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Posts tagged ‘State Department’

Diplomats Union Threatens to Sue Over Donor-Ambassadors.

The union that represents U.S. diplomats threatened Wednesday to sue the State Department unless it releases documents attesting to the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees amid a fierce debate over the credentials of several recent nominees.

The American Foreign Service Association said it would ask a court to compel the production of the documents, known as “Certificates of Demonstrated Competence,” if the department does not do so voluntarily by the end of Thursday. It said the department had ignored previous requests to have the documents released under Freedom of Information Act.

“AFSA remains concerned about the qualifications of several recent nominees,” the organization said in a statement. “AFSA’s goal is to ensure that the nation has the most qualified persons serving as ambassadors. AFSA believes that the President and the American people deserve nothing less.”

The lawsuit threat comes as the White House faces harsh criticism about a handful of ambassador nominees who have scant knowledge or expertise about the nations where they would serve. Several of those nominees were high-dollar campaign fundraisers and donors for President Barack Obama, raising concerns they were rewarded for their lucrative political support.

At least three recent ambassadorial nominees — George Tsunis for Norway, Noah Bryson Mamet for Argentina and Colleen Bell for Hungary — have raised concerns after poor performances in their confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. None has extensive experience with the nations where they would be stationed if confirmed.

Last month, AFSA, which represents about 16,000 current and retired diplomats, said it does not object to nominees who have little or no official diplomatic experience. But the group also unveiled a set of guidelines it said should be considered by the White House and Senate when choosing and confirming ambassadors.

Those include leadership, interpersonal and managerial skills, the ability to formulate high-level policy and knowledge of the foreign area.

An AFSA survey has found that 37 percent of ambassadors during President Barack Obama’s presidency are or have been political appointees.

That is the highest rate since former President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s and higher than the historical average of about 30 percent.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Iran Expert Timmerman: State Dept. Befriends Radical Islamists.

The State Department’s decision to allow an anti-gay Muslim cleric into the United States is an alarming sign that the government is befriending radical Islamist groups, says Kenneth Timmerman, executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.

“It has been the State Department’s policy under both Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry to support the Islamist groups in Syria,” Timmerman told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“The State Department policy has been systematically to aid and abet and sometimes to arm and equip these Islamist groups around the world, specifically in Libya and in Syria.”

It was Timmerman who first revealed that the State Department had issued Sheikh Mohammad Rateb al-Nabulsi a visa for a 17-city tour of U.S. mosques to raise money for the uprising in Syria.

In an interview three years ago, the cleric said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

Timmerman said the U.S. embrace of radicals is dangerous.

“[The] mark on my forehead [is] because today is Ash Wednesday,” he said.

“If I were to appear in a Christian town in Syria today that had been taken over by these groups, the Islamist groups that Sheik al-Nabulsi is supporting, they would give me two choices . . . Get out of town really fast, convert, or die.”

See “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.


© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Creator of 3-D Printable Gun Lands Book Deal.

Image: Creator of 3-D Printable Gun Lands Book DealA Liberator pistol that was made by Cody Wilson on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas.

By Lisa Barron

Cody Wilson, who created the first fully 3-D printable gun last spring, has landed a quarter-million-dollar book deal with Simon & Schuster.

The head of the 3-D-printed gun group, Defense Distributed, signed the deal in December to write a non-fiction book about his efforts to create the digital weapon, Forbes reports.

The working title of the book is “Negative Liberty,” Wilson told the publication, explaining, “The whole point to me is to add to the hacker mythology and to have a very, very accurate and contentious portrayal of what we think about the current political situation, our attitude and political orientation, a lasting remark.”

“It won’t be a manifesto,” he said. “But culturally, I hope to leave a couple of zingers . . . a touchstone for the young, disaffected radical toward his own political and social development, that kind of thing.”

Wilson, whose blueprints were downloaded 100,000 times in two days after he initially published them online, said his proposal drew mixed responses from publishers.

“Some think I’m awful, that what I did was terrible, and the others think this is an incredible story that needs to be told,” said Wilson, 25.

The graduate of the University of Central Arkansas is involved in a legal dispute with the State Department, which demanded that he take the blueprints off the Internet.

