to Libya, bringing along $46 million in U.S. aid, after freeing up over $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets. Hopefully some opposition researcher is collecting these choice moments ahead of the 2016 elections.

    Good times, yes, good times.


    Two Years Later…

    So here we are, two years later and the news out of Libya is about other Americans visiting. A few days ago, a convoy of Americans “from the embassy” raced through a checkpoint in Libya. One car had no license plates. Another shot past guards and caused an accident, after which the vehicle “suddenly caught fire which authorities could not explain,” said al-Taher al-Gharbali, an army colonel in the local military council. Eventually four armed Americans with U.S. embassy ID cards were arrested by some form of the Libyan authorities (i.e., a couple of guys with AK-74 on loose slings.)

    After a lot of initial silence, the Department of Defense confirmed that the travelers were U.S. military personnel. While their unit identification was not made public, one can probably surmise they were not clerk typists on shore leave. DOD said they were scouting evacuation routes for embassy personnel. The embassy said they were part of security preparedness. A State Department spokesperson said “the United States valued its relationship with ‘the new Libya'”.


    More Freedom

    Elsewhere, we have learned that the four Americans wounded in South Sudan as part of the humanitarian evacuation process were Navy SEALS.

    And who can forget American Citizen Raymond Davis, who, while touring Pakistan, killed a couple of local guys. Davis wasn’t Special Forces; he worked for the CIA, perhaps as their actual employee, perhaps as a mercenary for the private security contractor Xe, formerly known as Blackwater.

    While it is kinda hard to find a list of all the places U.S. Special Forces are currently deployed abroad, it is comforting to know that the U.S. military as a whole has armed personnel in more than 150 nations worldwide. The U.S. Special Operations Command has over 67,000 acknowledged personnel and a known budget of $7.483 billion for Operations and Maintenance; $373 million for Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation; $1.6 billion for Procurement; and $441 million for Military Construction funding.


    BONUS: An excellent list of U.S. military interventions abroad, 1890-2011.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Bruce Oreck, Former Douche of the Week, Reclaims Title as America Weeps

    December 18, 2013 // 24 Comments »

    Ambassadors are a nation’s principle representative abroad.

    In the case of America and the U.S. Department of State, the ambassador is considered the ranking American government official in-country, the head of the embassy and indeed the president’s personal and direct representative to that foreign nation. Symbol, figurehead, molder of America’s image in the eyes of foreigners.

    Many of you will remember how about this time last year we named U.S. ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck “Douche of the Week,” a prestigious title to go along with his official one. Oreck rose to these heights by sending out Christmas cards with the photo shown to the left. Oreck fancies himself a well-built fellow, with a cheeky sense of humor. He is beloved by millions of his staff for presenting a regular guy image; he is beloved by millions of Finns for confirming their belief that Americans are complete idiots who should never be allowed to travel.

    Signature Accomplishment: Renovating his Own Office

    As an ambassador, Oreck’s signature accomplishment so far, not including the photo here, has been to get the U.S. government to spend more money on the U.S. embassy in Finland, because that somehow must be good for the Finns. Indeed, an official USG report acknowledged that “the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the Ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.” Oreck picked up 250,000 frequent flier miles (ambassadors fly first class, ‘natch) in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns. Luckily, he was able to divert scarce State Department building and security funds from dumps like Benghazi.

    Oreck of course has a long resume of living off his family’s money. Oreck earned his lifetime title of ambassador by being the son of famed vacuum cleaner manufacturer David Oreck. Ambassador Oreck then went on to serve as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for the Oreck Corporation. Oreck’s most important contribution to diplomacy was to bundle more than $500,000 in donations for Obama in the 2008 election.

    Merry Douche Christmas

    We all know asshats like Oreck, and we all know they feed off of lower people like ourselves calling them asshats. Kind of perks them up, and so they go out of their way to bait us, begging for a response. As hard as I have tried not to feed him, Oreck did it again. Here’s his Christmas card for this year, as posted on his Facebook page:




    I guess it is supposed to be some kind of meta-social commentary thing, like because last year everybody called him a douche for posing with his bicep curled, this year he is wearing a shirt and tie in a place where you’d expect him to be shirtless. And it is also of course “culturally sensitive” because it is in a sauna, and Finns like saunas. As with the State Department’s goofy videos, if this kind of ambassador-with-a-sense of humor thing is such an effective “tool” of diplomacy, why is it only the U.S. that seems to have cottoned on to that?

    Oreck also has on Facebook lots of “I’m not really a frustrated, closeted gay man, even though that’s cool” photos. Here he is with Richard Branson, and there is he checking out the Old Dog’s package.



    So, America, in this Christmas season, let us rejoice. Taxpayers, you are paying for all this. But in a larger sense, rest easy knowing that our bumbling idiot of a nation is in fact quite accurately represented in Finland.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Veteran’s Day: State Department Sleaze Flows Unabated and Unpunished

    November 11, 2013 // 12 Comments »

    We pause to honor America’s veterans today, and recognize their sacrifices. At the same time, we wish to let those still on active duty, living in the mud, eating MREs away from their families and of course putting their lives at risk, what some have called “America’s Other Army,” the Department of State, has been up to home and abroad.

    That said, we’ve tried to keep up with the near-continuous flow of sleaze at the State Department, but it a tough job. Luckily, the New York Post has also been keeping track, and presents us with some updates.

    (This blog’s catalog of sleaze is here if you need to refresh your memory)

    From the Post:

    – Chuck Lisenbee, a former Beirut security officer who was being probed for allegedly sexually assaulting local guards, is now a special agent in Washington for the Office of Diplomatic Vehicles, Enforcement and Outreach, according to a State Department phone directory. Agents were only given three days to investigate the allegations against him, according to a memo seen by the Post.

    An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “More details on Lisenbee: he first got into trouble when he tried to make out with a fellow (male) ARSO in Baghdad. His depredations against local guards in Liberia were then discovered. Lisenbee started every lunch with prayer because “Jesus Christ, my lord and savior, is the most important thing in my life” (exact quote heard by this source on at least 50 occasions). ”

    — Brett McGurk — a former senior adviser to the ambassador to Iraq — was appointed the deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran in August, according to the State Department Web site. He was President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Iraq but withdrew after his extramarital affair with a Wall Street Journal reporter was exposed. Apparently, investigators never interviewed McGurk because Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, intervened. (this blog has A LOT more on McGurk’s dalliances; and you’ll see a lot more of Under Furher Cheryl Mills in the Hillary Clinton administration)

    — Former Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman was allowed to retire in July. A State Department investigator believed Gutman solicited “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to the Post. The IG’s Office is reviewing the charges and the Department’s procedures and plans to release a followup report. Howard Gutman and members of Clinton’s security detail were also accused of hired prostitutes.

    — An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “Remember old Linda Howard, profiled on this blog for holding her Ethiopian housekeeper as a slave. She lost a big lawsuit over that. The U.S. Attorney was unable to prosecute her and her husband, Russell, because Linda’s sex parties in Yemen were really popular and the “semi-pro” Ethiopian girls in attendance made a lot of money at them. As a result, they didn’t make terribly good witnesses. The Howard’s are currently hiding out in an undisclosed SouthEast Asian country (Russell used to be a diplomatic courier in the Australian Foreign Service).”


    Meanwhile, a quick update also on America’s Favorite Diplomatic Security agent, Chris Deedy. Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in Hawaii while there on official State Department business (albeit off duty when he pulled the trigger multiple times), guarding Hillary Clinton during APEC meetings. The judge declared a mistrial, released the jury and stated she was thinking about scheduling a retrial for May or June 2014. The killing took place in 2011. At last report, the victim remains dead. Much more here about this story; Deedy remains a full-time paid employee of the State Department.

    The Honolulu Star Advertiser and HawaiiNewsNOW have filed a complaint in state Supreme Court to force the judge to release transcripts of the parts of the Deedy trial where she kicked everyone out of the courtroom, saying the judge violated the U.S. Constitution by holding closed-door court proceedings.

    Deedy’s support group is also busy, asking readers to donate their frequent flyer miles and hotel points so Deedy can fly and stay in Hawaii for free. Jump on over to their site if you want to pony up.

    Also, Benghazi.



    And don’t miss more State sleaze later this week, with a blog post we’ll call “Sex, Lies and Rotten Meat at the American Consulate in Naples.”



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    State Department Sleaze Accumulates without Real Response

    June 16, 2013 // 56 Comments »


    Breaking Bad! Two new sleazy State Department actions– a sweetheart consulting deal for one of Hillary’s best buds and accusations of an affair and hookers for a senior State official. See below!

    Attempted suicide after a harsh interrogation? Hiring armed guys with criminal backgrounds? Senior officials having sex with subordinates, prostitutes and minors? Investigations into all of the above covered up or halted? That’s the news, not from Gitmo or some banana republic, but from your U.S. Department of State. Better get out the hand sanitizer, this blog post gets filthy fast.

    A Sad Pattern of Sleaze from America’s Diplomats

    Ever since the story broke on CBS News that the State Department covered up numerous allegations of wrong-doing to protect its public image, the details of said wrong-doing have been leaking out.

    The reasons to care about this are many, and all the Hillary-love and attempts to just call it (just) a Republican witch hunt are a smokescreen. The obvious reason to care is that these people represent America abroad, and we need to ask what image they are projecting. In addition, such crimes and personal traits as alleged below make them vulnerable to blackmail, either by other members of the USG (promote me, give me a better assignment, or else…) or foreign intelligence (turn over the secrets or the photos go to the press). The fact that the organization apparently cannot police itself internally raises questions about competence (and the former SecState saying she was wholly ignorant of all this sludge is not a defense that actually makes her look presidential), and about what if anything it is accomplishing on America’s behalf.

    Here’s a roundup to date:

    – As a special shout-out to We Meant Well regulars, USA Today claims it has a memo detailing how Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, allegedly interceded in an investigation by Diplomatic Security into an affair between failed-Iraq ambassador-designate Brett McGurk and Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon.

    — Cheryl Mills again: Mills, a longtime confidante of Hillary, reportedly played a key role in the State Department’s damage-control efforts on the Benghazi attack last year and was also named in accusations that department higher-ups quashed investigations into diplomats’ potential criminal activity. Cheryl Mills, who served in a dual capacity in recent years as general counsel and chief of staff to Clinton, was accused of attempting to stifle congressional access to a diplomat who held a senior post in Libya at the time of the attack.

    — U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman accused of soliciting “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.” The ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to documents obtained by NBC News. State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered an end to the investigation. “The ambassador’s protective detail and the embassy’s surveillance detection team [Note: A State Department team that conducts counterespionage surveillance, watching State Department officials to see if they are being watched by foreign spies] . . . were well aware of the behavior.”

    The ambassador explained that sometimes he fights with his wife, needs air and he goes for a walk in the park because he likes it. The Atlantic reported that the park Gutman trolled, Parc Royal Warandepark, was well-known as a place to pick up adult homosexual and adolescent boy prostitutes.

    A Belgian newspaper described the park: “I see young children go to adult waiting. Later, another adult waits, often to extort money from the victim after. I’ve been awakened by cries and my terrace, I saw someone being beaten. I had my legs were shaking. Time to call the police, I saw the victim painfully get up and go.”

    — A State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. State’s former regional security officer in Beirut, Chuck Lisenbee, allegedly sexually assaulted guards and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Justine Sincavage, then-director of Diplomatic Security Service, called the allegations a “witch hunt” and gave agents “only three days” to investigate, and no charges were brought, according to USA Today.

    — Members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” a problem the report says was “endemic.” Three members of Clinton’s security detail admitted to hiring prostitutes while on foreign trips and were given suspensions of one day. An investigator for Diplomatic Security launched an investigation into similar allegations against four other members of Clinton’s security detail but was ordered by Kimber Davidson, chief of the special investigations division, and Rob Kelty, his deputy, to shut down the investigation.

    — The State Department has hired an “alarming number of law-enforcement agents with criminal or checkered backgrounds” because of a flawed hiring process, a stunning memo obtained by The New York Post reveals. “Too many people entering the [Diplomatic Security and Information Management] communities end up as subjects of [Special Investigation Division] investigations and HR adjudications, become Giglio-impaired and can play only limited roles thereafter,” according to the memo. “Giglio” refers to a US Supreme Court case dealing with jury notification that witnesses have made deals with the government to induce testimony. Some Diplomatic Security field offices “have major problems just waiting to be discovered,” the memo adds.

    — In one case, aggressive interrogation techniques by Diplomatic Service agents “drove an employee to attempt suicide” when accused of raping his maid in Bangkok, Thailand, a memo suggests. “After “being told he would end up in a Thai prison, his wife would lose her job and his children would be pulled out of school, [the man] attempted suicide by jumping out of the 16th-story window at a hotel in Bangkok.” The guy lived, and was flown back to Washington for in-patient psychiatric care, where the agents continued to harass him. The rape charges were ultimately dropped.

    — The same Diplomatic Security memo cites eight cases involving Diplomatic Security agents who resorted to “false, misleading or incomplete statements in reports,” “privacy-act violations” or “lack of objectivity” in investigations.

    — Diplomatic security agents learned that James Combs, a senior diplomatic security agent in Baghdad and formerly of the DS Office of Professional Standards, was having an extramarital affair with a subordinate and had numerous affairs with men over a 30-year span without the knowledge of his wife. This presented “counterintelligence concerns,” but the investigation never reached a conclusion.

    — A security contractor in Baghdad died of an overdose of methadone, which he was taking to counteract an addiction to the painkiller oxycodone. An underground drug ring may have been supplying the drugs, but State’s regional security officer did not allow a special investigations agent to pursue that possibility.

    — In Miami, agents investigating a car accident by diplomatic security agent Evelyn Kittinger learned that she had been claiming full pay for several years “but had actually only worked very few hours.” State Department supervisors told the investigator to advise her to resign to avoid facing criminal charges and a major fine.

    — Another report states that a top State Department official stymied investigators trying to get to the bottom of four killings in Honduras involving DEA agents and local police. The incident ended in the deaths of two pregnant women and two men last year, after Honduran national police opened fire from a State Department-owned helicopter on a small boat. Honduran police said drugs were involved, but locals said the boat was full of fishermen.

    –ADDED: Sen. Charles Grassley is probing longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s employment status, asking how she got a sweetheart deal to be a private six-figure consultant while still serving as a top State Department official. Abedin, one of Clinton’s most loyal aides, is of course married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s in the midst of a vigorous effort to beat off his own sexting scandal and become mayor of New York. Abedin hauled in as much as $350,000 in outside income on top of her $135,000 government salary. She was redesignated a “special government employee” who was able to haul in cash as a private contractor while still on the government dole.

    –ADDED: Consulate General Naples’ Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers. “When our diplomats disrespect the Italians by hiring and firing them because they have seen too much — or use them for ‘sex-ercise’ — we have to question why we have diplomats abroad at taxpayer expense,” said Howard. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore makes as much as $179,700 a year. His first office romance supposedly occurred within days of his arrival in Italy, when he allegedly bedded a consulate employee, a single mom who fell in love with him. Moore was honored as “Consular Officer of the Year” (Barbara Watson Award) in 2005.

    — A Foreign Service Officer, Michael Todd Sestak, 41, has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud. Dude was a senior visa official in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and supposedly pocketed some $2 million dollars for his work.

    It appears that Foggy Bottom has sprung multiple leaks as hard-working folks grow tired of their bosses being allowed to do just about anything without punishment. What is going on? I don’t recall this much garbage coming into the daylight ever before. I assume it was happening all the same forever, but not this much in the public eye. I think it is time for Kerry to say something about at least trying to control his organization.

    And of course someone should throw Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy out. He *may* be getting the message that in this internet age if you don’t give people a realistic internal avenue to fix things they’ll just go outside. That’s kinda what I did… So there is no doubt much more to come…


    State Department Responds

    The State Department spokesman said, “We hold all employees to the highest standards.” Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters repeatedly this week that the accusations are “unsubstantiated.”

    So that’s that apparently. No reporter has seen it useful to ask why for more than four and a half years, the State Department has had no appointed inspector general, the longest such vacancy of any federal agency. Or why, during his entire time in office, Obama has not nominated anyone to fill the slot. Or why during her four years as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not demand an inspector general for her organization.

    Hillary Responds

    A spokesman said Clinton was completely unaware of any of the investigations mentioned in the Office of the Inspector General’s reports and memos, including the case involving her personal security detail allegedly soliciting prostitutes. “We learned of it from the media and don’t know anything beyond what’s been reported.”

    It means nothing that a candidate who will no doubt cite her endless efforts on behalf of women everywhere remained unaware of sex crimes occurring, well, under her.

    Opposition researchers and taxpayers alike, once again, Hillary Clinton’s defense is that she was totally unaware of what was going on in the organization she lead and managed, up to and including the actions of her own lifelong advisor and chief of staff, as well senior officials who reported directly to her. She’ll make a great president!

    Oh wait– these are just “allegations.” They need to be investigated. Well, the problem of course is that one of the allegations is that powerful trolls inside State prevented or derailed any investigations, and indeed the over-arching allegation is that Diplomatic Security, charged with investigations, is riddled with political considerations that prevent full and transparent investigations. So that’s a pretty weak excuse to blow off everything said.

    That said, maybe some are false. OK, but if even a small number of these serious accusations are true (rape, murder, minors) then even that suggests an organization operating without internal controls and the best defense its leader can come up with is her own ignorance. Not a good thing.




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Eric Holder is Not a Patriot

    May 15, 2013 // 9 Comments »

    Eric Holder has told us that he “recused” himself from decisions the organization he heads made to help destroy freedom of the press in the United States by seizing the phone records of the Associated Press. He simply said that he was not involved, so please address your concerns somewhere else. The President, Holder’s boss, made similar remarks. The government did things to belittle the Constitution and neither the President nor the Attorney General has much concern or connection with it all. Things happen.

    The pattern is not unique to the phone records, nor to even the nobody-is-responsible actions of the IRS against organizations seeking non-profit status whose political beliefs ran counter to the Obama Administration. Indeed, even as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton claimed that she had no idea of what was going on underneath her in the organization vis-vis Libya, and that counted as a defense. Hell, we fire football coaches when the team loses, even though they don’t punt, pass or kick themselves. Leaders are responsible for what their organizations do. That’s what the job is, not just photo-ops and world travel.

    But for all the recent “-gates” and scandals, let’s take a moment to remember the uber-scandal of the Obama Administration: it’s claim that it may legally kill Americans by drone, with no due process.

    Looking Back

    Historians of the future, if they are not imprisoned for saying so, will trace the end of America’s democratic experiment to the fearful days immediately after 9/11, what Bruce Springsteen called the days of the empty sky, when frightened, small men named Bush and Cheney made the first decisions to abandon the Constitution in the name of freedom and created a new version of the security state with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, secret prisons and sanctioned torture by the US government. They proceeded carefully, making sure that lawyers in their employ sanctioned each dark act, much as kings in old Europe used the church to justify their own actions.