He is also focusing on the software he helped build, called Dark Wallet, which allows for anonymous transactions using the virtual currency bitcoin, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We need an anonymous cash online,” Wilson told the Journal, “It’s not that I want you to buy drugs. It’s just that I think you should have the freedom to do it.”

Wilson reportedly works from an apartment near the University of Texas at Austin with a group of self-described anti-establishment techies.

Meanwhile, anticipating a potential legal battle with the government over publication of the 3-D-printing gun file, he said the book advance could come in handy.

“At least now if I’m in prison I’ll have something to do,” he joked to Forbes.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Muslim Brotherhood Delegates Given Security Bypass at JFK.

The State Department gave special VIP treatment at New York’s JFK Airport to visiting delegates of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, allowing them to enter the United States without a routine security screening.

The New York Post reports that the expedited entry, known as “port courtesy,” was given to the officials between March and April in 2012, according to newly released documents confirming an Investigative Project on Terrorism report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The perk, which is normally reserved for high-ranking foreign dignitaries, took place before the Brotherhood had won control of the Egyptian government in June 2012 with its candidate Mohammed Morsi elected as president.

However, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party had already won a plurality of seats in parliamentary elections.

One member of the Brotherhood delegation had been linked to a child pornography investigation in the United States years earlier, and likely would have been subjected to extra screening, according to The Algemeiner website.

Another delegate, Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, was escorted through security checkpoints at Minneapolis and JFK. And an official said, “We did not hear anything further from the [Muslim Brotherhood] so we assume the departure went smoothly.”

The report said Dardery was allowed to dodge a “secondary inspection,” which allows agents to search baggage and electronic equipment of passengers who might be considered security risks, says the Post.

Algemeiner noted that the Muslim Brotherhood has close ties with Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, which would usually have resulted in a secondary inspection for the delegation.

Morsi was overthrown in a military-backed coup in July 2013.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Drew MacKenzie

State Dept: Purchase of $1M Sculpture ‘Good Use’ of Resources.

The US State Department on Friday fended off criticism for commissioning a $1 million sculpture for its London embassy, saying it was “a good use of our limited resources.”

The piece by Irish-born artist Sean Scully was purchased as part of the department’s Art in Embassies program and will be reportedly installed at the new mission due to open in 2017.

“This piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery. This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas,” deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Abstract artist Scully, who became an American citizen in 1983, lives in New York and has twice been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize.

The Art in Embassies program had “played a leading role in US public diplomacy” for the past 50 years, Harf said.

“Where we can promote cross-cultural understanding… we think that’s a good use of our limited resources,” Harf told journalists.

The State Department requested some $2.5 million for the 2013 program which is a public-private partnership involving 20,000 participants including artists, galleries and museums.

Separately, the daily Washington Times accused the diplomatic service of embarking on a September spending spree to buy $180,000 of alcohol for its embassies.

The splurge came just as the US fiscal year was ending and a government shutdown began.

But Harf denied the State Department had been trying to use up its money before the end of the fiscal year, saying budget wrangling in Congress had held up its 2013 funds.

© AFP 2013

How terrorism tag on Boko Haram affects Nigerians— USA’s agency.


Nigerians travelling to the United States of America, USA, will be affected by the country’s recent tagging of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, as a terrorist group.

On November 13, the U.S. designated the sect and Ansaru militant groups as foreign terrorist organisations with the State Department describing the move as “an important” step to help Nigeria “root out violent extremism.”

A statement by the State Department said: “These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups.”

It means that the U.S. justice system was now empowered to block all financial dealings or transactions between America and these organisations.


However, the influential US think-tank, Council of Foreign Policy, has said that the designation goes beyond blocking of the group’s financial transactions.

Reacting to the tag, the council through former ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. John Campbell, said: “The response to Boko Haram and other jihadist insurgencies is shaping U.S. foreign policy toward Nigeria and the Sahel.
“But despite rhetoric to the contrary, the region remains a marginal U.S. priority.

“Though the November 13 Foreign Terrorist Organizations, FTO, designation received media attention, its practical consequences are limited, most involving visa restrictions and checks on financial support of American origins.

“But the vague wording of the designation could pose administrative difficulties for Nigerians not connected to jihadist movements.