    Those same historians will remark from exile on the irony that such horrendous policies were not only upheld by Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and professor of Constitutional law, but added to until we came to the place we sadly occupy today: the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, publicly stating that the American Government may murder one of its own citizens when it wishes to do so, and that the requirements of due process enshrined in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, itself drawn from the Magna Carta that was the first reflowering of basic human rights since the Greeks, can be satisfied simply by a decision by that same President.

    We will thus be remembered as the ones who gave up. No more clever wordplay (enhanced interrogations, “patriot” act, targeted killing, kinetic operations) but a simple declaration that the US Government will kill its own citizens when it wishes to, via a secret process we, and our victims, are not allowed to know or contest.

    Brevity in Our Freedom

    Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is beautiful in its brevity and clarity. When you are saying something true, pure, clean and right, you often do not need many words: “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    There are no footnotes in the Fifth Amendment, no caveats, no secret memos, no exceptions for war, terrorism, mass rape, creation of concentration camps, acts of genocide, child torture or any evil. Those things are unnecessary, because in the beauty of what Lincoln offered to his audience as “a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the government would be made up of us, the purpose of government was to serve us, and the government would be beholden to us. Such a government would be incapable of killing its own citizens without care and debate and open trial.

    With the excuse all tyrants proclaim, protecting the nation, on or about September 30, 2011 a US drone fired a missile in Yemen and killed American Citizen Anwar al Awlaki, born in the United States and tragically devoted to al Qaeda. A few days later the US also killed al Zawaki’s 16 year old American Citizen son. The US had shot at the elder al Awlaki before, on May 7, 2011 under Obama’s orders, and under the Bush administration. Before the US government killed his son, attorneys for al Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a US District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government killing of al Awlaki. A judge dismissed the case, ruling the father did not have standing to sue. This was the first time in our nation’s history that a father sought to sue to prevent the government from extra-legally killing his son. The judge in the case surrendered to his post-9/11 fear and wrote that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine whether the United States has the authority to murder its own citizens by decree.

    Fear Shaped by Lies to Compel Compliance

    Attorney General Holder said things no honest man would ever believe would be said by the highest law officer in the United States.

    Holder said “that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process’ and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a ‘judicial process.’”

    Holder thus also declaimed that the victim also has no right to a defense, no right to speak on his behalf, no right to examine and refute the evidence against him and no right even to know his life will be taken under the decision of a few men in Washington. Indeed, Holder made clear that the government’s decision to kill overshadowed the right to self-defense in saying “An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks.”

    Holder said he rejected any attempt to label such operations assassinations, invoking the same airbrush of lawfulness that fueled the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials and the Holocaust. “Assassinations are unlawful killings. The US government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful.” In other words, if the President does it, it is no illegal.

    Sluts All

    Historians will look back on us as the people of America who gave up on its experiment with unalienable rights, rights that are natural, not given, rights independent of governments, what our Declaration explained to an unsure forming nation as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    America was different. We became a country not based on a common language, or religion or anything else except adherence to a common set of beliefs, our Bill of Rights. When you take that away, there is nothing left in common, and dammit Eric Holder and Barack Obama know that.

    The saddest part of a very sad day: the majority of Americans– the consent of the governed– seemingly do not care what Holder said, and are even now bleating on internet forums and likely in comments below to this article about the need to kill more, adding terrified, empty justifications to Holder’s clever statements. We did not have our freedom taken from us, we gave it away. That is real terror.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Deedy Done It Different

    March 28, 2013 // 20 Comments »

    America’s favorite Diplomatic Security “special” agent Chris Deedy is engaged in what promises to be one of Hawaii’s longest trial processes.

    For those just joining us, recap here. For those too multi-tasked to click on the link, the real short now version is that in November 2011 while in Hawaii protecting then-SecState Hillary Clinton from the APEC conference, Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in a Waikiki McDonalds. Deedy was arrested by the Honolulu Police Department and charged with Murder in the Second Degree and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Separate Felony, punishable by a term of life in prison. Despite the whole thing being on both a surveillance videotape and on someone’s iPhone video, along with multiple eye witnesses, the case has not yet come to full trial. Deedy maintained that he acted legally in his capacity as a law enforcement official.

    Until now.

    On March 11 Deedy changed his story, with his lawyer withdrawing the request to dismiss the case on the basis that he was acting as a federal agent at the time of the incident. The new rationale for the killing is self-defense. Withdrawing the motion relieves Deedy of having to testify during a pretrial hearing. It also cancels his desire to have the case transferred to federal court. The change also, finally, clears the way for the actual trial to begin on/about April 2 in Honolulu unless some new delay is introduced.

    There has been no clear explanation/reason as to why the case has taken so long to (almost) reach trial. Deedy has been out on bail since the shooting, working a desk job at the State Department on full salary.

    Deedy also now has a “support” group on the web raising money for him (they’re up to $12k), as well as to provide his side of the story.

    According to the local Honolulu newspaper, in pretrial documents, city prosecutors say Deedy appeared “intoxicated” after a night of drinking and bar hopping and became the aggressor who started an altercation. According to prosecutors, Deedy kicked the deceased Elderts and repeatedly told him he was going to shoot him “in the face.”

    The defense’s position outlined in court documents contends it was Elderts who was the aggressor. Hart’s filings said an intoxicated Elderts called Deedy a “fucking haole” and challenged him to a fight. Hart said Deedy identified himself as a law enforcement officer, but Elderts attacked Deedy, who felt compelled to fire in self-defense.

    Deedy’s self-defense argument will need to convince a local jury that as a trained law enforcement officer from the State Department temporarily in Hawaii for wholly unrelated reasons, after a night on the town with friends, he was required to fire multiple shots at near point-blank range into an unarmed inebriated local man inside a crowded McDonalds at 2:30 am.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Did Eric Boswell Really Resign over Benghazi Fail? Define “Resign”

    March 18, 2013 // 16 Comments »




    In one of her final acts as Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton accepted the “resignation” of her head of Diplomatic Security, Eric J. Boswell. Boswell was portrayed in the media as the highest ranking State Department official to lose his job over the security failures in Benghazi, Libya that lead to the deaths of four Americans. Clinton sold the resignation to Congress as a sign of accountability over decisions made and mistakes committed. Case closed, right?

    But did Boswell really “resign?” Or is he still employed by the Department of State?

    Define “Resign”

    Before his December 19, 2012 “resignation,” Boswell actually held two jobs: head of Diplomatic Security and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions (DS/OFM) at State. The former position held immediate responsibility for the safety of America’s diplomats abroad, while the latter job covered both the security and administrative needs of foreign diplomats in the U.S. As head of OFM, Boswell was responsible for the safety of say the French Embassy in Washington as well as the duty-free import of cars for the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.

    His celebrated resignation was cleverly worded: he resigned as head of Diplomatic Security (Benghazi accountability!) only. In a December 19 statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately.” When questioned about whether Boswell really left the State Department’s employ by a cowed media, State would only reissue the carefully crafted statement put out December 19. No one was interested in even a follow-up question– is Boswell still on State’s payroll?

    Where’s Boswell?

    So who is now head of the Office of Foreign Missions at State? Is it Boswell? Turns out that is a hard question to really answer.

    Let’s start with the list of senior officials on the State Department website. That page lists the position of Director of the Office of Foreign Missions as vacant. No Boswell.

    However, on the same main State Department site, a page from the Office of the Historian puts Boswell still in the job, as he has been, since 2008. Another page says he is still in the job. Hmm.

    But, the page for the actual Office for Foreign Missions lists no personnel by name. Curiouser and curiouser.

    The main State Department telephone directory lists no position at all as “Director of the Office of Foreign Missions.” That’s kind of odd, as the office should in fact have a Director, they all do, somebody. Boswell’s name also appears nowhere in the phone book. Hmmm.


    Just Call Them

    So, I just called up the Office of Foreign Missions at the number (202-647-3417) listed in that public directory for the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Foreign Missions, the titular number two person there. I spoke with someone named *****, and said I wanted to write a letter to the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions– to whom should I address it? She helpfully said “Eric Boswell.” I asked “Eric J. Boswell?” and she said yes. I asked what salutation/title I should use and she said “Director.” She then helpfully added “But Director Boswell does not often come in to the office so you should in fact contact the Deputy Assistant Secretary.” ***** would not give me her last name.

    Then a concerned citizen still working at State told me on background that Boswell, thanks to a sweetheart deal with Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy after the Benghazi hearings, retains his salary and title but basically delegates all of his responsibilities as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions. He did “resign” from one titled position while cleverly keeping his other position, according to my source. Ka-ching!

    Accountability for What?

    About a week after Boswell “resigned” back in December 2012, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she could not independently confirm a New York Post report claiming Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, remains at the State Department.

    Ros-Lehtinen said “If these reports are correct, they’re pathetic examples of yet another ruse about the tragedy of Benghazi. State Department officials proclaimed to the world that heads would roll after the deception related to the deceitful video excuse and the non existent spontaneous protest outside the consulate. Now we see that the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs. That will in no way change [the] systemic failures of management and leadership in the State Department.”

    Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, or any journalist, why not contact the Department of State and simply ask “Who is the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions?” and/or “Is Eric Boswell still employed by the Department of State?” Depending on the answers you receive, better follow-up with this question: If indeed no one lost their jobs over the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, exactly what accountability is there?

    And do ask them how the term “resign” is actually defined at the State Department.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Ralph Nader: Generalissima Clinton Expanding the Empire

    February 20, 2013 // 17 Comments »

    Ralph Nader offers up one of the better summaries of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and at the same time gives us a taste of what a Clinton presidency in 2016 might do for America.

    Clinton’s chief legacy, according to Nader? “Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.”

    Nader goes on to say:

    Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.

    Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s belligerence exceeded that of Obama’s Secretaries of Defense. From her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to her tenure at the State Department, Hillary Clinton sought to prove that she could be just as tough as the militaristic civilian men whose circle she entered. Throughout her four years it was Generalissima Clinton, expanding the American Empire at large.


    Not a pretty picture, but an accurate one. 2016 is coming– be afraid. Read the entire article at Common Dreams.

    More on the militarization of the State Department here and here.


    Meanwhile, like any good public servant, Hillary is pimping herself out as a public speaker, for six figure fees.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Oh Hillary (Exit, stage left.)

    January 25, 2013 // 30 Comments »

    As expected, Hillary Clinton’s perfunctory testimony on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a) took “responsibility” for Benghazi in words alone, shucking blame and (in)action onto others, b) wrapped herself in the flag to shout down her questioners and c) revealed nothing new.

    Exit, stage left. Stick a fork in her, she is done.

    But though Hillary slithers off the national stage for hopefully a very long time, the issues she did not attend to at State remain, primarily the lack of adequate management and leadership and specifically the ongoing failure to properly utilize resources in line with policy goals and missions. State is all about the whack-a-mole approach to planning, rushing here and there to nuzzle up to the White House of the day and wondering always why they never seem to have what they need to do the job right (see Iraq, still sucking the oxygen out of State’s budget as the world’s largest and most expensive embassy, because why?)

    I could go on, but someone has already said it fairly clearly, so why not just refer you over to Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, who has written the only intelligent, to-the-real-point essay on Hillary’s Last Stand. Rubin said:

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony vividly demonstrated that competence is as critical as ideology when it comes to the highest ranks of national security officials.

    Clinton lost it at the hearing when she cried out, “What difference does it make?” with regard to the false narrative the administration put out in the days following the Benghazi attack. On one level this is simply a knee-jerk, defensive reaction. On the other hand it goes to the purpose of her job — to assimilate, analyze and formulate coherent policy based on the world as it is, not as she would want it to be.

    Marco Rubio explains why it matters and hence why Clinton’s failure is greater even than Benghazi:
    Here is why it matters. Because when they put out word that this was not a terrorist attack — that it sprung out a spontaneous uprising — it furthered the narrative that somehow Al Qaeda was in disarray. That the elimination of Bin Laden had made this extraordinary reduction in the risks in the area. As it turns out, not only was that not true in Libya but we are now seeing it’s not true in other parts of North Africa as well. And the fundamental question is, “Did the administration really believe that?” Because if they did, they badly miscalculated.

    the danger of ideologically driven self-delusion and/or management collapse will grow in the second term if yes men who will say whatever the White House deems convenient are confirmed. In Obama’s determination to create a Cabinet of weaklings with a history of bad judgment and highly questionable executive skills, he increases the chances of Clinton-like failures.


    Read the whole piece over at the Washington Post.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    It’s Us: Hillary Clinton’s Legacy

    January 7, 2013 // 16 Comments »

    With the start of a new year, it seems pretty common to sort of reflect forward, especially if you’re still drinking and on the sofa a week into 2013. I can’t help but come to the conclusion that the problem seems to be, well, us.

    This blog has documented concerns about Hillary Clinton as a leader. Highlights include her glee over the death of a world leader (Qaddafi) overthrown without real point by the U.S. (a decision that coupled with the lack of leadership within her State Department led directly to the unnecessary deaths of Americans), that lack of leadership thing within her State Department led directly to the unnecessary deaths of Americans, her often trite and casual traveling about as if miles logged had some greater meaning and so forth. Most recently, her serial health problems (flu –> dehydration –> concussion –> head clot), real or not, have had the direct result of her not speaking a public word about a significant event on her watch, Benghazi. She is fully absent on critical issues, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, either hiding from bad PR or, more likely, sidelined by a White House that prefers her on the sidelines as it makes its own foreign policy around her happy-talk travels.

    On the plus side of the slate, her accomplishments after four years as Secretary of State are… Well, let’s let others catalog her accomplishments.

    TIME

    Time magazine (Slogan: Yes, we’re still publishing) writes from a favorable perch:

    Eight months before her self-imposed retirement, Clinton is piling up awards and accolades faster than clear-cut achievements. She hasn’t done anything as momentous as opening the door to China like Henry Kissinger or assembling the first Gulf War coalition like James Baker. Still, the liberation of Libya, establishment of diplomatic ties with Burma and the assembly of a coalition against Iran bear her imprimatur.


    Kinda thin, huh? I think I’ve said what needs to be said about Libya. Opening relations with Burma is not a bad thing, but it isn’t much of a thing. Not sure what that coalition against Iran is all about, and there is a lot more history to be written about the U.S. and Iran before anyone can claim anything like credit (or blame. The U.S. has declared war on Iran conducting diplomacy.)

    Time keeps trying, however, to find something Hillary has accomplished. To wit:

    Clinton’s endurance is legendary. She maintained a punishing 18-plus-hour-a-day schedule on her weeklong swing from Libya to Central and South Asia. At the end of her day in New York City last September, with its endless one-on-one meetings, public appearances and forums, Clinton sat down in a closed session with the 27 E.U. Foreign Ministers and listened as each aired opinions on U.S. foreign policy. Even as glazed looks settled over her staff, Clinton retained an easy and relaxed demeanor, speaking off the cuff and calmly responding to bitter criticism of the U.S.’s veto threat against a vote on Palestinian statehood.


    To wit, OK, she’s a hard worker, again, not a bad thing but so what? And of course buried in the goofy praise above is the note that the U.S. stands in a tiny minority blocking Palestinian statehood at the UN as if that was an accomplishment.

    USA Today

    USA Today digs deep and finds only:

    Clinton convinced Chinese leaders to free blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.


    A) About a third of you are Googling to find out who Chen Guang Cheng is and B) The other two-thirds are wondering so what? Chen has been living in New York City for most of the year and nothing has changed anywhere in China, America or New York.

    USA Today continues:

    If there’s a signature moment, I suppose it might be this: Mrs. Clinton got her first taste of high-wire negotiating last October in Zurich when she headed off a last-minute dispute that nearly scuttled an agreement between Turkey and Armenia on normalizing diplomatic relations. Sitting in a black BMW limousine, she juggled two cellphones, slowly nudging two ancient enemies together, if only temporarily.


    Sure, we all heard about that and it is being taught now in schools. Huh? What was resolved? What problem was fixed where?

    The Horse’s Mouth

    Let’s go to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and quote Hillary Herself, from a speech summing up her own version of accomplishments:

    …hosting town halls with global youth, raising awareness for religious minorities, protecting Internet freedom and advancing rights for women and the LGBT community around the world.


    OK, I guess, kinda hard to quantify, kinda hard to see as much more than self-promotion, but then again, here’s that travel thing again:

    “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘I look at your travel schedule. Why Togo? Why the Cook Islands?’ No secretary of state had ever been to Togo before. Togo happens to be on the U.N. Security Council. Going there, making the personal investment, has a real strategic purpose.”


    With a lovely sense of irony, Hillary’s own “I Love Me” pages at the State Department’s own website list no heading for “accomplishments” or the like.

    PolicyMic

    PolicyMic lists the Top Five Clinton Accomplishments as People-to-People Diplomacy, The Importance of Economics, Restoring American Credibility, Diplomacy is National Security and, somewhat amazingly, “Texts From Hillary,” which the site tell us “Her star power and ability to capture the imagination of individuals around the world is one noteworthy aspect of her success.”

    That same web site, which no doubt must also feature Twilight fan fiction somewhere, also reports this from an alternate universe:

    Surely, the cornerstone of her legacy is the Arab Spring. Here, Clinton’s handling of the immense challenges associated with the revolutions across the Arab world was mixed. On one hand, she has done a good job at letting protesters do their work. Initially, the United States remained on the side lines, and allowed those on the street to take the reins in demanding their basic rights and dignity. Though, of course, the U.S. eventually stepped in later (most forcefully in Libya), it’s admirable that she was able to sympathize with the aspirations of protesters, rather than upholding the status quo and supporting the authoritarian regimes that the U.S. had previously defended .


    Foreign Policy

    Foreign Policy’s Stephen Walt starts somewhat ironically with a quote from the New York Times Magazine referring to Hillary as a “rock star diplomat,” and quotes Google chairman Eric Schmidt calling her “the most significant Secretary of State since Dean Acheson.” Walt then goes on to damn with faint praise Hillary’s legacy accomplishments as:

    There’s no question that Clinton has been terrifically energetic, as well as a loyal team player… She’s also proved to be relatively gaffe-free. Insiders with whom I’ve spoken say she is an excellent boss who elicits considerable loyalty from those around her. And as the Times piece notes, she’s helped restore the somewhat battered morale of the foreign service, and used her celebrity to raise public awareness on a number of signature issues.


    But We Love Her

    I just can’t find anything that Hillary Clinton did in four years as Secretary of State that stands out as a legacy, an accomplishment, like say a Marshall Plan, or ending a war we didn’t start, or saving something or advancing peace in the Middle East or opening relations with China to forever change the balance of power in the Cold War.

    Anything? This blog is open to a guest post citing Hillary’s accomplishments, or you may post links in the Comments. This shall be an ongoing, open invitation between now and election day 2016. Instead, Hillary chose to conduct herself as a figurehead, a minor celebrity, traveling around championing feel-good causes and goofy social media hijinks like a chunky Angelia Jolie. She should not look for legacy now.