“Official U.S. rhetoric is focused increasingly on security issues, rather than development or other conventional goals in the Sahel.

“Announcing the November 13 designation of Boko Haram and its splinter, Ansaru, as FTO would assist U.S. and other law enforcement partners in efforts to investigate and prosecute terrorist suspects.”

Source: Radio Biafra.

State Dept. Spent Millions on Embassy Crystal Week Before Shutdown.

On the eve of the government shutdown, the State Department went on a spending spree, awarding a contract worth up to $5 million for fancy crystal stem and barware for its embassies around the world, the Valley News website reported.

Valley News reported Sunday that the five-year contract went to Simon Pearce to produce the high-end, custom-crafted glassware.

“Simon Pearce is a natural fit for this, given its production in Vermont and Maryland,” Clay Adams, chief executive officer at Simon Pearce, told Valley News in an email.

“Simon Pearce received its first purchase order . . . for more than 12,000 pieces, most of which will be produced here in Vermont later this year.”

The contract award was posted Sept. 30 on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

“We’re thrilled with the contract and will take great pride in having Vermont product in the hands of people around the world,” Adams said.

The State Department largesse came during the frenzied last week of the fiscal year, known in Washington as “use it or lose it” season, when government agencies are forced to spend leftover budgeted funds or give them back and lose them in future budgets, Valley News noted.

During the last week of September 2012, the government reportedly spent $45 billion on contracts and spending spiked by $100 billion — even as some have criticized the wisdom of the spending choices.

The contract was originally awarded two years ago to a U.S.-based company that outsourced the production to Europe, Valley News reported.

Adams credited “the efforts of the Vermont’s congressional delegation and that of other states with domestic glass producers.”

“It is a great way to show that U.S.-based manufacturing can produce a stunning product using a combination of timeless artisanship and modern technology,” he said.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies, was instrumental in helping Simon Pearce get the contract — and wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry in support of the bid, Valley News reported.

“It is wonderful to have such an exquisite example of Vermont craftsmanship on display and in use in our embassies around the world,” Leahy said in a news release, Valley News reported. He added that “Marcelle and I have visited many of those embassies, and knowing that Simon Pearce’s products will be there is something that all Vermonters should be proud of.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

State Dept: Shutdown Endangers Embassy Security Improvements.

The government shutdown will make it more difficult for the State Department to introduce security upgrades at its embassies.

For example, the closing may set back training for security agents at U.S. diplomatic facilities, department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news conference, The Hill reports.

“I want to underscore that these include some of the same enhancements recommended by the accountability review board that followed the Benghazi attack,” Harf said, referring to a review of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack at the diplomatic post in Libya‘s second city that killed four Americans.

“So I think for a Congress that’s never missed an opportunity to talk about embassy security, this is a result of its inability to do its job,” Harf said. That was seen as a dig at Republicans who have been critical of the State Department for not having better security at Benghazi.

The shutdown will also hamper the peacekeeping operation in the Sinai Peninsula and the imposition of sanctions against Iran, Harf said.

“So again, for a Congress that talks about its commitment to Israel, here’s the impact of its inability to its job,” she said. “For all the talk in Congress about keeping up the sanctions pressure in Iran, Treasury’s office of foreign-asset control has furloughed nearly all of its staff.”

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House Passes Bill to Strengthen Security at U.S. Embassies
Leaks About Embassy Plot More Damaging Than Snowden

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Dan Weil

House Passes Bill to Strengthen Security at U.S. Embassies.

The House passed a bill that would authorize additional Marines to protect American embassies, more expensive contracts for guarding overseas posts and funding for State Department operations in fiscal 2014.

The $15.6 billion bill would match the White House request for $2.65 billion in funds to improve embassy security.

“We need the Marines at the gate, we need to guard the gate, it needs to be reinforced,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican.

The closure of several U.S. embassies and consulates in August “demonstrate the continued threat to our facilities and personnel overseas,” he said during floor debate before the House passed the measure 384-37.

The legislation builds on previous measures that provided for increased security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, 2012, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The vote comes amid a budget impasse in Washington that could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Funding for an additional 156 Marines to guard overseas posts would be authorized, as would construction of 26 access points at high-risk posts, according to a House Foreign Affairs Committee summary of the bill. There are currently about 1,200 Marines guarding embassies and consulates, with another 1,000 in the process of being moved into the Marine Security Guard program.