    But… but… we love Hillary. She has this year set a record in Gallup’s annual most-admired survey. Gallup has run its most-admired man and woman survey since World War II, and in the 2012 edition, Clinton kept her top positions among those asked a simple question: “What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?” Clinton was named as most-admired woman for the 17th time since she became a national figure in 1992. Eleanor Roosevelt held the previous record when she was named 13 times as the most-admired woman. The only two women to finish ahead of Clinton in that 20-year period were Mother Teresa (twice) and Laura Bush (once). This year Clinton had 21 percent of the vote, followed by Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Condoleezza Rice. Clinton dominates polling for the democratic nomination for 2016.

    America, it is us. We elevate to heights mediocre people pretending to be leaders who actually accomplish little or nothing. We allow them to use high office for self-promotion, and we swill like ignorant pigs the empty praise of dimwitted media. For example, Petraeus– history shows he failed in Iraq, yet absent a sex scandal he’d be in line for the presidency. Hillary isn’t a leader in any stretch of imagination. She possesses no substance. She is a reality show many Americans seem to enjoy, projecting their own ideas about women’s empowerment and modern social media onto her willing shell. We deserve all that we get– and are going to get– enroute to 2016.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Lamb to Slaughter: Benghazi, Cheryl Mills and Hillary Clinton

    January 4, 2013 // 11 Comments »


    An interesting bit of information, unconfirmed, raises new questions about how close Hillary was to the Benghazi decisions and decision-makers. Here is what we have:

    Lamb to the Slaughter

    One of the high level employees who was reassigned/resigned/was terminated because of Benghazi was Charlene Lamb.

    Ms. Lamb’s initial appointment to her position in Diplomatic Security was opposed by a number of career Department of State employees, we are told. Her biography has been disappeared from the State Department web site but is still alive in the Cloud.

    Sources inside State say objections to Lamb’s hiring were at the time overridden by Cheryl Mills, the Number 4 at State. Ms. Mills is a Clinton political appointee (see below).

    As a result, Lamb was terminated in order to prevent the inquiry from reaching higher, into the Secretary of State’s offices, where one could point the finger at Clinton for insisting on Lamb. Lamb in kind took the fall for Clinton, in what one commentator called a “bureaucratic firewall.”

    As we now know, the Benghazi facilities were CIA, and not State Department, offices. There were no permanent State Department employees assigned to either building in that city. State merely provided the cover story on the ground, over the air via Susan Rice’s lies about that stupid anti-Islam video, and now in person as Congress looks for someone to blame so this can all just go away.


    Where was Hillary?

    Lamb being disappeared also closes off a line of inquiry into exactly what Clinton was doing the night of the attack on Benghazi.

    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Charlene Lamb testified that on September 11, after the “full-scale assault” in Libya — “unprecedented in its size and intensity” — began about 9:40 p.m. Libyan time (4:40 p.m. Washington time), she was “in our Diplomatic Security Command Center [in Washington] monitoring multiple open lines with our agents [in Libya] for much of the attack.”

    A few days later a CNN reporter asked Hillary Clinton what she was doing as the attack occurred, and Clinton responded with a 400-word answer that avoided the question. Here is part:

    QUESTION: … could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.

    SECRETARY CLINTON: … I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on… So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting… So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

    QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, if you could, the question was –

    SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, but I’m going to leave it at that.

    Later that same day, the State Department spokesperson was asked why Clinton hadn’t answered, and provided this response:

    As you know, she’s not that interested in focusing on herself. But obviously, she was here very late that night. She was getting regular updates from both the DS Command Center and the senior NEA leadership in the building, she was making phone calls to senior people, and so she was obviously very much involved. But I think she was not interested in sort of giving a personal tick-tock. It’s not the way she operates.


    Who is Cheryl Mills?

    Cheryl Mills is an interesting person to have her name pop up in connection with covering Clinton’s role in Benghazi. As deputy counsel, Mills sat at the epicenter of the scandals in the Clinton White House for seven years, eventually delivering an impassioned defense of the president during his 1999 impeachment trial. Mills left the White House soon after, but her performance earned her a place in the hearts of the former president and his wife. When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pursued the presidency almost a decade later, she tapped Mills to be her senior adviser and counsel on the campaign. As her campaign imploded, Mills acted as a de-facto crisis manager.

    The Washington Post describes Mills as “close with many of the women in “Hillaryland,” including Ambassador-at-Large for Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer; senior adviser to Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Health Reform Neera Tanden and Judith McHale, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.”

    Quick Summary

    David Petraeus, head of the CIA when its offices were overrun in Benghazi, is gone, victim of an FBI email love-trap sting that still makes little sense except as a political assassination. We won’t be hearing from him. Susan Rice, who was voted to try and pass off some lies about an anti-Islam movie to cover this all up, was thrown under the bus and we won’t be hearing from her again. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the epicenter, has been incommunicado for over a month with a series of excuses and will be resigning soon.

    Why is it so hard to learn answers to some very basic questions about the decision-making behind Benghazi?




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Price of Security at State Department: Really Freaking’ Expensive

    December 29, 2012 // 22 Comments »

    They say you can’t put a price on safety, but the State Department has: $750 million to hire 150 new security agents.

    Wait– that works out to five million per secure person hired. Where do we sign up?

    Baghdad Bonus

    Following the report on State’s security failures in Benghazi, the Department predictably tried to turn tragedy in cash money, asking for $$$ Congress previously assigned to the security needs of the World’s Most Expensive Embassy, the one in Baghdad. In a flurry of Iraq-induced mania, Congress buried State in cash last year to secure the Embassy in the aftermath of America’s victory in Mesopotamia. Because State had neither the personnel nor the programs paid for to need that much security, they haven’t spent it and want to re-purpose the money to the rest of the world, now also officially insecure and dangerous following the decade-long War of Terror.

    Buying What?

    Now before we start adding up dollars and (non)sense for the State Department, let’s take a tiny, tiny peek back at that report from Benghazi. While the report certainly did ask for more money (“The solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from Congress to support State Department needs”), it seemed that the bulk of the report’s criticisms focused on non-monetary stuff like leadership:

    Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.

    The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection.


    State Needs Leadership, Not More Money

    Now, it appears that what the State Department really needs is some leaders, people more committed to serving their nation than sucking upward to please their bosses by shaving a few bucks off the security budget in Libya. That kind of thing may be harder to go out and buy, even at five million dollars a head. Indeed, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairm Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) suggested that the State Department might do better to examine its priorities before asking for more money:

    We cannot expect the same bureaucracy at State, whose management failures are now manifest, to objectively review the department’s organization, procedure and performance. Nor can we have any confidence in their assessment of what went wrong and what actions are needed to prevent a repeat.


    Ros-Lehtinen went on to critique Hillary Clinton’s launch this year of a flashy initiative to send American celebrity chefs on goodwill tours abroad, saying it seemed especially misplaced in a time of tight budgets. This blog enjoyed a fine bit of dining out on the stupidity of the chef idea, in a previous posting. Democrats in turn said Ros-Lehtinen was turning tragedy into a political football by turning Ros-Lehtinen’s partisan remark about a partisan remark into a partisan criticism. Whew.

    Where’s Hillary?

    Meanwhile, where’s Slick Hilly?

    Mrs. Clinton, recovering from what must be the World’s Longest Concussion, has not been seen for weeks. With her terrible concussion, she was unable to (again) meet with Congress to discuss her organization’s flop in Benghazi. never mind the uber-flop of Hillary’s blood-thirtsy support for the overthrow of Qaddafi that lead to the deaths in Benghazi that lead, somehow, to the celebrity chefs (I’m not sure of the link but it’s there).

    Hillary had nothing to say about the Benghazi report. Hillary had nothing to say about the Congressional criticism. Hillary had nothing to say about Susan Rice’s self-immolation, Hillary had nothing but a Tweet-length “congrats” to say about John Kerry taking over her job. There remains for Hillary a vague promise to meet with Congress in January.

    Hence, as a public service, here are some questions to ask Hillary if she ever emerges from her concussion, now at three weeks and counting:

    –How much of the State Department’s security budget is spent domestically, on security clearances, admin support, agents with pending murder raps on paid leave, prosecuting State Department employees for extra-marital affairs, domestic staff that never leave DC and the Diplomatic Security sub-offices in places like Miami, Los Angeles and Honolulu?

    –How much of the State Department’s security budget is spent on protecting the Secretary of State? State Department employees know that Hillary does not even travel inside her own building without a security escort. Overseas she gets the full-meal deal with sniffer dogs and sniper teams.

    –How much of the State Department’s security budget is spent on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan?

    –How much of the State Department’s security budget is spent on the growing fleet of contractor-operated helicopters and fixed wing planes State now enjoys?


    –What’s left for the other 180-some overseas posts Hillary?


    The Money Shot

    And, oh yeah, Congress, ask about this:

    The State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security saw its budget expand about tenfold in the decade after the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Contributing to that growth were the U.S.-launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks. So where’d all that money go to if not into protecting places like Benghazi? Former FSO Bill answers:

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that the increased budget went to increased personnel and better security. Most of the increased funding is dedicated to Special Agent pensions under Public Law 105-382, which establishes age 57 as the mandatory retirement age for Special Agents, and computes their annuity at 2.5% of high 3 average salary times number of years. This is far more generous, and far more expensive than pension benefits for other State employees. In the late 90s, both State and ICE scrambled to get their officers designated as Special Agents, a designation previously limited to fewer agencies. While it was a prestige and morale issue for both agencies, it has had a major impact on budget expenditures. Those who complain that military pensions are too generous should note that DS uses the same formula as the military, but DS average salaries are much higher than military salaries. Once they retire with a really good pension, they can come right back as contractors, who don’t have any requirement to retire at age 57. That’s where the money goes.


    State doesn’t need more money for security. The State Department urgently needs adult supervision over the money it already has, now, before someone else gets hurt.



    .

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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Benghazi Deaths: Gosh Darn, No One Really at Fault

    December 19, 2012 // 25 Comments »

    The State Department’s own version of reality in Benghazi, the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report, is ever so predictable. The report took close to three months to complete, conveniently bypassing the election to come out in the news doldrums of Christmas time. As could have been predicted, the report finds no one at State to blame really, at least not in an actionable way, and requests more money for the State Department.

    UPDATED: Only the head of State’s Diplomatic Security Bureau “resigned” (i.e., retire earlier than planned with full benefits and no official blot on his record), showing he has a micron more sense of responsibility than the people who drafted the report and, of course, the concussive-but-missing-in-action Secretary of State.

    The other three State Department officials who supposedly “resigned” over the Benghazi incident have merely been given different jobs within the State Department. The three are all relatively low-ranking employees; their names were withheld from the released version of the report and are only reported in the classified version, even though none of the three works undercover or anything like it. The classification is just to avoid embarrassing anyone.

    Money

    As always, State misses no chance to repurpose failure and tragedy (as with Iraq) into a request for more funding. The ARB report says:

    The solution requires a more serious and sustained commitment from Congress to support State Department needs, which, in total, constitute a small percentage both of the full national budget and that spent for national security. One overall conclusion in this report is that Congress must do its part to meet this challenge and provide necessary resources to the State Department to address security risks and meet mission imperatives.


    Who’s in Charge?

    The report has a few comments on leadership at State:

    Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.

    The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection.


    Pretty damning stuff, right? Heads will roll? After all, four Americans were killed. But wait for the conclusion:

    However, the Board did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty.


    Though the ARB report does sort of, maybe a little, touch on the real issue here:

    The Board recognizes that poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action but is instead addressed through the performance management system. However, the Board is of the view that findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials in relation to the security incident under review should be a potential basis for discipline recommendations by future ARBs, and would recommend a revision of Department regulations or amendment to the relevant statute to this end.


    The Money Shot

    Your State Department in a nutshell: A report that concludes “poor performance” alone is grounds for, well, not much, even when that level of poor performance falls to lethal levels. Best thing to do is revise some internal rules. Meanwhile, four people are dead, leadership in disarray but really, no one will officially take any fall for any of this. Senior leadership problems point to a failure to lead even higher up (the buck stops where?) but the only person who said she would take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi, the Secretary of State herself, is not mentioned in the report and won’t even appear before Congress to talk about it because she is in bed after “falling down” at home. Add in a couple of symbolic resignations without penalty and stick a fork in it, ’cause this one’s done babies. Now, about Hillary’s Nobel prize… too early?

    Seriously, about Hillary. Let’s assume it is true she fell down and hit her head a few days ago. Why can’t she make a public statement? Is she tied to a bed? On life support? Will it all magically be OK in a couple of days (after the hearings and news cycle?) She’s working from home we’re told, not in a hospital, so it is not that serious. NFL players get concussions and are back in the game. Really really really Hillary just can’t say ANYTHING? I am not a conspiracy monger but c’mon, this s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s disbelief just a bit much.

    Representative Allen West from Florida christened Hillary’s headache as the “Benghazi Flu,” and said “I don’t think that this should become the new normal and next thing you know four years from now we have Hillary Clinton running for president when we had this death of the ambassador” and others.



    Now, let’s watch Ambassador Chris Stevens’ body get dragged out of the Benghazi office and remember how no one will suffer, except him, for all this:




    You can read the entire steaming pile of self-cover up here if you’re having trouble sleeping for some reason, such as, perhaps Mrs. Clinton, guilt?




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Hillary Calls in Sick on Benghazi

    December 17, 2012 // 15 Comments »

    Or will she go all-out and claim total amnesia?

    Hillary, now suffering from a self-inflicted concussion, dodges for the fifth time publicly testifying about the disaster in Benghazi. 2016 baby!

    Here is the piece-de-resistance de Clinton:

    Hillary Ducks Once

    Right after the attacks in Benghazi, when the US Government was still trying to sell the lie that it was all because of that dumb anti-Islam movie, Clinton did not go on the Sunday talk shows, Unter Fuhrer Susan Rice did it. And hey, Susan, how’d that work out for ya?

    Hillary Ducks Twice

    Then, just prior to the re-election of Barack Obama, lickspittle Hillary proudly proclaimed that she would assume full responsibility for what happened in Benghazi without actually saying or doing anything.

    Hillary Ducks a Third Time

    But, then she didn’t show up for the first round of Congressional hearings in November. Because she was “traveling.”

    MS. NULAND: Matt, they’ve asked for closed hearings, closed briefings; that’s what we’re complying with.

    QUESTION: The Secretary won’t appear before any of these committees?

    MS. NULAND: The Secretary has not been asked to appear. They’ve asked for the individuals that are coming.

    QUESTION: Would she be willing to fly back from Australia to appear?

    MS. NULAND: Again, she has not been asked to appear. She was asked to appear at House Foreign Affairs next week, and we have written back to the Chairman to say that she’ll be on travel next week.


    Hillary Ducks a Fourth Time

    So with the election now history, Congress scheduled some more hearings on Benghazi for December 20. Clinton was scheduled to appear and testify. But then we learned that State’s own internal report on the death of one of its ambassador’s abroad would be delayed and well, maybe Hillary would not be available. She is also listed as sole witness on the 9:00 am, December 20, hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Benghazi: The Attack and the Lessons Learned.

    But then, maybe Hillary would not be available to testify. Here’s the exchange:

    MS. NULAND: Again, the Hill has talked about a planning date on the calendar. That presumes that the ARB is finished. I don’t have any dates – any schedule of the Secretary’s to announce here. It’s dependent upon events between now and then.

    QUESTION: She hasn’t committed to testify?

    MS. NULAND: Again, it’s dependent on the work being finished. Okay?

    QUESTION: Are you aware that Senator Kerry announced that she will testify next Thursday?

    MS. NULAND: She has made clear that when the work is ready, she will go consult with Congress on it. And that’s a commitment she’s made, and she intends to keep it.


    Hillary Ducks a Fifth Time

    Well, because that lame prevarication was not enough, just the other day Hillary announced that she had the flu, and would need to cancel some travel and work from home for a full week (government employees get great sick leave benefits). And since that excuse did not seem, um, sympathetic enough when most Americans are forced to go to work no matter how sick they are, we learned that Hils got dehydrated, passed out, hit her head and got a concussion!

    One More Time?

    Update: “She looks forward to continuing to engage with them in January and she will be open to whatever they consider appropriate in that regard,” Spokesdrone Nuland said following the concussion.



    And We’re Spent

    She will thus not be able to testify before the Senate on December 20. Of course we then plunge into Christmas, New Years and poof! before you know it Hillary’s time is up, John Kerry is sworn in as Secretary of State and we are all told we are looking forward, not backward.

    The upshot of all this is that Hillary ends her term as SecState without any naughty video of her fibbing about Benghazi to follow her into the history books.

    Or into 2016.



    Note: Of course I am not implying that Hillary is faking her concussion for personal political gain. All of us here at We Meant Well wish her a quick recovery, and a joyous holiday. We join in thanking her for her tireless service to America and hope she and her staff are feeling well soon.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    State Department to Have USG’s Most Restrictive Social Media Rules

    December 6, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    Diplopundit has a copy of the (leaked) revised rules for the use of social media by State Department employees. The rules have not been formalized, so let’s hope some smidgen of change is still possible, but my own sources confirm that what you can read about here are authentic. These rules are horrible and childish, a pathetic over-reactive lashing-out over how poorly State handled the media swirl around my book We Meant Well.

    For example, there are some wonderful catch-all “standards” that would not pass legal review at a junior high student council but which will control America’s diplomats. Here’s one:

    Employees at all levels are expected to exhibit at all times the highest standards of character, integrity, and conduct, and to maintain a high level of efficiency and productivity.

    Leaving aside the yucks so obvious even I won’t crack jokes about them concerning efficiency and productivity, what definitions and details will define and explain what the hell the “highest standards” of character, integrity, and conduct are? For example, is lying about what happened in Benghazi a highest standard? What about making a sex tape on the roof of the Baghdad embassy? Shooting an unarmed man in a McDonald’s? Wasting billions on faux reconstruction projects in Iraq, Haiti and Afghanistan? I guess all that is OK just as long as you don’t Tweet about it.

    The new standards also seek to codify that what can’t be disclosed is “protected information.” In addition to the legally-based actual USG-wide standard classifications of Top Secret, Secret and Confidential, the State Department created its own unique category called Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU). State then declared that everything it does on its Unclassified network is actually SBU, meaning under the new rules “disclosing” an email from Diplomat A to Diplomat B asking when lunch is will be a violation. FYI, State is also seeking desperately to invoke the SBU rule against Bradley Manning to make his alleged Wikileaks leaks seem more horrible. State also cited my own release of SBU information (in my case, a Diplomatic Security memo written to me about me) as justification for suspending my security clearance. Of course such nonsense makes no sense in that outside of the State Department possession of such documents is not a crime, and of course as unclassified documents they should be all available under the Freedom of Information Act.

    State’s new Brazil-like rules stand in sharp contrast to the military’s. Of course the military also trusts its people with guns and sharp instruments, so maybe that does make sense.

    The State Department will have the most restrictive social media rules of any Federal agency under these new standards, proposing, among other amazing things, that all Department employee Facebook posts and Tweets of “matters of official concern” (whatever your boss chooses to define that as) undergo a two-day review process. Such rules will either require hundreds of full-time reviewers, or, most likely, be ignored in most instances and hauled out selectively when needed to punish an individual. Such selective application begs for a lawsuit.