Risky Posts

The State Department would be required to compile a list of high-risk posts and ensure their security and funding needs are met. The department also would be required to collaborate with the Pentagon to draw up contingency plans for emergencies, including rapid deployment of military forces.

Changes to security contracts for high-threat outposts would be authorized, meaning the State Department would be allowed to solicit what are known as best-value contracts, which take into consideration a company’s past performance, expertise and other non-financial factors that can end up costing more. Current law says the State Department must accept the lowest-bid contract that meets all necessary criteria.

The best-value contracts probably would apply to five high- threat posts, according to a Sept. 24 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Existing contracts at those posts exceed $115 million, according to CBO, which estimates that new contracts would cost 40 percent more.

Many of the embassy-security provisions come from H.R. 2723, a bill sponsored by Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Other provisions in the bill would authorize $1.9 billion for contributions to international peacekeeping activities, compared with $2 billion enacted in 2013 before implementation of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

Another section would authorize $1.4 billion for contributions to international organizations of which the U.S. is a member. That compares with $1.55 billion in 2013 and the $1.57 billion requested by the White House.


© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Why Didn’t Obama Fire Anyone After Benghazi Massacre?.

No liberal is ever responsible

The State Department has cleared four employees who had been suspended for their role in lax security leading up to last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, but Republican lawmakers say their investigation will go on.

no-one-fired-benghazi-massacre-clinton-obama-coverup“We will continue to hold hearings that shed light on the terrorist tragedy that is Benghazi,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is still investigating the attack. “The truth will get out there.”

Secretary of State John Kerry had his staff look at the actions of four employees singled out for rebuke as a result of an Accountability Review Board investigation ordered by Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kerry’s analysis of their actions, however, found that “There was no breach of duty by these four employees,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Tuesday. “The right answer for these four is reassignment.”

Only a breach of duty would justify disciplinary action or firing, Harf said. The decision was made while considering their mostly-exemplary careers often spent in difficult places around the world, she said.

“Clearly this could have been done better,” Harf said, referring to security preparations in Benghazi. But “These are real people with real lives and real careers and real families, and we can’t take action just to make ourselves feel better.”

The review board identified 29 deficiencies, which Clinton later accepted and said would be addressed, that contributed to the severity of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other State Department employees died in the premeditated assault, which lasted several hours and involved the firing of light arms, rocket propelled grenades and mortars on two separate U.S. facilities in the birthplace of the uprising that deposed Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.


The attack followed two previous ones on the Benghazi Consulate in April and June, and a deteriorating security situation in that city, which prompted American security personnel in Libya to request additional personnel and fortifications for the facility. The requests were denied, Chaffetz said.

At least one of the suspended employees, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, testified before Congress that she stood behind her decision to deny those requests based on the information she had at the time. News reports based on anonymous sources said she and Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of State for diplomatic security, had stepped down, but then it turned out they’d only been suspended.

“How is it (after) 29 systemic failures and two bombings and no one is held accountable?” Chaffetz said. “That’s ridiculous.”

After the attack, State Department and Obama administration officials blamed it on an anti-Islam film that caused angry demonstrations elsewhere in the Muslim world, but not in Benghazi. The State Department and White House have never explained the misinformation.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the oversight committee, said in a statement that Obama administration officials “repeatedly promised” the families of the victims and the nation that officials responsible would be held accountable.

“Instead of accountability, the State Department offered a charade that included false reports of firings and resignations and now ends in a game of musical chairs where no one misses a single day on the State Department payroll,” Issa said in a statement.

The oversight committee plans a series of additional hearings “to dive into the depth of what did and did not happen” at the State Department before and during the attacks, Chaffetz said.

Lawmakers still want to know who made the decision not to beef up security in Benghazi despite repeated warnings of increased threats from radicals in the area. The oversight committee interviewed three of the four suspended employees and some of their supervisors in June and July, and at that time, none had been interviewed by State, Chaffetz said.

“I don’t know how the State Department came to this conclusion without those people ever having been interviewed at least as of July,” he said. source – USA Today

by Geoffrey Grider.

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