    These changes show clearly that the State Department fears what its own employees will say about it, what truths they will reveal. Like the corrupt Communist bureaucracies of the old Eastern Europe, more and more resources will be devoted to monitoring one’s own workers, with snitches no doubt favored and promoted for “outing” social media deviants. Perhaps next Foreign Service children, no doubt more computer-savvy than their diplo-parents, will be schooled in spying on what Mommy and Daddy do online. One can only see this as positive, the bureaucracy at State consuming itself, with no one in the organization willing to trust anyone else. Whatever shreds of free speech credibility abroad are left will clearly dissipate. One can hear laughter in Beijing. 21st Century Diplomacy indeed.

    Really, these people are pathetic. Very sad, very paranoid, for a once-distinguished organization that purports speak for free speech around the globe. We’ll keep all this at hand for 2016 as a further example of how Hillary Clinton really rolls. And when are we going to stop saying “1984-like” and start saying “State Department-like”?

    The Washington Post is also covering this story. It quotes State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner as saying with a straight face the changes are merely updates “to recognize the dynamic and decentralized nature of the 21st century information environment.”



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Agreeing with Hillary: Citing Iraq Failures, Clinton Avoids Endorsing Syrian Rebels

    December 5, 2012 // 7 Comments »

    Better check the weather report to see if it is below freezing in hell, because a) Hillary just said some things that are intelligent and to the benefit of the U.S. and b) no matter how many beers I have cannon-balled this afternoon, I still agree with her and c) OMG.

    Madame Clinton, no doubt under the influence of some freakishly diabolical inhaled hallucination agent, said in actual human words:


    The U.S. must adopt a sophisticated approach in choosing who to support within Syria for fear of repeating mistakes the U.S. made after invading Iraq in 2003. Supporting the opposition must be paired with endorsing local councils committed to “continuity” and “Syrian governmental institutions,” to ensure these institutional forces don’t collapse. We know from our Iraq experience that can be extremely dangerous.

    Clinton went on to add that U.S. hesitancy to get more involved militarily and politically is at least partially because “there are so many interests by all the players, many of which are contradictory.”

    OMG. This almost suggests that Clinton has “learned a lesson from history,” that looking at the horrific nightmare created in Iraq has somehow informed her as to how to proceed in a future endeavor. “Learning from one’s mistakes” is commonly held to be a sign of sentient intelligence, an indication of higher brain functionality.

    Now, we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We know that shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles have magically appeared in Syria this month, a possible game-changer in the same way that U.S.-supplied shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles significantly influenced the outcomes in Libya and 1980’s Afghanistan, not that the U.S. had anything to do with supplying said shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to Syrian fighters. No, no, that would be wrong. Old Blood ‘n Guts Hils also joined in the chorus of threats if Assad uses chemical weapons, telling us all that “Suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”

    We’ll stick to the bright side of life for today, hoping that Clinton’s thoughts are somewhat sincere and representative of the White House’s broader position on Syria (she did drop another sad hint that she is running for president in 2016). Tearing apart the fiber of the Middle East certainly seemed like a good idea when we invaded Iraq in 2003, and when Hillary lustily celebrated the sodomizing of Qaddafi in 2009, and so on, so it is such a nice thing that she wishes to avoid the same scenario today. Yea for progress!



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Follow Maliki on Twitter

    November 3, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    This has to be a sign of the Apocalypse or something worse. Iranian-backed American puppet democratic leader Iraqi strongman Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki now has a Twitter account you can follow at @IDawaParty.

    The US Embassy in Baghdad, following the Secretary of State’s clarion call into social media, has set up a Twitter account but so far nothing more than the usual happy talk generic Tweets. Probably still waiting for clearance on the first one from Washington. They “follow” the State Department Twitter account, though.



    Maliki’s Dawa party also has a wacky website, including a feature where you can email the PM. I already emailed him to see if he wants a free copy of We Meant Well, but so far no reply. The web page also includes a not-yet-functional link that would allow you to donate to the Dawa party charity, which would probably violate some sort of law. Follow the link above and send Maliki an email greeting!

    The US Embassy in Baghdad’s web site has a neat section on “hot topics,” which implies some sort of current events theme. When you click through to the hot topics for Iraq, however, the most recent posting is dated June 2011. One groovy “hot topic” quotes Secretary Clinton from 2010 congratulating Iraq, saying “Iraq’s political leaders have worked together to agree on an inclusive government that represents the will of the Iraqi people.” Oops.

    The really interesting thing is that all the web sites, Dawa included, are in English (the “Hot Topics” on the US site are also available in Arabic, but just as out of date). Kinda makes you wonder who the intended audience is.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Just Like the Continental Congress, but in Syria

    November 1, 2012 // 4 Comments »

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted Wednesday that the U.S. government has been working to establish a new council to represent the Syrian opposition, to be unveiled in Qatar at a major conference next week. The previous U.S.-organized group, the Syrian National Congress (SNC) is no longer to America’s satisfaction, hence the new group. Ambassador Robert Ford, who had a hand in the Iraq debacle, is back in the saddle putting things together for the Syrians.

    “We call it a proto-parliament. One could also think of it as a continental congress,” a senior administration official told The Cable.

    After Clinton spoke, at the State Department press briefing, Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner pushed back against reporters’ assertions that the State Department was trying to choose Syrian opposition leaders for the Syrians rather than let them pick their own leaders. “We’re not giving them a list… We have recommended names and organizations that we have been working with,” Toner said.

    Mmmm yes, nation building. We’ve done so well with that in Iraq and Afghanistan, so why not Syria? Why, most countries in the world would prefer if the US simply chose, oh, sorry, recommended, their leaders for them.

    The fact that the U.S. has dictated that one group, the SNC, be dropped, and another formed on a U.S.-timetable for unveiling at a U.S. event in– where? Qatar? should not be misinterpreted as the U.S. telling anyone what to do. Indeed, it is just like the Continental Congress, where the “right” colonial Americans selected by the Spanish met in Turkey to form a new government.

    Yes, things should work out just fine here, just as they did when we last tried this: in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Your Son May Die in Mali: Clinton Seeks Yet Another War

    October 31, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    While Hurricane Sandy dominated the ever-shorter attention span of America’s media, Secretary of State Clinton slithered off to Algeria in hopes of involving the US in another war in next-door Mali.

    Clinton was in Algeria seeking support for “intervention” into yet another country threatened by “al Qaeda.” She is doing this because the other interventions have worked out so well in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Never Neverland. The idea is to gather up some willing African troops as ground fodder, supported by US (and French) logistics, drones, special forces and the like, wrap it in a UN bow and start killing us some more Muslims (in Mali).

    Despite the attractiveness of having foreign troops marauding around its territory (and the French have a particularly horrific history in Algeria, of course), Algeria seems cool to the idea. Among other concerns, the Algerians are worried that the troops could push extremists out of Mali and back across its own borders. Algeria has maintained a modus vivendi with the bad boys on its border and sees no reason to stir things up just because the US has found another location to export the War of Terror to.

    The US of course remains blind to the continuing failure of its war orgasms, and in particular their horrendous secondary effects. In fact, the new “crisis” in Mali is sort of our fault. The fall of Qaddafi in Libya prompted ethnic Tuareg rebels from Mali, who had been fighting alongside Qaddafi’s forces, to return to northern Mali with weapons from Libyan arsenals. They joined with Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militants who had moved to the lightly policed region from Algeria, and the two groups easily drove out the weakened Malian army in late March and early April. Then the Islamists turned on the Tuaregs, chasing them off and consolidating control in the region in May and June. But hey, we got another regime change notch in our belt, so it’s cool.

    Mali is a wasteland, so the war is unlikely to make things too much worse, right? About half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

    The 100% percent-substance free official State Department read-out of the Algerian trip was contained in the longest run-on sentence in bureaucratic history: Virtually the entire meeting portion focused on our counterterrorism cooperation and Mali, and they agreed that we need to now work together to build on our existing strong U.S.-Algerian counterterrorism cooperation to work together against the problems that are being exported from Mali and to help Bamako and ECOWAS with the AU and the UN support as well deal with the security threats inside of Mali.


    BONUS: Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne is one of the best books about the Algerian war for independence against the French. The book is also important reading in that it discusses the French decision to employ torture against the Algeria rebels, and details the extreme costs to the French in terms of loss of moral superiority that flowed from that choice. The book is also a textbook in counter-insurgency warfare, albeit once again mostly negative lessons.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    I am Spartacus Unless I’m Not

    October 17, 2012 // 12 Comments »

    Responsibility used to work this way. When a group of us playing ball broke a neighbor’s window, the kid who took responsibility had to pay for the window. Action –> Consequence = Responsibility.

    Well, luckily we are free of such restraints in modern Washington. Indeed, over a month after the predictable and possibly preventable deaths of four Americans at the US Consulate in Benghazi, Hillary Clinton said “I take responsibility.”

    What does that mean?

    Hillary did not take responsibility on September 11 when the attacks took place. She instead made self-serving statements about bravery (of others) and sacrifice (of others).

    Between October 3 and October 12 Hillary made no public statements at all about the Libya disaster, allowing others to bleat in her place.

    Hillary did not take responsibility at recent Congressional hearings. She did not even show up. She sent others to testify. Not a one of them said Hillary was responsible, or even involved, in the deadly mistakes State made. None of them mentioned her by name.

    Hillary did not take responsibility during the Vice Presidential Debates. Blame Responsibility was assigned to the anonymous “intelligence agencies” by the Vice President and Hillary sat quiet.


    If Hillary is now indeed responsible, let’s see her resignation. Better yet, she can start to act responsibly. Let’s hear her publicly and unambiguously tell us what her role in the decision-making was. Let’s see her demand the State Department’s own Accountability Review Board, now five weeks after the attack, issue a report sometime this decade (or at least before the election.) Let’s hear her exonerate the loyal troops sent to have their heads taken off by Congress last week. Let’s have Hillary state publicly that the witch hunting and scapegoating inside Foggy Bottom will cease because she alone will take the hits, ’cause inside the building the buck isn’t stopping.

    Anything less just rubs our noses further into this craven, desperate electioneering crap.


    BONUS: State’s other Spartacus-wanna be, Pat Kennedy, told the House last week in defense of Susan Rice that “If any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, September 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said,” i.e., that the attack in Benghazi was not a pre-planned terror attack but instead merely a reaction to that anti-Islamic video.

    Only Pat lied.

    On September 12 in an unclassified, half-hour conference call with staff aides to House and Senate lawmakers from relevant committees, and leadership offices, Pat said that he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.

    What is Important

    Isn’t there a single reporter who will ask Hillary why only now has she determined that she is the responsible one, and challenge her that her “claim” is nothing but party politics?

    Will no one ask Obama (or Hillary) to comment on Obama’s July 2012 statement “As president of the United States, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you… one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations.”

    As for Pat Kennedy, don’t you have any shame at all? Trick question.

    Also, anybody else expecting Obama to drone kill some poor random Libyan and claim justice has been done, right before the election, in a weak attempt at an October Surprise?

    Anyway, I take responsibility for it all, what the hell, why not.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    After a Year of Serious Roars and Growls, State Dept Officially Retires FSO-Non Grata

    October 13, 2012 // 20 Comments »

    The most important foreign service blog out there, Diplopundit, has a nice write up, sort of an obituary really, of this past year, my struggle with the State Department.

    Diplopundit focuses on the big picture. Forget about what you think of me or my book or my efforts and think about the institution, the venerable Department of State. Diplopundit posits that over the past year dozens or more staffers have been involved in my prosecution, memos written, maybe even awards and kudos handed out to workers who participated. And the sum of all that time, money and effort was?

    Pretty much squat.

    Despite the full resources of the Department of State, I did and still do continue to speak out. I retired maybe a bit earlier than I was originally planning, but I did retire free and normal. More importantly, what I wrote stands. The descriptions of waste and mismanagement in Iraq reconstruction I wrote have entered the zeitgeist and will pretty much always be there as a counterpoint to State’s own rapidly discredited happy talk version of events (By the way, how’s Iraq working out? That World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad still seem like a good idea?)

    What does it say about an institution like State that not only did it expend all these resources against one employee, but that its expenditure accomplished nothing? What does it say about State when it reacts this violently against a critic, a whistleblower, one of its own long-serving employees who only told the story of his own experiences?

    Despite the thousands of pages of crap turned out by State in its witch hunt and the hundreds or more personhours expended, not once did they claim anything I wrote was false. Not one fact was ever challenged. Not one figure or example was ever offered in rebuttal. The only things that oozed out were sad personal attacks against me.

    Now, what does that say about your Department of State? Madame Secretary, a response in defense of your organization? Don’t worry if you’re too busy to respond now, we’ll be asking the same questions in 2016.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Libya Just Gets Uglier and Sleazier

    October 10, 2012 // 9 Comments »

    The evidence that State knew of the security issues in Benghazi, and ignored them, continues to accumulate.

    Word is that inside Foggy Bottom everyone is rushing around getting their ducks in line so that someone else takes the symbolic fall for the screw-ups. They’ve got time– the Accountability Review Board will certainly not release anything before the election. Look for a news dump maybe the Friday after Thanksgiving? 2015? The truth will be happily buried, but in reality should be something like this: heavy security cost too much, plus it would make the Clinton narrative that limited-scale intervention in Libya worked look really bad right when her boss is struggling in the campaign. Admitting failure in Libya would also limit options in Syria. So, try and blame it on some video, then on al Qaeda (damn, that always used to work, too) and then find some mid-level person at State to hang.

    It Was the Other Guy

    One person not allowing himself to be the sacrificial lamb is the former State security officer for Libya, Eric Nordstrom, who is running around Washington telling pretty much everyone who will listen that it was State Department official Charlene Lamb who wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi “artificially low,” according to a memo summarizing his comments to a congressional committee that was obtained by Reuters. Nordstrom has also implicated State Department management robot Pat Kennedy in the bloody decision-making. Such plain speaking will otherwise end Nordstrom’s State Department career, and so we welcome him here into liberated We Meant Well territory. Call us for recommendations for lawyers Eric.

    Kudos no doubt inside State for Susan Rice being willing to take a bullet in the early days to try and save her boss. Bot now even State is doing a little pointless damage control saying there never was a video-related protest in Benghazi. So Susan, what’s being thrown under the bus feel like?

    Whither Diplomatic Security?

    Meanwhile, attention once again focuses on State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the bully boys who seem much better at hassling diplomats for extra-marital sex than protecting them from terror.

    Bureau of Diplomatic Security saw its budget expand about tenfold in the decade after the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Contributing to that growth were the U.S.-launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks.

    So where’d all that money go to if not into protecting places like Benghazi? Former FSO Bill answers:

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that the increased budget went to increased personnel and better security. Most of the increased funding is dedicated to Special Agent pensions under Public Law 105-382, which establishes age 57 as the mandatory retirement age for Special Agents, and computes their annuity at 2.5% of high 3 average salary times number of years. This is far more generous, and far more expensive than pension benefits for other State employees. In the late 90s, both State and ICE scrambled to get their officers designated as Special Agents, a designation previously limited to fewer agencies. While it was a prestige and morale issue for both agencies, it has had a major impact on budget expenditures. Those who complain that military pensions are too generous should note that DS uses the same formula as the military, but DS average salaries are much higher than military salaries. Once they retire with a really good pension, they can come right back as contractors, who don’t have any requirement to retire at age 57. That’s where the money goes.


    And Hillary?

    On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing “The Security Failures of Benghazi,” featuring Pat “Blood on his Hands” Kennedy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Programs Charlene “It Wasn’t Me” Lamb, Eric Nordstrom and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who lead the security team in Libya until August. Be sure to set your bullshit detectors to stun.

    Expect Kennedy to say something like “who could have anticipated this?” Well, Pat old chum, in a country where you are paying staff 30% additional danger pay, it seems real to expect things.

    But where is Hillary? Turns out her last public statement on the Libya fiasco was October 3, a week ago, another empty promise that “the men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full, accurate accounting.”

    Despite her usual lofty rhetoric, Hillary has had nothing more to say and won’t testify before the House. As soon as the real scrutiny begins, Hillary dummies up.

    Looking ahead to the Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, opposition researchers, please bookmark this page.

    BONUS Editorial

    State needs to make a decision. If State wishes to populate diplomatic establishments in active war zones, it must a) wait to create a permanent secure facility; b) pay for what is needed to create an appropriate temporary facility; or c) simply accept that diplomats will die for these political decisions.

    State instead wants to fulfill the short-term political suck up goal of staffing hot spots without paying the cost of proper security. As such, it is just a matter of time and chance that more places are not overrun.

    State is trying to treat Benghazi as some grand exception/accident when in fact it is just the first of many possibles. Post 9/11 very little has changed in the internal architecture of Diplomatic Security. They are still using the pre-9/11 model of relatively low-key civilian security, host country support and on-the-cheap local guard hires.

    Instead, the nasty truth is that the new model is Baghdad– an armed camp inside hostile territory wholly independent of host government assistance, ’cause there ain’t gonna be none.

    Of course the other idea would be to abandon the wet dream that State needs to staff active war zones. What’s the point anyway? Prior to the Iraq war porn fantasy, diplomats were withdrawn until a country stabilized.




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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    Bosom buddies?

    October 9, 2012 // 13 Comments »

    This photo was taken at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., where Christina Aguilera, a UN World Food Program Ambassador, was being honored for her philanthropic work.

    At a ceremony hosted by the former first lady, Aguilera, along with business tycoon David Novak, were awarded this year’s George McGovern Leadership Award in recognition of their help in fighting global hunger. Together, Aguilera and Novak, are said to “have raised $115 million for the WFP and others, providing 460 million meals to hungry children around the globe.”

    Bosom buddies? Getting ready for breast cancer awareness week? Or is Hillary still thinking about laughing off war with Iran? We kinda expect these sorts of things from Bill, but I guess it runs in the family.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya

    We Meant Well on List of Ten Best Foreign Service Blogs

    October 6, 2012 // 8 Comments »

    Ok, to be fair, there are probably only eleven foreign service blogs left, but top ten is top ten.

    Dave Seminara, himself a once-Foreign Service Officer, has pulled together a list of the best foreign service blogs, along with some commentary to help you sort out what might appeal to you. Dave does caution:


    There’s no doubt that [Van Buren's We Meant Well] experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.

    As for his description of We Meant Well, Dave writes


    You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.

    It is here I must take offense. I am aiming at near 100% offensive, and bristle at the accusation that I am lamely only “sometimes” offensive. Hmm. I shall have to speak to the staff about this.

    Seriously, Dave is a friend of this blog and I am sure he meant well in his remarks. Check out the entire list to see what’s out there in the surviving foreign service blog universe. But hurry– these types of blogs tend to disappear at the whim of a Secretary of State who when she isn’t proclaiming freedom of speech abroad is crying out “Off with their heads!” at home.



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    Posted in Embassy/State, Libya